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

Posts tagged “Christmas



Photo of the day: SCHALLER & WEBER’S GERMAN DELICATESSEN in YORKVILLE FOR CHRISTMAS & NEW YEARS – At the turn of the century from 1890 – 1910 one third on New York City spoke German, today hardly anyone does and instead you hear Spanish, Russian and Chinese. I was born in 1955 and as a child we would go to the German section of the city named Yorkville. Yorkville’s center street was East 86th Street and it’s surrounding streets. In this area you could still here strains of “wunderbar” and ooom-pah-pah ♫♪ all around you. You could buy everything from back home: Mecki books, Salamander shoes, Zarah Leander and Heino records, Teewurst, Loden coats, Tyrolian hats, beer steins, wooden nut crackers, Lübeck Marzipan, German magazines and newspapers and all the wiener schnitzel and beer you wanted.
That was then, today there are only 2 establishments left that I know of. The Heidelberg Restaurant (1648 Second Avenue) where today the little dark haired Guatemalan waiters wearing (much too big) lederhosen tell you the day’s specials in a heavy Spanish accent. But…there is one staple that has remained – Schaller and Weber, opened in 1937 at 1654 Second Avenue/86th Street, a German delicatessen where the white haired old German butchers with German accents still politely slice the fresh deli meats daily.
When I was a little boy, this place was heaven to me and still is. You can just lock me up behind the deli counter and leave me in there for a week. Ahhh! The smoked hams, the dozens of salamis, the stuffed peppers, stuffed veal, weiß wurst, Westphalian ham and my obsession – rouladen! Rouladen are very thin slices of beef, rolled up with spices, bacon and onion inside, pan fried with a rich dark gravy, add boiled potatoes and you’re set. Then there are also the wonderful chocolates and marzipans, sauces, white asparagus, smoked fish, hearty breads, Bahlsen cookies, Maggi and Knorr spices and a fine assortment of cheeses.
For Christmas and New Year in 2013, Schaller and Weber is that one place I can still retreat to and relive my childhood, inhale deeply and feel at home. I’m ready to order all the meats, cold cuts and cookies for New Years Eve and Day. The store, (thank god) has hardly changed.  I go inside and it is Christmas/Weihnachten 1962 and I’m standing in line with my numbered ticket to be called as I am fixating on all the goodies I hope my mother will buy for the Christmas holidays, always topped off with the treat of a Lübecker marzipan bar. Some kids dreamed of being locked up in toys stores and candy shops – I dreamed of being locked up in Schaller and Weber! Fröhliche Weihnachten! Frohes neues Jahr!
Schaller und Weber goodies

Schaller und Weber goodies

Here is a partial list of their goodies and a link to their web site: http://www.schallerweber.com/find-buy/original-store/
Spaetzle (German Noodle)
Imported Brands Maggi, Panni, Bechtle, Riehle (Manager’s Favorite)
Pickles & Sauerkraut Gundelsheim, Hengstenberg, Pickled Herring
Mustard & Ketcup Lowensene, Handlmaier & Thomy, Feisner & Hela (Ketchup)
Honey (Honig) Bihophar & Langnese (Assorted Flavors)
Soup & Gravy Mixes Knorr, Maggi Potato Dumplings & Pancake Mixes
Jams /Jellies Darbo (Austrian), Vavel (Polish), Landsberg (Germany)
Breads Landsberg, Mestemacher
German Cheeses Limberger, Harzer Kase, Tilsit
Coffees Jacobs, Tchibo, Dallmayer
Syrups Darbo (Austrian), Marco Polo (Hungarian), Adro, (Many more & assorted flavors) Assorted Cosmetics 4711, The oldest brand in Germany, Fa, Nivia, Kamille
Sweets & Treats Haribo: Gummy Bears (Large Variety), Swedish Fish: Abba (Assorted Flavors),
Bahlsen Cookies: Kipderl, Waffelette, Butter Leibniz, Kopper’s Chocolates,
Marzipan: Lübeck, Maker, Mozart Kugeln: Reber


The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, 135 W. 31st Street,  New York, NY 10001. 212-736-8500

The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, 135 W. 31st Street, New York, NY 10001. 212-736-8500

Photo of the day: A PRIVATE CONVERSATION WITH SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI – I was passing by  the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi on West 31st Street when I came across this man who found solace in the early morning court yard of the church. He kept looking up at the cross of the church and was having a casual conversation with Saint Francis. It’s good to know people in high places  🙂 .
The Church of Saint Francis of Assisi
built 1892 feeding the poor ever since, renovated 1961
135 W. 31st Street
New York, NY 10001


"Twas the day after Christmas..."

