With thanks (and apologies) to Stephen Sondheim, some 20 months into the bleepin’ pandemic, I’m Still Here.
We’re not yet at the end of our trial by virus, but at least for some of us a new form of normality appears to be in sight. We’ve still got to get the rest of the world vaccinated—the poor, the isolated, and the deniers.
My scheduled August travels have been pushed back a few weeks, into September.
Sondheim once more: Here’s to the people who cruise.
Good times and bum times, I’ve seen them all and, my dear, I’m still here.
Follies.Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, 1971.
I got through all of last year And I’m here. Lord knows, at least I was there, And I’m here! Look who’s here! I’m still here!
Follies.Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, 1971.
All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Please contact me to obtain copies or for permission to use.
A journey of a thousand miles (or more…) begins with a single step.
So says an ancient Chinese proverb, perhaps uttered by Laozi in the 6th century B.C.E.
I imagine Laozi or Lao-tzu was preparing for a long walk, or perhaps a ride by water buffalo from one part of the vast lands of the Qin Dynasty to another.
I’m pretty sure it did not involve taking a taxi to the airport, boarding a jumbo jet, landing at a far distant airport, and then being handed a flute of champagne at the gangway of a sleek luxury cruise ship. And I’m certain it did not include more than a year in near-quarantine, two jabs of a preventative vaccine, and infrared temperature monitors at the borders.
But listen, I’m not complaining. We’re starting to get ready to begin to initiate new travels.
With thanks to the doctors and scientists and certain politicians, we’re grateful. We have begun moving about in our own country, and we look forward–fingers crossed–to heading out to sea In August. soon.
You can check on our intended schedule in the section of this blog called, “Where in the World is Corey Sandler?” I check it often whenever I lose track of where I am.
So I’ve been thinking:
And In Other News
Meanwhile, although Boston’s Black Falcon cruise terminal has not welcomed a passenger ship since the fall of 2019, there was a notable arrival just recently.
On June 22, the massive special purpose heavy haul cargo ship Zhen Hua 15 eased her way into the Reserved Channel in Boston’s seaport, carrying three gigantic cranes that will be installed across the water from the cruise terminal to allow loading and unloading of some of the largest container ships in use today.
Zhen Hua 15 took a 10-week trip from Shanghai, down and around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa and then across the Atlantic to Boston to deliver a pair of 205-foot-tall heavy lift cranes and a third crane of merely 145 feet in height. (Why the relatively smaller one? As anyone who has ever sailed into Boston knows, the cruise and cargo terminals are very close to one of the main runways of Logan Airport and all construction has to harmonize with overhead airplanes. In addition, when certain very large cruise or cargo ships come in to port, the air traffic controllers at Logan temporarily shut down the north-south runway for safety.)
I made a visit to see the cranes, still mounted on the ship while final preparations were underway to install them ashore.
Sometimes it feels like a murky haze, a fever dream.
From sketchy news reports in December of 2019 to a warning at the start of 2020 to a full-blown global pandemic.
Here we are a year-and-a-half later, and in some parts of the globe we can see the edge of the woods. The problem remains: those billions of people who are not yet able to get a vaccine, and those millions of people who deny science and fact.
I’ll step down from my soapbox with one sigh of exasperation: This is getting old.
That’s what I was thinking on my morning constitutional as I experimented with a new art tool I have added to my state-of-the-art digital camera; a digital filter that all but travels back in time a century or so. All of these pictures are new versions with an old electronic eye:
And this just in: fingers crossed, we expect to return to something close to normal cruising soon. It’s still a moving target, as we hope that the virus is driven into obscurity by vaccines, science, and good manners.
See the page on this website, “Where in the World is Corey Sandler?” for my upcoming schedule which is beginning to fill out for this year and beyond.
Here’s wishing us all fair winds, following seas, and perfect health.
All photos and text copyright 2021 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to obtain or use a copy of any photo, please contact me.
We’re into the second year of contagion and caution.
We’ve been vaccinated. We’ve dusted off our luggage.
What we need is a ship and places to go.
I went for my solitary early morning walk the other day, a peregrination usually without a specific goal, seeing where my feet would take me…and I ended up again at the empty Black Falcon cruise terminal in Boston.
The flags and the banners and the gangways were all there. The ships were not.
All text and photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to use any of my photos, please contact me.
At midnight we arrive not at tomorrow but instead at a new version of today.
Deep thinking, I know. It’s been a full year in the Year of Living for Today, with plenty of time for at-home philosophical discourse.
