Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Archive for December, 2012



I have broken with tradition and rather than giving my annual title to someone who is on Facebook, I have given the title to someone who is not on FB but deserves the title this year… – my mom. The photo is of her 80th birthday celebration, six years ago.
Personally it has been one of the most horrible and disappointing years I have had in a very long time. It started with Gray Line bus tours laying off the senior tour guides (me) who spoke up trying to save their jobs and it steadily slid downhill from there. One job disappointment after another and sadly many personal and career disappointments as well. The political and national news has been a nightmare almost all year, I can hardly bear to watch the TV. With determination mom stood in the cold on the long lines to cast her vote this year, rather than mail it in. But, one can always look down. I did not get wiped out by hurricane Sandy and mom and I still have each other.
As in several of the worst tragedies we have suffered together, from deaths to illnesses to cruel twists of fate, she has always been a rock. There is always that youthful joyful  voice on the other end of the phone or just around the corner. She brought me elaborate home cooked meals in the snowstorms and bad weather when I was ill, stood by me in all the awful disappointments that came literally up until even yesterday.
I am doubly blessed! I have a loving ‘family of friends’ here on Facebook and on my blog. Some of you I have never even met and I feel so close to and owe so many of you a nice long phone call. But you are “there”, showing me love and support when I need it, for that I thank you all greatly. Thank you und vielen Dank! But when we are lucky enough to always have a loving mother to turn to, we are the most lucky person in the world. Isn’t true…we always turn to mom. So for all the comfort and support and the security of knowing no matter how awful it got and gets, she would be and is there . . . mom has to be the Person of the Year.



Spread joy, spread cheer,
be kind to others, volunteer.
Enjoy the sparkle of each season,
decorate no matter the reason.
Play and make music that is joyful,
let the sounds make their hearts full.
Why be a good little elf just one week a year,
Spread joy, spread cheer,
you’ll live longer year to year 🙂

Mr. Sunando Sen worked hard for 46 years and his reward: two candles and six roses.


A woman accused of pushing a man to his death in front of a speeding subway train Thursday night, December 27th, in Queens has been charged with murder as a hate crime, New York Police Department spokesman spokesman Paul Browne. said Saturday.Police arrested Erica Menendez on Saturday after a passerby on a Brooklyn street noticed she resembled the woman seen in a surveillance video.Ms. Menendez told authorities she hates Hindus and Muslims, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.

The victim, Sunando Sen, was from India, but it isn’t clear whether he was Muslim or Hindu, it doesn’t matter.

The arrest capped a three-day search for a heavyset, 5-foot-5 Hispanic woman who was caught on camera escaping from a subway platform in Sunnyside, Queens, after she allegedly shoved a man into the path of an oncoming No. 7 train. It was the second such attack in New York City in less than a month.

The seemingly unprovoked attack, the second time this month that a man was thrown to his death on the subway tracks, stirred some of the deepest fears of New Yorkers.

“When a murder happens in New York, it can often be dismissed as being in someone else’s backyard,” said Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group. “The subway is everyone’s backyard.”

The police identified the victim as Sen of Queens, a 46-year-old immigrant who had been raised in India and who, after years of toil, had finally saved enough money to open a small copying business this year on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

Ar Suman, one of four roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Sen in Elmhurst, said he was driving a client upstate when another roommate called and told him what had happened. Hoping the information was wrong, Suman raced back to the city, only to find that there was nothing he could do — Sen was dead.

“He was a very educated person and quite nice,” Suman said. “It is unbelievable. He never had a problem with anyone.”

Suman said Sen was proud when he had saved enough money to open the business, New Amsterdam Copy.

Since the shop opened, he had rarely taken a day off, Suman said.

“I asked him why do you work seven days a week?” Suman said. “He told me, ‘I cannot hire someone because business is not good.”‘

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Friday that according to witnesses’ accounts, there was no contact on the platform between the attacker and the victim immediately before the fatal shove. He said Sen was looking out over the tracks when his attacker approached him.

The attack occurred so quickly, with the train already barreling into the station, that the man had little time to react and bystanders had no time to try to help, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.

Sen was hit by the first car and his body was pinned under the second car before the 11-car train came to a stop.

Investigators released a grainy black-and-white video overnight showing a person they identified as the attacker fleeing the station and running along Queens Boulevard. She was described by the police as Hispanic, 5 feet 5 inches tall, in her early 20s and heavyset. She was reported to be wearing a blue, white and gray ski jacket and Nike sneakers — gray on top, red on bottom.

The subway station was closed overnight as officers from the Emergency Services Unit used specialized inflatable bags to lift the train and recover the victim’s remains. The No. 7 line had resumed normal service by the morning rush.

