Monday, April 30, 2007

Stanton Street, February and April 2007

Here's another before-and-after comparison. This doorway on Stanton Street caught my eye in February, with the interesting light, the face by Haculla and the Pentagram by Neck Face.

(For some reason, graffiti artists and taggers always target doors. I've wondered why this happens. Maybe people are more likely to notice the art as they go in and out? Maybe repainting a door is cheaper than painting a wall - and thus easier to deal with if they get caught? Or maybe the door is just the natural focus of a building's facade, and so draws the tagger's eye, just as it draws mine?)

In any event, when I walked past this particular door on Saturday, it looked like this. Strange that someone went to the trouble of painting over Neck Face, but left Haculla and indeed allowed the rest of the graffiti on the door to proliferate.

Maybe they just didn't like that Pentagram.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ludlow Street, April 2007

Remember Lister's terrific mural, which I first posted here? Well, time has not been kind. It's been defaced by taggers and, perhaps most heinously, partly obliterated by the installation of a metal security gate.

I have to remind myself that street artists create works like this knowing they're temporary. They don't expect them to last. Still, it's a crime what can happen in just a few short months.

My friend Jesse told me yesterday that he likes my shadow photos more than my street art and graffiti photos, because the shadows involve more artistry on my part - more evidence of my photographic eye. (My friend Kevin has made similar comments - he once called my street art photos "stealing other people's art.")

But as I told Jesse, I think it's important to shoot the street art for documentary purposes, because it doesn't last long. Putting it up on Flickr (as many photographers do) gives us a library of this ephemeral work. And I try to be careful about framing and such, so that I don't just take snapshots.

Anyway, I seem to be in a bit of a street art phase right now, especially on Flickr. Bear with me!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Upper East Side, April 2007

Neil's Coffee Shop at Lexington Avenue and 70th Street is a great old-fashioned diner. It has fake marble painted onto the interior walls and a greasy-spoon kind of feel. It's exactly the kind of diner I love. I pop in there for pancakes if I happen to be in the neighborhood on a picture-taking (or some other) expedition.

It looks like the owner bricked in a couple of windows on the side wall of Neil's, and the paint doesn't quite match. Which makes it all the more beautiful!

Saw "Year of the Dog" last night - a VERY good movie, though also a little unsettling. It's about loving animals and loving people, and finding the balance between those two different loves. Molly Shannon and Peter Sarsgaard are GREAT.

Friday, April 27, 2007

E. 38th Street, April 2007

The New York Times had a funny article yesterday about tensions that develop between neighbors over the use of the hallway. Some neighbors have a tendency to leave umbrellas, shoes and even strollers outside their apartments, which can make others a little crazy.

In my building, we usually don't have this problem. My neighbor next door sometimes leaves umbrellas in the hall for days after a rain, but only once has it stayed there so long that I felt obligated to fold it and hang it on his doorknob. (After which it promptly disappeared.)

I get along OK with all my neighbors, thankfully. I exchange friendly chats with Frank, the lawyer across the hall, and occasionally see Jonathan, Frank's next door neighbor, at the gym. My neighbor Dennis keeps the noise down and never causes any trouble. The fifth apartment on my floor is inhabited by a ghost - it's rented to Carol, but I've only seen her once or twice in the five years I've lived here, and in fact I'm pretty sure she lives elsewhere. I always wonder what's behind the door of that apartment.

My upstairs neighbor tends to be awake at odd hours and sometimes clunks around in the middle of the night, apparently moving furniture - she's up there right now, clunking around, which is what brought this topic to mind. My downstairs neighbor sometimes gets a little enthusiastic with her music. But I think in both cases the noise is due more to the construction of the building than any offense on their part. I think we have thin ceilings, acoustically if not structurally.