Like the first green shoots of spring, there are signs of hope. Vaccines have arrived and are making their way into arms left and right, although there is still a vast gap between first world countries and the rest of the planet.
Which raises the issue: once those of us lucky enough to obtain protection are ready to travel, where do we go?
Cruise lines are making plans once again; let us hope.
I know we’re ready.
So, on the subject of new beginnings, here are some sunrises.
In many cultures, at midnight on the last day of the calendar, the old year is ushered out the back door and the new year welcomed at the front.
Last night, we did just that. Good riddance to 2020, a year that for most of us brought (almost) nothing worth celebrating.
A long, long year ago on New Year’s Eve, we were at sea, sailing north along the coast of Baja California from Mexico, headed for San Diego and eventually Los Angeles. (You can read about that trip by scrolling down to the entry for 3-4 January 2020.)
When we disembarked on 4 January, we were looking forward to a few months’ break before heading back to cruises in Norway, around the British Isles, and South America. It was going to be a busy year.
Instead, 2020 became the Year When Time Stopped.
By March, one after another cruise contracts were canceled and after 15 years of globe-trotting we have instead stayed home. Literally.
From our home high in the sky over Boston harbor, we can see the Black Falcon cruise terminal where not a single cruise ship visited in 2020. On my early morning walks, I find Downtown Crossing, the heart of Boston, scarcely crossed. And Boston Common is uncommonly empty.
But there is hope in the form of the painfully slow rollout of an exceptionally speedily developed vaccine.
If all goes well…
…we can hope that sometime soon–perhaps in this new year–we will once again be able to venture far and near.
As British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said in 1942, as the tide of World War II seemed to be turning, “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
Boston at Dawn. Photo by Corey Sandler
Photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. To purchase a photo or obtain rights to use an image, please contact me.
We have arrived at the final month of this awful year.
Here’s an indisputable, nonpartisan hope for 2021: health and safety, serenity and comity, science above silliness…and at some point a return to travel.
In my still-abundant spare time, I have been harvesting skies from the many thousands of photos I have taken around the world in the past few decades. And I’ve been adding new ones from here in New England; socially distanced through the lenses of my camera.
When it comes to photography, I am at heart a traditionalist. I search for great scenes, incorporate a strong composition, and always hunt for dramatic lighting.
But these days, my travels are essentially confined to early morning expeditions into the near-deserted city or observations of the harbor and the ocean from our aerie high above Boston’s Seaport.
And so I have taken to creating images that are a composite: a scene from one place with a sky from another. Here are some of the fantastical results: travel to two places at once without leaving my home.
All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.
We are still adrift in the age of wisdom and the age of foolishness, the epoch of belief and the epoch of incredulity.
As we move from a dismal spring and summer into a winter of foreboding, we can hope that relief lies before us.
My words derive from the famous opening lines of Charles Dickens’ “Tale of Two Cities”, published in 1859.
About the same time, in 1853, Unitarian minister Theodore Parker declared, “I do not pretend to understand the moral universe. The arc is a long one. My eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by experience of sight. I can divine it by conscience. And from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. rephrased those words poetically: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Last night, the arc of the moral universe bent toward justice, and that is a transcendent good.
That other arc, the awful accounting of sickness and death in this dreadful year, is bending as well, and still not in a good way.
It will be a while before we can inhale freely. And it will be a while before we can resume something close to our way of life as it existed in January 2020, before the worst of times took hold.
I generally take my constitutionals in the early morning, and today I found myself drawn east to the Black Falcon Terminal, the cruise port of Boston.
Not a single cruise ship has made a scheduled call at the port in all of 2020.
Here in my office, I bide my time doing some writing and revisiting my collection of tens of thousands of travel photos I have taken on our various journeys. I continue to uncover hidden gems, and I also have shifted my focus slightly in the direction of artistic reinterpretations of reality.
Bending another arc, you might say.
Here are a few recent works.
All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.
Singer-songwriter Cheryl Wheeler’s beautiful song, “When Fall Comes to New England” says of this season:
The nights are sharp with starlight And the days are cool and clean And in the blue sky overhead The northern geese fly south instead And leaves are Irish Setter red
The nights and the days and the skies are indeed sharp and cool and blue.
And her description of the leaves is poetry of the highest form.
Of course, there’s a “but” coming; you knew that. But in this annus horribulus, this horrible year, everything is socially distant.
We’re hoping for fresh air and a return to something close to normalcy in coming months. Each night we raise a toast to health, happiness, sensibility, and hope. We can hope.