Sen’s roommates could not understand what might have led to the fatal encounter Thursday.

Suman said that as far as he knew, Sen did little more than work and come home. Both his parents were dead, they said, and he was not married and had no children.

Sen suffered a heart attack about nine months ago, Suman said, but did not slow down. The night stand in Sen’s bedroom had many bottles of prescription medicine. Across the room on his desk was a pile of medical bills.

His roommates said he liked watching funny clips on YouTube to unwind, enjoyed a cup of tea and would relax listening to classical Indian music.

“This guy is so quiet, so gentle, so nice,” said M.D. Khan, a taxi driver who also lives in the apartment. “It’s so broken, my heart.”

Photo of the day: STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT . . .



Star Light Star bright,

The first star I see tonight,

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish tonight.

The UNICEF Snowflake has been a New York City tradition since 1984. It is a gigantic crystal ornament that resides on the intersection of 57th St & 5th Avenue. Everybody at one point in their lives has thought of stars in sort of a dream sense. However, when you are approaching the Snowflake from either direction you would swear that you are on another planet traveling right next to a star, only you are in NYC. This Snowflake is 23 feet in diameter, 28 feet high and approximately 3,300 pounds. Perfect location for such a star like image, the intersection where it hangs is right smack in the center of some of the finest shops, restaurants and theatres in the world. From Tiffany’s to Bergdorf Goodman, from Henri Bendel’s to Nobu 57 and Carnegie Hall just around the corner on 57th and 6th Avenue. People from all over the world take photos of the Snowflake. It’s not only the magnificent structure consisting of 16000 illuminated crystal prisms but a symbol for hope.
More than a symbol, the UNICEF Snowflake is the centerpiece of an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars in support of health, immunization, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, education and protection for children in developing nations. It’s a reminder for UNICEF’s dedication to reach a point in time when zero children die of preventable causes. The Snowflake was dedicated to UNICEF by the Stonbely Family Foundation in 2002. Last year, acclaimed lighting designer Ingo Maurer and the French-based luxury goods company Baccarat unveiled this new UNICEF Crystal Snowflake, the world’s largest outdoor crystal chandelier of its kind.
(This is my 200th post! Thank you all!)



CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE: Tis the season for chestnuts roasting on an open fire – but good luck finding them on a street corner in New York City. The toasty treat that Nat King Cole immortalized in “The Christmas Song” was once a year-round staple of street vendors citywide. Now the chewy nuts are relegated to the tourist-heavy corners of Manhattan, a victim of changing tastes, vendors sadly say.

Chestnuts are mainly sought out by tourists and nostalgic native New Yawkers.  Less and less sell every year as prices also rise. I remember I used to collect them with my grandmother in the fall in Woodhaven Blvd’s St. John’s Cemetery where there are chestnut trees in abundance. She had taught me the old German art of chestnut carving! We would spend many fall afternoons carving the beautiful brown nuts into people, baskets and animals aided with tooth picks for limbs, tiny buttons or pins for eyes etc. Now the chestnuts you see on the streets are imported from Italy and are expensive. Sugary coated peanuts are now in vogue and to be had everywhere instead.  Roasted chestnuts have become an acquired taste, romanticized by the Nat King Cole song, seems we’re buying them now only to savor our past – not the taste . . .




THE SNOWY BRIDE OF CENTRAL PARK: I was walking past Central Park in the midst of the heavy snowfall yesterday and I caught a glimpse of a Victorian like figure with her white umbrella making her way to the rocks on the lake in the park. There they were in the snowfall, just she, her groom and one of their moms. A photographer was on hand the document the “white wedding”. I later found out they are from England and were determined to have their photos taken by the lake and were enchanted by “the magic of the snowfall.” She had a white fur jacket to keep her warm, her cheeks had a red rosy glow, perhaps it was the snow, perhaps it was the joy of the moment, either way, it was a magical picture perfect Currier & Ives moment.



