Monday, July 31, 2017

Clark Spiny Lizard

My previous post was on the Arizona desert whiptail which I saw in Estes Canyon in the Ajo Mountains. While I was photographing the whiptail it jumped off the rock it was on and this Clark spiny lizard replaced it. So I just continued taking pictures. It then shifted to several other rocks. 

I believe this is a young female. It was smaller than most spiny lizards I've seen and the cross-bands were very prevalent. 
This may be the first spiny lizard I've seen in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which leads me to believe that it must like warmer weather and may not be out in the spring when I normally go.

It can be gray, bluish green or blue above with dusky or black bands on the wrists and forearms. The bands are really what help make the determination. 
The cross-bands on the forelimbs are very visible.
The dark shoulder patch is visible, but not very pronounced.
It has a black shoulder mark, like the desert spiny lizard, and can be irregularly cross-banded with dark and light markings which can become faint or disappear in older males. Males have blue side and throat patches. In females the blue patches are faint or absent. 
It is usually a tree dweller, but can be found on the ground among rocks, like this one. 
They are mostly found in central and southeastern Arizona and down into Mexico, but from the map in Peterson Field Guides to Western Reptiles and Amphibians there is an isolated population in the Ajo area which is specifically notes. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Arizona Desert Whiptail

The western whiptail is one of 11 species of whiptail lizard in the U.S. It, in turn, has eight subspecies, including the Arizona Desert whiptail which is found over much of southern Arizona and quite a ways into Mexico. 
Look at how good the coloring blends in with the rock. This color rock is very plentiful in the area. 
The stripes on the back are very apparent in this photo.
The distinguishing characteristics include four distinct even-edged stripes on the back and a less distinct stripe on each side, although the striping can be vague or absent in some adults. The hind limbs, sides and dark fields often have rounded light spots giving it an overall spotted effect. They also have a darkening of the throat, chest and underside of the fore limbs. In large adults the throat and chest may be black. 
The rounded white spots on the sides are visible in this photo.
I was in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona this weekend and found this whiptail in the Ajo Mountains in Estes Canyon. Whiptails are very difficult to photograph because they rarely stay still. Fortunately, this one paused for a while. 
Note the darkened fore limbs in this photo. 
This picture was with my point and shoot camera. The others were taken with my Canon SLR. Amazing difference in color, and this particular photo was colored up a bit in Lightroom. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Malaysia Grill - New York City

It was a very warm evening in New York City. We were with Andrew and we'd been doing a lot of walking. One of the things we talked about was the food in New York City. Andrew feels that it is not all that good. His budget is limited, which limits his options, but I was surprised. I've always kind of viewed NYC as a city full of wonderful food options, and I guess there are lots of options, just that he feels much of what is available is mediocre. Well, with him living there, we should have plenty of opportunity to try different restaurants out and see what our experience is. 

After a long afternoon and early evening of walking, which included a visit to an art museum, and a walk along the High Line, a long, linear park built above ground on an elevated section of the New York Central Railroad, we got around to discussing dinner. We ended up doing a lot more walking. Finally, later in the evening, we arrived at the Malaysia Grill located at 104th and Broadway. We have a lot of Asian influence in the Los Angeles area and I've eaten at one very good Malaysian restaurant in West Covina, called Penang.  Compared to Penang, this menu was more limited and what we had was not as good, but it was fun to try some more Malaysian food. 
You walk down the stairs from street level to get to the restaurant. 
Judy got the best dish, a pineapple shrimp with nice chunks of fresh pineapple, red onion and green pepper slices and of course, boiled shrimp, all stuffed in a pineapple shell. The presentation was very nice. In fact, looking at the picture makes me want to have some. I didn't taste the shrimp, but the pineapple was nice and Judy enjoyed it. 
I got a noodle dish, I think it was pad thai shrimp, and it was okay.
Andrew got a dish with tofu covered with a dark sauce and lentils, peas, chunks of carrot and beans, perhaps General Tso's Tofu? It was unusual, I've never seen anything like it, and it was pretty good. 
One of us got a salad, perhaps Andrew. I don't have a good picture of it and I did not taste it. Overall, my impression that evening was that it was average food, and for that evening, confirmed Andrew's hypothesis. However, I anxiously await more opportunities to try NYC food and prove him wrong. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Himalayan House Restaurant - Baltimore