My terrace garden, 200 feet in the air above Boston harbor, felt the first nip of frost the other night.
There is no official place called New England, but it is usually meant to include the northeast American states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. Some of us are willing to grant admission to the eastern part of what was once British North America in Canada including Quebec, and the Maritime Provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador.
In my office, I have spent much of the viral confinement harvesting previously unripened photos of autumns in New England, from New York east and north to Atlantic Canada.
All photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. Contact me to obtain rights to use any image.
Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality. So said Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba the Greek.
We’re working (some of us, to be precise) to change our present reality to something close to our past reality. I am hopeful we will eventually get beyond the know-nothings and the do-nothings.
But as of the moment, we’re not yet out of the woods.
Or to be more precise, in our case, seven or so months into this pandemic we’re not yet into the city or out on the open ocean.
We live along the water and Boston is still something close to a ghost town; the morning after a zombie apocalypse with just a handful of (mostly) masked people scurrying about. On my early-morning power walks there are days when I am the only one crossing the street in Downtown Crossing and Boston Common is rarely shared.
The Black Falcon cruise terminal in Boston has not had a cruise ship make a call since late in 2019 and probably will go this entire year without a visit. Across the harbor Logan International Airport is open but nearly empty, with a nearly total stoppage to international flights and a minimal amount of domestic traffic.
I am sure there are still places worthy of a photograph and I am always ready, but I have mostly been working on developing my editing skills and thinking about new ways to see old places.
One more quote, from the visionary cynic Mark Twain: You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
In that spirit, here are some photos from my collection that I have revisited with new eyes and a refocused imagination.
The great Bard Jimmy Buffett wrote, “Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes. Nothing remains quite the same.”
This past December we flew to Valparaiso, Chile at 33⁰ South Latitude, about 2,285 miles below the Equator, to begin a cruise.
When we stepped off the ship in Los Angeles, California in January we had no idea our aqueous journeys were headed for suspension.
We spent mid-January to mid-February on an extended winter holiday in glorious Montreal, 5,435 miles away at 45⁰ North Latitude.
For the past two decades or so, we have been spending about six months of each year aboard ship. By this time–as I write these words in August–we had been scheduled to sail the west coast of South America, then from Iceland over to circle the United Kingdom and on to Norway and next the Baltic Sea. The fall was going to take us to the Greek Isles and Israel.
Instead, 2020 has become The Year on Dry Land, with no certain change in sight.
Cruising will resume, in some form, sometime and we intend to be on board, somewhere.
As an author, I can write anywhere. As a photographer, I see the world through my lenses.
But without changes in in latitude, I’ve been making some changes in creative attitude.
Firmly ensconced on the penultimate floor of a condo tower in Boston’s Seaport, I’ve embarked on a project documenting the changing light of the big city and the harbor.
With my travel circumscribed by the invisible fence of the microscopic virus, I’m exploring artistic enhancements to photos: drawing with light, which is the literal meaning of the word photograph.
All of the images in today’s post are photographs I have taken. When I first took up a camera, we would retreat to the darkroom to dodge, burn, filter, and perform other techniques to find new ways to view the image. Today, digital photography gives us amazing tools to make new versions.
Someone out there is sure to be thinking, “These images are not real.” That is correct.
But I would point out that no photograph is real. The photographer chooses what to include and exclude before the shutter button is pressed. Settings on a lens select short or deep fields of sharpness. The shutter speed determines whether a dancer’s foot is frozen as if not moving, or blurred in action. And today’s advanced digital cameras can literally see in the dark, capturing details not discernible to the human eye.
Here are some of my interpretations of recent photos and a few older images from my back pages.
All photos by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved. If you would like to obtain a print or otherwise make use of an image, please contact me.
I am on dry land, but feeling so very much out to sea.
We are now—all of us—strangers in a strange land. An
invisible enemy has invaded our world and changed just about everything.
Some among us have been truly heroic, including most medical
and health professionals and the essential workers who supply us with food and
For the past 12 years or so, my wife and I have spent about
six months of the year traveling aboard luxurious cruise ships in nearly every
part of the world.
We have been to iconic and well-visited places like London
and Athens and Barcelona and Lisbon and St. Peterburg and Stockholm and Rio de
Janeiro and Valparaiso and Montreal and New York and everywhere in between.