MY OLD FASHIONED GERMAN CHRISTMAS TREE: Yes – those are real candles. We celebrate with no flashing lights or loud music, our ‘church’ is the tree. The tree is decorated with ornaments dating back several generations, about ninety years. Modern ones are included of course, that way the tree is a living story of the family’s history. Tin foil wrapped chocolates and marzipan fill the tree as well. We usually get the biggest tree that will fit in the apartment (we once had a 14 foot tall tree) but now that mom is downsizing, we get a smaller tree and it is placed on a turn of the century old wooden steamer trunk that was used when my great aunt came to visit us in the New York and it is used as a table base to place the tree upon.
Depending on the size of the tree, anywhere from two to four dozen candles are placed in strategic spots in the tree. Each candle illuminates the special ornaments nearby. The candleholders are metal clip-ons in the shape of a pine cone. You can still buy the candles and holders at Schaller and Weber’s, a surviving German delicatessen just off 86th Street on Second Avenue in what was once an entire German neighborhood.
December 24 Christmas eve, the elder in the family lights the candles in the room and on the tree and puts the ‘Christmas record’ on the phonograph. The record is of German church bells and church choirs singing. When all is ready, a golden bell is rung and the rest of the family comes into the glow of the room. We stand quietly side by side, arm in am or holding hands and quietly listen to the beautiful music we have listened to for decades before. That is ‘church’ to us. As the first side of the record ends, we play the other side, sit down and just quietly gaze into the serene candlelight, watching the ornaments glisten. No lights are on in the room, just the glow of candlelight, just as it is in Germany, France, and all of Scandinavia. Let your imagination go back to the late 1800’s enjoying a room just simply lit by candlelight (which is the most complimentary to any face!).
The second side of the record ends with a jolly children’s song “Der Weihnachtsman ist da!/Santa Claus is here!”, signifying it is time to open presents by the amber glow. We grab some of the marzipan, gingerbread and chocolates that are on the dining table for all to enjoy as we open our treasures. At midnight a bottle of champagne is opened to ring in Christmas day. At one time it was my whole family enjoying this tradition, now it is just my mother and me left to carry on, and sadly on day it will just be me, but I will always do it, perhaps with a heavy heart. But this is Christmas, a German Christmas, my heritage. My great grandmother’s, grandparent’s, mother’s and my heritage. Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Photo of the day: And they’ll blow their floofloovers, They’ll bang their tartookas !


. . . And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise! There’s one thing I hate!
And they’ll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing ’round on their wheels.
They’ll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They’ll blow their floofloovers. They’ll bang their tartookas.
They’ll blow their whohoopers. They’ll bang their gardookas.
They’ll spin their trumtookas. They’ll slam their slooslunkas.
They’ll beat their blumbloopas. They’ll wham their whowonkas.
And they’ll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay, A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they’ll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!
BUT ~ then the Grinch puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store,
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more ♥

Photo of the day: PEACE


PEACE: May this Christmas holiday season bring one of the most sought after and elusive gifts – the gift of peace to all my Facebook and blogisphere family and friends. Whatever and however you celebrate, may you celebrate in a peaceful and joyful place with those you love. Merry Christmas ♥



THE ULTIMATE NEW YORK TREE: If you are rushing home for the holidays and find yourself in Grand Central Terminal needing a last minute gift? Rush over to their Christmas Market and find ‘HUT STUDIOS’. You can find every beloved and some quirky New York icons  available for your tree. It’s the perfect last minute gift as you rush on your way to the folks back home! Are you just visiting NYC? – they are the quintessential unique souvenirs. Artists Richard Hopper and Harold Gilstein have photoshopped images of New York (the Pan Am Building, the Flatiron Building, the Roosevelt Island Tramway) decoupaged into 3-D ornaments ($30 to $45). You can also buy an Astor Place train station business card holder, a Grand Central Terminal box, or The Ansonia, The Dakota, Chrysler, Empire, the Chelsea Hotel,  in storage box form.
It is your one chance to buy a piece of real estate at affordable prices! You can now truly say “I’ll take Manhattan” . . . and not go broke – Enjoy !



STAIRWAY TO PARADISE: In a year where we have suffered a great amount of closings of iconic landmark stores, restaurants and shops in New York City due to the voracious greed of the landlords, there is one thing we can still count on…the clickety clack of the wonderful wooden escalator at Macy*s.
Macy*s is paying tribute to those glorious wooden moving stairs in their main Christmas window this year, featuring fashions of the past fifty decades. The escalators will take women to the largest ladies shoe department in the world – shoegasm!
The Otis (as in elevator) escalator has been lifting shoppers to all heights since 1927. My favorite memory: in the 1960’s when women wore those thin stiletto heels they would always get caught between the wide slats of the escalator. One day mom and I were ascending to the second floor – mom got off the escalator – her shoes didn’t…that almost became routine. Women had to stand on their tippy toes as to not get caught.  Since the stilettos were made of a primitive plastic, they would either break off or get sliced off by the notorious escalators. Limping women was a common sight in 1960’s.Clickety clack, clickety clack  buy another pair off the rack!”