We're all in such close quarters in this town that I've found it pays to just let things slide. I've complained once to the downstairs neighbor about music, and once to a neighbor on my floor who had his stereo cranked up REALLY loud while he was in the shower. Otherwise, I liken all the sounds around me to the television I could always hear in the living room as I lay in bed as a child - a comforting presence, a sign of companionship.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Chelsea, April 2007

One of my blogging friends has started a "guest blogger" feature, a kind of Merv Griffin approach to blogging in which guests get to come on and say what they feel needs to be said. It's kind of a neat idea - when I invoke Merv's name I'm not being dismissive - and I've been thinking about what needs to be said.

But honestly, and ironically, I think we all need to say less! I'm a believer in silence and careful expression, and I think as a society one of our unfortunate modern tendencies is to run on without regard for how valuable or constructive we're being. In fact, much of our human blathering - witness Don Imus - is destructive.

What I'm really thinking of here is talk radio. I've never understood the popularity of talk radio. Even talk radio that conforms to my political opinions just gives me a headache. Or those overproduced TV shows where pundits wind up arguing with each other - this kind of exhange fosters incivility, not to mention ADD.

I'm going to sound like a shill for my industry, but I prefer clear, concise delivery of news and, occasionally, opinion on one topic at a time - like you'd get in a newspaper article. (Or on a well-written blog.)

I wish human beings had better filters. I sometimes say things I shouldn't, of course, and I include myself in that wish. I think, in general, what needs to be said is "listen!"

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Boston Road, Bronx, April 2007

I took this on the day I went to the Bronx Zoo. The bright purple of this wall outside a supermarket caught my eye, as well as the shadow, but I also liked the dirt and decay. There's some kind of weird white seepage coming out of the concrete, and filth on the wall and trash on the ground. It's disgusting, and yet beautiful at the same time. You don't often find that combination!

The cat and I have mostly returned to our normal routines after her radioactive iodine treatment. Technically I have to continue our special precautions until Friday, but I've stopped locking her in the bathroom to sleep - my guilt over that little cruelty outweighs any sense of danger I have about her mild radioactivity. At this point, she should be pretty much back to normal. She's lying next to me, happy as a clam, having just dined on a foul-smelling fish concoction produced by Fancy Feast. (The Fancy Feast is the one holdover from this whole experience - I had been using it to conceal her thyroid medicine, but now that she doesn't get the medicine, I give it to her just because she likes it so much!)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

W. 31st Street, April 2007

As I was waxing on yesterday about the beauty in Huntington at this time of year, I failed to mention that Manhattan has finally embraced springtime too. The ornamental pear trees that line many streets have all exploded into clouds of white, and though our magnolias are beginning to fade, we still have daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. A set of scrappy tulips comes up every year in front of the apartment building next door, from an inhospitable-looking planter on the sidewalk, and I'm always amazed they've survived there to make another annual appearance.

Once again, just like yesterday, a chorus of birds can be heard from the courtyard behind my building. The temperatures have finally gone up enough that I went out yesterday with no jacket - nothing! Such freedom!

And last night, as I sat at the Zendo, spring seeped in through every open window. The Zendo is on the ninth floor of a building in SoHo, a neighborhood of mostly low-rise buildings, and the windows face east. We can see out over NoLIta, Little Italy and the Lower East Side toward the East River, and last night, the view glowed with the unmistakable soft light of a summery evening, the treetops brilliant green down among the concrete. For some reason, a marching band was playing, and that added a surreal sort of festivity to sitting. I imagined that everyone was celebrating, finally, the release of winter's grip.

I walked home enjoying the warm night, the flowers, the enthusiasm and glow of the other pedestrians. So all that stuff I wrote yesterday about someday moving to suburbia? Forget it. I'm not going anywhere.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Huntington, Long Island, April 2007

I spent Saturday night and Sunday out of the city, which as every New Yorker knows is all-important for the maintenance of sanity. You've got to escape now and then, even if it's just for a short time. You have to be able to look up and see stars and hear birds and walk around barefoot on the grass.

I went to visit my friends Rich and Luis, who live in Huntington, a town near the north shore of Long Island. They've got a great house and a great yard, where I took these photos of yellow-blooming forsythia, which is abundant at this time of year. I spent Sunday morning sitting in that chair, soaking up sunshine like a dessicated sponge and listening to a robin singing from the rooftop.

