Friday, June 30, 2006

Sticker graffiti, E. 20s, May 2006

When you think of graffiti, you probably think of spray paint - at least I do. But I've also seen graffiti on stickers, often FedEx or postal labels that someone "tags" and then slaps on a wall.

A sticker-graffiti artist in my neighborhood has taken things a step further by leaving us with drawings. The one above is on a boarded-up doorway on Third Avenue. Below, a mailbox near Park Avenue and the wall of a construction site near Fifth Avenue.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, June 2006

I'm usually not a big fan of flower photos. They're just too easy. There's no challenge in taking a photo of a beautiful object; you're just transferring its beauty to pixels. You may as well be taking pictures of your valuables for insurance purposes.

I think this is what Georgia O'Keeffe was getting at when she famously said, "I hate flowers - I paint them because they're cheaper than models and they don't move." Of course, she made extremely unconventional flower paintings, and made people see flowers in an entirely new way.

In this case, the flowers are just one element. I liked the lines of the fence, the shadows on the steps and the purple color of the blossoms. I was trying to capture the shady summer feel of this Brooklyn neighborhood, where so much was in bloom all around.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Times Square, June 2006

This is a sort of "reverse shadow," a reflection from the windows in the Reuters Building on an advertisement across the street.

I work in Times Square, and walking the one block past the Reuters Building, from the subway to 43rd Street, is easily the most personally challenging part of my daily grind. Just so many damn PEOPLE! And everyone's moving so SLOWLY! So many TOURISTS and BABY STROLLERS and people with cameras looking UP!

I tend to walk fast. I never really have a reason. It's not like I'm late.

So whenever I get behind a crowd ogling the neon lights in Times Square and blocking my way, I try to remind myself to take a deep breath and remember that I'm in no rush.

Besides, as you can see, occasionally it's ME that's looking up.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Third Street, East Village, June 2006

I read somewhere that ginkgo trees are prehistoric, one of the oldest surviving plants on the planet. So it's easy to see why they're also one of the most popular street trees in New York. They're tough.

In the fall, the fan-shaped leaves on their long, fingery branches turn brilliant yellow.

Rain, rain, go away!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Lower East Side, June 2006

A great paint job on Suffolk Street.

Pride Parade

I was supposed to go to today’s Pride Parade with a friend from Long Island. We were going to meet at 1 p.m. in Madison Square Park, near my apartment.

But about noon he called to say he and his partner had decided not to come, because of the weather. (And I don't blame him. It wasn't the greatest day.) So I did some stuff around the house and didn’t get out there myself until 1:30 or so, by which time things were already well underway.

I watched at the corner of 29th Street and Fifth Avenue. These upper reaches of the parade route are neither as crowded nor as enthusiastic as those in Greenwich Village, where on good years the sidewalks are packed five or six people thick, and walking far is out of the question. Here, it seemed to be a mix of gay guys, curious straight couples (conspicuously holding hands) and foreign tourists.

I arrived just as Sen. Chuck Schumer passed by, followed by squadrons of elaborately dressed drag queens from ethnic and immigrant gay organizations:

I stayed about half an hour, long enough to see a lively gay gospel group, a gay men’s flag corps (you just know they were living their high school fantasies), the “black and brown lesbians against racism” (or BABAR), and every PFLAG chapter in the tri-state area. Oh, and Mark Green, who’s running for...something.

I got my requisite free condom and lube from the Asian and Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS. A pair of Japanese tourists standing next to me kept taking pictures of the package, featuring four Asian men and the words “Choose Safer Sex.” I’m not sure why they were so fascinated.

And of course, there was the Starbucks float:

(Forgive me for being a corporate stooge, but as you all know, I loves me some Starbucks.)

All in all, I had a good time, and I saw just enough to bring to mind the point of the parade: That there’s room for all of us in this huge sprawl of a city, that we’re all more alike than we are different, and that each of us should celebrate our identity daily, whether gay or straight, marcher or spectator.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Columbus Circle, June 2006

This is the kind of weekend we're having - clouds and rain. It's hard for me to take photos in the rain, because I usually respond to sunlight and shadows. But I also feel like I need to post a rain photo on a rainy day, for the sake of journalistic accuracy! Yesterday I rose to the challenge, went out and took some rain shots.

The photo shows the Trump International Hotel and Tower reflected in the newly installed benches on Columbus Circle. The Trump building was originally built in 1969 as the headquarters for Charles Bluhdorn's Gulf & Western Corp. But apparently it had an architectural flaw: It swayed pretty severely. (All skyscrapers sway a little, but this one got a reputation.) When Trump retrofitted it to become an apartment hotel, he reclad it and stiffened it up a bit.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Third Avenue, June 2006

Summer has arrived in the windows of Lord John's Bootery - along with a dose of surrealism.

I got my last pair of shoes at Lord John's, my neighborhood shoe store. I love the fact that all I have to do to buy shoes is walk around the corner. Ah, urban life!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fifth Avenue, March 2006

On March 19, the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, the congregation at Marble Collegiate Church wrapped the fence surrounding the church in these ribbons. The gold ribbons represent prayers for the families of soldiers killed, and include tags bearing the names of those soldiers. The blue ribbons represent prayers for Iraqis. The green ribbons represent prayers for peace.

