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

Archive for April, 2013



Mondays on Memory Lane – I DREAM OF JEANNIE 30 and 40 YEARS LATER: I have met Barbara Eden 1-1/2 times in my lifetime. The first time was in the year 2000 while I was working in downtown Manhattan. I was on my lunch break and would usually have my lunch near City Hall Park. On Wednesday, February 16th at 12 noon I got to the park and I could see this huge, huge line of almost only men outside of the mega store J&R Music and Computer World at 15 Park Row just opposite City Hall. There was this unusual heightened buzz of excitement about them so naturally I had to go over to investigate. I thought it was probably a Playboy Bunny or pin-up girl or some hot girl rocker. The line snaked out of the store and down the block. It was three to four men deep. The closer they got to the entrance of the store, they would all stand on their tippy toes to see “her” inside. “It’s Jeannie! It’s really Jeannie! Man, she looks great!”
‘Jeannie who’ I wondered, what Jeannie in 2000 could cause such a stir of excitement? I went to the guard at the door and tried to claim I was just going to shop – but no dice “Gotta get in line, all the other men are dreamin’ of Jeannie too, bud.” That Jeannie?! I was filled with excitement and headed around the corner to the back of the line, with at least 100 – 150 men ahead of me. What was so extraordinary about this frenzy was . . . this was way before Barbara Eden was heavily promoting the old beloved TV series as she does now and signing replicas of the famous bottle. She was there to promote the now defunct Cygion Cyber Genie, a micro PBX cordless phone system.
Since it was a promotional tour, her time schedule was limited. You could hear the J&R personnel saying that they had not expected such an enormous turnout. So, by the time I got inside the door, only to see her far on the other end of the store, the announcement was made, “I’m sorry fellas, but Miss Eden would love to meet you all, but she has to go.” That started a big roar of boos but also wolf call whistles to let her know how ‘hot’ they thought she was. Now in retrospect, I think working for Cygion must have been part of the wake up call to Barbara Eden to realize how still very beloved and popular she was thirty years after the show’s end.
Fast forward to Friday, October 27, 2010, ten years later and I am about to have my “Dream” come true! I am attending the Chiller Theater Autograph Show in Parsippany, New Jersey, where TV, movie, sci-fi, and music stars come for you to meet them and get their autographs and photos for a price. Finally I was going to meet Jeannie. I got there early and the lines were very long. Patty Duke was there, John Astin of ‘Addams Family’, Linda Blair, Richard Roundtree of ‘Shaft’ fame, LeVar Burton of ‘Roots’, the entire surviving cast of ‘Jeannie’ and ‘Dallas’ including Larry Hagman and so, so many more. So you’d think with that many stars inside, the crowd would evenly be distributed inside, the way water seeks it’s own level. No. Most people raced to the Jeannie/Dallas room, the wait in the hot hotel hallway was about two hours. (Larry Hagman passed me in the hallway on the way to the bathroom, lol, surreal.)
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The wait was worth it. She was and is radiant. She beams love. There is an incredible gentility to her. She looked amazing! There was a man selling replicas of the bottle, which I had, had to have! I bought the bottle clenching it in my hand as I waited to meet Jeannie forty years later! How is it that I had aged and Jeannie hadn’t…yeah I know, she really is a genie! The moment came, I was next in line! My heart pounded, my palms started to sweat, my knees a little shaky, this was so surreal…a few steps more…a few steps more and I was in the arms of Barbara Eden. I had died and gone to heaven!
In 2010 I had met an extraordinary amount of celebrities on my wish list, including my obsession Cher (whom I had met before), but out of allll those stars, it was Jeannie that was the biggest thrill. To look at my nightstand today and see the signed bottle next to my bed is awesome, so I can truly ‘dream’ of Jeannie ♥.

Photo of the day: JOY – SPRING IS HERE !


Photo of the day: JOY! What is joy to you? The warm rays of the spring sun with promises of the summer to come? Celebrating a day off from work? Spending the day together with one of your best friends? Discovering a new part of town together on a noon day walk? Seeing a red breasted robin carrying a twig to his new nest? Smelling the heady perfume of hyacinths in bloom? Feeling the soft breeze on your face? Hearing the birds singing in the trees?  Shadows playfully changing shapes on the ground? White puffy clouds that look just like the ones you saw in your fairytale books? The almost ‘Oz’-like green of newly grown grass? Seeing a tulip tree in full bloom illuminated by the afternoon sun?
My dear friend Deborah Blau and I experienced all these things while being alone at George Washington’s haunted Morris-Jumel Mansion.
Or – is joy listening to this: One Of The Best Instrumentals Of All Time From The British Studio Group “Apollo 100” Featuring Keyboardist Tom Parker. This 1972 Hit Made It To #6 On The American Hot 100 And Is Based On The Bach Composition Titled “Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring”.