Photo of the day: HANS VON RITTERN – December 21, 1955

Hans school

HANS VON RITTERN – Born December 21, 1955.
This is my first day of third grade school at PS 139 on 63rd Drive in Rego Park Queens. Mom got me a new briefcase and a new umbrella! I am nine years old here, I remember I couldn’t keep those shoes tied 🙂
(Oh, and the tie is a clip on, lol).

“IS THAT ALL THERE IS?” by Peggy Lee


I remember when I was a very little girl, our house caught on fire.

I’ll never forget the look on my father’s face as he gathered me up in his arms and raced through the burning building out to the pavement.

I stood there shivering in my pajamas and watched the whole world go up in flames. And when it was all over I said to myself, “Is that all there is to a fire?”
Is that all there is,

is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is
And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus, the greatest show on earth.

There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears

And a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads.

And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing.

I don’t know what, but when it was over,

I said to myself, “Is that all there is to a circus?”
Is that all there is, is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is
Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.

We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other’s eyes.

We were so very much in love. Then one day, he went away.

And I thought I’d die — but I didn’t. And when I didn’t I said to myself, “Is that all there is to love?”
Is that all there is, is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing
I know what you must be saying to yourselves.

If that’s the way she feels about it why doesn’t she just end it all?

Oh, no. Not me. I’m in no hurry for that final disappointment.

For I know just as well as I’m standing here talking to you, when that final moment comes and I’m breathing my lst breath, I’ll be saying to myself,
Is that all there is, is that all there is

If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing

Let’s break out the booze and have a ball

If that’s all there is . . .



WHAT WILL YOU DO IN YOUR FINAL HOURS ON EARTH?: According to the Mayans and many other ancient soothsayers from the past centuries, December 21st, 2012 has been predicted as the end of the earth. Now logistically – when does the universe &/or God determine the final bang should begin?? Each new day starts on Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean at 5am local New York time, so by Thursday the 20th at 5am we’re already screwed, but – if you’re reading this then the great chain reaction didn’t start and it proves the Mayans simply didn’t have a big enough rock for their calendar and they only had enough room till 12/21/12.

But if the end does come….how will you spend your last hours on earth?
Having that last great meal?
Spending all your money shopping?
Drinking till the end?
Making a list of questions you have for God?
Having great sex?
Listening to your favorite piece of music?
Watching ‘War of the Worlds’ or ‘The Day the Earth Stood Still’?
Quietly with loved ones?
Opening the bottle of fine wine you have been saving?
Calling someone and tell then you forgive them?
Playing every last Cher (or insert favorite artist here _____ ) CD you have till…?
Reviewing and burning your bucket list?
Calling your boss and telling him what you think of him?
Going to the most expensive restaurant in town knowing the bill won’t matter in a few hours?
Finally buying that pair of Louboutin shoes and going in style?
Be happy you don’t have to make your bed and do the dishes?
Getting your camera ready, because this should be one helluva final shot!?
Listening to Sinatra over and over again singing ‘I Did It My Way’?
Or just sitting back with a beer and say “Fasten your seatbelts it’s going to be a bumpy night!”?
I myself, will be listening to Peggy Lee’s recording of “Is That All There Is?”, over and over again.
However you spend the time – it’s been swell guys!
Here is a chart and list of where the each new day begins first: http://www.timeanddate.com/counters/firstnewyear.html



OSCAR THE SQUIRREL MEETS SANTA CLAUS: The conversation went something like this – – – Hi Santa! What are you doing in Hans’ living room? Well, never mind, here is my list, now pay attention, I want:
~ The super powered ultimate mega N9000 nutcracker, with batteries.
~ A giant bag of mixed nuts, no pistachios please.
~ The newest Scrat squirrel plush toy from “Ice Age”.
~ The acme SSTF – Splendiferous Squirrel Tail Fluffer.
~ A giant jar of peanut butter, the crunchy kind.
~ A limited edition Steinbach Elvis Presley nutcracker.
~ The ND2013,  patented Nut Detector 2013.
~ A Sciuridae nest warmer.
~ A fancy bottle of Eau de Planteurs.
~ And . . . a new flat screen TV with DVR for my benefactor and friend Hans.
Go to my December 3rd, 2013 Facebook post and blog post to read the story of my ‘pet’ squirrel Oscar!



MADONNA AND CHILD REST IN NEW YORK’S BOWERY: I came across a more unusual wall art or ‘graffiti’ in the gardens of St. Mark’s Church In The Bowery in the East Village of Manhattan. Madonna and Child seemingly resting along the wall of the church’s tranquil garden.
St. Mark’s Church is located at 131 East 10th Street, at the intersection of Stuyvesant Streets and 2nd Avenue. The Poetry Project hosts an annual New Year’s Day 11-hour reading that often features such downtown icons as musician Philip Glass and rock icon Patti Smith among its 100-plus participants.  The property has been the site of continuous Christian worship for more than three and a half centuries; it is New York’s oldest site of continuous religious practice, and the church is the second-oldest church building in Manhattan after the Morris Jumel Mansion of 1766 in Harlem.