“Twas the day after Christmas…”

Photo of the day: WHAT DOES SANTA DO AFTER CHRISTMAS CELEBRATE ! !  – Here is my ‘poetic’ twist on Clement Moore’s classic poem as I encounter drunk Santa after Christmas in front of Macy*s . . .
. . . And then, in a twinkling, I heard something uncouth
The prancing and pawing of Santa whose had too much vermouth.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down 34th Street St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fake fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with cigarette ashes and street soot;
A giant stuffed fish he had flung on over his back,
And he looked like a street peddler just opening his pig pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His eyes, how blurry!
His cheeks and nose were like roses, he surely was in no hurry.
His drawl from his mouth was Southern – a bit slow,
And the beard on his chin with gray as the street snow;
The stump of a ____ pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a crazed face and a little round pot belly
That shook when he ranted, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was happy and drunk, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and his twisted head,
Soon gave me to know he was out of his head;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
To fill his own stockings from tourists that looked like a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up ‘snow’ did rose;
Then he sprang into his dance, and the crowd did whistle,
And their cameras clicked until the arrival of a policeman’s dismissal
But I heard him exclaim, ere he stumbled out of sight—
Happy returns to all, if you kept your receipt – you done right!
(with my apologies to Clement Clarke Moore)


Von Rittern traditional German candle lit Christmas tree

Von Rittern traditional German candle lit Christmas tree

MY OLD FASHIONED GERMAN CHRISTMAS TREE 2013: 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. The favorite ornaments are hung so that they will catch the candlelight and the whole tree tells a story of the family’s history. Mementos from trips abroad, favorite childhood ornaments, all that tell our likes, hobbies and loves.  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, we have our traditional Christmas goose dinner with  roasted apples (this year we had duck), home made dumplings, white asparagus, red cabbage, string beans with topping and lots of gravy.
Christmas dinner

Christmas dinner

After dinner, the elder of the family lights the candles in the room and on the Christmas 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 electric 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.
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 and we all have a helping of mom’s strong rum pot preserves! 
Rum pot preserves with vanilla ice cream

Rum pot preserves with vanilla ice cream

At one time it was my whole family enjoying this tradition, now it is just my mother and me left to carry on, and one 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: BELIEVE IN THE MAGIC OF CHRISTMAS – Believe in flying reindeer, believe in wishes coming true, believe that a sleigh can fly, believe that there is a wondrous place at the North Pole (not a factory in China), believe that Santa can deliver toys to all the boys and girls in one magical night, believe that he knows if you’ve been good or bad, believe that all things are possible, believe in love, believe in miracles and above all, believe in yourself.
Foto des Tages: GLAUBEN SIE AN DIE MAGIE VON WEIHNACHTEN – Glauben an fliegende Renntiere, glauben an sich erfüllende Wünsche, glauben, dass ein Schlitten fliegen kann, glauben, dass es einen erstaunlichen Platz am Nordpol (nicht eine Fabrik in China) gibt, glauben, dass der Weihnachtsman Spielsachen an alle Jungen und Mädchen in einer magischer Nacht liefern kann, glauben, dass er weiß ob Sie artig oder bös gewesen sind, glauben Sie, dass alle Dinge möglich sind, glauben an der Liebe, an Wunder und vor allem glauben, an sich selbst glauben. FRÖHLICHES WEIHNACHTEN ALLE!



