Author Archives: Johna Till Johnson

Citizen of New York

By Johna Till Johnson

This year I became, officially, a citizen of New York City.

How’s that, you ask, given that I’ve lived in New York City for over 20 years?

Well yes, but living somewhere doesn’t automatically mean you’re a citizen of the place. Citizenship connotes something larger: a mix of rights and responsibilities. You’re not just passing through, you’ve put down roots. You take personal responsibility for how things are run, and feel that you’ve earned the right to enjoy (or criticize) the results.

And as of last year, New York City actually has a formal rite of passage for becoming a city citizen (in a sense): getting your New York City ID card.

New York City ID

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Park Bench Sentiments

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

Central Park benchesMany benches in NYC’s Central Park bear engraved metal plaques. For a donation, one can endow a bench as part of the Park’s “Adopt-a-Bench” program.

As you might imagine, the engravings are sometimes sentimental, and often heartbreaking. Too often, they memorialize a loved one who’s clearly still missed by grieving friends and relatives: “To my beloved…”, “In memory of my dear…”


And then there’s this one:

"So far so good"

It made us laugh. And agree that it’s something to be grateful for!

New Jersey Weird and Wonderful

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

This trip dates from last fall, but took us this long to post in part because we wanted to include a lot of detail to guide paddlers who might want to go to these places, which are very accessible to NYC paddlers of all skill levels. 

So each photo is numbered, and the third image down is a map showing where each photo was taken, so you can associate the photo with the location. The  body of the post includes only a small selection of the photos; for the rest, see the slideshow at the bottom.

And don’t miss the special bonus: A link to a GoPro video from the trip, at the very end of the post!

New Jersey Weird and Wonderful 47

47. Beautiful day at the Sims Scrap Metal Yard

The currents weren’t really right for any of our usual trips, ebbing most of the day, and turning back to flood around 4:30 PM. So a long trip to points south would mean returning close to midnight, which neither of us wanted to do.

But it was an effervescent fall day, with a gusty breeze, blue skies, and sunlight sparkling over the waves. We wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary, for us, at least.

“Why not visit Port Liberté, and meander down the Jersey side of the harbor?” Vlad suggested.

New Jersey Weird and Wonderful 15

15. Port Liberté

What a splendid idea! Port Liberté is one of the many weird and wonderful things on the New Jersey side. Vlad calls it “the would-be Venice of New Jersey,” and it truly is: According to Wikipedia, it was designed in the 1980s as a waterfront community patterned after a similar one in Saint-Tropez, France, complete with canals lined with docks and waterfront walkways.

The idea is, to my mind at least, flawless: Imagine living right on the waterfront, with your own personal dock, just a few minutes by ferry or private boat from Manhattan! Unfortunately, though, the market crash of the late 80s ended the development plans, and what remains, though beautiful, is just a wistful indication of what might have been.

We’d last been to Port Liberté several years ago—maybe as far back as 2011. So it was time for another look. Then we’d continue down the Jersey side of the harbor, our moods and the currents permitting, until it was time to turn back. Come to think of it, despite our many years of paddling in the harbor, neither Vlad nor I had ever really properly explored all the ins and outs of the Jersey side.

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I Used to Hate Spring…

By Johna Till Johnson
Photos by Vladimir Brezina

April puddle

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.

—T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land

I’ll admit it: I used to hate Spring.

Why “admit”? Because from what I can tell, most people are thrilled by lengthening days, soft fragrant breezes, and the sight of new flowers pushing up through the fresh grass.

In New York, Springtime is especially noteworthy. Everyone takes to the parks. Lovers canoodle. Pets frolic. And we walk around with goofy smiles and say unexpected things to each other, like “Please,” and “Thank you” and “After you!”

So what’s not to love?

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Our Easter Egg Science Project

By Johna Till Johnson and Vladimir Brezina

Easter egg science project 1It was bound to happen.

Take a scientist and an engineer, add a kit designed for children, and you’ll end up with a science project.

A few days ago (on the first day of spring, to be exact), we decided to color Easter eggs. We’re not sure whose idea it was (each of us says it originated with the other), but regardless: There we were with 14 hard-boiled eggs and the same PAAS egg-dyeing kit that Johna remembered from childhood. (In Czechoslovakia, too, a country nominally communist but where Easter traditions were hard to uproot, Vlad had something very similar.)

We set to work. The dye tablets fizzed in the vinegar, the appropriate amount of water was added, and the first six eggs were happily soaking in their colors. And then one of us noticed something:

“Hey, what are those lines?” As the dye deepened, several of the eggs were showing white lines, two per egg, circumscribing the eggs and trisecting them neatly. Why was this happening?

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Up and Back

By Johna Till Johnson

You go on a trip. You come back. Nothing remarkable about that.

Return of Falcon 9

Return of Falcon 9’s first stage (photo by SpaceX)

Unless you’re a rocket,  and you’ve gone up into space and then returned to land upright. Which is what Falcon 9, the rocket launched by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, did on Monday, December 21.


Falcon 9 launch and return, December 21, 2015

Long exposure showing the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and then the return of the rocket’s first stage to a landing back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (photo by SpaceX)

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By Vladimir Brezina

Three of the largest—

Three of the largest

Three of the smallestand three of the smallest—

— but they are all equal “vessels” in the eyes of the law.

“The word ‘vessel’ includes every description of watercraft or other artificial contrivance used, or capable of being used, as a means of transportation on water.” (U. S. Code, and similarly in the Rules of the Road)


A contribution to this week’s Photo Challenge, Trio.