Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yorkville, October 2006

This screen, with its little cut-outs of moons and stars, surrounds the garbage cans at an apartment building on 90th Street. The weird light came from a reflection off a window across the street.

I've wanted to use this photo for some time because of the "Utah" graffiti tag. I see this tag all over town, and it always reminds me of my brother's labrador retriever, whose name is Utah. Poor Utah is getting on in years - he's about 13 now - and he has a variety of old-man illnesses and a graying snout. But he's still the best dog! Every time I visit my brother in Jacksonville, Fla., Utah winds up sleeping next to me. He knows who I am, and he wants to make sure I'm welcomed back into the pack after my long absence.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lower East Side, October 2006

If I remember correctly, I found this butterfly on a wall on Norfolk Street.

At work recently, we've been having a terrible problem with e-mail spam. I think I erased about 50 messages yesterday, and only about half had been trapped by our spam filters. But while I was clearing it all out, I noticed that some spam can be pretty funny. One e-mail came from someone purportedly named "Toiba Pickles." Another, from "Ana Baptist," had the subject line "Vast Brontosaurus," which reminded me of my childhood fascination with dinosaurs. (I almost wanted to read it. Almost.)

The best one, though, was touting a weight-loss supplement. It started with this sentence: "How many times did you get unhappy after hating the idea to undress in public?"

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Alexandria, Va., November 2006

OK, I admit it - this photo is competely staged. I went running on Saturday morning and found this gorgeous leaf, with its red stem and deep serrations. I wanted to keep it, but of course you can't really keep a leaf, which will dry up and turn brown within days if not hours. So I brought it upstairs to Kevin's and photographed it on his porch table.

My friend David has asked me to go with him on Saturday night to "speed dating" at The Center, the GLBT community center, here in New York. Apparently, in "speed dating," you sit down for three-minute exchanges with a series of other guys, and then follow up with the ones you might want to spend more time with. The idea kind of stresses me out - after all, I'm usually focused on trying to slow life down, not speed it up! But I think I might go. I could certainly use a date.

Roger that!

When it comes to James Bond movies, Sean Connery gets all the glory. As the first Bond, he still sets the standard by which all others are measured. He’s considered the essence of 007, playing chemin de fer in his tuxedo or sipping a vodka martini, hairy-chested and marble-mouthed.

It doesn’t seem quite fair.

I grew up in the ‘70s, so my Bond was Roger Moore. Poor Roger is roundly and routinely dissed for being a sort of campy Austin Powers-type Bond, wrestling giant snakes, blasting off into outer space, cavorting under the ocean with Ringo Starr’s future wife. It’s true that Bond movies in the ‘70s flirted with - OK, plunged into - absurdity. But that’s hardly Roger’s fault.

So let me set the record straight: Roger Moore was a good James Bond, easily as good as Connery.

When I was 12 years old, I went with my siblings to see “Moonraker,” one of the more outrageous Bond films - that of the journey into outer space. As I recall, we were dropped off by my dad and stepmother at the Varsity Six theater in Tampa, and we sat through two showings of “Moonraker” and started a third. (I can’t imagine why our parents dropped us at the theater for five hours, but whatever.)

I loved it. LOVED it. I loved the hallucinatory Maurice Binder opening credits, with naked women tumbling and soaring in silhouette. I loved the haunting Shirley Bassey title song, and immediately asked for the soundtrack for my 13th birthday. (I know, I know - how gay. I can’t believe I ever had to come out to my parents.)

And I loved the movie’s exotic locales: Rio de Janeiro, Venice, even California. I’ve always had an infatuation with Rio, and I think that’s when it started.

In the middle of it all, there was Roger - fighting Jaws in midair after tumbling from a plane with no parachute, driving a mechanized Venetian gondola with wheels onto dry land, slugging it out atop the cable car to the Sugarloaf. And, of course, flying the space shuttle.

Yes, it was stupid. No question about it. But it was fantasy, and it was fun. It did what a movie is supposed to do, filling those boring hours until our parents turned up again to take us all home.

Since then, I’ve seen all the Bond films based (some more loosely than others) on Ian Fleming’s books. I stopped after “Octopussy,” in 1984, which was Roger Moore's final Bond outing. I skipped all the pretenders that followed, until the new “Casino Royale.”

I recently read a book called “The Man Who Saved Britain: A personal journey into the disturbing world of James Bond,” by Simon Winder. Winder reflects on Ian Fleming’s books and the movies they inspired, pointing out that they were produced at a time when postwar England was suffering through a crisis of identity and national pride. Fleming’s Bond was a strong, sexy Englishman, swaggering across the landscape at a time when England needed him.

Winder had some interesting opinions about the best Bond films - he mentioned “Dr. No,” which I subsequently watched again and found unremarkable. Ursula Andress was a knockout, but the movie itself was hardly riveting.