Photo of the day: THERE ARE ANGELS IN NEW YORK – You just have to know where to look for them, they are everywhere. Keep your heart and mind open and they will appear.
Can you figure out how I created this illusion with my camera?
(I was actually photographing a flying angel in Macy’s store Xmas window but the building across the street photographed stronger therefore making the angel appear – angelic. )


rockettes radio city

Photo of the day: WHAT HAS 72 LEGS AND MOVES WITH PRECISION? – The New York Radio City Music Hall Rockettes ! !
The Christmas Spectacular is the single most popular show in New York at Christmastime. 5,931 seats available for each show!! Five shows a day!
There are two sets each of 36 dancers in each New York show. There are 80 Rockettes (4 understudies), and they split the casts into 40 and 40. On the days with five shows, one cast will do two shows, the other will do three. On six-show days they divide it by three and three. So they can get a break, during the week they give each other a day off. The most they would do is four shows in a day.
A little known fact, if you are from Missouri (ironically the “show me” state) – you can be proud! The group was founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925, originally performing as the “Missouri Rockets.” Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced that “If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks… they’d knock your socks off!” The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theater and renamed the “Roxyettes.” When Rothafel left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes. The group performed as part of opening night at Radio City Music Hall on December 27, 1932. In 1936, the troupe won the grand prize at the “Paris Exposition de Dance”…the rest – is history !



Photo of the day: “YOU GOTTA HAVE FREUNDE/FRIENDS” – Meet 40 more of my new friends from all over Germany! This was “group #2” that I took  all over town for the Christmas holidaze.
Isn’t funny how in every tour group there are always certain types: the ones who HAVE to sit up front in the bus “or I’ll get sick”, the permanently befuddled, your instant best friend, the camera buff, the person who constantly sez “I saw this when I was here last time”, the note taker, the spendthrift, the shopaholic and of course – the know it all. I will not reveal who is who . . . but they’re all there, and I love ’em all.



Photo of the day: HOW ARE YOU BRINGING HOME YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE? – Despite the fact that you see endless traffic in New York City, most New Yorkers don’t have cars nor even know how to drive. (I didn’t learn till my move to Tucson, Arizona at age 38.) The cars you see are from the far reaches of the outer boroughs, from tourists and rentals.
So we have to be a little more inventive when we bring home our Christmas trees. I have seen Christmas trees rolled home on skateboards, pushed in shopping carts, taken on the subway (a 7 footer!), by sleds in the snow, in taxi cabs and even in baby carriages.   So, how are you bringing home your Christmas tree?
Mine came home via mom's mint green Floridian shopping cart

Mine came home via mom’s mint green Floridian shopping cart

Photo of the day: A LEG UP ON CHRISTMAS


Photo of the day: A LEG UP ON CHRISTMAS – So I’m sitting in cozy Da Gennaro restaurant on Mulberry Street in Little Italy, enjoying a lunch by myself, feeling a little like Rose Castorini (Olympia Dukakis), Cher’s mother in “Moonstruck.” My corner window seat had a perfect view of the intersection of Hester and Mulberry Streets. As the snow flurries danced about, I watched the people scurrying by. Most were tourists wondering where to eat or find that Dean Martin cd. Then I saw this guy crossing the street and I noticed something rather unusual sticking out of his backpack. Let’s hope it was a mannequin’s leg and not a real one. Maybe he was taking it home to create another ‘leg lamp’ from the 1983 movie “A Christmas Story”, let’s hope . . .

"A Christmas Story" 1983 film

“A Christmas Story” 1983 film




Photo of the day: MEET 35 OF MY NEW FRIENDS FROM ALL OVER GERMANY – I spent 5 days showing them New York through my eyes. From picking them up at the airport and showing them Manhattan for the first time as we drove down Fifth Avenue, to my full up and downtown tours including, of course, a visit to the Empire State Building. Their last full day is spent shopping. I chose either uptown Macy*s or downtown SOHO. I felt like Santa – so many had their special requests: “Where can I find a wooden train?” “I need Levis jeans.” “Where is the Harley Davidson store?” “Does Tiffany carry charm bracelets?” Hansanta answered all thier wishes.
I went with the SOHO group and those who weren’t so eager to shop got a walking tour with me of the Brooklyn Bridge, the stock market on Wall Street, the Trade Center and St. Paul’s Church. Topped off by a subway ride back to SOHO. German’s on their first New Yawk subway ride is a hoot – like little kiddies in an amusement park!
Here we are on our last day, all big smiles on our way to the airport. The next group is just 4 days away….

