Mellow Christmas!

Christmas this year is being brought to you by the smooth taste of Lucky Strike.

Leave some for Santa, won't you?

Persia via the Hudson

There are three things I know about Frederic Edwin Church:

1. He was a celebrated artist of the Hudson River School of American landscape painting.
2. He designed and built Olana, a Persian-style palace.
3. He rocked the mutton chops.

As much as I'd like to discuss the curious stylings of 19th century grooming, I feel I should focus on Olana, being that it is indeed an oddity found upstate, in the town of Hudson, to be exact.

Freddie's inspiration for Olana came to him after several visits to the Middle East. In 1870, he hired an architect and went to work having a dream home built on his expansive hillside property overlooking the Hudson River. Seeing it in the distance is impressive, but the true artistry of his masterpiece is best experienced up close.

The exterior is covered in intricate stencils, brick, stone and tile work, all designed by Church.

Even on the overcast day I visited, the color was as vibrant as if it had been applied only days before.

Did you know that the six-pointed star (generally recognized as a symbol of Judaism), can be found in ancient Islamic and Christian lore? There were many such symbols worked into the design.

Olana was Church's last masterpiece. During the the first few years of its creation, beginning in 1870, Church became afflicted with rheumatoid arthritis making it almost impossible to paint. As a result, he put most of his artistic energies into the evolving design of Olana. Over the years, he had a new wing built to accommodate his family and to display his growing collection of world art.

I imagine him sitting on the deck in the summer, stroking his formidable whiskers whilst sipping an iced tea and enjoying the spectacular views of the Hudson Valley.

The interior is equally impressive to behold - every room has been embellished with intricate designs and many of Church's paintings are on view. I wasn't permitted to take any indoor photography, but if you happen upon the Rip Van Winkle Bridge, why not take it over the Hudson River...

...and ring the bell at Olana, so you can see it for yourself! The tour guides are super nice and knowledgeable.

You can also take a virtual tour here.

You gotta have art

There must be something in the water that possesses Catskillians to hang gorgeous old clocks on their sheds, or perhaps there's just something in the water that's bringing it to my attention lately.

This particular catterclock (as I've dubbed them) isn't doomed to spend its lonely hours in solitude. It shares its space with the spectacular Wambli World!

Although all of these fantabulous sculptures are displayed on private property, they face a main road for passersby to admire. Behold a winged pig...

...and this fanciful figure.

I call this charming fellow "The Schnozz." Don't you love him?

All of these colorful creations are constructed from found objects and given new life celebrating beauty and peace. This giant sunflower is a lovely example...

As is this diving tortoise.

The inscription reads, "When the tortoise walks off the moon, it's the changing of an era." ~ the I Ching

I wish I knew more about Wambli World. Is Wambli the artist? A google search led me to the Lakota word for eagle, and although the art soars, I'd love to know the person behind it. Anyone out there know?

Falling back

It's Daylight Saving Time. Have you set your clocks back?

This Art Deco beauty probably ticked off the minutes in a posh train station.  It pains me to see it rusting away on moldy shingles.

Bus Stop

Tired of plain old run-of-the-mill firewood?

At Shapiro & Sons the wood is seasoned to capture the heady scent of marble notebooks, bologna sandwiches and Bazooka bubble gum.

However, not all of their buses are filled to capacity. Many are empty shells sinking into the earth - a modern day elephant graveyard...


 of school buses...

...and other modes of rusty rural transportation.

Hey, no shoving on the bus!

Bowling for Bagels

After you climb every mountain and ford every stream, there are plenty of other activities to be had in the Catskills. One can shoot some hoops.

Or hop on a pony. 

But if wild horses (ba-dum-ching!) aren't your thing, you can always rent a pair of groovy two-toned shoes and have a ball at the Liberty Lanes.


Every bowling alley should have such style! 
 And artistic flair! 

That's quite a hand span, there!

Peering through the door (I wish they had been open!) I spied this cool shirt. 

But what's a Kiddush Hashem, you may ask? A strike? A turkey? No, a Kiddush Hashem is any action by a Jew that brings honor, respect and glory to God. If it's any indication of skill, my shirt would have to read Chillul Hashem. God hates gutterballs.

Brown acid. Never a good idea.

Maybe it was just the time of year, but with nothing else to do we decided to go on down to Yasgur's Farm and check out the new Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. I had heard good things about the newly built museum celebrating that little concert we've all heard about. They don't allow photography in the museum, but I highly recommend going to see it for yourself. It's a wonderfully realized multi-media experience that takes you from the 50's right up to the Age of Aquarius and into the mud and music of Woodstock. If you go down the road a bit, you'll come across this monument:

And just beyond that is the field where it all happened!

The view when the mushrooms kick in:

I wish I had pictures of all the memorabilia displayed in the museum. I would love to own an original Yasgur's Dairy Farm milk bottle! But I think my favorite artifact was the journal of a kid who was clearly there for the music. He had detailed entries on every single act. My favorite: "Some asshole just jumped onstage. Townsend knocked him off."