I think Winder liked it for its relative realism. Boats didn’t turn into cars, and James Bond didn’t fly off in a rocket. In fact, Winder pointed to the scene in “Moonraker” when Bond’s gondola becomes a car as perhaps the moment when the whole franchise finally lost its bearings.

I recently rented “Moonraker” to watch it again, and OK, I admit it - it’s not very good. But it’s entertaining. It’s especially entertaining when you’re 12.

And in the middle of it all, once again, there was Roger - slugging it out, well into his 50s and looking quite dapper. He gave Bond a winking sort of levity, yet didn't allow all the silliness to completely capsize his movies. Even in his youth, he didn’t have the sexual swagger of Daniel Craig, the newest (and easily the hottest) 007; he was more about being suave and stylish, less about being buff and desirable.

But Roger Moore was still a good James Bond.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Arlington, Va., November 2006

For lunch Friday, Kevin and I stopped at a diner called Bob and Edith's. (Kevin instructed me to tell you that it was the newer Bob and Edith's - apparently there are two.) Anyway, I noticed these chairs on the way in, and I went in and out of the restaurant about three times trying to get just the right shot.

I liked the repetitive rhythm of the chairs and the shadows, dusted with fallen leaves.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Chelsea, November 2006

This is from a mural on the side of a former bar off Eighth Avenue near 16th Street. Many of the buildings on that block have been vacated and I'm told they're slated to be torn down, so this lively mural is unfortunately doomed. These women have perhaps partied a bit too much - it definitely looks like the alcohol has gone to their heads!

My friends and I saw the new James Bond movie, "Casino Royale," yesterday. It's a fun film, with all the glamorous decadence typical of Bond movies, and lots of sweeping shots of European castles and Venetian palazzos. (And Daniel Craig in all his blue-eyed, muscular virility makes an excellent Bond, in my humble opinion.) Afterwards we went out for Ethiopian food, which I love but don't get very often. Red lentils and injera - yum!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

W. 43rd Street, November 2006

I found this chameleon sticker on a mail transfer box near the Bryant Park Post Office. I think it's signed "Leia." I saw a lot of chameleons during my traveling in Africa and they're bizarre animals, with their little graspy feet and eyes that swivel in all directions independent of each other. Evolution!

My high school friend Kevin and I spent yesterday thrift shopping in northern Virginia. We had a great time combing through racks of disused clothing, shelves of weird self-help books and piles of "junque." I got a great old t-shirt (for 51 cents!), a couple of books and an Indigo Girls CD, but since I have a tiny apartment and I hate clutter, I tried to look more than buy.

One of the books I picked up is "Portrait of a Lady" by Henry James, because I'm now reading "The Master" by Colm Toibin - a novel about the life of Henry James - and I'm curious to read some of James' work.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Greenwich Village, November 2006

I know what you're thinking: PEOPLE! I almost never take photos with people in them, but I've been trying to broaden my horizons a bit. This was the perfect opportunity, with that immense flag creating a beautiful slant down the facade of a New York University building on Broadway.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Mine went really well, though we had absurd quantities of food that we'll probably be eating for the next week! There's something kind of embarassing about the excess, but I guess that's the point - it makes us realize how fortunate we are, and reminds us of our obligations to share.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Broadway, November 2006

This is what New York's many ginkgo trees look like now. I took this photo last weekend. I love these trees in the fall, their nearly uniform brilliant yellow against all the red brick.

I'm spending Thanksgiving in Washington, D.C., with my old high school friend Kevin and my friends Liz and Doreen from my years in the Peace Corps. I flew down yesterday, and it was surprisingly painless. I usually like to take the train, but Amtrak is just too expensive these days (don't get me started on our government's absurd insistence that passenger rail service should be self-supporting). Thanksgiving is the best holiday ever - no gifts, no stress, just food and friends and relaxation.

Anyway, I'll continue the blog with NYC pics while I'm here. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Ghost of a Dog

I didn't even have to go outside to take these shots. They're from the rear hallway of my apartment building, where a dog's footprints have been immortalized in the concrete right outside our boiler room.

My building was built in 1964, and I assume the floor is that old. So this dog probably lived 42 years ago. Many generations of dogs have lived and died since then, making it the equivalent of someone's great-great-grandparent. (Probably more than two greats, actually ... dogs grow up and reproduce pretty quickly!)

I've always been fascinated by these footprints. Whose dog was it? What was its name? How big was it? And why was it walking around in wet cement?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Houston Street, West Village, October 2006

Just like yesterday's photo, this seems to come from a warmer, more summery time: the bright sun, the leafy branches. Now we're sliding into winter, and I'm getting ready to wear my big black coat and climb over filthy snowdrifts. Bring it on!

