There are things that can be fixed and then there are things that, practically speaking, can't be fixed. For me, property problems involving Himalayan-like topography, high water tables, aircraft takeoff and landing patterns, and major highways all lead candidate properties to the reject pile. This part of the country offers lots of properties for that pile. I won't touch them. On the other hand, bad plumbing, dumb floor plans, neglected landscaping, crumbling masonry and rotted windows can all be opportunities for us to fix things.
We spent three years looking for properties in Connecticut, including a demolition-only waterfront home and several promising houses that just presented insurmountable problems. We finally settled on this house in Greenwich. Make no mistake: The house has plenty of serious problems, but none of them require moving the house to a new location, petitioning the FAA for aircraft route changes or waiting for sea level to go down. The problems with this house all seem to be, well, surmountable.
The Greenwich house is our first one in years that is close to a real downtown area. It is located within walking distance of the train station, Town Hall, supermarkets and many stores and retaurants.
We now have all of those surmountable house problems. This is a house full of opportunities and these pages introduce some of them.
Well, we knew it was coming sooner or later. On October 29, 2012, New Jersey's luck finally ran out. Hurricane Sandy, described as a "mega-storm," made landfall in southern Jersey.
This was a true hurricane, unlike the Great March Storm nor'easter of 1962, but the results on Long Beach Island were similar. It was also much worse than Hurricane Irene in 2011, mainly due to the massive Atlantic storm surge of water that Sandy pushed on shore.
This was the first true test of the beach replenishment project of 2010 (below) and like all good experiments, even included a good control test. Unfortunately for the towns that did not allow the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct replenishment, not having the new dunes constructed on their beaches did not produce a good outcome.
Due to the severity of Sandy's damage to Long Beach Island, access to the island was closed for a week and the closure was enforced by security checkpoints manned by police and National Guard troops. When access opened for one single day for homeowners with special permits on November 5th, I had a five-hour opportunity to see one part of the island. Photos from that foray are shown here.
In 1962 a three-day nor'easter, now known as the 'Great March Storm,' cut a new channel through New Jersey's Long Beach Island just blocks from our present-day Harvey Cedars Shore House location. The new channel cut off all access to towns on the north end of the island. It destroyed homes, roads and businesses in the process. The US Army Corps of Engineers managed to close up the channel in 1962 before it grew too large to stop.
As a ten-year-old back in 1962, I was taken to Harvey Cedars by my father to see the aftermath of the 'Great March Storm.' The image of devastation, houses flipped over or reduced to toothpicks, stays with me to this day. I don't want to think what might have happened if the two-day nor'easter that struck in November 2009 had lasted one more day
Since the 1990's a struggle has taken place over the issue of beach replenishment on Long Beach Island. Most reputable experts believe that the replenishment process is the best, most benign way to protect barrier islands from the ravages of storm erosion. In this process sand is dredged from 2.5+ miles off shore, shipped by hopper dredges to a few hundred feet off shore and pumped as a slurry from the dredges onto the beaches.
To illustrate the story of the beach replenishment project in Harvey Cedars, I started with photos I took as the November 2009 nor'easter left Long Beach Island. Coincidently, the project was scheduled to start up in Harvey Cedars on the very same day. I have been photographing progress on the project since that time.
This was my first visit to Japan and I was anticipating a great photographic opportunity. In retrospect, I’d have to say it was indeed great, but it was very different from what I expected.
It rained nearly every day. On the one day it didn't rain, it snowed. With very few breaks, the visibility was under a mile and often closer to arm’s length. The fog and precipitation went on for a week. Weather became the major factor in determining what, and with what, I could shoot. My waterproof point-and-shoot was a godsend. Everything else in my bag (DSLR, lenses, flash, GPS fob) got nightly treatments with the hotel room hair dryer. It's a testament to the quality of digital gizmos that everything seems to have survived.
Yokohama harbor was there, but seeing or photographing it took imagination. Mt Fuji was out of the question. Fortunately there is a lot more to the Tokyo area.
Jayne accompanied me for the first day’s outing. After that I was joined by trusty driver Matsumodo-san and by the fantastic Tokyo subway system. I got to visit the kitschy, touristy Tokyo Tower, the Great Buddha at Kamakura and other shrines. Yodobashi Camera, the sensory-overloading photographers' mecca, got some of my shopping yen for a new monopod.
I finished up the trip with a pre-dawn subway ride to the amazing Tsukiji Fish Market. The fish market was my biggest surprise and among the best photo subjects.
The Shore House has been our years-long project involving two houses on Long Beach Island, in Harvey Cedars, New Jersey. First was the 1960's duplex that we bought, refurbished, rented out and generally enjoyed. Then strangely, we demolished it.
The second house is the entirely new one that we built on the site.