JINGLE BELL ROCK: These two Salvation Army workers decided rather than play the staid traditional taped Christmas music they were going to rock out and were playing ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ followed by Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas is You’ on their music player and were really getting into it. The sheer joy of it stopped me dead in my tracks, their exuberance was infectious! This little boy came along and loved it and started bopping along. So the Salvation man gave the boy his hat and bell and the boy joined in on the act! I think this one of my all time favorite Christmas photos 🙂

Photo of the day: SANTACON CABY


SANTACON CABY: Yesterday approximately 22,000 Santas of all types and styles descended on New York for the annual Santacon celebration.
There was fat Santa, tall Santa, dirty old man Santa, naughty Santa, Grinch Santa, baby Santa, zombie Santa, flasher Santa, disco Santa, leather Santa, biker Santa, gay Santa, Star Wars Santa, pimp Santa, punk Santa, hippie Santa and endless more elves and Mrs. Claus’s to match !
It is sort of a flash mob idea. The secret meeting place is only revealed on Facebook and Twitter shortly before the day of Santacon and they all meet in mass and create a huge sea of red. Imagine Christmas shopping in New York and all of a sudden the streets are  filled with Santas as far as they eye can see. Unfortunately I couldn’t participate because I had to give a tour, but here is your average scene yesterday: Buses full of Santas, subways full of Santas, bars full of Santas, cabs full of Santas – ho – ho – ho ! ! !









THE PHANTOM OF LE CIRQUE AT BLOOMINGDALE’S: While other stores in New York have gone the traditional Christmas fantasy themes  route for their famous windows, Bloomingdale’s has not . . . theirs is an homage to Le Cirque du Soleil. Le Cirque . . . is doing an homage to Phantom of the Opera with a twist of an demented aerialist kidnapping his beloved in an umbrella through a magical sea. . .
In sleep he sang to me
At Bloomingdale’s he came
That voice that calls to me and speaks my name
And do I dream again for now I find
The Phantom of the Le Cirque is there Inside my mind

Sing once again with me Our strange duet
My power over you grows stronger yet
And though you turn from me to glance behind
The Phantom of the Le Cirque is there
Inside your mind



NEW YORK AT YOUR FINGERTIPS: One of the great things about NYC at Christmastime are the wonderful Christmas Markets. Some of the biggest markets are located at Columbus Circle, Bryant Park and inside Grand Central Terminal. They try to focus on local and New York themed items. One of the most popular and interesting vendors at all of these locations is ‘Insiders1’, specializing in fine soft leather goods featuring iconic New York photographic images enhanced through a sophisticated art collage process by founder Sigal De-Mayo and then hand-printed on the finest leather to create a unique effect that is permanent and designed to age beautifully. Bags of all designs, wallets and all sorts of fun accessories. One of their most fabulous items that caught my eye are these New York graffiti gloves. (Think of it, if you give someone the finger, you will just merely be pointing the way!) Please come to these markets to shop and if you can’t visit us at this magic time of the year, then visit them on their web site http://insiders1.com/pages/about 



New York Transit Museum’s 11th Annual Holiday Train Show at Grand Central


My sweet friend from Finland Nana Kautto and I were doing our own little tour of NYC and found this amazing train display. We were instantly turned into little children with our mouths agape and eyes huge with wonderment. This is so awesome! Funny thing is now…NYC has a mountain range with a ski chalet (well…a pass-through mountain is kinda required with a model train set).  Grand Central Terminal turns 100 in 2013 and they’re starting the party early with their 11th annual Holiday Train Show! In a brand new layout by Lionel Trains, model Metro-North and New York Central trains depart from a miniature Grand Central on their way North on a 34′ long, two-level “O” gauge layout. Vintage model trains from the Museum’s collection are on display joined by stunning New York Central railroad posters harkening back to the Terminal’s heyday as the nexus of long distance and commuter train travel. Presented by the New York Transit Museum.


New York Transit Museum Gallery Annex and Store Grand Central Terminal, Shuttle Passage, next to Station Master’s Office Monday – Friday 8 am to 8 pm Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 6 pm Closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day FREE ADMISSION Visit or shop online at www.mta.info/museum



HOW ARE YOU BRINGING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE HOME?? . . . no story here, just askin’ ? . . .