Photo of the day: I LOVE BIG CANS!


As seen in Forest Hills, Queens
Photo of the day: YES I CAN!
can slang
noun: bathroom, breasts, buttocks, toilet.
verb – transitive: To dismiss (“fire”) from a job. To stop speech, visible emotion, etc.


1 /kæn; unstressed kən/ Show Spelled [kan; unstressed kuhn] Show IPA auxiliary verb and verb, present singular 1st person can, 2nd can or ( Archaic ) canst, 3rd can, present plural can; past singular 1st person could, 2nd could or ( Archaic ) couldst, 3rd could, past plural could. For auxiliary verb: imperative, infinitive, and participles lacking. For verb (Obsolete): imperative can; infinitive can; past participle could; present participle cun·ning.

auxiliary verb


to be able to; have the ability, power, or skill to: She can solve the problem easily, I’m sure.

to know how to: He can play chess, although he’s not particularly good at it.

to have the power or means to: A dictator can impose his will on the people.

to have the right or qualifications to: He can change whatever he wishes in the script.

may; have permission to: Can I speak to you for a moment?



NEW YORK POSTCARDS FROM THE PARK: Who writes postcards anymore?  Remember how special it was when you went to your mailbox and got those old postcards with the wavy white edges and the glossy finish from far away exotic places your family and friends had been too. Yellowstone Park, Central Park Zoo, the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Sardi’s restaurant on Broadway, on the road on route 66, the exotic far east, Carnaby Street in London, your family’s little home town or just from Schlomel’s Pickle Store in the Bowery. I remember the air lines would have postcards available with pictures of their jets in flight so that you could mail them upon arrival at your vacation spot to announce you had arrived safely.
“Dear Jane,
Having a wonderful time,
wish you were here! Can’t wait to tell you all about it!
My love to the kids.”
Written in fountain pen or blue (never liked black) ball point pen, with a special postage stamp for your loved ones you had searched for, to make the postcard all the more special! I have an old shoe box stored away somewhere with all those wonderful postcards answering that excited request when they left “send me a postcard!”
Nowadays, it’s a quick ‘check in ‘ on Facebook, a couple of quick instagram photos sent, flickr and YouTube to follow. It’s just not the same. Today in New York City you can find plenty of postcards, some as cheap as 10 for $1.00 – but good luck in trying to find a place that sells postage stamps, it’s almost impossible. Do you remember the last time you got your mail and there was that colorful card from loved ones at the Grand Canyon or the Alps in Switzerland or even from the sea shore in ‘Jersey’?
I spied this older couple sending them to their loved ones back home. They both took the time to write several long sentences to each loved one. One card was going to Natick, Massachusetts, the other to Tucson, Arizona. “Look mom, a postcard!”



I TAWT I TAW A PUDDY TAT / I THOUGHT I SAW A PUDDY TAT! – I was walking down West 42nd Street and I noticed this odd twosome of ladies leaning into and staring into the cement wall around the Public Library with great intent and fascination. I stopped walking and stood there, to observe the ‘observers’. What could be so fascinating staring into the bushes behind the cement wall? I stood there, they stared. I stood some more, they stared more intently, they did not move an inch, frozen…staring. Curiosity getting the better of me, I drew closer to see if I too could discover this secret fascination that only these two were privy to.
As I approached them from the other side I saw the binoculars in her hand! Oooh, I thought, juicy scandalicoius celebs making out behind the bushes! Or perhaps a secret filming of a top secret movie. No. They were bird watchers, intently watching some (maybe not so) ordinary sparrows in the bushes! Thank goodness no puddy tats were around, just two bird watchers, some perplexed New Yorkers and me.



Photo taken from completed World Trade Center #7

THE WOOLWORTH TOWER “IT ALL ADDS UP” – 100 YEARS OLD TODAY: On October 3, 2011 at 1:30 pm, ‘Open House New York’ gave me the rare privilege of going to the top of the newly finished World Trade Center #7. The floor had not yet been occupied and afforded me the breath taking views of the Woolworth Tower soon to be only the views seen by office workers in the building. It was a thrilling bittersweet experience.
On April 24, 1913 Frank W. Woolworth completed what was then the tallest building in the world, 57 stories tall, on lower Broadway between Park Place and Barclay Street, opposite City Hall. He called it his ‘cathedral of commerce’. Decorated with the finest craftsmanship, artwork, gold leaf and mocking gargoyles. The exterior decoration was cast in limestone-colored glazed architectural terra-cotta panels.
The completed height 792 feet (241 m). A breath-taking observation deck on the 57th floor was open to the public. It remained the tallest building in the world till the Chrysler Building was built in 1930, then only to be surpassed by the Empire State Building.
The most wonderful part of the story is he paid the full price of the building upon completion $13.5 million dollars …in cash. . . in nickels and dimes! Mr. Woolworth was noted for saying “it all adds up!”. So the next time your mother tells you to ‘save your nickels and dimes’ – listen to her! In my office at home I have a framed 1913 advertising brochure of Frank W. Woolworth who created one of the greatest financial empires in the world through his successful idea of ‘five and dime’ stores (our .99 cent stores of today.) I keep his brochure on my wall to remind me, it does all add up!
Tragically the building today has fallen victim to the cancer that is NYU university, which has taken over the building and will let no none NYU persons into the building, not even to peek a the lobby (there are nasty bully guards at the door) and rare tours are only for the very few and high paying. Or – you could pay the average $65,000 a year price tag tuition to attend NYU and tour the building whenever you wish. It is disgusting that this tower based on the nickels and dimes of the working class has succumbed to the über elite.
They have stolen our city treasure. It is the aftermath of the greedy era of mayor Michael Bloomberg and an even more dangerous villain councilwoman Christine Quinn. After NYU’s grab of the building, on July 31, 2012 an investment group led by Alchemy Properties bought the top thirty floors of the building. The tower will be turned in to 40 luxury apartments with a five level penthouse on top. Many people are looking for apartments in that area. The investment group says that the building historic status down town “has the catch to give it an edge over its competitors. “The luxury apartments will began at three hundred fifty feet from the ground level. Each apartment will have a view of lower and midtown Manhattan. The apartments will have ceiling heights that are about eleven to fourteen feet tall. A fifty five foot long pool in the basement will be restored for the use of the people who live there. The apartment is set to sell at seven and a half million dollars for about two thousand five hundred square feet. Over the entire project will cost one hundred fifty million dollars to build the apartments and plus the sixty eight million dollars used to purchase the space. . . a far cry from the days of nickels and dimes, those days are far gone.

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976

QUEEN ELIZABETH collageQueen Elizabeth II                                                        Prince Philip and Marvin Traub

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976: It wasn’t your average advertisement in the local papers ‘Come Meet the Queen at Bloomingdales’! This being 1976, the height of the disco era it could have been any one of dozens of queens. Divine, Sylvester, Craig Russell, Holly Woodlawn, Rollerena, Charles Pierce, Danny LaRue, Jim Bailey?
No, this was THE Queen to beat out all other queens, The one that always carries her handbag wherever she goes. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip. (As Bette Midler once famously asked: “What has she got in that handbag?! A card that says ‘I am the Queen?!’) Bloomingdale’s then CEO and president Marvin Traub had pulled off the media stunt of all stunts and convinced the Queen to visit his store. This was quite a coup for him. She wasn’t visiting Macy’s, SAKS, or Bonwitts, Tiffany or Bergdorf’s, she was visiting the store that was so hotly in vogue at the time. The Queen “didn’t choose Saks, and she didn’t choose Bergdorf — she chose Bloomingdale’s,” Traub once boasted in an interview with The Post.
As part of the city’s 1976 bi-centennial celebrations, on Friday, July 9th, 1976, the Queen first decided to participate in a little historical reenactment herself. Most famously, the Queen graced the steps of Trinity Church to receive back rent owed the crown — 279 peppercorns. A bronze plaque presently marks the spot at Trinity where she accepted the peppercorns.
After a luncheon at the Waldorf, the royals fit in a couple unusual stops. The first was a spot of afternoon tea at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem, accompanied by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Afterwards, they sped downtown for a tour of Bloomingdale’s, not only stopping traffic, but reversing it on Lexington Avenue, to allow the Queen to exit her vehicle from the right side.
She quietly moved from floor to floor, admiring the many displays of products of British make, particularly the pottery and furniture. She was also greeted to a private fashion show, as Her Majesty was led through a room of mannequins garbed in the latest stylish trends from 1976. Along the way, a few American designers made appearances to greet Queen Elizabeth, including Calvin Klein.
I recall it was in the mid afternoon and many office workers made it a long lunch to see the famous couple. I got there several hours early to get a good viewing spot on one of the upper floors where a museum exhibit had been set up. The aisles were narrow here so therefore the best spot to snap a picture with my little instamatic camera with the square flashcubes. The buzz on the floor was heightened but polite, no shoving or pushing – after all, it was the Queen! She graciously perused the exhibit but her eyes and his swept across the crowd as they truly tried to connect to the people of New York, it was quite remarkable. (Remember, this is before John Lennon’s 1980 assassination and security was still very lax in those days.) A representative of Bloomingdale’s remarked, “we thought — and the Queen agreed — that it would be a very American experience for her to go amidst all the crowds and just pretend she might be shopping.”
It was a surreal ‘pretend shopping excursion’ but it was a thrill for me, but alas…no…she didn’t do the royal hand wave 🙂
Story told in honor of her 87th birthday yesterday April 21.