I took this in March, but the ribbons are still there. "We continue to add ribbons and names and to pray for the families and friends as more people die," the church wrote in a notice posted with the display.

There are already an awful lot of ribbons on that fence.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Ramble, Central Park, May 2006

The sun through these leaves first caught my eye. But as I was preparing to take the photo I noticed little black specks on the undersides. Ants -- and they were farming aphids!

I was walking with my friend Rob at the time, and I called him over to see. But Rob, who was eager to get home to his dog and probably not the least bit interested in a bunch of bugs, objected. (Rather fiercely, I thought.)

What can I say? I'm a wildlife nerd.

Requiem for a diner

I first visited New York in September 1995, on a long weekend with my friend Sue. I was living in Florida at the time, and we flew up on a godawful discount carrier called Sun Jet for some adventures in the city.

We stayed at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which at the time was a slightly down-at-the-heels place with relatively cheap rooms. (My memory is $85 for a double. Could that possibly be right?) We visited all the essential spots like Rockefeller Center and the United Nations. One night we drank way too many Tom Collinses and had a wild, drunken cab ride back to our hotel. The driver asked quizzically: “Have you been drinking beer?” When we managed to say no between bouts of laughter, he pressed on: “Have you been drinking WHISKEY?”

What’s the word for my reaction to New York -- captivated? Awestruck? I guess those both apply. I felt like I came to understand so much of our American culture just by being in the place I’d seen on TV for decades. Standing outside Tiffany’s, I could channel Audrey Hepburn. Sort of.

Anyway, one afternoon, when Sue and I were exhausted from walking uptown and down and standing around at the Museum of Modern Art, we popped into a diner on East 53rd Street. It was called the Palladium, and it had a sort of purplish-maroon-beige color scheme. We sat at the bar. I ordered blueberry pie a la mode, and I swear it was the best blueberry pie I ever ate.

After that, every time I visited New York, I always made a stop at the Palladium. I’d eat and then check out the African art gallery nearby, with its Dogon ladders and Tuareg tent stakes. After I moved here in 2000, I often Palladiumed with visitors. I can’t remember when I last stopped in, but I know I once again sat at the bar. Maybe I had pie, or maybe a Greek salad.

Last Saturday, I thought I’d have breakfast at the Palladium. Imagine my shock when I got there and found it GONE.

Not gone, as in merely closed. GONE, as in, the building is gutted and being torn down and something else is going up in its place.

I kept walking up and down the block, thinking there must be some mistake. I must be on the wrong street. I didn’t recognize anything. I knew the African art store had closed some years back, but I never heard a peep about the death of the Palladium.

I came home and looked up the phone number. When I called, a man with a heavy Indian accent answered, saying something that made it clear the number no longer served a restaurant.

I told him I was trying to reach the Palladium.

“Palladium is close for good,” he said, and hung up.

So there you have it. No more Palladium. I’ve already suffered the recent death of the Skyline, a favorite diner on the Upper East Side where I once had the world’s best vanilla shake. I’m sorry to have it happen again.

As much as my blog is about transience, change can be hard to take.

(Above: Business card from a 1998 visit)

Monday, June 19, 2006

East Midtown, May 2006

Ah, back in the city! As massive as these buildings are, there's a hint of open sky reflected in the windows. (Third Avenue and 42nd Street)

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Alexandria, Va., June 2006

These reflections look sort of gothic, like church windows, but I didn't notice what actually made them. Oh, and that bald-looking shadow on the right is from a parking meter. (It's not me. Just in case you were wondering.)

This is the last of my D.C. photos. Tomorrow we're back to our regularly scheduled programming in New York City!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Alexandria, Va., June 2006

While walking through Old Town Alexandria, Kevin and I wandered down an alley, where the sun turned this back door into a canvas.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Hyattsville, Md., June 2006

We continue "Washington Week" with a stop in Hyattsville, a northeastern suburb of D.C. My grandparents lived in Hyattsville and my Mom and uncle grew up there, and my brother and I went there every year on family trips. So even though we no longer have relatives in the area, I try to stop in whenever I can just to take a look at the old neighborhood.

My grandmother actually never liked Hyattsville much. She once said she thought it was "the end of the world." But she lived there for 43 years; go figure.

My brother and I liked it a lot. During our vacations we explored the neighborhood, with its alphabetically organized streets, and walked at least once a day to the "corner store," where we bought disgusting stuff like cream soda and Sweet Tarts. We'd haul our faux groceries back to the house and camp out in front of my grandmother's black and white television set in the basement, watching ancient recycled shows like "Dennis the Menace" with Jay North. My grandmother warned us that if we ate all that sugar we'd become diabetic, but fortunately we just got hyper.