I sometimes wonder if I'll ever move back to suburbia. I grew up in a suburban environment but for as long as I can remember I longed to live in a city, even as a child. I used to lock my bedroom and call it my "apartment," and when I finally got to move to North Tampa as a college student I thought I was really Living the Life (even though I lived first in a dorm and then in a slum). A city is where I've always imagined myself and where I'm happiest.

But having a yard would feel so spacious, and I never minded yard work. I like plants and gardening, and I like the trees and the birds and having a lower level of background hum. (Not that I am entirely deprived of nature - as I lie in bed writing this, I hear lots of birds in the horse chestnut treet outside my window, along with the muffled rumble of traffic on Third Avenue.) Walking through the congestion of Times Square makes me think that even enduring home maintenance wouldn't be a bad thing.

I could see myself moving back to a house in, say, twenty or thirty years, when I get older - especially if I have a partner. The city seems like it would be really difficult for an older person, though I see plenty of elderly people here, and there are many services designed to help them get around and be self-sufficient. I think my desire for the bucolic countryside may be stronger by then.

Meanwhile, I'm happy with my weekend visits to suburbia.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Revisitation No. 6

The morning shadows on this wall are completely different at this time of year. And now there's that big graffiti tag, too. Here is what it looked like last summer.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Park Avenue South, February 2007

I've always liked the infinity sign, and the concept of infinity, too. The idea that anything would go on forever seems sort of antithetical to the Buddhist emphasis on transience and impermanence as absolute conditions of existence, but I think the key is, nothing lasts forever unchanged. The molecules of the Universe may persist, but they're constantly joining and abandoning various compounds and undergoing other changes themselves. So there is infinity, but its definition is a never-ending stream of change.

When I lived in Morocco in 1992-94, I took a trip to Tangier with some friends. We stayed with another friend who lived in the Casbah, deep among the winding streets once walked by literary expats like Paul Bowles and William S. Burroughs (not to mention not-so-literary ones like Barbara Hutton). I could sit on my friend's roof and see most of the city below us, and beyond that, the Mediterranean, Gibraltar and Spain. Tangier is not an easy place to be a tourist, because you're a constant target for hucksters and drug pushers and all manner of shady characters, but it can feel beautiful and exotic.

Anyway, one of the friends accompanying us on this little tour was a painter who also designed and gave tattoos. One morning we all decided to get tattoos, which Stacey delivered by hand with a (sterilized) basting needle. It sounds really primitive, and I guess it was - she wrapped a thread around the needle to hold the ink and then just lightly jabbed our skin over and over to implant the ink below the surface. Yeah, it kinda hurt.

For my tattoo, I chose the infinity sign. I think Stacey was a little disappointed I didn't want something requiring a bit more artistic flair - one of my friends chose a fish, another a swallow in flight - but I wanted to keep it simple. I thought it embodied some sense of my fledgling Buddhist practice, the idea that things change and rise up and subside, but persist on some level nonetheless. (My ideas about Buddhism were fuzzy at the time - they're still fuzzy, but at least now I recognize that!)

So on my outer right foot, just above my heel, I still have my infinity sign from Tangier - my only tattoo.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Brooklyn Heights, Feb. 2007

I like the way the shadows in this picture seem to fit around each other, almost like puzzle pieces, and the way they echo the slant in the No Parking sign.

I can't believe that I forgot in yesterday's post to mention the saddest news of the day, the death of Kitty Carlisle Hart. Granted, she was 96, so it's not like she went before her time. But she was such an asset to culture in New York, working to perpetuate cultural activities while periodically appearing on stage herself.

When I was a kid watching "To Tell the Truth," the game show, she was always my favorite panelist. Peggy Cass was funny in a sort of dowdy way, and the men seemed kind of interchangeable, from Bill Cullen to Joe Garagiola. But Kitty Carlisle was always graceful and charming, with her brunette coiffure and her jewels and her distinctive diction. She was the embodiment of high-class glamour. (Arlene Francis fulfilled the same role on "What's My Line?" but I don't remember her as well.)