THE HAPPY SPRING THAT ALMOST WAS: A popular question in New York and around the world is ‘why don’t you ever see baby pigeons?’.  You do see them, but you don’t notice.

Their beaks are slightly flatter and wider than an adult’s and for the first week or two after leaving the nest, the feathers around the base of the beak are bristly and lay back along the face. You may occasionally see one begging a parent to feed it – it will normally run after the parent, quivering its wings and squeaking – hence the name for a very young pigeon, just feathered – a squeaker.

During their first week of life baby pigeons are fed a high-fat, high-protein diet of crop milk produced by both parents. The leading cause of death among baby pigeons is temperature related. Without warmth, the body loses too much energy and the little squab simply can’t recover from his fight to enter the world. They grow very fast. Pigeons don’t fledge (leave the nest) until they are almost adult-sized

In the case of domestic/feral pigeons, they walk well at about 18 days of age and start exercising their wings about a week later. But because they have been regularly fed by the adults and haven’t done much exercising, the babies are often bigger than their parents by the time they start to fly, which is on average of only 30 to 32 days after hatching. Many species of pigeons will rear their young to independence in under 3 weeks.

Sadly they are also not very adept nest builders nor are they too attentive to the egg. That is what happened to my pigeon couple “Fred and Ethel” living under and on top of my air conditioner. Joyously after days of endless coo-ing I noticed a nest being built on top of my air conditioner and soon an egg appeared. I dropped extra twigs down so they could have the best nest in town. I put out bread crumbs and my usual water for them. They both took turns sitting on the egg but would stay away for disturbingly long periods, up to 20 minutes, leaving the egg unattended. My concern was the dropping temperatures to the mid 40’sF. But last night I went to bed and saw mom/’Ethel’ pigeon contently sitting in her nest, cooing away.

This morning I awoke to see no one attending the nest. I rushed to the window – the egg was gone. Hopefully they will take PPC = P.igeon P.arenting C.lasses and the next time will be more successful. Here’s hoping!

Photo of the day: MY DOG NOEL’S $178 NEW YORK HAIR CUT!

NOEL collage

MY DOG NOEL’S $178 HAIR CUT: The saga of my dog’s haircut. Living in New York with a large 60 lb. sheep dog/terrier mix dog isn’t easy…especially if you don’t own a car. So the saga begins. It’s time for a hair cut. Noel had become way too fuzzy and matted from a winter’s worth of rub-downs from playing in the snow.
First obstacle: Most of the groomers in this neighborhood, despite being a garden/large dog area, won’t groom large dogs. If they do, they do a lousy job or totally freak out or injure the dog.
Second obstacle: When you do find a groomer – how do you get there? Most new Yorkers don’t own cars, much less even know how to drive.
Third obstacle: The co$t.
Noel has become to be mom’s dog. They are perfect company for each other, two older ladies growing old together. Noel is 13, mom is 87. Mom finally found ‘Le Pitou II’, a groomer that didn’t scar Noel emotionally as well as physically in the neighborhood of Forest Hills, several miles up Queens Blvd.
Next step is to cajole the car service into letting me bring a large dog, by providing our own blanket to shield the car. Noel is a docile car rider so Noel is no problem.
The appointment was scheduled for 1pm in the afternoon.  The car driver grumbled a bit when he saw Noel but we assured him it would be no problem, translation: “I want a good tip for this.”
As we arrive at Le Pitou groomers, the good sign is Noel was happy to be there. “It will take a while, four hours.” Ok, I thought, she’s practically a walking shag carpet, four hours sounds reasonable. Rather than taking the subway back home, I decided to photograph the mansions in nearby Forest Hills Gardens, a private gated community, one of America’s first planned communities. The day went from sunny and warm to cold, foggy and chilly and by 5pm I was more than ready to pick up  Noel. “Two more hours,” I was told. Tired from being the wandering photographer I took the subway home. 7:15pm the phone rings, Noel is ready for pick up. Back on the subway I go for the quick ride back to Forest Hills. $93 later, Noel looked adorable and was happy as a clam. I tipped the groomer $20 cash, without really looking in my wallet. Next urgency on the agenda = walkies! After walkies it was time to go through the same song and dance with the car company: “Yes, she is 50+lbs, but she is very docile. No, she doesn’t bark. Yes, she is clean. I have my own blanket.” Instead of the $18 charged in the morning – now the cab ride was $25. Ok, fine. I said I would meet the car outside the groomer.
While waiting, I checked my wallet. I only had three $5 bills. I quickly looked for a nearby bank…none to be found in sight. (I will not go to a bodega’s ATM, many of them contain ‘card readers’ that steal all your info.) So, with 15 minutes to spare, I raced down the blvd. to find a bank. The nearest one was 10 blocks away and Noel was getting tired.     After six blocks, the cell phone rings “Your car is in front of the groomers.” Now I had to race six blocks back to the car. While running, I called  mom and asked her to meet me on our corner at home of 46th Street and Queens Blvd. (the Manhattan bound traffic side/coming from further in Queens) with a $20. bill. Fine all settled. I try explaining to my Russian driver whose English was limited and therefore a bit overwhelmed and perplexed at my hyper state explanation. Down the blvd. we go. All is fine.
We arrive at 46th/Queens Blvd. – no mom. I look up and down the street – no mom. Akward! I plead with the driver to cross the blvd to a nearby Chase bank. (I can hear on the car radio his dispatcher wondering where he was.) I offered to leave my expensive camera in the car, while running into Chase’s ATM to withdraw $40.
I came out a gratefully handed him the whole $40 and apologized and thanked him profusely.
Where is mom?! (No she doesn’t have a cell phone).  I dragged poor tired Noel up and down the blvd = no mom. Her phone at home doesn’t answer. I try going to my house – no mom. I go to mom’s house – not there either, I take Noel back to my place so she can rest and drink some water and have some cookies. Back out to hit the streets to search for mom. With no other logical places to look for her I start to get panicked thoughts of dread, she got hit  by a car, mugged, etc. I decided to cross to the Queens bound side of the huge blvd and search there. As I arrive on the other side, there comes mom, slowly making her way with her cane, looking worried and perplexed. “Where were you?!” we both asked.
“But this is where we always arrive when we come home,” mom replied.  Yes mom from Manhattan, not from Queens, I was coming from Forest Hills Queens. “Our side means the side we live on, the other side.” Befuddled and tired we headed to my apartment to walk Noel home to mom’s apartment around the corner. Once home, mom and Noel settled into their respective favorite spots and rested. Noel looked at us as if to say ‘what’s all the fuss, I look wonderful?!’
$25. cab fare to groomer
$93. grooming
$20. groomer’s tip
$40. cab ride home_____
$178. New York hair cut!

Photo of the day: SNOW GLOW


SNOW GLOW: During my hiatus from blogging and Facebook, the blizzard of February 10, 2013 hit Sunnyside Queens, New York and I got the photograph I had been wanting to get for a long time. The street my mother lives on, 45th Street, near Queens Blvd. has a great view of the passing #7 train. When it rains or snows it always has an atmosphere of eerie yet romantic, old world yet in today’s times and a great misty light play. I grabbed my camera and stood in the snow for two hours till midnight photographing the storm and the light plays. This is one of my favorites moments.