Photo of the day: HANS CRUISES NEW YORK

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises

Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises

Photo of the day: HANS CRUISES NEW YORK – I spent five days taking 35 Germans and one American on a total sightseeing tour of New York City! They saw the whole big apple from top (Harlem) to bottom (Battery Park/World Trade). The minuses: getting up at 4:30 am to travel from Queens so I can meet them at their hotel in Seacaucus, Jersey at 8:00am. Dropping them off in Jersey at night and that long, long cold mass transit bus ride back. The pluses: The wonderment in their eyes seeing Times Square for the first time. Taking the famed Circle Line Manhattan boat cruise at sunset. Their eagerness to walk along Fifth Avenue decorated for the holidays.  The giddy Empire State building visit. The look in their eyes the next morning after they visited the places I had recommended. The hugs and German home made cookie I got at the airport as they sadly said goodbye…makes all worth while 🙂
Can you tell it was cold?

Can you tell it was cold?


1961, my 6th Birthday party

1961, my 6th Birthday party

How we found our missing chairs after 20 years!
New Years Eve 1992 with grandmother aka "Oma"

New Years Eve 1992 with grandmother aka “Oma”

In the summer of 1960 my family, consisting of my mother Ursula, her mother Amalie and me, had moved across the street from a furnished walk up apartment to a brand new sprawling modern apartment building on Woodhaven Blvd named The Imperial. The lobby of the building looked like George Jetson’s living room, furnished in very high 1960’s modern style, it was wonderful, but there was more furniture in the lobby than there was in our apartment! Having come from a furnished apartment, we didn’t have much to move in with. Mom was a single parent secretary with impeccable skills who supported her family all by herself. Coming from a proper German family she had been taught you only buy what you can afford. Now that mom had arrived in America, her co-workers convinced Ursula that buying things “on time” was the all American way!
Bloomingdales 1959 American Design Foundation furniture ad

Bloomingdales 1959 American Design Foundation furniture ad

With that in mind, since we needed a dining room set first, mom would look in the stores after work. Ursula’s finer taste led her to Bloomingdale’s, which in those days had an elaborate furniture department. There on the upper floor were the latest of modern designs, and this being 1960, the style was of course Danish Modern. Mom tells me it was “love at first sight” when she was instantly drawn to a display island in the middle of the floor, roped off by velvet ropes, showing a complete dining set designed in 1959 by Kipp Stewart and Stewart MacDougal for the American Design Foundation for the Winchendon Furniture Company.
Six chairs, dinning table with extender leaves, end table and china cabinet. Solid cherry wood with black leather upholstery. “It was exactly my taste!” mom tells me. Although she does not recall the price, she does recall it was “terribly expensive” but fate had intervened – it was on sale! Even with this good fortune, it was still out of her budget range. “Why not buy it on time?” familiarly chimed the sales clerk. Sold! It was delivered soon afterwards.
For 53 years our family history has revolved around that set. It has been photographed for every special occasion, every birthday, every holiday, it has truly been the center of our lives. But, lives change. Situations change. So, in 1993 we left New York for Tucson, Arizona believing in the theory that ’the grass is always greener on the other side.’ We hired Mayflower movers who specializes in cross-country moves. We were one of about four families on board the huge, huge truck having their things moved out west. Ursula supervised the movers with an eagle eye, especially her beloved dining room chairs. Since the chairs are so light, it was decided they would be placed at the very, very top of our piled section so as not to dent or crush them. Once we got to Arizona we stayed in a furnished motel first, till we could find the house of our dreams. When the Mayflower movers finally arrived a week after our arrival, our furniture was placed in storage. We first settled on a rental house with option to buy (which we didn’t) and had our furniture packed up again and delivered to our new ‘temporary’ home. As the truck arrived, we watched as the doors opened. There perched at the top were their  treasured chairs. One, two, three, four came off the truck. “Where are the other two?” mom asked with great concern. “Don’t worry lady, they’re there,” the movers assured her. They were not.
Tucson Thanksgiving 1994