And we have come to port in less-visited but always
fascinating places like Reykjavik, Narsarsuak, Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine, Les Îles
des Saintes, Devil’s Island, the Falkland Islands, Dakar, Tunis, Bejaia,
Monemvasia, and so many more.
There’s an expression that exists in many countries, many
languages, and many cultures. One version: “Man Plans and God Laughs.”
It’s not a funny matter, but here we are with lots of plans—most
of them canceled and others wobbly at best.
We were supposed to be in South America in February and
March, and beginning to pack soon for an extended cruise from Iceland to the
United Kingdom and on to the Baltic. Oh, and Greece and Israel and Italy in the
fall. And next year’s schedule was equally exciting.
But, as I said, here we are on dry land. I can see the
Atlantic Ocean from my office window. There are no cruise ships in sight and
the skies above are eerily devoid of almost all jet contrails.
Someday we shall resume our explorations. The new normal will
be, I am certain, quite different from what we have all become used to.
In the meantime, take care of each other and hold the
politicians and the profiteers and dishonest conspiratorialists accountable for
the damage they have wrought.
This shall, we hope, someday pass. We look forward to better
FROM THE ARCHIVES
In my unexpectedly expansive free time, I have been revisiting my files of hundreds of thousands of photos. Here are some newly rediscovered delights.
All photos Copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, All Rights Reserved. Contact me if you would like to purchase an image for personal or commercial use.
It sounds like the setup for a joke, but no, it was time for a vacation and we chose to spend a full month à la Montréalaise. Montréal, Quebec. In the dead of winter. On purpose.
We are both of the sort who do not really mind cold weather when we are properly equipped. And we enjoy a good snowfall, especially when we do not have to drive or shovel. And so here we are in a lovely condo in Ville Marie, in the heart of the city.
So, about the snow. It was snowing when we arrived in mid-January and then after a brief surcease we had a two-day storm that dropped about half a meter or 20 inches of fluffy powder. Then an overnight half-foot that caught the weather forecasters and the city planners by surprise. Oh, and a few lesser storms not worth considering–or clearing from streets and sidewalks.
Not that it seems to matter all that much to the locals. Clearing roads and sidewalks is apparently not a very high priority around here. You just put on your boots and zip up your parka and get on with life.
It took more than a week before the residential street in front of our apartment was finally cleared. It was an impressive sight, though: road graders and fleets of trucks hauling away les neiges.
Temperatures have been mostly in the teens for those who count in Fahrenheit, or about -9 Celsius. The cold medal arrived a few days ago when morning arrived at -7 Fahrenheit, or -22 Celsius. Bonne journee, have a good day, we told each other as we pressed on to hot lunch.
Les Habs, the Montréal Canadiens, are not having the best of seasons–actually they’re in a multi-year drought–but their arena fills for nearly every game. We snagged tickets and enjoyed a raucous few hours, and a win.
In my lectures about Montréal, I have talked about eating your way up The Main, the nickname for Blvd St-Laurent which more-or-less divides the city into west (mostly Anglophone) and east (mostly Francophone) sections. We put that to the test, going out every day–snow or not–to try many of the city’s wonderful international offerings.
You can’t–or at least you shouldn’t–visit Montréal and not dine on smoked meat and a dill pickle at Chez Schwartz, Schwartz’s Deli n the former Jewish area. Across the street from the famous deli is a museum dedicated to the local culture, and there they offer a gefilte fish club sandwich. And, of course, Montréal’s bagels: honey sweet and worth the trip.
In and around Chinatown are restaurants that provide glimpses into some of the lesser-known regions of China. Put aside Cantonese and Szechuan fare: we fell in love with Nouilles de Lan Zhou, noodles from Lan Zhou in Gansu Province in northwest China.
But let us not forget fresh dumplings from Harbin or Dalian at Qing Hua. There is an art to eating them that involves lifting them from the dish with chopsticks, biting into them, and then sucking out the soup and filling within.
As it happened, we were here for Chinese New Year, and watched some of the celebrations that spread through the district.
But wait, Chinatown could more accurately be called Little Asia. We also dined on Japanese shabu-shabu at Kagayaki, cooking our own fresh vegetables and meat in a boiling pot at our table. We dined several times at two wonderful Vietnamese restaurants for hot Pho, which goes well with cold snow.
Oh, and some wonderful North Indian fare including tandoori chicken and fresh naan bread at the very unprepossessing but fine Thali.
We enjoyed fresh arepas, stuffed grilled or fried cornmeal sandwiches at Bocadillo, a Venezuelan restaurant.