If you've got some time to kill, here's an episode of "To Tell the Truth" from the '70s, featuring Kitty, Bill Cullen, Joe Garagiola, a possibly tipsy Garry Moore and an uncharacteristically chic Peggy Cass: part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and finale.

I had a chance to see Kitty Carlisle live in Nov. 2004, at a tribute to her and her late husband, Broadway composer Moss Hart, at Lincoln Center. I can't even remember all the stars who attended - Julie Andrews was the emcee - but it was most exciting to see Kitty, who even sang a few songs at age 94. Here was a woman who made movies with the Marx Brothers! It was mind-boggling.

Anyway, I'm sorry to be without her, just as I was sorry to hear about the death last week of Kurt Vonnegut - who I read obsessively in high school and who changed my appreciation of what a book could be.

As Vonnegut wrote, "And so it goes."

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Second Avenue, March 2007

I really like this image, at the corner of Second Avenue and Houston. It's a little creepy, even. It seems to allude to television. Any ideas?

I saw an excellent play last night - Christopher Plummer and Brian Dennehy in "Inherit the Wind." I saw this as a kid in a stage production at the university where my parents taught - it's about the "Scopes Monkey Trial," when a teacher was tried in the South for teaching evolution. (As a kid that trial seemed so primitive. Now it seems probable!) The play's message of moderation and its suspicious approach to extremist faith seems especially relevant now, when our culture and others are more steeped in their extremist elements. Both Plummer and Dennehy are amazing actors, disappearing into their parts so completely that you forget who you're watching. Somehow, it becomes Plummer's play by the end. He definitely emerges as the lion.

So it turns out I have a cold. I think this is probably what was at the root of my ill feelings over the weekend, when I suspected the radioactive cat. It is indisputably a cold.

Still, just in case, the cat is staying in the bathroom at night, at least through the end of this week. She hates it, but I give her Fancy Feast when she gets out, and that seems to mollify her.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

East Village, March 2007

I was in a thrift store in the East Village, buying two very cool t-shirts, when I looked out the window and saw these two eyes staring back at me.

At least, I think they're eyes.

Yesterday's energy was much better than Monday's. It was like a day of recovery after getting slammed with so much bad news. I continued my new fascination with Flickr, installing my little Flickr badge on the right there - I'm not sure how I feel about it, because it's a little distracting, but it gives people an easy path to the photos.

I also went on a date, as a result of recently joining, and it seemed promising. I just joined Match last week. I've never done any kind of Internet dating, but I guess that's where people are marketing themselves these days, so I figured I should try it out! There are quite a few people on the site - my biggest problem is finding the motivation to scroll through a bazillion profiles to find the people I might be interested in. I definitely need to experiment with it more.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Revisitation No. 5

Alex used to live here. Remember him? I was sorry to walk by the other day and see that he was gone, and this storefront utterly white and bland. When I got out my camera and took photos of it, a man came out and asked what I was doing. I tried to explain the concept of "before and after," but I don't think he was a native English speaker and he didn't seem particularly pleased.

Which was just more Bad Energy in a week that has so far been suffused with it. First there was the weather, which I actually enjoyed but which has flooded houses and towns outside the city. There's been my own health, which has been somewhat shaky over the last few days (the radioactive cat is suspect and has indeed been spending each night locked in the bathroom, meowing).

Then, yesterday morning, came the shootings in Virginia. As the horrible magnitude of the slaughter became clear, I began wondering about the disaffection that would cause someone to do such a thing. It's more than just anger - it's a complete separation from life, from the world, a feeling of bitter otherness. Where are people's support networks, the webs of relationships that assist and console? Why are guns so easily accessible?

As I was mulling this over, a friend called me at work to tell me one of his oldest friends - an acquaintance of mine - died Sunday of breast cancer. Quite shocking, and quite suddenly. She was only a few years older than I am.

Finally, my friend David was going to have a birthday dinner last night, but the plans were swamped by the fallout from Sunday's storm. So we went to dinner at a Thai place, and on the way back to my office I ran into a coworker who stunned me with the news that her whole department is apparently being outsourced. Several people I know appear slated to lose their jobs.