Tucson Thanksgiving 1994

We filed claims with Mayflower movers, they gave us the run around with excuses as to where they could be. The stop before us in the mid west, the stop after us in California, somewhere. Surely we thought, surely someone would be decent enough to say, ‘hey, we have two chairs that don’t belong to us.’ No one ever did. We believe that since the partition dividing each families furniture was not completely from floor to ceiling on the truck, the chairs must have toppled over into another families things and were never reported, too much of an inconvenience to some one else.
In time, Ursula finally found the house of her dreams on East Hawk Place at the foot of Mount Lemon. Once again the movers were called. By the year 1999 I realized I was the quintessential New Yorker, miserable in Tucson, and in January 2000 moved back to NYC. One year later my mother to move ‘closer’ to me decided to move to Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida. So the movers (not Mayflower!) were called yet again. Mom’s first  house kept getting flooded by the hurricanes so she  moved yet again to one final house in Ft. Meyers Beach, until three hurricanes descended onto the Florida Gulf within three months. The one thing mom was determined to save each time was her beloved dining room set and she perched it up onto other furniture, thereby saving it from all the floods. Three hurricanes being too much, mom finally moved back to NYC!  For each and every one of the seven moves Ursula’s beloved dining room set has survived – except for the two chairs. Now in 2013 she is firmly ensconced around the corner from me in Sunnyside, Queens. But in all the years since 1993, whenever we have a special occasion at the dinner table, it is only a matter of time till mom will say, “you know, we had six of these chairs!”
On July 18 this year, in the midst of New York’s scorching 100F degree heat wave, I volunteered to go to mom’s holistic pet shop, located on 9th Street in the east village section of Manhattan. Now fate begins to intervene. I have gone to this shop many times before. The subway stop is 8th Street. Oddly enough, I automatically got off at 14th Street. So by foot I headed south. Instead of turning onto East 9th Street, for some unknown reason I turned onto East 12th Street. As I headed down the street, I was drawn into the wonderful The Cure Thrift Shop where proceeds go to the diabetes foundation. The lure of cool air and wonderful things pulled me in. I kept walking as if pulled to the back of the store. Then, when just about 6 feet from the back, my eyes saw – our dining room chairs, exactly two of them! !  It was an absolute surreal moment. Was I seeing right? This couldn’t be. In my days, I have been to every last thrift shop, antique store, garage sale, estate sale, street fair and flea market in New York, upstate, New England, Arizona and Florida – I have never ever seen any part of our dining room set – and here they were…the two of them, as if hey were waiting for me. I was almost afraid to touch them to only then discover the mirage wasn’t real – they were real, priced at $500 for the pair. “Do you know anything about these chairs” I carefully asked?
Stewart-MacDougal Chair in CURE Thrift Shop

Stewart-MacDougal Chair in CURE Thrift Shop

CURE Thrift Shop 111 East 12th Street

CURE Thrift Shop 111 East 12th Street

Chair in the #4 subway

Chair in the #4 subway

Hans' private seating

Hans’ private seating

I was told by a very delightful girl named Ali that they were donated by a woman who had had them for “many years.” My hand started going for my cell phone as I tried to walk calmly out of the store. I rushed across the street and speed dialed mom, “You’re not going to believe this, but I found your chairs!” Mom insisted I was clouded with romantic notions and that it just could not be. Maybe the back is different, different legs, different wood or seat, it just couldn’t be, not after 20 years!  “No mom…it’s them!“ We agreed that fate had intervened and that despite the fact this was certainly not planned for in our budget, if these were truly, truly the chairs, I had to buy them! I recognized the nicks and dents we had accidentally put in them over the years – these were undeniably OUR chairs! Unbelievable! I offered Ali $400 which she warmly accepted. I told Ali the entire story as we both got the Twilight Zone chills and teared up and hugged. I rushed home to show mom the photos I had taken of ‘her’ chairs. “It’s them” she exclaimed, as she just kept staring at the photo in the camera.