We visited a lovely Polish cafe called Stash near the St. Lawrence, a few blocks up from where cruise ships usually dock in the summer; my wife celebrated with pierogies and galumpkis.
Down by the river, ice has filled most of the piers and shorelines. Shipping–aided by ice breakers–still continues for much of the winter. And in late January, the frigid waterfront was home to a two-week-long heavy metal concert series that quite rightly billed itself as the coldest rock festival in the world.
We enjoyed the theatre scene in Montreal as well. At the National Monument we saw a student production of “Street Scenes”, an operetta by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Langston Hughes.
And then on a crisp Saturday afternoon we walked up to McGill University to enjoy a spirited production of “The Gondoliers”, a worthy Gilbert and Sullivan chestnut.
One day we walked far up to the plateau on The Main to Pucapuca, a dark and somewhat scary storefront offering Peruvian fare. A one-man operation, the chef seated you, presented you with the day’s offering (no menu–just what he felt like cooking that day) and since we were still there a bit late and we somehow seemed of interest, the chef sat down with us at the table to discuss food, culture, history, and politics in a melange of English, Spanish, and French. This is why we travel.
All content and photos copyright 2020 by Corey Sandler, all rights reserved.
We have arrived at the Port of Los Angeles; San Pedro, to be specific, about 20 miles away from L.A. but most importantly on an inlet of the Pacific Ocean.
It’s been a grand voyage, a 28-day segment of the record-setting World Cruise of the Viking Sun.
The tour began in London, crossed the pond to Atlantic Canada, headed south into the Caribbean and then down and around the bottom of South America and then up the West Coast of South America, Central America, and on to California.
We joined the ship in Valparaiso, Chile and we leave her now as she and her guests prepare to sail to Asia and then Europe and eventually back to London.
On a beautiful southern California day we crossed over the bridge from San Pedro to Long Beach and spent the morning at the spectacular Aquarium of the Pacific in the company of sharks, jellyfish, clownfish, sea turtles, penguins, and so much more.
For the past four weeks we have sailed along with the denizens of the deep. Today we got up close. Here are some photos from our visit.
Aquarium of the Pacific
Up in the Air
Upcoming is our least favorite part of the trip: airports and airplanes and lugging luggage. But we won’t put our suitcases too far from reach: more journeys await.
To new friends we met aboard, we wish safe travels until we meet again. I hope to meet you again aboard ship or in these pages.
All content by Corey Sandler, copyright 2020. All rights reserved. To contact me, please use the links on this blog.
San Diego is a beautiful setting, a great year-round climate, a natural deepwater harbor, great beaches, and an economy based to a great extent on the U.S. Navy and tourism.
But San Diego has a bit of a second-city complex. It is, in fact, the second most populous city in California after Los Angeles. In my opinion, L-A gets all the attention but San Diego—and San Francisco—deserve some more of the praise.
Today was bright and sunny. Not much of a surprise there; San Diego is almost always thus. But it was–by local standards–a wintry day, barely reaching into the low 60s.
When this cruise ends in two days, my wife and I are headed for a northeast winter which generally is much, much different.
Here are some photos from today:
One of my favorite things about one of my favorite cities is the wonderful mix between old Spanish style structures and new buildings. Although San Diego certainly is booming, at least thus far they have not destroyed their past.
The exposition was held in San Diego’s large urban Balboa Park. At a time when many architects (including at a simultaneous fair in San Francisco) embraced the over-the-top Beaux-Arts style, in San Diego they chose Spanish Baroque, which includes some Moorish Revival elements, and a bit of Spanish Colonial design.
The fair was decorated with more than two million plants of 1,200 different types. Philadelphia’s Liberty Bell made a three-day appearance in November 1915.
Some of the Exposition’s buildings are still standing, including the Botanical Building, with a changing display of rare and notable plants, the 200-foot-tall California Bell Tower, shaped like a Spanish ship, the Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, and the Fine Arts Building , now part of the Museum of Man.
And the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. In 2015, the organ was expanded to 80 ranks and 5,017 pipes, once again making it the world’s largest pipe organ in a fully outdoor venue.
Now available, the revised Second Edition of “Henry Hudson Dreams and Obsession” by Corey Sandler, for the Amazon Kindle. You can read the book on a Kindle device, or in a Kindle App on your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
If you would like to purchase an autographed copy, please see the tab on this page, “HOW TO ORDER A PHOTO OR AUTOGRAPHED BOOK”
Here’s where to order an electronic copy for immediate delivery: