Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Eagle at Philipse Manor

(2014-02-27 001)There’s an eagle at the Philips Manor train station.

Not a real one, just a statue. I took some pictures of it. It reminded me of the eagle at Grand Central, which I thought was one of the eagles rescued from the destroyed Penn Station in 1969 and moved there. However, it turns out that this eagle, which stares straight ahead with its wings outstretched, is related to that eagle, which is looking over its shoulder. Both these eagles are from the old Grand Central Depot, which was torn down in 1910 to build the current Grand Central Terminal.

There were a lot of these eagles, 12 are known but no (2014-02-27 002)one is sure how many there really were that adorned the old depot. Like a dandelion gone to seed, the old depot gave up its eagles before disappearing. These eagles have been scattered all over the metropolitan area, turning up in backyards and adorning small towns and villages. And, typically, after decades and public forgetfulness, that which is lost is rediscovered and a feeling of nostalgia sweeps over everyone. Soon there’s a movement to restore that which was lost (2014-02-27 003)or, at least in this case, two eagles returned to adorn the current Grand Central Terminal.

While I catch the train, it stands there, staring out over the train tracks. Is it guarding the station, or staring off into the past?

“Eagles on the roof. Grand Central Terminal. Part 3,” Big Apple Secrets, June 23, 2013.
“Rare Avis: an Iron Eagle Returning to City Roost,” The New York Times, June 20, 1997.

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Filed under History, New York City, Sleepy Hollow

The Dogs of Whimsies

(2014-02-18 019)Whimsies Incognito is closing its doors this Sunday, February 23. I stopped there on Tuesday to see how things were going, and a lot of the merchandise that I knew from visiting for months is gone. The store still looks like it has a lot, but to the trained eye you can see that things are starting to get bare. Where there was once merchandise hanging from the ceiling and high up on the walls are now barren.

While there, I snapped this picture of Jackie’s dogs, Linus and Trevor, who is looking at the camera. The dog has good ears; he heard me turn on my camera, which “woke” him. I love Labradors: they are big, dumb, lovable dogs. Once he knows you, Linus enjoys showing you his bone/toy of the moment. Trevor is more reserved, at least around me. Still, he always comes over and “says” hello before trotting back to lay down.

Aren’t they cute?

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February 15: Lupercalia

I’ve always preferred Lupercalia to Valentine’s Day.

I used to have wonderful “I Hate Valentine’s Day” parties back in Pittsburgh. I had couples and singles coming to the parties. Once I had all the people working in a bakery come out to see who had ordered the cake with the cracked heart and the black roses. They could not conceive that someone could not like Valentine’s Day, and they assumed that I had been “jilted” or “stood-up” when, in reality, it’s just a insipid holiday.

Anyone who needs a day set aside to be romantic or passionate really should be alone.

The most popular story I heard was that Valentine was a Roman soldier who had converted to Christianity. Imprisoned for his beliefs, he befriended his jailer’s daughter, who asked him about Christianity. So, secretly, Valentine taught her about the new religion, and she converted.  Taken to his death, Valentine left a message for his new convert, to maintain her faith in Christ, and he signed it “from your Valentine.” No passion. No romance. Just Christianity being spread from devotee to convert.

Pan (modern statue created by Oberon Zell)

Pan (modern statue created by Oberon Zell)

In contrast, Lupercalia dates to ancient Rome, long before the empire. The festivities would start at the Lupercal cave, which is where Romulus and Remus were suckled by the she-wolf. From here, naked young men, wearing belts of animal skin and carrying strips of goat hide, would run around the Palatine. Anyone encountered would be struck by the goat hide strips. This was a form of fertility magic that ensured that crops–and people–would be fruitful.

The ancient Romans weren’t sure who was supposed to be honored at Lupercalia. Certainly Faunus, the ancient pastoral god identified with the Greek gold Pan, was honored at the celebration, but because it all started at the Lupercal cave, there were ties to Romulus and Remus as well. (Lupa is the Latin word for wolf.) Livy claimed that Inuus, the god of sexual intercourse, was originally honored before he became identified with Faunus. In the time of Augustus a new god, Lupercus, was created as the honoree of the celebration.

In an attempt to “sanitize” Lupercalia and bring it into Christianity, Pope Gelasius I in 494 made February 15 the Festival of the Purification of the Virgin Mary.

For traditionalists, however, February 15 will always remain Lupercalia–a much more “earthy” alternative to Valentine’s Day.

Adkins, Lesley, and Roy A. Adkins. Dictionary of Roman Religion (New York: Facts on File, 1996).

Stapleton, Michael. A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Mythology (New York: Dell Publishing Company, 1978).

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More Snow

Well, we got another snowstorm today, dumping who knows how much snow on the area.

I had hoped that I would get a “snow day” and not have to work, but it was not meant to be. So, sloshing through the slop that covered sidewalk and road, I walked towards Philipse Manor, walking part of the way on Route 9 which would usually be dangerous, but there were not that many cars on the road.

Surprisingly, I made it to the train station early and caught the early express train, which was running 10 minutes late. As a result, I was got into Manhattan fifteen minutes early, and into work nearly 20 minutes early. Others weren’t so lucky.

And what, you may ask, is this post about? Snow? No, it’s much more than that.

(2014-02-05 002)Take a look at this picture. It’s of Philipsburg Manor, that 17th century trade center. I tried to capture the hail as it fell this morning, but as you can see I didn’t have much luck. Philipsburg Manor is covered in a blanket of snow; the barn, mill, manor house, etc. is quiet and peaceful. I wanted to take a photo of it, but there was a huge snowdrift and a snow-covered sidewalk between me and the fence, so I snapped as I walked by.

Anyway, seeing the place made me realize that, if this were still the 17th century, we’d be in our houses, doing something productive while the snow piled up outside. We wouldn’t be traveling anywhere. You’d stay put. No one in their right mind would venture out in the weather we had this morning.

So, I sloshed to the train station, then got out at Grand Central to discover RIVERS and PONDS of dirty, freezing, slush along the gutters and around the street corners. What a mess. Yet there we were, attempting to maneuver through this slop to get to work, to school, or wherever we had to be. To paraphrase Queen Victoria, we were not amused.

This would have been the perfect day to stay inside, nice and dry. From what I hear, we are going to get ANOTHER one of these storms in a few more days. Did I mention that I didn’t have hot water this morning? That’s the THIRD time this winter.

Again, we are not amused.

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Filed under Nature, Uncategorized