Google me

One of the things I like most about blogging is Google.

Through my site meter, I can see not only how many visitors I have and where (roughly) they are located, but also how they find my site. A lot of times they find it through Google.

Sometimes it’s via simple searches like “Hell’s Kitchen graffiti,” which someone used yesterday. For some unfathomable reason, lots and lots of people search for “Grand Concourse, Bronx,” which seems to inevitably bring them to me.

I’ve discovered that naming celebrities invites Google traffic. Since I mentioned Kieran Culkin and Natasha Lyonne several weeks ago, they’ve both been Googled. The luckless Googlers were lured to my site, only to discover that I said very little about either one. (Maybe I should name one random celebrity every day, just to generate traffic?)

From all that I can tell, no one has Googled Geraldo Rivera.

Several months ago, I wrote about two of my favorite old movies. That single posting has brought tons of people, many looking for information on Sharon Tate. Someone in Iran Googled “Sharon Heston” - I don’t know who that is, but the Googler landed on me.

My favorite Googled term so far, though, is “Ava Gardner catfight.” I really want to meet the person who ran that search. I bet we’d have a good laugh.

Monday, November 20, 2006

E. 29th Street, October 2006

I took this photo just a few weeks ago, yet it already seems like a relic of summer. Those delicate vines surely won't survive much longer, if they're not already gone. We've had a cold snap in the last few days, and yesterday as I walked around town in my denim jacket I was chilly. Maybe it's time to break out the winter coat once again!

I went to see "The Clean House" at Lincoln Center, featuring one of my favorite actresses, Blair Brown. I've liked her ever since her underrated TV series from the late 1980s, "The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd," which was set in New York. I used to watch it as a college student in Florida, longing to live in the big city. She also appeared with Ed Harris in one of my favorite movies, "A Flash of Green," about environmentalism and development in Florida. Anyway, she was reliably great in "The Clean House," a sort of surreal play about cultural clashes and the intersection of comedy and tragedy.

I was at Lincoln Center on Saturday too, with my friend David, seeing The National Chorale perform "Carmina Burana." Excuse me for being lowbrow, but wasn't that music used in "The Omen," or some similar movie about Satan?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Meatpacking District, July 2006

Manhattan's meatpacking district used to be a filthy industrial area where meat cutters carved up farm animals for the city's restaurants and stores. Now, it's become a heavily gentrified area with expensive trendy clubs and boutiques.

This building on Ninth Avenue is a holdover from the old days, but it's sure to be torn down eventually and replaced with something too expensive for me.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Lexington Avenue, October 2006

For the last several months, a new building has been going up around the corner from my apartment. The workers have been using interesting construction bins, with stencils of a tiger (or some kind of cat) on them. I like the worn, splattered surfaces of the bins.

I'm not sure yet what the building, which took the place of two old townhouses, will be. My guess? Condos.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, June 2006

The iron fences that surround many of the old townhouses in Bed-Stuy are tipped with leaf-like finials. I guess that was the style of the day when they were built, 100 years ago or more.

I took this photo, looking straight down at shadows on the sidewalk, in June. But it seems sort of lonely and autumnal to me. Maybe it's those leaves.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Sept. 2006

Everyone thinks Williamsburg is such an artistically evolved why does a chimpanzee preside over these trash cans?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Hell's Kitchen, June 2006

A lot of older tenement buildings, like this one on W. 53rd Street, have these arched openings onto the sidewalk. I believe they're old coal chutes, where coal for furnaces could be dumped directly into the basement. Now they're all sealed over, but they can be visually interesting.

"Tovid" is a common graffiti tag all over Hell's Kitchen. This one is especially fun, with those stars and squiggles!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Chinatown, October 2006

A newsstand on Canal Street, with a nice shadow from a nearby "Don't Walk" sign.

So, let me tell you about my celebrity-heavy weekend! First, on Friday, I went to the Out 100 Awards, which are presented each year by Out Magazine to trendsetters and notable figures of signifigance to the gay community. This year, speakers and recipients included Isaac Mizrahi, Iman, Claire Danes, Anne Hathaway and Michael Kors. The ceremony was held in a huge old bank building on the Bowery with Klieg lights playing across its facade. I felt very Hollywood.

Then, last night, I went to a fascinating talk by author Antonia Fraser, who is touting her new history of the wives and mistresses of Louis XIV. When my friends and I walked in, we passed an attractive woman in black standing near the auditorium door. One of my friends bravely approached her and said, "Excuse me, but has anyone ever told you you look like Judy Collins?" She replied, "Well, that's because I AM Judy Collins." I'm a huge Judy Collins fan, so it was pretty exciting for me - and who would expect that she's a fan of Antonia Fraser? We also saw author Salman Rushdie and playwright Tom Stoppard. (I didn't recognize Stoppard, but Rushdie was unmistakable.)

Pretty fun, huh? And quite a step up from Geraldo Rivera's car.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Key West, November 2006

The last of my Key West photos! Sue and I stopped at this waterfront bar - the same place where I took Tuesday's cat photo. I liked the bright colors of the tables and stools, from which guests can contemplate the amazing turquoise water.

I waited about ten minutes to get the shot above, because the sun kept going behind clouds. When it finally came out I leaped into position, right in front of a couple wandering along the deck. I had to apologize and tell them why I was a little overenthusiastic. The woman said, "No problem! We're on island time!"

I tried to do something with the different groupings of furniture, both with and without sun.

The overall effect of the paint job was colorful and fun!

Tomorrow: Back to New York!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Key West, November 2006

Palm trees are specially designed for wind - in hurricanes they often come through better than many trees around them. After all, their leaves are already torn to shreds! When I lived in Florida I always loved palms because they're always moving, rustling, swaying. Even on relatively still days they're in constant motion, and never return to quite the same position.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Key West, November 2006

This piece of sticker art was affixed to the back of a sign on Duval Street. I absolutely loved it. Sue and I saw another sticker, clearly by the same artist, with a silhouette of a satellite and the words "You are being watched" - but we liked this one much better.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Key West, November 2006

If "The Addams Family" went to Key West, they'd stay in this house, with its ominous shadow of gnarled dead branches and its anemic orchid on the front porch. It does seem somewhat forbidding, doesn't it?

I was bike riding one morning with my friend Sue when we passed this doorway, and I immediately slammed on my brakes to get a shot. Sue seemed a little mystified, but then when I showed her the photo she understood - she hadn't even really noticed the shadow. She said it was funny that something could be so obvious, yet we don't really see it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Key West, November 2006

This wall seemed typically Floridian, with its minty pastel paint job. I took two photos of it, one when the sky was cloudy and one on a sunny day. I much prefer the sunny one (above), but just to show you the difference...'s the cloudy one. See what I mean? It relies solely on the geometry of the pipes, meters and windows, which works pretty well. But the shadows add a bit of elegance.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Key West, November 2006

When I first started going to Key West in the mid-'80s, it was famous for its cats, which wander the island pretty freely. Since then, the quantity of feral chickens has exploded, and now Key West is known for its wandering chickens. All the tourist paraphernalia that used to bear images of cats now depicts chickens. I'd say those cats need to get busy.

This particular cat was hanging out on the steps leading up from a deck at the end of Duval Street, which is the main drag through Old Town Key West. Being a cat person, I always relish a good cat photo, though the cat himself didn't seem all that thrilled. (Do they ever?)

Monday, November 6, 2006

Upper East Side, June 2006

The front doors of the Vudu Lounge on First Avenue. The metal doors have a nice patina!

I'm back from my weekend away, but feeling a little brain-scrambled after taking a 6 a.m. plane from Florida to New York. I was in Key West celebrating my birthday with a friend. It's such a beautiful island, all aquamarine water and deep shadows and tropical fecundity. A huge mob of Jimmy Buffett fans (so-called "Parrotheads") took over Old Town this weekend for some kind of annual get-together. I'm not a Buffett fan myself, but it was amusing to watch from the sidelines.

Anyway, Key West photos to come this week!

Thursday, November 2, 2006

Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Sept. 2006

Not to continue the Halloween theme, but I really liked these possessed-looking kitten statues in the window of this house. Isn't it interesting when something "cute" winds up looking a little scary? (Think clowns, certain stuffed animals, '70s portraits of big-eyed children.)

Two items of interest (to me anyway):

1. I saw the new Bob Dylan musical last night on Broadway, and it wasn't nearly as dreadful as I expected it to be. (Critics have been pretty harsh.) Twyla Tharp's choreography is stunning at times and the performers are great. The circus theme isn't entirely effective, but still, I felt like I ought to put things in perspective. Don't pay full price, unless you're a big Dylan fan, but don't hesitate to grab a discount seat if you can. (I confess: My ticket was free.)

2. I turned 40 today! Quite a milestone, eh? Funny how people make a big deal about it, in a negative way - I actually find it comforting that I've made it this far! There's something kind of soothing about getting older; the pressure eases. I am where I am, and I like it.

I'm going to be away from my blog for the next few days, so I won't have any updates until Monday. Enjoy your weekend, and if you miss me, don't hesitate to revisit my possessed cats.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

SoHo, October 2006

I often wonder why I take so many pictures of doors and windows. I guess they're a natural focal point in a building's facade and therefore get a lot of attention in terms of framing, architectural detail and even graffiti. They also present a certain mystery about what's behind them.

I liked these doors on Broadway, all the more so because of their obvious wear. I can't remember what building they're from, though. The "323" is another common graffiti tag.