Bad Energy.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Elizabeth Street, February 2007

Isn't Olympia a brand of beer? And what's up with the haloed bear?

I've finally finished with Flickr, at least for the time being. I've uploaded virtually my whole back catalog, at least the stuff I think people might be interested in. (Not my family birthday parties, in other words.) I was very single-minded about it, spending the better part of two days uploading, which is kind of how I do things - I get crazy about them (especially when they're new) and then cool off gradually.

We had a powerful, cleansing rain yesterday, washing down all the streets and buildings and drenching the daffodils. I went to the Zendo in the morning and the wind and rain were really howling by the time I left to go home, around noon. We even had some thunder, which I don't hear much in New York - not nearly as much as I did in Florida, anyway. One thing I really miss about Florida is the powerful rain, so this was a nice reminder.

Having spent so much time in front of the computer, I'm looking forward to getting back to a more normal routine today.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Astor Place, February 2007

Doesn't this reflection look like bamboo? It comes from the curvy new Charles Gwathmey condo building on Astor Place. I personally kind of like this building, though it's taken a lot of flack from people who think it exemplifies the current plague of luxury glass boxes that has descended on New York. (Even with curvy walls, a condo is ultimately a box.)

I have become possessed by Flickr. I spent nearly all day yesterday uploading photos (with an afternoon visit to Central Park thrown in for recreation). Those of you who are so inclined will be able to scroll my archives - in much better quality than you get here - by going here. I hope to have everything up there within a week or so, going back to last summer, at least.

I even uploaded a couple of photos of me. For example, here is the bigger version of my blogger avatar.

My Flickr pix have already had more traffic than the blog, and some people have left comments. It's pretty cool, and it costs about $2 a month. I highly recommend checking it out. (And thanks, Jiryu, for the motivation!)

Now I just have to figure out how to link a picture there to the blog here, so people can click right through. It's coming, my friends, it's coming...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

East Village, February 2007

This strange wall on Avenue C just above Houston features an assortment of arrows, all pointing up. And if you look closely, some of those arrows are actually umbrellas. I have no idea what this means. (If you need to see the photo larger, click on it.)

My cat, Armenia, has come back from her hospital stay and seems incredibly happy to be home. She's lying right next to me, purring away. She had quite an adventure on her last day, apparently - the vet needed a blood sample and to get one had to put her in something called "the burrito," which sounds suspiciously like a straight-jacket. And then they gave her a BATH, which I can't even imagine. (I do not bathe my cats. Cats bathe themselves. It's one of the principal joys of cat ownership.)

The vet told me to minimize contact with her for two weeks to let the radiation completely dissipate, but I'm finding this really hard to do. She makes a ruckus if I try to close her up in the bathroom, and when she's free she pretty much insists on being right next to me. The vet said her radiation levels are not dangerous, and are far less than a human would emit given the same treatment - the recommendations are a precaution. But still, it's unsettling to know a mildly radioactive animal is lying right next to my leg. Purring.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Red Hook, Brooklyn, February 2007

I love looking in people's windows. Not in a perverted, hiding-in-the-hedge kind of way - just as I'm walking past an apartment building. It's always interesting to take a quick glance and see how an apartment is decorated, or see what kinds of tchotchkes people have on their windowsills. In this case, it was mostly little plants, which makes the window look very homey.

Let's face it - if you live in the city and your window opens onto the sidewalk, you have to expect people to look, particularly if you have tchotchkes on your windowsill. (Like these.)

I think this innocent curiosity is one reason people like to go to open houses held by real estate agents. There is an endless fascination with real estate in New York, and it's partly fueled by curiosity about how other people live. Space is so tight here, and some of the living arrangements are so bizarre. If you go to an open house, you can check out the apartment's layout, the color scheme, and you can mentally try it on, just as you'd try on a shirt at Banana Republic.

I'm not personally a fan of open houses - the only time I went was before I bought my current apartment. But some people go almost recreationally. I'll settle for checking out windowsills.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sock Monkey

Today is a first for "Shadows and Light" - a guest photographer! These photos come courtesy of my friend Sarah, who occasionally reads my blog and knows the kind of visual stuff I'm into.

A few months ago, Sarah and her mom, two of my favorite Tampanians (they live in my hometown of Tampa, Fla.) went to a little antique store near their house called "Sock Monkey." (Even New York City doesn't have a store called "Sock Monkey," at least as far as I know.)

What does Sock Monkey sell? "Just what you would imagine, 'modern' stuff and lots of sock monkeys of all sizes," Sarah writes.

"But the outside of the building was fascinating," she wrote. In between the large windows were these mosaic walls, featuring thousands of tiles that seem like little leaves floating in a pond. At first I thought there was a pattern to them, but now, looking more closely, I think they're placed randomly. Sarah marveled at one person placing all those little tiles by hand.

"Someday this building will go," she wrote. "I would love to take away the mosaic walls."

Next time I get back to Tampa, I'm definitely going to check out Sock Monkey.

Thanks to those of you who expressed concern about my entry yesterday. I didn't mean to freak everyone out! Things are fine - I was just in a mood. Don't you ever get in those "escape" moods? I think it has something to do with the "fight or flight" response to stress, as well as perhaps a bit of spring fever. (That was Ched's thought.)

Got a call from the vet yesterday afternoon. They actually ran a geiger counter over my cat (weird, right?) and determined that she has shed enough radiation that she's on track to come home tomorrow, as planned. Today they'll do a blood test just to be sure everything is functioning properly before they let her go.

Last night, while sound asleep, I dreamed that I was having trouble sleeping. Talk about the mind creating its own problems!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Kips Bay, March 2007

This seems like a face, though it may just be an abstract tag. I think this was on E. 20th Street. I'm always interested in the patterns that taggers come up with - a lot like a signature, I suppose, but often more graphic. They really are little works of art, as well as identifiers.

I had kind of a rough day yesterday. My boss is out this week and my coworker called in sick, so I was a one-man operation for the day, and I was already feeling stressed. I began thinking about my future, which is almost never a good thing. Am I short-selling myself by staying at this job for seven years and counting? Do I need a change? Do I even still like New York, deep down, as much as I profess? Or do I merely need to enrich my life here, go on a few dates, spend more time with friends?

I began toying with one of my ongoing fantasies: Quitting my job, renting a van, selling my apartment and driving around the country for a couple of months, visiting its dark and forested corners.

I'm feeling pretty scattered these days. Normally a very focused person, I'm having trouble keeping track. I think resorting to these thoughts of change is an understandable "escape hatch," but it's also fantasy. It's running away. Dating and strengthening my social contacts would be a good thing, but the rest is just my mind taunting me with fictional ideas. Not that they're impossible, but if I'm going to make a big step, I want to do it for the right reasons - to move forward, rather than just get out of where I am.

So I need to stop the ruminating and pay attention to now, to the task at hand. I need to set aside the distractions, breathe each breath, continue to sit and, well, just press on!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Chelsea, February 2007

A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo that included one of Michael DeFeo's street art portraits. Here are a few more DeFeos, all from the streets of Chelsea. I like the colors and the abstract expressionist quality of these faces - they each have their own individuality.

Surprised? Horrified?

This is my favorite. Dream about love? Dream about what you'd say to the person you love? Go backward into the unmanaged consciousness of your dreams? Hmmmm...

I slept like a rock last night, so I'm feeling much more rested after my crazy weekend. My blogging pal Reya suggested that my fatigue might have something to do with the absence of my cat - that I'm a bit stressed because she's stressed. I think that's true. I also tired myself out in an effort not to go home to a catless apartment, as I told Reya.

Fortunately, Armenia is doing fine in her temporary quarters. I watched her last night on the cat-cam as she ate and moved around in her cage. I'm told she's still very wary of the people there, but she seems to be settled in. She comes home on Friday morning.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Bronx Zoo, April 2007

While at the Bronx Zoo on Saturday, Rob and I stopped in at the Dancing Crane Cafe for a snack. The late afternoon sun was slanting rather dramatically through the windows, with their bird decals. Whenever I see sun like this, I think of Edward Hopper, one of my favorite painters, who knew how to use the slanting light from a window to great effect. (His windows weren't quite this complex, but the idea is the same!)

This has been an exhausting weekend! I swear I think I'm more tired today than I was on Friday. I went to the Zendo yesterday morning and then spent all afternoon walking around Chelsea and the Upper West Side, taking photos and killing time until a 6 p.m. dinner party. It was a cold and mostly cloudy day, so I didn't see great shadows, but I got some good street art photos.

The dinner party was hosted by a friend from the Zendo, David. It was a small gathering where I had tomato aspic for the first time - basically gazpacho in Jell-o form! Our conversation covered the cultural spectrum, from NCAA basketball to American Idol to Pan's Labyrinth to opera. I can talk about pretty much anything except opera. That is a cultural black hole for me. I've never seen American Idol (I don't have a television) and I don't really follow sports, but you just have to be up on the news to talk about those. Opera is so far off America's cultural radar that unless you're a fan, you hear very little about it. So for that part of the discussion, I just kept quiet!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

West End Avenue, February 2007

Another wintry-looking shot, which is still appropriate, given the chilly weather we've been having lately - gray skies, snow flurries, overcoats. It's 31 degrees out right now, which is unheard of for Easter. I worry about all the daffodil buds and the Japanese magnolias and other blooming things, but maybe they're built for this sort of uncertainty...

Had a busy day yesterday: I had lunch with an old friend from Florida who's visiting New York, someone I haven't seen in a couple of years. And then I met up with my friend Rob and we went to the Bronx Zoo, where we checked in with the gorillas and grizzlies and the agitated-looking polar bear. (You'd think he'd be the happiest one of all with these temperatures.) The zoo has a wild dog exhibit which is really great.

Which reminds me, randomly, that I have been meaning to post this clip from my trip to Botswana last summer. It shows the wild dogs that we saw there. It was taken by a co-traveler, a guy from France who then posted it to YouTube, bless him.

Rob and I thought about seeing a movie last night, but given the sad state of movies at the moment, we couldn't find anything that we wanted to spend $10.25 to see. So I stayed home and watched, of all things, "Sheena," a really dreadful film from 1984 starring Tanya Roberts as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. I saw this movie in the theater when it first came out. I was a freshman in college, and after I saw it and went back to the dorms, all the other guys said, "Yeah, I know why you wanted to see THAT!" But no, I didn't care about Tanya Roberts and her animal-skin bikini; I just wanted to see Africa.

And speaking of wild animals - if you can stand one more tangent - I am happy to report that my cat seems to have settled into her quarters. She's now using the bed:

The hospital called me yesterday and said she is eating well and seems to be adapting, though she's still cantankerous. They covered her cage, which keeps her more calm. She can't see the amusing "cat videos" that way, but somehow I think she doesn't mind.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Astor Place, February 2007

A tree outside the engineering school at Cooper Union. I love trees that grow a furry coat of ivy like this - they look sort of monstrous, particularly in shadow.

So my cat has made her journey to the veterinarian in Westchester, and she's had her shot of radioactive iodine, so now we just have to sit back and wait a week or so for it to work. Her overactive thyroid cells should suck up those radioactive particles and then die, leaving her cured.

She wasn't too awful at the vet's office yesterday - she growled and complained, but didn't fight. However, the vet has a nifty Webcam whereby I can watch her in her new quarters, and I don't think she's behaving all that well. She seems to be lying in the litter box, and when I watched last night one of the handlers tried to approach her and she hissed and swatted at them. Like I said, she HATES the vet.

Here she is, in her temporary recovery quarters. You can barely see her in the back, through that circular hole:

Why she's lying in the litter box instead of on that nice blue bed, I don't know. Except it's probably darker and more hidden back there.