My grandmother died in 1989, and soon afterwards we sold the Hyattsville house - so it's been more than 15 years since we had any stake at all in the neighborhood. When I visited last week, I was happy to see that things look pretty good. The corner store, never a thriving enterprise, is now a sculpture studio for a pair of professors at the University of Maryland. And my grandmother's house, though not the way she would have kept it, had flowers in the yard and homey touches that suggest the people who live there enjoy it.

The house itself is really boring architecturally. But on the same street are these apartment buildings - nondescript for the most part, but featuring these Deco doorways. (The porthole windows are awesome!)

I remember walking past these apartments as a kid (and later, a teenager) and wondering what it would be like to live in them. I always had a kind of apartment fetish - I used to lock my bedroom at home and call it "my apartment." Something about having your own private space and an independent life, especially in a city, really attracted me. Even a city my grandmother deemed "the end of the world."

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Alexandria, Va., June 2006

I took two shots of this wall - this one, and a wider shot with two windows. Kevin and I had a little debate about which was better. I like this one because it's simpler, which shows my minimalist tendencies.

Thank God they never fixed that shutter.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Alexandria, Va., June 2006

While I was in D.C. I stayed one night with my friend Kevin, who I've known since middle school, at least. Kevin lives in Alexandria, and we took a walk around the Old Town area one evening, when the shadows were especially clear and dramatic. Anyone who thinks shadows are the same everywhere should look at this one - it's so colonial! It's Virginia!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Washington, D.C., June 2006

The western entrance to the National Gallery of Art, by architect John Russell Pope (1941). I was hurrying across the Mall with my backpack, Starbucks in hand, when the sun on this clean expanse of marble prompted me to get out the camera. Pope also designed the Jefferson Memorial and many other buildings.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Washington, D.C., June 2006

A detail from graffiti just off U Street N.W.

My weekend in D.C. went well, and I have some great new pictures to share, so this will be "D.C. Week" on my normally New York-centric blog. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Chelsea, April 2006

This image is basically a color-coordinated collection of squares and rectangles - there's hardly a rounded edge anywhere. Maybe I can sell it to Apple?

I am going to Washington DC for a few days, so the blog will take a breather until I'm back on Monday. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

W. 14th Street, February 2006

This is a detail from a colorful 1913 building at 14th Street and 7th Avenue designed by Herman Lee Meader. The AIA Guide to New York calls it "a lavish display of glazed and colored terra cotta decoration" with touches of both Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Ellis Island, June 2006

Mom and I went out to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island yesterday. On the boat we talked to a guy who mentioned catching "stripers" in New York Harbor. We had no idea what a striper was, but we both inwardly guessed striped bass, which turned out to be right. We didn't have to embarrass ourselves by asking!

I'd been to the statue before, but never to Ellis Island. On this particular day it was mobbed with school children, whose voices ricocheted around those vast, tiled spaces like live ammunition. I could only stand to be in the museum building a short time. (When did I become such a curmudgeon?)

We walked around the outside of the museum, where I spotted the scene above. I found it pretty funny that someone at Ellis Island would be touting Rock City as a destination. It seemed so random.

(Rock City is atop Lookout Mountain in northern Georgia. It's a famous old roadside attraction where you were said to be able to see seven states. It advertised with signs painted on old barns throughout the South: "See Rock City!")

Anyway, Mom's visit ended this morning. I just put her in a cab to LaGuardia.

Monday, June 5, 2006

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Columbus Circle, June 2006

The weather in New York has been pretty bleak this weekend, as you can see from the photo of the AOL/Time-Warner building. My Mom is visiting, and yesterday I had great plans for us - a brunch at Tavern on the Green, followed by the Broadway show "The Drowsy Chaperone."

We went to Tavern on the Green and ate in the Crystal Room, which is something like being trapped inside a big wedding cake. The ceiling is pink and yellow and white, and there's ornamentation on every surface, like a big mirror etched with frolicking squirrels and a mural of castles and flying horses. I'm not sure whether there's an overall theme, besides "tacky." But that being said, I'm glad I went - I'd never been to T on the G and I think it's something everyone should do once.

Then we made our way downtown and went to the show. We presented our tickets, and the usher said, "You're here on the wrong day. Your tickets are for Sunday."


So that's our plan for today. Thank God my Mom is easy-going about such things.

Saturday, June 3, 2006

Upper West Side, May 2006

This is on West 72nd Street near Broadway. I was walking with a friend when this oval window caught my eye. I like the way the rounded shape is repeated in the nearby lamp, and all the neat symmetry of the parallel and perpendicular lines. And the shadows in the corner keep the lower half of the photo from looking too blank.

Friday, June 2, 2006

Chinatown, May 2006

I believe this was on Eldridge Street. Once again, a bit of imperfection adds interest. The shadows and the pattern of the brickwork are terrific, but I'm really glad someone left that little yellow cup on the ledge!

I can't decide which of these I like better.

Thursday, June 1, 2006

Kips Bay, May 2006

These may look light and bouncy, but they're actually huge concrete orbs. I couldn't even guess how much each one weighs! They're spread around an outdoor seating area for a big apartment building - a fenced yard that was unfortunately locked and vacant when I saw it on a beautiful spring day.