Shortly before visiting Fort McHenry near the outlet to Baltimore Harbor, we stopped for lunch at Himalayan House Restaurant, which serves Nepali, Indian and Tibetan food. See the link on their website to a Food Channel show, "Eden Eats," where Eden goes to the restaurant and watches them cook a chicken dish. Judy found it on Yelp. 
Judy had a vegetable curry and I had lamb curry. I quite often find that lamb is over-cooked in Indian food, but this was still tender and moist. I'm not a huge Indian food fan, but this was about as good as I've had. 
Vegetable curry
Lamb curry
It was a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a not-so-great neighborhood and I am shocked to find it featured on the Food Channel. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Kirsh Bakery & Kitchen - New York City

While in New York we had breakfast with an old friend from Redlands who now works in New York for a publisher. We met her at Kirsh Bakery & Kitchen on Amsterdam Avenue, not too far from where she lives. I actually found some street parking about a block away as my confidence in driving in New York increased. 
Kirsh is owned by Dan and Anat Kirsh who also own a brasserie in Jerusalem. French toast is their specialty dish. 

Our friend recommended what we ordered and ate. I had the Savory French Toast with bacon, Swiss cheese and eggs and maple syrup. It was quite good.
Judy had the Sweet French Toast with mascarpone cream and mixed berry jam. I did not like hers as much, particularly the mascarpone cream which was not sweet enough. I much preferred my sweet maple syrup. 
Our friend got the Healthy Breakfast with egg whites, avocado, salad, yogurt and wheat germ toast. It looked okay. 
Overall, it was quite good, but not so good that I feel like I'd like to go back. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Harlem's Floridita Bar Restaurant - New York City

While visiting Andrew in New York in May we ate Cuban cuisine at Harlem's Original Floridita Bar Restaurant, just down from Riverside Park and near Andrew's Columbia studio.
The restaurant below as we walk down the steps from Riverside Park. 
This was not our first choice, or even our tenth choice, but after driving blocks and blocks trying to find parking places near other restaurants, we found a parking place in Riverside Park and were able to walk down some stairs to Floridita. 

Andrew wanted some platano frito guacamole which was long strips of fried plantains and a bowl of guacamole. The plantains are very crisp and have no salt, like traditional tortilla chips or potato chips. They do have a very subdued sweetness. I think I would like them more if they were salty. I tried a few and had enough.
I got a Cubano sandwich, mostly because of the fantastic Cubano sandwich I had at Open City near the National Cathedral. Alas, it was not comparable. It had a sliver slice of ham and pork, likely some butter and a smattering of mustard and a few small chunks of pickle. It was very forgettable. 

We shared some toston carne which were little cups made of mashed plantain filled with chopped and fried pork. They were okay.
We also shared some soup I didn't write down the name of, with boiled shrimp in a tomato broth. It was mild and okay.
Andrew got an ensalade de aguacate which I did not get a picture of and did not taste, and Judy got lechon asado, slow roasted Cuban style pork in mojo served with yucca and rice. The fatty portions of pork were juicy and soft, but large portions of the big chunks of pork were dry. Not even close to the roasted pork we ate in Puerto Rico
Overall it was a very average meal. The restaurant itself was large and roomy and nicely air conditioned from the humid heat outside, but the food itself was forgettable. 

Sunday, July 23, 2017

St. Augustine, Florida - Spanish Catholic Beginnings

A convergence of events got me thinking about St. Augustine, Florida (which I visited in January 2013) recently: We visited the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and saw a special exhibit that included the earliest map of St. Augustine, the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the U.S.; and we visited San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Cathedral of San Juan Bautista which contains the remains of Juan Ponce de Leon, the former governor of Puerto Rico, but also the person who named Florida and may have been the first European to visit the St. Augustine area. 

Ponce de Leon received a contract from Ferdinand II of Aragon (the same Ferdinand that was married to Isabella and sent Columbus to the New World) to try to discover new lands outside of those discovered by Columbus. In 1513, with three ships and two hundred men, all at his own expense, he sailed northwest. On April 2nd he found what he believed was an island and called it La Florida because it was Easter season and so lush and beautiful (the Spanish called Easter "Pascua Florida," the Festival of Flowers). The exact location is disputed, but some believe it was what is now the west side of Matanzas Bay in St. Augustine. They remained about five days, then headed south. Later legend claims Ponce de Leon was in search of the fountain of youth, and, of course, there is a private park in St. Augustine which includes a fresh water spring which is claimed to be the fountain discovered by Ponce de Leon. 
Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine - picture from Wikipedia.
52 years later, on September 8, 1565, St. Augustine was founded by Pedro Menenez de Aviles, who became Florida's first governor. He had come from Cadiz, Spain and called the place "San Agustin" because they'd first sighted land 11 days earlier on the feast day of St. Augustine. The first settlement was located near Matanzas Bay and the above spring, a spot that offered good defensive positions. The fleet chaplain, Father Francisco Lopez de Mendoza Grajales, created a rustic altar and "Mass was said to hallow the land and draw down the blessing of heaven before the first step was taken to rear a human habitation." This was the first mass celebrated in the U.S. and the spot has been called "America's most sacred acre." Father Lopez put the following in his diary: "On Saturday the 8th, the General [Menendez] landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a Cross and went to meet him singing the hymn,Te Deum Laudamus. The General, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the Cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all they saw done." Following the mass a feast was held. Father Lopez was the first pastor of the parish of St. Augustine. 
A re-creation of the rustic altar.
In 1958, a statue of Father Lopez was erected near the site of the mass. It was created by Ivan Mestrovic, a sculptor we first learned about in the Balkins and have fallen in love with his work. The statue portrays Father Lopez in his priestly vestments preaching the gospel. In 1966, in celebration of the 400th anniversary of the founding of St. Augustine, the world tallest cross, 208 feet, was erected near the landing and settlement spot. 
The cross through the trees near the altar.
The Mestrovic sculpture of Father Lopez. 
The St. Augustine map I saw in the Library of Congress was depicting an attack by Sir Francis Drake of Britain on St. Augustine in 1586. The map depicts Drake capturing and burning the city and fort of St. Augustine. Made by Baptista Boazio in 1589, it is the earliest engraving of any city or territory that is now part of the United States. 
The site of the first mass and cross would be on the land opposite the opening in the land mass, and just a little to the left. 
A Spanish Catholic Mission, the Nombre De Dios, was founded in this same area a year later, in 1587. First manned by Jesuits, then later Franciscans, it served nearby villages of Indians. It was named after a local village of Mocama Indians by that name in which the chief and her daughter were Catholic converts. 

By 1615 a chapel was erected to house a statue of the Virgin Mary nursing the baby Jesus. It was the first Marian Shrine in the U.S. and is known as the Shrine of Our Lady of Leche. The original chapel was destroyed by the British in 1728 during the British siege of St. Augustine. It was rebuilt in 1875 and later damaged by a hurricane. The current chapel was built in 1914 and is a replica of the prior buildings.
Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche.

Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fort in the U.S., was built in Matanzas Bay, not too far from the Nombre de Dios Mission. Construction started in 1672, after a raid by the English privateer, Robert Searles, in 1668, and it was completed in 1695. Possession has changed hands six times in a history I don't want to go into. 
Castillo San Marcos in the distance.

The Castillo is located to the right of the area where the ships are burning a fort and the town on the 1589 map. 
I previously did a post on the Cathedral Basilica of St. Augustine which was finished in 1797 and is a wonderfully distinctive church. 

Saturday, July 22, 2017

St. Patrick's Cathedral - New York City

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan is across the street from Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue, between 50th and 51st Streets. It was dedicated in 1879 and the spires were added in 1888, making it the tallest structure in New York City and the second tallest in the United States. 
St. Patrick's in 1913, from Wikipedia. 
That fact is almost incomprehensible now as it is dwarfed by the surrounding buildings which detracts mightily from its majesty. However, it can hold 3,000 people, so it is very large, it just looks small compared to the skyscrapers that surround it. 
A spire pokes out, taken from Rockefeller Center.
About as good as you can get.

It is now very hard to get a good photograph of the whole building. 

The Diocese of New York was created in 1808 and made an Archdiocese  in 1850. What is now St. Patrick's Old Cathedral, which I recently did a post on, was the cathedral for the diocese and archdiocese until this St. Patrick's was completed in 1879. 

It has been visited by a number of popes, including Pope Francis in September 2015. 

Requiem Masses have been held at St. Patrick's for such notables as Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Vince Lombardi, Ed Sullivan and Robert F. Kennedy. F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda Sayre, ages 23 and 19, were married in the adjoining rectory. 

We've visited several times, but have always had to deal with services while we were there. Most recently we witnessed part of a wedding. To be married or baptized there, you have to be a parishioner. 

There is some beautiful art inside, including statuary and stained glass. 
Elizabeth Ann Seton is the patron saint of Catholic schools and the first native-born American to be canonized. 
This Pieta, by William Ordway Partridge, is three times larger than the Pieta by Michelangelo. 
St. John Chrysostom and St. Basil the Great.
Our Lady of Guadalupe above the Altar of the Sacred Heart. The painting was a gift by the Archbishop of Mexico in 1991. 
Our Lady of Czestochowa, Queen of Poland. 

Bronze doors, inspired by the doors in Florence. 
Architect James Renwick, Jr. presents the architectural plans to Archbishop Hughes, who decided to build the cathedral. 
St.John the Evangelist.