The Web site covers all aspects of the location, the old house, the new house and most importantly, the design and construction process. Hundreds of photos and drawings are included to show how a house is built in this often-stormy, always-sandy coastal environment. The choices of materials and finishes that complement the traditional beach community are presented. Attention is given to the various systems (plumbing, electrical, a dumbwaiter, central vacuum, computer network, drip irrigation, weather station) incorporated into the house.
Jayne had the opportunity to host GE Summit Award winners for a trip to Venice, Italy. Once again I took advantage of our marriage and joined her. No, I hadn't won an award or done anything else to deserve the trip. I did, however, promise to publish this photographic record.
One photographer on a four-day tour of a city like Venice can barely scratch the surface. Fortunately I was not alone. Marylou Catoe-Hervey (of Catoe & Associates Photography) was one of the guests on our trip and contributed greatly to the album, with about 75 of her own photos.
From the Rensselaer Alumni Magazine - Spring 2008 Class of '38 Notes:
"An exhibit of artwork by Pasquale 'Pat' Forni will be on display at the Shelnutt Gallery in the Rensselaer Union during Reunion '08. Pat, a youthful 91, took up 'doodling' geometric designs in part to take his mind off smoking, which he quit over a decade ago. After retiring in 2004 at age 87, Pat started his art career by focusing on developing his doodling into the artwork that will be on exhibit.
After WWII, Pat was a high-level government administrator with responsibilities reconstructing and upgrading manufacturing capabilities as part of the Marshall Plan in Europe. He then went to work for the Mohawk Paper Co. in Cohoes, N.Y., in 1952 and worked there for 52 years.
Originally from Lee, Mass., Pat lives in the same home that he helped build in Brunswick, N.Y., in the early 1950's, where one of his early neighbors was legendary Rensslear hockey and lacrosse coach, Ned Harkness. Pat is delighted at the progress Rensselaer has made under the leadership of Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson, and he is thrilled to have his work displayed at Rensselaer."
Pat also happens to be Jayne's father.
Daughter Jackie talked me into joining her on a trip to the southern Nicoya Peninsula on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. This trip seemed like an episode of Survivorman on the Discovery Channel. In fact, there actually is an episode that takes place there. In it, Les Stroud (Survivorman) arrives by kayak with only three ballpoint pens and a multi-tool, but manages to survive in the wild for seven days and seven nights by eating bugs and lizards. We came considerably better equiped (our luggage pushed the weight limits of the small puddle-jumper aircraft) and we ate much better meals. We had one thing very much in common: Neither Survivorman nor we had air conditioning... and equatorial Costa Rica is hot any time of the year.
Literature describes this area as "a land of bovines and beaches." That is certainly true, but we would hasten to add that the bovines are disturbingly skinny and that the list should go on to include "scorpions, tarantulas and vampire bats." We also encountered relatively harmless howler monkeys and oversized iguanas. The land is alive, especially at night.
Jackie reserved a cabin ("Casa Lisa at Pachamama") that was quite comfortable and certainly off the beaten path. Surrounding us were some truly spectacular surfing beaches and lots of very dusty dirt roads that we navigated with a rented 4x4. Kite surfing, which I had never seen before, offered some of the best photo opportunities. The weather was dry, the beer was cold and the food was delicious. All in all, this was great fun. Take a look.
Jayne took advantage of a chance to serve as a host on a client education tour of the eastern Mediterranean. I took advantage of being married to Jayne and went along.
My main interest in going was that this part of the world has countless opportunities for photography. Our itinerary included Athens, several of the Greek isles via yacht, western Turkey and Cairo, Egypt.
Greece was beautiful, although maybe a little too far into tourism. I was disappointed to learn that the picturesque greek fishermen hoisting nets into boats didn't actually do any fishing. They were just there for the tourists. We were about 20 years too late to see the real thing. Fortunately the Parthenon and the Acropolis of Lindos are still real and very impressive.
Turkey was surprising, being far more westernized than one might expect for a country that borders on both Iraq and Iran. It was also surprising in it's modernity. I saw more installed and operating solar power collectors during our brief drive through Turkey than I have seen in the entire US.
This trip included our second visit to Egypt. Jayne and I were there for two weeks in 1992 (I'll digitize our old film and get a gallery put together someday). This time we were limited to the Cairo area and the visit seemed way too short. Little has changed in 15 years. The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are still mysterious and awesome. The city is still bustling and now even more overcrowded. The people still possess a great sense of humor in the face of very serious challenges. I would have stayed for a much longer time if I could.
Jayne's father turned 90 years old in 2007, although no one could possibly guess it. We hosted a gathering of his family for the event and captured the day in a photo gallery.
The South Salem, NY house was our first house building project after the advent of digital photography. Equipped with a state-of-the-art Olympus D-600 digital SLR (with a whopping 1.4 megapixel image sensor!), I captured the construction.