A big Manhattan year : tales of competitive birding

From Jackie Cantwell
Author: David Barrett
Title: A big Manhattan year : tales of competitive birding
Most of us call the act of identifying birds in their natural environment “bird watching”. But the more serious refer to it as “birding”. And those who take birding very seriously sometimes compete with each other to have a “big year” or a “big day”, which is to spy the most birds in a given area in a certain amount of time. So the author, an Upper East Side Manhattan resident, attempted a Manhattan big year in 2012 after birding for only one year. He combined his love of training for competitive running races with his birding. Although there’s no prize awarded to the winner, one can see the totals on ebird.com. He details the preparation that goes into such a feat. First of all, one must buy a good pair of binoculars! One must study the physical appearances of many species and subspecies of birds, along with the bird calls they make, and how they look in flight. He partakes in guided birding walks through Central Park as well as consulting numerous websites, books, and signs up for text alerts of rare bird sightings. Migration patterns and Hurricane Sandy impacted his year greatly. His tone is conversational, and I learned about the different areas within Central Park, as well as Randall’s Island and northern Manhattan. He explains how technology such as the smartphone has aided birders tremendously. He says for the most part, birders are generous in wanting to share their knowledge and their finds. This is a truly unique glimpse into a world most of us never knew about. I dare you not to appreciate birds more after this read!

Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree

From Terry DelBalso
Title:  Cowboy Under My Christmas Tree
Author:  Janet Daily
If you are looking for a book with a deep story line and character development; this is not the one. However if you want an easy ready during the Holiday rush and desire that extra warm Christmas feeling, the book will do the trick. It is about a Colorado Cowboy that comes to NY for a one month job and falls in love with a beautiful girl that is on an assignment designing Holiday window displays. The girl is also attracted to him but wary. The story takes you through the journey of his winning her over.

Come to the edge : a memoir

From Jackie Cantwell
author: Haag, Christina
Come to the edge : a memoir
 This is a beautifully written memoir of the author’s 5-year romance with John F. Kennedy, Jr. in the late 1980’s. The tale is a little slow going in the beginning, as she details her family history and early years in Catholic school. But I think it is necessary, as we get a glimpse into her background (she is what I’d call “new money”). She and JFK Jr. travelled in the same social circles since their teen years on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. They later became roommates and good friends at Brown University in Providence, R.I. They met up again when both were living in New York. JFK Jr. and she were both seeing other people when he asked her to go out with him.  He was very charming as he tried to romance her.  He buys a motorcycle and drives her home to Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge.  She doesn’t know where to put her hands, so at a stoplight, he turns around and wraps her arms around his chest.(What girl wouldn’t want to trade places with her?). He later tells her he bought the motorcycle because “I was trying to woo you” and that they had the longest courtship ever. They were in an off-Broadway play together, playing the leads. He was a very gifted actor, but of course, it’s a path he cannot take.  When she decides to become an actress, he tells her, “You’re lucky, you have a calling”.

We get a view into their lives of privilege. When Christine first meets his mother, Mrs. Onassis is very reserved and cordial. There were even rules, according to John, as to how and when to approach her. Later the women form a friendship. John calls her “Mummy” and often tries to appease this quiet though formidable woman.  Against Christina’s better judgment, she finds herself taking more risks and going along on his adventures, such as horseback riding, kayaking and skiing.  The point that stuck with me in light of how he died is that he seemed oblivious to the physical danger he put himself in on more than one occasion.  Overall, the tone of the book was restrained.  She does not offer any titillating revelations. She was very respectful of the Kennedy clan.  This is a touching memoir with insights into the man we all thought we knew.