Sunday, May 31, 2009

2009 Sebago Open House

I was able to be at the Sebago Canoe Club Open House only from noon till 2:00 PM but while I was there I took a lot of photographs which I have posted to Picasa. The weather was nearly perfect even if it did look like there was snow on the ground. We seemed to have had a lot of visitors and a good number of them joining. While Sebago offers some great sailing and kayaking, Sebago is more than water sports. Sebago is people, from those who have been members for decades or more to those who have just joined, from experienced paddlers with American Canoe Club certification to teach and coach to beginners just learning how to paddle.

This was only my second Open House so I do not have a lot to compare it to, but this year we seemed to have more of a variety of visitors: young, middle age and older from various racial-ethnic backgrounds and from three or more of the five boroughs. For awhile on Saturday, Sebago looked like a miniature New York City. There were so many kayaks, canoes and sailboats coming and going from the new dock that at times it resembled the Staten Island Ferry Terminal (photo at right). There were so many people moving about on the new dock that it felt like the BQE, Jackie Robinson, or Van Wyck during rush hour.

If our Open House is any indication of the future, it looks like we are off to a great 2009 summer season of paddling, rowing and sailing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Joe Kinder at EMS SoHo

Even though I was not scheduled to work Friday, I rode the subway from Queens into Manhattan and the Eastern Mountain Sports SoHo store to meet Joe Kinder. What a nice, regular guy! As I was sitting in the store talking with him, I found it hard to imagine all the places he has climbed and the difficulty of the climbs he has completed. I would not have known he was a climber if I had not noticed the chalk between his fingers, left over from a gym climb earlier in the day. I thought to myself “He might be able to climb eight grades above me but I could still sit down and drink a beer with this guy.” Well, we didn’t drink a beer together but we did talk a little about climbing and also blogging, because Joe also has a blog. Check it out some time. He even looked at my blog, posed with me for a photo (at right), and signed a photo of himself (holding it in the photo at right). If you are in the New York metro area, come on down to EMS SoHo tomorrow, May 30, from noon-5:00 PM and meet Joe for yourself.

Summit and Shore Events in NYC This Weekend

Two free events, one related to summits and the other related to shores, and both related to venues I am involved with, are scheduled for this weekend.

Professional climbers (I wish there were no such thing) Joe Kinder and Tommy Caldwell will be hanging out, with or without belay, at the Eastern Mountain Sports SoHo store, 530 Broadway, this Friday May 29 and Saturday May 30. Read more about their appearance at the EMS SoHo Blog.

The Sebago Canoe Club, located on Paerdegat Basin at 1400 Paerdegat Avenue in Brooklyn, will be holding its annual open house this Saturday, May 30. The open house is a great opportunity for folks in the community and all over the New York Metro area to learn about and briefly experience canoeing and kayaking. The Sebago Canoe club has some off street parking and a fair amount of free street parking. The club is easily reached from the Canarsie exit on the Belt Parkway. Read more about the open house at the Sebago Blog.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

SPA

When I taught college level introduction to philosophy I taught my students to remember the historical order of the three great classical philosophers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle with the mnemonic acronym SPA. I would often suggest to the students that when their brain hurt or needed some tender loving care and pampering that they needed to visit a SPA, a Socrates, Plato or Aristotle teaching.

Earlier this evening I was reworking the layout of Summit to Shore and decided to add sidebar gadgets with quotes from Plato and Aristotle to the sidebar gadget with quotes from Socrates. I think Sophie would be both pleased and proud. In an age of sound bite and bumper sticker politics and theology some classical philosophy might offer us a much needed corrective.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Shore to Summit: Back to the Gunks

Last Friday I kayaked with Tony and Walter. Today I climbed with Dan, a fellow Guide at EMS SoHo. Water and rock within four days! Ninety-six hours from Jamaica Bay to the Shawangunks! Sweet! Maybe I should rename my blog shore to summit?

I left the house around 8:00 AM, picked Dan up on the upper west side a little after 9:00 AM, took half an hour to get out of Manhattan, stopped at the Mohonk Preserve Visitor Center so Dan could purchase a day pass, parked, walked along the Carriage Road to The Trapps, and set up below Horseman before noon.

It had been seven months since I last climbed and I was sure my bones and muscles were going to be a little rusty. Nevertheless today started out to be a beautiful day, warmer than predicted, and the rain held off, and the muscles and bones still worked, at least for a while.

Todd Swain, in The Gunks Guide, describes Horseman as “A classic Gunks Climb.” It is only rated a 5.5 with excellent protection, but after a seven month climbing hiatus a 5.5 was about all I wanted to lead. I led it in two pitches (that's me on the first pitch in the photo to the right) and for the first time since upgrading my rack over the winter not only placed my new Camalots and new tri-cams for the first time, but placed tri-cams and Camalots for the first time ever as I did not have them on my rack before. Dan ably followed and cleaned the route. We sat on the belay ledge for a while soaking in the sun, enjoying the breeze, and looking out over the fantastic view. The only spoiler was the sound of an occasional vehicle on the road below. After basking in a climb well done we rappelled down in two raps as my 165 foot rope did not reach all the way to the ground from the rappel anchor.

We then moved right to Ken’s Crack, another Gunks classic, and a 5.7 with good pro. Dan led the climb (that's Dan leading Ken's Crack in the photo second right) even though he is fairly new to leading. I followed to the second piece of pro but spent so much time hanging by one arm or another trying to get the pro out that I had to come off the climb after my arms turned to rubber. Dan cleaned on rappel and spent about five minutes with a nut tool working the stubborn stopper out of the crack. No good gear should ever be left behind if it can at all be retrieved.

We then walked back toward the car and parking lot but stopped on the way to climb Picnic, a 5.4+ with pretty good pro. Dan led and I followed. We rapped down, packed up our gear, and just as soon as we started walking out along the Carriage Road it started to sprinkle. The front edge of the light rain we had seen moving up the valley had finally arrived.

All in all it was a good day. Two climbs for me, three for Dan, and seven rappels for my rope with no leader falls. Yep, it was a good day to climb and a good day climbing. Maybe I will go kayaking again this coming Friday.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prayer for Memorial Day

Almighty God, strong to save,
we remember the brave men and women
who have given their lives on the land, in the air, and upon the sea
in defense of our freedom and liberty,
from the minutemen who lost their lives at Lexington or Concord,
to the brothers who gave their lives fighting for either the north or south in the Civil War,
from the greatest generation who made the ultimate sacrifice during the second World War,
to the active duty troops and National Guard men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As we remember and memorialize those who have died,
may this day serve to memorialize them not in stone but in our hearts.
Amen.

© 2009 by John Edward Harris
Permission granted to copy this prayer for one time use as long as the Copyright is inlcuded

Welcome to My Neighborhood: Ridgewood Memorial Day Parade

People who have not lived in New York City probably think it is one huge nameless, faceless, mass of humanity. At least that is what I used to think until I moved here nearly two years ago. In the past twenty months I have learned that the New York City is really a bunch of little cities, communities and neighborhoods. I know that Ridgewood is not unique, but Ridgewood is what I know best. Earlier today, if I had not known better, I would have thought I was in small town America, not a neighborhood of the largest borough of the country’s largest city.

Sitting inside the house I could hear the drumbeats even as they were approaching from blocks away. As soon as I realized that what I was hearing was the sound of marching bands in a Memorial Day parade processing eastwardly on Myrtle Avenue, I put the leash of my dog Hermes, grabbed my camera, and we went out to watch. The photo essay I have posted on Picasa is some of what I saw. There we no clowns in tiny cars or beauty queens on the backs of convertibles, no Shriners ridding mini bikes or floats promoting the latest whatever, just a lot of uniformed and plain clothed men and women, girls and boys, veterans and scouts displaying lots of American flags and pride as most of them marched in disciplined formation.

I think that in some ways what I watched could be considered part of the liturgy of civil religion minus the rhetoric. People were working to show their pride in being the mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter of an American service man or service woman. Some of those marching were probably active duty. Some might have been ROTC. Many of them were probably children or grandchildren of immigrants, perhaps even the children or grandchildren of veterans who once fought and perhaps even died for another country, perhaps even a country at war with the United States. But today they were marching for America and as Americans to remember other Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country.

Angels and Demons

(No Spoiler Here) I loved Dan Brown’s novel The DaVinci Code, read it before I read Angels and Demons, and preferred it to Angels and Demons. I thought The DaVinci Code film was alright but did not do justice to the book. Perhaps the DaVinci Code was too cerebral and its brain teasing puzzles simply did not translate well to the big screen. After seeing Angels and Demons on the big screen yesterday, my impression of Angels and Demons is the exact opposite. The action sequences kept me engaged even though I remembered the basic story line. The film seemed to move fast and was more exciting than the novel. By the end of the movie I was convinced that the film adaptation of Angels and Demons was better than the film adaption of The DaVinci Code, but I still think The DaVinci Code novel is a better read than the Angels and Demons novel. Maybe my impressions are being manipulated by a conspiracy wrought by a secret society.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Back in the Bay

My paddling pals Tony and Walker (top right) invited me (bottom right) to join them for a Friday morning paddle in Jamaica Bay (the water in both pictures to the right). I was more than happy to accept. It had been five weeks since I had last paddled and seven months since I had last paddled in Jamaica Bay. It was my first time to launch from Sebago’s new dock. Nice!

It was a wonderful day to be back in the Bay. The water temperature at the dock was 65f, 58f-60f in the Bay proper. Air temperature at put in was 70f and rose steady as we paddled. The sky was mostly blue with a few wisps of cloud. I started off paddling in a short-sleeved rash guard and a long sleeved paddling jacket but took the jacket off after noon and paddled in short sleeves the rest of the afternoon.

I have paddled at low tide before but this low tide must of have been one of the lowest I have ever seen. Passing from Ruffle Bar to Paerdegat Basin with Canarsie Pol to the east, for the first time since I started paddling in Jamaica Bay a year ago I saw the remains of a wooden hulled ship exposed above the water. The following Day I was at Sebago when Phil Giller’s impromptu Saturday morning paddle returned and Phil said the low tide that day was also one of the lowest he had ever seen.

Friday’s trip took us to Floyd Bennet Field where we stopped for a snack and picked up a fourth guest paddler from Park Slope named Dennis, then south of Ruffle Bar to The Raunt where we stopped for lunch. Then we paddled South and West of Canarsie Pol back into Paerdegat Basin. I again paddled a Necky Chatham 16, which is still my favorite club boat.

I have paddled in Jamaica bay when it was calmer, windier, and warmer, during the day and at night when there has been a full moon, and yet the Bay still surprises me, like a low tide and a sunken ship to welcome me back home.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Eddie Bauer Summits Everest, Again!

Had I written this post a day ago I would have ended the title with a question mark rather than an exclamation point. I am not an Eddie Bauer outfitted kind of guy. When I think of Eddie Bauer I think of older gentleman walking through the Maine woods with shotguns and bird dogs, not world famous climbers and sons of famous climbers summiting Everest.

I can understand why Jim Whittaker, when he was the first American to climb Everest on May 1st, 1963, wore a goose-down parka and pants made by Eddie Bauer. There was very little else available. That is why Recreational Equipment Incorporated (REI) soon followed. American Climbers, especially those in the Pacific Northwest like Jim and Lou Whittaker, couldn’t find the gear they wanted and needed to climb world Class Mountains, so they started manufacturing and distributing their own through a co-op.

When I think Mountaineering I think of manufacturers like North Face, Patagonia, Petzl, Black Diamond, and Mountain Hardwear, to name just a few. I certainly don’t think of Eddie Bauer. Maybe my thinking needs to change.

Brothers Jim and Lou Whittaker, Lou’s son Peter, Melissa Arnot, Ed Viesturs, Dave Hahn. And Seth Waterfall have teamed up to design and test a new Eddie Bauer product line called First Ascent. The ultimate test was Everest and on Thursday, May 21 (Yes, Ascension Day in the Christian tradition), Eddie passed the test. Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker reached the summit of Everest primarily outfitted by Eddie Bauer in an Eddie Bauer sponsored expedition.

The next test will be the Mountaineering marketplace.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Ascension Day

Why are all these Ministers Top right), all members of New York City Presbytery, looking up toward the wild blue yonder (bottom right)? They are not looking for a black monolith on the moon. They are looking at the heavens because today is Ascension Day.

Ascension Day is not the day Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to ascend to the summit of Mount Everest. That will be May 29th. Nor is it the day Jim Whittaker was the first American to ascend to the summit of the world's highest mountain. That was May 1st. Ascension Day is the day Christians celebrate the resurrected Christ’s Ascension into Heaven, forty days after Easter.

Because this is Ascension Day, this evening North Church Queens and the First Presbyterian Church of Whitestone will be gathering for worship at 7:30 PM in the Whitestone sanctuary to read and hear once again Luke’s two slightly different accounts of the Ascension (Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:6-11), to sing hymns, to pray, and to celebrate the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. But there are problems.

In his Institutes of the Christian Religion John Calvin writes that carried up into heaven, Christ withdrew his bodily presence from our sight, not to cease to be present with believers still on earth, but to rule heaven and earth with more immediate power. By his ascension Christ fulfilled what he had promised: that he would be with us even to the end of the world. As his body was raised up above all the heavens, so his power and energy were diffused and spread beyond all the bounds of heaven and earth. Christ, by his ascent to heaven, opened the way into the Heavenly Kingdom. Over four hundred years after Calvin wrote those words. I wonder if it is possible to maintain this spiritual truth without retaining Luke's 2,000 year old understanding of the universe?

James Smart wrote in his The Creed in Christian Thinking "Sunday schools have been known to use a series of slides to depict the ascension, the first showing Jesus hovering in the air just above the heads of the disciples, the second and third showing him smaller and smaller as he ascends in the air, and the fourth representing him as a tiny figure disappearing into the clouds of the sky. The visual aid was quite effective in impressing upon the minds of Children a false and confusing conception of a spiritual reality.” It is time adult Christians grow up and leave behind such childish conceptions.

Marcus Borg argues that the meanings of the ascension story "are rich and important, even as it is one of the stories in the New Testament that most obviously requires a non-literal reading. . . . It is manifestly a symbolic or metaphorical story. . . . One reason we can not read the ascension story literally is that we cannot imagine it happening.” As Borg observes, "The issue is not whether 'miraculous' events happen. Rather, the issue is the 'three-story universe' presupposed by the story. Within this conventional ancient worldview, heaven is 'up above,' earth is in the middle, and Hades/hell is 'down below.'"

There were literalists and non-literalists in early Christianity as well as now. It appears that Luke, the author of the Gospel as well as the Book of Acts, was a non-literalist. Even if Luke was a literalist, however, since the time of Copernicus we have known that the earth is not flat. Heaven is not above or "up there" and hell is not below or "down there". The Earth is round, not flat. Our up is someone else's down if they life on the other side of the earth. There is no "up there". There is only an "out there". All this leaves us asking, with regard to Christ’s ascension, "Which way is up?"

Commenting on both Lukan accounts in his book Born of a Woman, John Shelby Spong wonders if the meaning of Jesus' ascension, as described in Acts 1, which in its biblical context assumed a three-tiered universe—a flat earth and a literal heaven above the domed sky—can be delivered from the words and thought forms of the era that froze that experience into such stringent and dated concrete images? Can space-age people escape the conclusion that if Jesus literally rose from this earth and even if he traveled at the speed of light, 186,000 miles per second, he has still not escaped the boundaries of this single galaxy?

Albert Curry Winn, in A Christian Primer, has noted that the actual story of ascension is not the record of a mission to outer space, complete with countdown and blast-off, but a reverent attempt to say that the post resurrection appearances of Jesus ceased and that the man Jesus is no longer a part of our space-time reality but a part of ultimate, final reality in the very throne room of God. Winn's explanation of Christ's ascension doesn't quite have the dramatic effect of Luke's accounts, or the poetic appeal of Calvin's explanation, but it still communicates the same spiritual truth without reliance on an outdated world view.

So how can and how do twenty-first century Christians observe and celebrate Christ’s Ascension without falling victim to a first century cosmology?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Welcome To My Neighborhood: FIRE!

Rather than be awakened by my dog’s warm breath, cold nose, and incessant panting as usual this morning I was awakened by the sounds of sirens, more sirens than I am used to hearing. When my wife returned from walking our dog Hermes she told me there was a fire down the street and that I had better grab my camera and go take pictures for my blog.

The fire was a block away on 70th Ave. near the intersection of 60 La. Apparently there had been an electrical fire in a row house. I could smell a little smoke but could not see any. A free standing ladder reached from the street into a second floor window and a ladder truck’s ladder extended from the truck up to the roof. A few of New York’s finest would occasionally ascend up to the roof and descend back to the truck. The windows on the top (second) floor had all been knocked out.

While I remembered to grab my camera before leaving the house I forgot to grab paper and pencil and so could not take notes about what I saw, like the number of trucks, types of trucks, and first impressions. If a picture is worth a thousand words, you will have to read my photo essay of the pictures I took and posted on Picasa. My photos tell me that at least twelve unites responded, including 112, 124, 135, 140, 271, 277, 282, and 286.

From observation I learned that the various fire houses have nicknames, such a “Myrtle Turtles” for the house on Myrtle Avenue, and “House of Pain” for the house in or on Bushwick. My observations also left me with questions such as “What is a RAC Unit?” and “Why does a New City Fire Truck have a license plate from Montana?”

If you have been reading carefully you may have noted my non-sexist references to New York’s finest. I have refrained from calling them “fireman” and for a good reason. Near the conclusion of the photo essay you will notice a Lieutenant in a yellow turn-out gear. She seemed to have matters well in hand. She is just one of New York’s finest, women and men who stand guard to keep the greatest city in the world safe from fire and other emergencies.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Reflections Upon Returning From Minneapolis

The Board of the Witherspoon Society (WS) and a Caucus of Voices of Sophia (VOS) recently met in Minneapolis, Minn. The meeting was held in Minneapolis because the 219th General Assembly (GA) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), hosted by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities, will be held in Minneapolis July 3-10, 2010.

By meeting in the host city of the Next GA, Board Members hoped to acquaint themselves with the site with feet exploring the ground, eyes scanning the horizon, and taste buds tsampling local cuisine in addition to attending to regular Board business and continuing to fine tune the merger of the WS and VOS which was announced at the 218th GA in San Jose, CA.

Our meeting venue was the Best Western Normandy Inn and Suites, a clean and friendly establishment which offers milk and cookies to all its patrons at 10:oo PM. As far as we know the Best Western is not an Official GA Hotel but within an easy walk of the Convention Center. We also visited the Minneapolis Convention Center where the GA will be held and were impressed by the enormous size. I think this will be one of the better GA sites in recent years.

This was my first visit to Minneapolis and overall I was impressed. Except for the dust, mud, noise and other disruptions of downtown street work, which will hopefully be completed by next year, the city was clean and welcoming. I was particularly impressed by the system of Skyways which not only connect the convention center to major hotels but which like a spider web weave throughout the city connecting other hotels, office buildings, and shopping venues. Depending on where GA Commissioners and Visitors are staying, it might be possible to attend all the meetings and meals associated with the GA without ever going outside.

It should not surprise anyone that Board and Caucus members especially enjoyed the food and Gastric Gothic ambiance of Hell’s Kitchen, a site those coming to the GA will not want to miss. But we also enjoyed Bombay Bistro, which offers an affordable and quick Indian cuisine buffet lunch, and Key’s Café & Bakery at the Foshay Tower, an economical eatery with a fairly priced and varied menu and great deserts. All three establishments are within an easy walking distance of the Convention Center and most downtown hotels.

Over all, I think Presbyterians will be impressed by and feel welcomed by Minneapolis. For sure, the successor of the merged Witherspoon Society and Voices of Sophia will be there advocating for a less hierarchical and patriarchal and more inclusive, just, progressive Church and society informed by voices long silenced, especially the voices of women, GLBTQs, and people of color.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shadows Outside the Cave

Not long ago during a sunny afternoon following a week of rain and overcast skies, I noticed a compelling shadow on a wall in our living room. Recognizing the outline I knew at once what the shadow was of. The shadow on the wall was of a mermaid sculpture sitting near the window where rays of the Sun were shining in. I would not have been able to deduce the form casting the shadow if I had not first known the Sculpture. Because I knew the three dimensional sculpture I recognized its outline in the two dimensional shadow. I knew the shadow was not the sculpture because I also knew the sculpture casting the shadow. I was compelled to capture both the shadow and the sculpture with my digital camera.
























A few days later I was walking along the sidewalk on another rare bight sunny day. I noticed my shadow ahead of me on the sidewalk. Since I had my camera with me I took a picture, not quite a self portrait, but close.
A week or so later I was standing in the foyer of North Church Queens, waiting for worship to begin, when I looked out the window and noticed on the street in front of the church the shadow of a very recognizable form. It was the form of a Celtic Cross, but not any Celtic Cross. It was the shadow of the Celtic Cross on the roof of the church.
I have learned over the years that when I am aware of similar phenomena occurring in threes or more within close proximity of time to pay attention to them. Jung called such occurrences synchronicity, and through his writings he taught me that when I am aware of occurrences of synchronicity that I had not only better pay attention but also reflect upon the experience. Thus, I write this post.
Hopefully everyone who has ever had a high school or college level Introduction to Philosophy Class will be familiar with Plato’s Analogy of the Cave. I know the students I had for Introduction to Philosophy at the undergraduate level were presented with it.

I think we very often are willing to settle for and live with shadows when upon a little reflection and inquiry we can discover the three dimensional reality behind them. We rarely expend the time or energy to ask questions about our world, to go below the surface and delve deeper into reality. After awhile our own existence can take on a shadow quality and so we live shallow, superficial, two dimensional lives.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Boaters Rescued in Windswept Jamaica Bay

Fellow Sebago Canoe Club member and NOLS alum John Huntington distributed this link to a story about a rescue of boaters in windswept Jamaica Bay. There is also a follow up link to a story in the New York Post. The boaters were in a fishing boat, not a kayak. Nevertheless I think there is a lesson to be learned here.

I have paddled in Jamaica Bay when the there has been hardly any wind and the water was like glass. Likewise I have been out kayaking in the Bay when there was a strong enough wind over enough fetch to create white caps and standing waves over shallow shoals. The danger lies in calm condition luring inexperienced boaters out into the open bay far from shore only for the weather to drastically change for the worse with little if any warning, catching the boaters unprepared. This is why it is wise to know how to assist in one's own rescue as well as to assist others in being rescued and to practice such rescues (pictured top right) before they are necessary.

With six or seven years of paddling under my PFD, Jamaica Bay does not intimidate or scare me, but I still respect it because it demands respect. Becoming familair with rescue techniques is one way of showing that respect.

71% of Respondents Think Seeger Should Receive Nobel Peace Prize

My totally and non-random and non-scientific poll has closed. Seven people voiced their opinion about whether or not American folk singer and icon Pete Seeger should be awarded the Noble Peace Prize. Five respondents opined that he should. Two thought he should not.

To read Peter Drier’s piece about why Pete Seeger Deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, visit The Huffington Post. If you or the five people who think that Seeger ought to receive the Nobel Peace Prize want to learn even more, or become active in the campaign to nominate him, visit A Nobel Peace Prize for Pete Seeger. To sign an electronic petition supporting a Pete Seeger Nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, go to this link.

I think Seeger is worthy of at least being nominated and perhaps receiving the prize. After all, when was the last time any artist received it or was even nominated? It is about time the awards committee recognized the social transforming power of art, especially music, and its ability to transcend barriers of race, class and nationality. When people are singing together they tend not to shoot each other, torture one another, aim nuclear warheads at others, or otherwise engage in acts of violence.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Welcome to My Neighborhood: Fajitas Restaurant & Bar

This is the second installment in my series about people and businesses in my neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens.

Unlike Leo and Eddie's Hairstyling and Barbering, which were here before my wife and I arrived in July 2007, Fajitas Sunrise Restaurant & Bar is a newcomer to the neighborhood. Twenty-one months ago an Italian restaurant occupied the space at 59-24 Myrtle Avenue and we enjoyed eating there. The food and service were always good but there never seemed to be many customers and we were disappointed when it closed down.

A few months later we started seeing activity in the building as it was being remolded. When Fajitas Sunrise Restaurant & Bar opened about a year ago we were some of the first customers. Because we have been happy and satisfied customers from the very beginning we have watched Fajitas Sunrise mature. We have tasted the menu as it has broadened. We have seen the addition of a full bar (the sangria is to die for). We have witnessed about three or four different menu formats. At times I have felt like I have been watching a neighborhood child grow into adolescence.

One of the owners and chef is Francisco Cruz (pictured third down). You will not see a lot of Francisco because he spends most of his time in the kitchen.
The manager and Bartender is Juan Manuel Gracia (pictured top and second), a constant smiling face behind the colorful and festive full service bar. I have not yet learned the names of all the wait staff and some have already come and gone, but the last time I was in, Alberto (left in the picture bottom left), Alejandra (bottom right) and Claudio (right in the picture bottom left) were on duty.

When I asked Juan what he liked most about the neighborhood he said that he liked the fact that Ridgewood was a quiet area and that the people in the neighborhood are polite and friendly. (Obviously he was thinking of my wife and I when he said that.)

How does he sum up his business philosophy? “I try to be nice and please the customer” he say. I think he succeeds.

If you have not yet eaten at Fajitas Sunrise, Juan wants you to come in and let him know how you like it.

It seems that the current recession has affected lunch traffic the most as well as weekday traffic but the weekends are still brisk and lively. Perhaps the live Mariachi Band on the weekends helps. Currently there is a happy hour
Monday to Friday 4-7 PM at the bar only and on Wednesdays you can
get tequila shots for $3 from 6-9 PM.

Every table receives a basket of Nacho’s with homemade chunky salsa and water service without having to ask. Before bringing a second basket of nachos the wait staff will ask if you want more.

My wife’s favorite dishes are the Ceviche de Camarón appetizer (Shrimp Ceviche in orange and lime juice, tomato, onion, cilantro, avocado and spices, $8.00) and Pollo Jalisco (Chicken cutlet in white wine, lime sauce, white rice and salad, $11.00). Her second most favorite is the Pollo Al Mojo de Ajo (Chicken cutlet in garlic sauce, Mexican rice and Beans, $11.00). The Chicken dishes are perhaps some of the healthiest at Fajitas Sunrise because they use only fresh chicken and therefore do not need to add oil when cooking it.

I too like the Ceviche de Camarón as well as the Aquacate Relleno appetizer (Half avocado stuffed with cooked shrimp and spice, $7.00). I also like the Pollo Jalisco and Pollo Al Mojo de Ajo as well as the Pescado Al Mojo de Ajo (Fish in garlic sauce served with Mexican rice and salad, $15.00) and the Burritos (two for $11.00), Combo Sunrise (Shredded beef burrito, shredded chicken enchilada, and ground beef taco, $11.00). The portions are so
generous, and we are not big eaters, so we rarely have room left for desert,
but when we do we usually split some Flan ($4.50), Alaska Fried Ice Cream ($5.00) or Tres Leches ($4.50).

Fajitas Sunrise is no fast food or Tex-Mex eatery. At Fajitas Sunrise cheese is a garnish artistically complimenting well presented meals, not a main course. Spices and flavorings are subtle and varied, not overwhelmed by cheese or tomatoes. The atmosphere is casual but with a touch of elegance. The wait staff is friendly, courteous and will do their best to explain the menu.

Juan estimates that about 80% of his customers are not Hispanic but during one recent visit it seemed that my wife and I were the only non-Hispanics in the house, and we loved it. We felt like we had been transported to Mexico and were being given the royal welcome. At other times the clientele has been more mixed, just like the Ridgewood neighborhood we live in.

For other customer reviews, visit yelp and urbanspoon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day Prayer

We remember with joy and thanksgiving the significant women who have nurtured our life and faith, including
Eve, the mother of humanity;
Sarah, mother of Isaac;
Rebekah, mother of Jacob and Esau and your people Israel;
Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah, mothers of a holy nation;
Mary, mother of our Lord Jesus the Christ and Mother of God;
and our own mothers and women who like a mother have nursed us when we were sick, nurtured and loved us, and nourished us spiritually with their wisdom and faith.
We ask you to bless them, and to honor them in heaven as we seek to honor them here on earth.
May our mothers and all women of faith know our love and gratitude not only this day but everyday.

This day also reminds us, loving God, how like a mother hen you gather us together and protect us under your wing;
and how you are faithful still, like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
and so we give you thanks, most of all, for your maternal love and care.

Star Trek: The Premier Frontier

(No spoiler here) OK, the new Star Trek film has no subtitle. “The Premier Frontier” is my own idea and perhaps is more appropriate than forerunner, opening, prelude or prequel.

My wife and I are both Trekkers. We are not so hard core that we dress in costume and go to Star Trek Conventions. In fact we have never been to a Star Trek Convention. We do have all the movies on Video or DVD, have several books about Star Trek, and a decade or so ago visited the Star Trek exhibit at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. I have been a fan of all the Star Trek incarnations with the exception of Enterprise, which I personally think was a flop. In my home study/office is a poster of All I I need to know about life I learned from Star Trek.

This afternoon we saw the new Star Trek movie and were not disappointed. From the first few minutes of the opening scene, which was full of symbolism, I was hooked and knew I would like the film. From the first few minutes of the second scene my wife was equally engaged (oops, wrong ST incarnation). Never were we disappointed.

I think the best casting was for the Character Spock. I felt like I had known him all my life. I think the weakest casting was for Scotty. The special effects moved the story along and were not just for show.

Afterward I heard an older man asking two young boys under the age of ten (grandfather and grandsons?) what they thought about the film. From their answers I could tell they both really liked it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

EMS Grand Opening Celebration in SoHo

If you live, work or play in the New York City metro area, get yourself down to the Eastern Mountain Sports Grand Opening Celebration in SoHo (that is the South of Houston Street neighborhood for non New Yorkers) this coming weekend, May 8-10, 2009.

I have lived in New York City less than two years and this will be the third and best EMS location in SoHo I have known. The new location, on the north-east corner of Spring and Broadway at 530 Broadway (pictured right), is an awesome location. Step outside the door, look north, and see the Empire State Building. There is a Chase Bank across the corner if you need fast cash and a Starbucks a block east on Spring Street to celebrate that new outdoor gear purchase by drinking a latte. There are plenty of street vender food carts near the corner most of the day so hunger should never be a problem. And the closest subway, the 6, is only two blocks east on Spring. Several other lines are within easy walking distance.

The new store is totally awesome. It offers more space, more natural lighting, more gear, more services, and more comfort than the previous two locations. The new location also includes a bike department and kayaks as well as an adventure planning center.

When you enter through the one and only public entrance at 530 Broadway you walk into the climbing area (as in Ice, Sport, Trad and Alpine) and will see the steps to the upper and main level in front of you. Beyond/behind the steps is the library and adventure planning area with plenty of guidebooks, adventure epics, and maps for sale plus plenty for in store use only to help you plan your next adventure.

At the top of the stairs you will find kayaking accessories to the right (this area will eventually be expanded), men’s apparel straight ahead and women’s apparel and the check-out area to the left. Walk left past the registers and turn left at the wall to enter the bike department complete with mechanic.

Walk straight back from the top of the steps through men’s apparel and eyewear and electronics will be to your right. At the far end is footwear and to the left is base camp, filled with packs, bags, tents and just about every accessory you could ever want to take with you regardless of whether you are going to summit or shore (that was shameless self promotion).

Normal hours are Mon-Sat 10 AM-9PM and Sun 11 AM-7 PM. During this weekend Grand Opening everything will be on sale, some up to 40% off. You will receive a free NYC-SoHo Techwick T-Shirt with a $125 purchase. And there will be cool prizes from Marmot, Osprey, SmartWool, Asolo, Salomon, The North Face, Vasque, NRS and other name brands every hour. On Friday from 11:30 AM- 1 PM and 5-6 PM you can meet and greet ultrarunner Dean Karnazes.

EMS Employees working the floor are called “Guides” because they are able to guide you with knowledge gleaned from experience to the best gear to meet your needs. They can do so because EMS Guides are themselves bikers, skiers, runners, hikers, backpackers, kayakers, climbers, etc. who use the gear and wear the apparel in the store.

Disclaimer: In the spirit of transparent self-disclosure, I inform my readers that I am indeed a part-time Guide at the EMS SoHo store but I was neither asked to write this post nor compensated for doing so. I did receive verbal permission from EMS SoHo management to blog about EMS SoHo but management neither pre-approved nor edited this post. This post represents my own views and opinions and does not necessarily represent the views and opinions of Eastern Mountain Sports.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Long Live the Printed Word

I think much has been written and said about the demise of the printed word thanks to the internet, as if the ability to retrieve and read information via a computer with an internet connection could ever replace the written word, be it books, magazines or newspapers. Perhaps the best argument against such is when the hard copy magazine article is about blogs and websites. Take, for example, the June 2009 issue of Sea Kayaker.

I do not subscribe to or usually read Sea Kayaker, but when a paddling friend alerted me to an article about Chuck Sutherland (“Chuck Sutherland: Cold Water Warrior” pp. 19-22) I picked up a copy at my local Barnes & Noble. The article about Chuck was worth the read and the purchase price, but that is not the point.

The point is the article on pages 44-47, “Kayaking Down the Information Superhighway”. The article documents how the internet has revolutionized sea kayaking social networking by enabling paddlers across the country from one another to share information, paddlers down the street from one another that may never have met to arrange to paddle together, and the formation of cyber clubs. That is right, four pages of black ink-formed characters on hard copy really existing in space and time white background, not computer code existing in cyberspace.

Beside the fact that the article “Kayaking Down the Information Superhighway” in the June 2009 Issue of Sea Kayaker alerting me to some blogs and websites that I was not familiar with, I can also roll it up and take it with me to read on the Subway. I can throw it into my briefcase without it taking up much space or my having to think about not dropping it. I do not have to rely on it maintain its charge, nor do I need to think about bringing along extra batteries or my cord to plug it in. It is completely portable. I can forget it, loose it, or throw it away without losing several hundred dollars worth of electronic hardware.

So here I am, a blogger, relying on the internet to communicate, writing about the fact that I think the written word is here to stay and that there are just some times I want to hold a hard copy in my hands to read. I like the internet for its search capabilities and the way it has decentralized the control of media and promoted free speech. I mean if I had to rely on a publisher and an editor the majority of what I have posted on my blog would never have appeared on a printed page. Nevertheless I am not willing to write the obituary for the book, magazine or newspaper. Long live the printed word.

Monday, May 4, 2009

LoveFest in the Garden

You can read what the professionals have written in USA Today and the New York Times.
Here is what I heard, saw and experienced Sunday night in Madison Square Garden.

My wife and I has $19.19 seats in the nosebleed section behind the stage, section 418 Row C. There were no JumboTrons, only two projection screens, and the one we could see best was a reversed image because we were behind it. We could hear just fine, and the small monocular I brought from home allowed us to see some details on the stage.

I am not a music critic so I will not even attempt to go there. I do like folk songs, am an environmentalist, and am committed to social justice, so Pete Seeger is my sort of guy.

Even though there were a lot of big names performing, I did not feel like Sunday’s CLEARWATER CONCERT was a true concert but rather a 90th birthday party sing alone for and with one of America’s icons and I just happened to be invited.

If I had closed my eyes a few of the opening songs would have made me think I was back in the West Virginia, the Home state of Mother Jones, or in Harlan County, Kentucky. I guess labor movement songs work wherever they are song, though.

My friend Tobey has written that the concert made him “feel like a young kid again…felt like the sixties with Baez and MgGuin and Richie Havens etc…” Regarding Pete Seeger, Tobey said “What I saw last night was a man who has lived his beliefs and principles for his whole life. That must be why at age 90 he can get Madison Square Garden to stand up and sing along. Would that we could all be so true and uncompromising to our inner nature. No cabin passage for Pete through this life.

This is what my Wife Vicki, a big Springsteen fan, posted to a Springsteen fan site. “I loved the show! Dave Matthews was worth the price of admission alone... everyone else was just icing on the cake. Bruce sounded a little hoarse but I am thrilled to have seen him do Tom Joad with Tom Morello. Wowzer! . . . Patti was there for the encore and the extras at the end. It was a really great night. So many egos and legends, but it turned into one big liberal lovefest.”

The most stirring moment for me was Pete’s younger sister offering a poetic tribute laced with piano cords. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

I agree with the New York Time’s political assessment. Even if the musical selections or the linuop had not changed, if the Birthday Benefit Concert had been held six months ago, prior to the most recent election, it would have been a different experience. It probably would have felt more like a protest rally rather than a celebration.

As it was, it felt a little like church, or at least what church should be. There was Amazing Grace and Pete telling the story of John Newton. There was This Little Light of Mine. There was Little Boxes on the Hillside. There was When the Saints Go marching In. I felt like circling the pews, building a campfire, toasting marshmallows, making S’mores, and passing round a bottle of rye whiskey to celebrate communion with all the saints of the labor movement, the civil rights movement, and the environmental movement.

Thank God for Pete Seeger. His music and public witness have offered us hope and encouragement as well as calling us to action and activism during some difficult times. I hope Bruce Springsteen’s assessment was correct. Pete has outlived the bastards. The times have changed. This is our land again.

NYC Council of Presbyterian Men Present Awards

I recently attended the New York City Council of Presbyterian Men (NYCCPM) 2009 Annual Men’s Award Recognition Brunch. The annual event was hosted by First Spanish Presbyterian Church, Brooklyn, NY, pictured top right. A slide show of original photos taken at the event is available for viewing.

One the pleasure of living in New York City is the opportunity and ability to ride the Subway. Really! My wife needed the car most of the day but I was able to walk a quarter mile of the street, jump on the “M”, transfer to the “J”, and then from the “J” walk just a few blocks to the church. The one way trip cost me a whole $2. I could not have driven for less.

The approximate 160 in attendance (part of the crowd pictured middle right) were welcomed by NYCCPM President the Reverend Gilbert Sherman. The opening prayer was offered by the Reverend Michael Lindvall, Pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church. Host Pastor the Reverend Jose Gilberto Gonzales-Colon, fresh off a plane from Columbia, brought greetings from the host church.

The Blessing of the meal was an example of the multi-cultural and multi-lingual nature of New York City Presbytery. Elder Chris Kim prayed in Korean. Elder Julio Damiani offered thanks in Spanish. A blessing in French was offered by Elder Emmanuel Goued-Njayick. An English language prayer was prayed by the Reverend Lonnie Bryant.

Not all in attendance, or providing leadership, were men. Prior to brunch being served we were treated to a musical offering by Violinist Sung-Eum Paik, a performance worthy of Manhattan’s finest performance venues.

The brunch of bagels, scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, sausage, hash browns and oatmeal was provided by the women of First Spanish Presbyterian Church.

One of my favorite artistic ministries in the Presbytery is Master Mine Ministry organized by elder Susan Wenn-Leach of the Church of the Master, and I was not disappointed when though liturgical movement they interpreted a contemporary Christian song.

The Reverend Dr. Victor Aloyo (pictured bottom right), Multicultural Relations Director at my Alma Mater, Princeton Theological Seminary, brought us the message for the day, “Long Road to Discipleship”. I loved his image of the Jordan River, beginning as crystal clear water in the Lebanon highlands, picking up silt and mud along the way as it flows in the Sea of Galilee. The Sea of Galilee is full of life, having sustained a small fishing industry that supports villages along its banks for centuries. The Sea of Galilee is so alive because just as it receives water from the Jordon it also gives it water back as the Jordan flows from the southern end of the sea until it reaches the Dead Sea, which is so full of salt and minerals that no life can exist in it. Thus if we want to be alive we must give as well as receive. If all we do is receive, without ever giving back, we will grow stagnate and die. At least that is what I think Victor was trying to say with this image of the Jordan.

Thirty leadership awards were presented by Presbytery Moderator the Reverend Margaret Orr Thomas and the Reverend Gilbert Sherman. Among the thirty was Elder John David Moser, Clerk of Session at North Church Queens, which is primarily why I attended, although I knew many other receiving awards.

Nineteen Service Awards were presented by Presbytery Stated Clerk the Reverend Dr. Cornell Edmonds and NYCCPM Vice-President Elder David Michael.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Chance Meeting

Yesterday I happened to strike up a conversation with John, a resident of Florida visiting New York City. We were standing near the kayaking supplies in the Eastern Mountain Sports SoHo store on opening day in its new location and started talking about sailing and kayaking. Eventually he mentioned that he had a website devoted to building a community of people who share his passion for Florida and where he hopes to share articles about the people, places and activities that make sailing and kayaking in Florida so wonderful. I mentioned that a few months ago I had started blogging at Summit to Shore and he said that he had already visited my blog to read my post about 45 reasons to learn to sail. Our conversation then turned from sailing and kayaking to blogging and websites.

John is the first person I have met who has visited this blog from a distance; I mean other than people from New York City and other than people I know and have told about my blog. It was a neat experience.

Visit and explore John’s website and drop him a comment. Be sure to visit his site again if at any time in the near future you are planning to sail or kayak in Florida.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

About May’s Header Photo

May’s header photo was taken on a cloudy, overcast, drizzling Sunday afternoon, March 8, 2009. The view is looking south out over the Atlantic Ocean from the beach at Coney Island, NY.

It has taken me nearly four months to learn how to make the header photo extend all the way across the header. They key was to toggle off the “shrink to fit” button in the dialog box and to crop the photo to a width of 1210 pixels. The height of May’s header photo is 300 pixels and I may experiment more with the height over the next several months. For the time being, however, 1210 pixels wide seems to be the magic number.

As a reminder, most of my header photos, as most of the photos I use in my posts, have been taken with a SeaLife ECOshot waterproof and shock proof digital camera. While I occasionally have used my wife’s digital camera, the SeaLife ECOshot is my first real foray into digital photography.

I specifically wanted a camera I could take kayaking without having to worry about it getting wet. I have hiked and backpacked in enough pouring rain that from experience I could also see how a water proof camera on the trail would be a plus. When I have been snorkeling in the Bahamas I have used an inexpensive 35mm camera in a watertight plastic case and would have preferred to use a digital camera. While I generally take good care of my gear I can also be pretty rough with electronic equipment and liked the idea that the ECOshot is fully rubber armored for sure grip and extra shock protection. This is a great advantage when I’m climbing with the camera hanging off my rack and banging against the rock.

One drawback of the SeaLie ECOshot is lack of any sunshade. It can be pretty difficult seeing the image on a sunny day. Wearing polarized sunglasses makes seeing the screen almost impossible and I have to either take my glasses off or look above or below the lenses.

This past winter when kayaking in near freezing or below freezing temperatures the rechargeable Ni-MH batteries drained pretty quickly, but so did the batteries of everybody else, regardless of what camera they were using. I appreciate being able to use regular over-the-counter Alkaline batteries for those days when I have forgotten to charge the Nickel-metal hydride batteries.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Modern Day Urban Shepherds?

Yesterday in the weekly lectionary study and discussion group I attend, we wrestled with, among other things, the relevancy of the Shepherd imagery in a modern urban setting. The text we were considering was John10:11-18 and Jesus’ statement “I am the good Shepherd . . .” Far removed from rural America, not to mention Scotland, Ireland or New Zealand, and in farther away from rural Palestine, most modern city dwellers have never seen a real life sheep except in a zoo. So what to do? What contemporary image carries some of the same meaning as that of a shepherd?

Some of the images to replace that of a shepherd that we discussed were Dog Walkers, Child Care Workers, and Home Health Aides, as well as Firefighters, Police Officers and School Teachers. More specifically we reflected upon Captains of airliners who set their planes down in rivers and check to make sure all the passengers have disembarked before they are the last person to leave the plane, and Captains of cargo ships who allow themselves to be taken hostage by pirates in order to protect the lives of their crew.

What other images work for you?