Happy Pride 2011!

I joined some friends at today's Pride Parade--not only did I want to support all of my gay peeps...but I also needed to celebrate New York State's new-found marriage equality! Congrats, guys and gals!

Eva with her Argentine supporters.

Chuppah for all!



Finally stopped by 59th and Fifth to see Ai Weiwei's Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads, installed at the Pulitzer Fountain in front of The Plaza. Congratulations on your release from prison, Mr. Ai--I hope it sticks!

Educational Video of the Day



Pic O' The Day: After The Garden

After watering our Stony Kill plot this afternoon, we spied a few deer cooling off in the creek. So beautiful...unless they eat our vegetables!


Revisiting Landmarks: Ellis Island Part II

During last week's visit to Ellis Island, my friends and I, intrigued, decided to take a guided tour of the Ferry Building. It ended up being a fabulous decision, since it offered us a chance to see some of the less-restored parts of the island. For me, it was especially wonderful, as it opened up a window to the memories of my first, mind-blowing childhood visit to the landmark about 30 years ago (which I discussed in Part I).

Led by a volunteer from Save Ellis Island, the tour took us into the partially-restored Ferry Building, built in the 1930s as part of Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration (WPA). The building will hopefully open to the public soon, and features an exhibition about Ellis Island's hospitals--which have a fascinating history.

A shot of some of the hospital buildings on south side of the island. (Interestingly, one of my family members could have made a stop in these buildings back in the day...he was diagnosed with tuberculosis before being sent back to Italy.) I'd love to check them out, but it seems like they're a long way from being restored. Our guide, though, shared some interesting tidbits: When built, they utilized the most cutting-edge technology available in healthcare. Patients received better care on Ellis Island than just about anywhere else, and its workers were dedicated not only to keeping infectious disease out of America, but also curing it if they could. 

The 1930s era eagles on the Ferry Building, the design of which, sadly wasn't all that welcoming to the immigrants escaping Fascist rule in Europe.

After learning about healthcare on the island, we were treated to a peek inside some of the partially-restored--and still overgrown--sections behind the building. Absolutely wonderful--I want to go back for more!

If you'd like to make a donation to preserve Ellis Island, visit www.saveellisisland.org.

Revisiting Landmarks: Ellis Island Part I

For me, the thought of heading back to Ellis Island for the first time since about 1980 was a huge, huge thing. For years I'd resisted going, because I had such vivid childhood memories of that initial visit. 

Back then, Ellis Island was a complete mess. When the island was abandoned in the 1950s, it was left as it was, so by the time I made it there, dishes, chairs, signs, etc. were just strewn about. Paint was peeling, pipes were exposed, and absolutely everything was overgrown. I was about 6 or 7, and the experience of seeing a place that I knew was such a vital part of American history (and my own family's saga) just left to wither and rot just blew my young mind. That visit was ultimately imprinted in my mind as a ghost-like, mind-altering memory--one of those moments that fundamentally changed the way I looked at the world, its history, and its reality.

When the Main Building was restored in 1990, I knew I had to revisit the island. But I was afraid, somehow, that if I went back I'd lose that extraordinary childhood memory. I avoided it for years, but when some dear friends recently asked me to go with them, I relented. 

Last week, I finally returned to Ellis Island. 

The museum is, as I'd heard, absolutely fabulous. The restoration of the Main Building is remarkable, though the Ellis Island Foundation still has a lot of work to do on the island's other buildings (more on that in Part II). 

Happily, those initial mind-blowing childhood memories remain intact, and here, for now, are the first few photos from my return.

The absolutely gorgeous French Renaissance-style Main Building, which opened in 1900. Today it houses the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. My great-grandparents set foot there in 1906.

The beautiful tile ceiling--which I remember from my childhood visit--designed by Rafael Guastavino, also known for his work in Grand Central Terminal, the now-closed City Hall subway stop, and many other architectural marvels throughout NYC.

My friends and I marveled at the beauty of century-old technology. What a brilliant way to open the windows!

Another mechanism, this time for the main hall's uppermost windows.

A bit of graffiti, lots of which the museum happily decided to keep.

A few of the old signs and cast-off items preserved as they were found in the 1980s, before renovation began.

Not long before he died, my Grandpa LaBella put the names of his parents, Alfonso and Emilia LaBella, on the Wall of Honor.


Small World: Chat/Cat

During my first High Line stroll last week, I noticed something wonderful: A flying cat...the same chat I spied a few years ago when I was wandering around Paris (Montmartre-ish, I think). He's put on a little weight, but still as cheerful as ever. Hooray for coincidences!