The very next day I planned to take the chairs to mom’s apartment, one by one on the subway. Liz the manager greeted me only to reveal that she herself had been the past owner of the infamous chairs for just a few years, before that they had been found in a second hand furniture store. Liz herself reupholstered the seats in white vinyl and insisted the original seats are still underneath, which they are. I thanked her profusely and gingerly carried the first chair to go home to mom.
Ursula and her chairs - 20 years later!

Ursula and her chairs – 20 years later!

Now in New York City, you see all characters carry all sorts of odd things on the subway. The subway doors opened, I placed my chair in the corner and sat down. I got all the required bemused looks. “You Won’t believe the story behind this chair!” I exclaimed, I just couldn’t hold my excitement back as I told a young surprised design student the story. My stop arrived, I rushed to her apartment building and got into the elevator as quickly as possible. Ursula was waiting at the door, “Oh my god, it really IS the chair”, mom just looked at me and then the chair and then me, then the chair…We went into the living room and I placed the first of the missing two chairs, next to it’s mates. After twenty long years they were together again! But wait – I had to go back to the city and do the whole trip over again with chair number two! I headed out the door, heady with excitement and rushed to get missing chair #2. After several hours on July 19, twenty years later, I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but our historic beloved chairs were together again, the dining room set was just as it was on that day in Bloomingdales when that sales person said to Ursula: “Why don’t you just buy them on time?” !








THE CURE THRIFT SHOP benefiting The Diabetes Foundation
111 East 12th Street, open daily 11:00 – 8:00
PS: Bizarrely enough, a few days later, TCM (Ted Turner Movie) channel showed the 1970 Mel Brooks comedy film “The Twelve Chairs” for the very first time on their channel.
Sunday July 28th, I actually found the original Bloomingdale’s ad for the chairs on the internet. Life is surreal.


1956 - Hans and mom

I‘M HERE, I‘M OK !  THANK YOU to all those concerned posts that I didn’t ignore but simply couldn’t answer. After Xmas there was frightening health news for my mom and lots and lots of additional disappointments and bad news all at once and I just emotionally shut off. I had absolutely no desire to photograph or to speak to anyone. I couldn’t feel. I actually also couldn’t find the words, me speechless = rare. I am now slowly grappling how to put it all into words and come back to Facebook and blogging.

Some said “just start posting/blogging again with no explanation,” but I felt after so many of us have shared our lives for so long I should explain…

So here goes: 2012 was one of the most unpleasant years of my life. Two horrible (Gray Line & On Board Tours) jobs and financial disappointments, a struggle with my photography/book and then a culmination of awakenings from  watching the news just brought me to an emotional shut-down.

I did launch my blog, that was absolutely wonderful! My photography web site by now has had over 6,700 hits, but no photographs sold. I have been told over and over by good friends of mine like Paul Ker, “No one buys photos anymore.” A very depressing reality, but that a book is the way to go. The answer was to create a book with the photos and the stories behind them but the people who offered to help were phonies and the computer program needed to self publish and print the book in (sadly) China or India is so confusing, I couldn’t learn it since my brain was already on overload. So I tried to concentrate on the book by years end, but then my printer isn’t good enough and to top it off, both my camera and lens fell, broke and cost me an expensive repair I wasn’t counting on.

I had wanted to do a 2012 year’s end blog and researching for it led me to be more and more distressed of what is happening to my beloved New York City. 2012 was a record year of losses of iconic stores, lounges, restaurants, mom and pop places, Tiles for America, hotels, buildings, etc., that were wiped out due to the greedy under-the-table real estate dealings of mayor Mike Bloomberg and evil councilwoman Christine Quinn. Zoning variances have become the norm. Quaint neighborhoods are now collections of glass boxes and look and feel like strip malls. Harlem is 60% white, Greenwich Village is now nothing but yuppies, European hipster-wannabees and chain stores. It depresses me to visit many of my once beloved neighborhoods, to give tours in them is a farce. Hospitals and schools are being torn down to make room for luxury condos. (The hospital I was born in is now closed and boarded up.) If councilwoman Christine Quinn were to become mayor it will be the end of New York City permanently as we know it. A depressing way to enter 2013.

It seemed every day I wanted to write the blog or post a photo – another news story hit of yet another demolition or closing, they were coming almost daily. I just couldn’t take it anymore. Political news added to my depressed feelings – I simply cannot take this damned bickering in Washington DC anymore. I am a staunch Democrat, but I am open enough to say – when we have a Republican president the country should be run by republicans and when we have a Democrat, things should go their way = an ultimate test to see who can fuck it up better or make the country better – ultimate proof. But this daily bickering, stalling and impasses has had me say ENOUGH! I used to be a MSNBC Rachel Maddow addict, I cannot take her anymore, she is brilliant, her research team is one of the best, but if the daily results are the same thing over and over “stalled, denied, fighting, bickering, more mass shootings” why bother to watch the news?? It is the exact same thing every day. So…I shut down news and Facebook wise. I discovered two great cable TV stations called METV and AntennaTV which show all the old shows, so I escape to see Mary Richards and Rhoda, Oscar and Felix (just to  hear that theme song cheers me up!), Leave It To Beaver=my favorite, Dick Van Dyke, Jeannie and of course the divine Aunt Clara and wonderfully wicked Endora on Bewitched. If god forbid something happens to the president, or another hurricane is headed this way – I’ll know about it, otherwise, leave me alone and stress free.

Hurricane Sandy added to my already dreaded feeling of loss of NYC. To this day Battery Park is wiped out, The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island won’t open till July 4th, some Wall Street buildings are still on generators, South Street Seaport is ruined and now they are going to tear much of it down in favor of…….glass boxes. Lest we not forget the thousands and thousands in Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn that FEMA has not helped, that are without daily necessities like hot water, toilets and grocery stores. It is disgraceful. Childhood shore communities are gone – but the mayor and councilwoman Christine Quinn want to build…MORE glass boxes in midtown Manhattan, it is their ultimate mantra “let them eat cake.” It is like living in Alice In Wonder/Greed-land and the emperor and empress are wearing no clothes.

Then shortly after Christmas I thought I was going to loose my mom. She has injured her hip by pulling a heavy box across the floor and that action, somehow caused the cartilage to slip out of place between the two main hip bones and she now has the bones grinding bone on bone which I am told is quite painful. We were told there are two answers: hip replacement surgery or really strong painkillers. Mom can’t even make it up one step much less bend, turn or kneel. So all of a sudden I had to be there all the time. The Von Ritterns live to be in their high 90’s. Mom being 87 wasn’t at all any concern, she is otherwise healthy as a horse except for slight high blood pressure. One day we were at her dinner table and she couldn’t get up and for the first time I saw this old feeble woman and that was what sent me into shock. This isn’t my mom! Could this be the end? This vibrant woman who stood hours on line to vote for Obama can’t even get out of her chair?

We visited endless doctors offering all sorts of surgeries and pills. Mom refused all. You see, we lost my grandmother/her mother due to hip surgery – she was under anesthesia so long, that the oxygen didn’t properly flow to the brain and she came out of it with instant senility. My grandmother’s sister, had a botched spinal surgery and was given mega doses of pain killers which caused her to loose her mind to the point of being senile as well. Both extremely vibrant women, gone due to back/spine surgeries and all those pills. Mom was instantly haunted and frightened by that and said “God dammit, I am going to be here a long time, I am not making a doctor richer with hip surgery and I am not poisoning my brain. I’ll just take Tylenol!”  (Well…sooner or later we will need more than just Tylenol…)

I couldn’t talk to anyone about it because when I did, as a few of you know, I lost it and broke down. I might be loosing my only living relative, my only living connection to my childhood, my history and my past. So I just shut down/disconnected. To top it all off, I threw out my back helping her and I also got blurred vision, explained to me due to stress. But – you have to learn how to make the lemonade out of the lemons or think sharply and say ‘what message are we getting here?’. The answer was finally a book, for both of us!

Our family history is astounding. Fiercely independent women who traveled the seven seas on their own, great-great grand parents who owned a coffee plantation in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, grandmother/‘Oma’ and her sisters were opera singers for the Berlin Opera, surviving Germany in World War II, mom coming to America and starting a new life. It’s the German “Gone With The Wind”!

We realized we need to record this legacy. Mom being viewed as forever young would come to haunt us if she were suddenly ill one day and not capable to record our history. NOW is the time for us as I research the Von Ritterns. Since she can mainly just “sit” – I have set her up in a comfortable office space in her kitchen and soon the great autobiography will begin. As for me, a book is the way to go. A $9.99 paperback in perfect carriable size &/or E-book, that anyone visiting New York would say “this is truly the real New York“.

So mom and I are settling into a new pattern of me helping her daily as well as trying to run my household (such as it is), photographing, walking Noel her dog and of course feeding Oscar my pet squirrel on time. With spring having arrived and many of my touring regulars visiting, I am slowly ‘making a mental comeback‘. Two people responsible are two very dear friends Lynn Benton Black and Pamela Martin Hughes who gave me wonderful loving insight and support on our recent tour.

Most importantly I want you all to know, I wasn’t trying to be mysterious or rude  or diss-ing anyone. I just needed to be thoroughly alone to think and reassess. I couldn’t even think about “photos/blog of the day” (it seemed so trivial) when I thought I would loose mom suddenly – my brain just did an instant disconnect from all else. Please know  I am very heartened by all the kind posts of concern here. I read all your posts and treasure you all.

So – I’m going to try to juggle it all: Touring, mom, me, Facebook, socializing, photographing, our books, blogging (it‘s a lot). On Facebook I’m going to start a new feature called ‘Mondays on Memory Lane’. I may not have a P.O.T.D. (Photo of the Day)  every single day yet, and some photos may be a few months old, but – – – hey, I’m making a comeback ♥ !



A GARBAGE MAN WHO HAS (CREATIVE) BALLS: As I walked my dog last night I saw a local resident here in Sunnyside, Queens had thrown out their Christmas tree replete with all the plastic ornaments. As I walked by this morning . . . I noticed the garbage and the tree had been picked up, but not quite all the ornaments. Our garbage man got a little  creative and decorated our tree on the street! Merry Januarymas!



CELEBRATING THE THREE KINGS: While the ornaments may have vanished from store windows on December 26th, Christians will finish their celebration of Christmas on Sunday, January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth and final day of the Christmas. Many people confuse when the Twelve days of Christmas actually take place. A Lot of people think it’s the 12 days leading up to Christmas, and that it’s counting down to Christmas. As soon as the day is over, the 12 days of Christmas start, but a lot of people take down their decorations the day after.

The Twelve Days of Christmas grows out of European tradition that links the feasts of The Nativity and The Epiphany. In many traditions early on, there was not a whole lot of emphasis on Christmas as a holiday; more of the focus was on Easter and the resurrection.

During the season of Advent, the approximately month-long period prior to Christmas, Christians are encouraged to focus on readying themselves for Jesus’ birth,  these preparations are not made with presents, but with Scripture readings and charitable work so that the hearts and minds of Christians will be in the spirit to celebrate the birth of Christ.

There are seasons of feasting and seasons of preparation. But in our culture, we want feasting all the time, all lights and decorations. The commercial world is going on and on about the singing of the Christmas carols, which is a little premature…unless you know what you’re celebrating and that’s what Advent does.

Mom and I do not put up all of our decorations until December 22nd. Those decorations then remain in place until after the Twelve Days of Christmas have ended.

The real religious significance is that on the twelfth day it is believed to be the day three wise men journeyed to Jesus’ birthplace and paid their respects to him by offering presents. An Epiphany Festival means “manifestation of the light.” And so, mom and I will light the candles on our tree one last time tonight.

See my post of December 26th about our traditional German candle lit tree!

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.”



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 🙂

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.

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 ♥



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 🙂



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