Friday, April 6, 2007

SoHo, April 2007

I saw this graffiti on Broadway on the way to the Zendo last Sunday. I knew right away it would make a perfect photo for today.

That's because today is the day my "troubled" cat, Armenia, goes in for her thyroid treatment and week-long hospital stay. Poor thing. She's lying here next to me completely unaware that her world is about to be turned upside down.

The details are all here. Honestly, it doesn't sound like such a bad gig - basically a week in Westchester at a "cat spa." But my cat HATES to be away from home, particularly in her more anxious, hyperthyroid state. She HATES her cat carrier. And she HATES the vet.

Animals, after all, are creatures of habit. They don't like any change in their daily routine.

Sorry, cat. It's for your own good, I promise.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bowery, February 2007

Ever since the days of Brooke Shields, Calvin Klein has been associated with nubile young models. So it's kind of funny that the sun hit these posters at just the right angle to accentuate every wrinkle in the paper, making the models look, oh, 82 or so.

I've never been too freaked out by aging, and I've never wanted to look younger than I am. The way I see it, I'm 40, and I should look 40. I shouldn't look 50, and I shouldn't look 25.

I'm also not into all the products meant to make us look more youthful. I have a friend who is constantly telling me to "moisturize" because it will make my skin look younger. But I've always been a bar-of-soap kind of guy, and my skin isn't that dry. Moisturizing is just not something I particularly want to add to my daily routine.

If you open my bathroom cabinet, you'll see soap, deodorant, shaving cream, toothpaste, aspirin, Tums, Lubraderm hand lotion, and band-aids. My overactive simplicity gene tells me that all those additional creams and gels are a waste of money. I think I learned this from my Mom, who wears lipstick but generally avoids makeup, and my Dad, whose main concession to appearance is that he takes a daily shower. (Lately he's been more careful about haircuts, too.)

Granted, my personal circumstances make this simplicity a little easier. Being a guy, I don't have to think about makeup. And I'm naturally pretty bald (which I have completely given in to by regularly shaving my head), so I don't have to worry about hair care.

So I'm not making any sweeping statements here about the evils of toiletries. Some people, like my moisturizing friend, think they're a lot of fun. I say, if you're into them, enjoy. I'll just stick with my Barbasol and my Dial, and I'll look my age - eventually, something like these Calvin Klein models here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Chelsea, March 2007

Here's a cute Chelsea Boy, stencilled onto a postal relay box near Ninth Avenue and 21st Street, looking a bit mischievous with his t-shirt riding up. The Chelsea Boy is New York's version of the modern gay clone: a muscly guy with neat, close-cut hair and the perfect tan. It can be a disparaging name, and the stereotype is that Chelsea Boys often love themselves above all else.

I wonder, then, whether this Chelsea Boy is being lovable? Or is he loving himself? He seems to be hugging himself, anyway.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Bleecker Street, March 2007

I went to a great little vegetarian restaurant with some folks from the Zendo a few weeks ago. We were having a meeting about the newsletter, which I help produce, but I kept getting distracted by all the great light in this restaurant. It streamed in through the front windows and reflected up onto the walls in squares and spangles, I suppose off the cutlery and glassware. I snuck away at one point to snap this photo of the fireplace, with the curled shadows from the fireplace tools creeping up the face.

Fortunately, the friends I was with know about my photography and my blog, so they didn't wonder what the heck I was up to.

I had an interesting adventure on Sunday. I am not a home-improvement whiz by any means, but with the caulk in my shower looking old and cracked and potentially leaky, I decided to tear it all out and re-caulk. I bought a tube of caulk and borrowed a caulking gun and did the whole tub. Here's what they don't tell you about caulk: It just keeps on coming. Once you open that tube, you've got to manage a slow leak of caulk from the tip, which means constant wiping or it will be all over your bathroom. And the fumes! Pee-yew! It was a little crazy, but I managed, and the job turned out well, which made me feel so...capable!

Maybe now I'll be inspired to tackle my kitchen faucet, which mysteriously shuts off of its own accord. Sometimes when I turn it on, it goes THUMP and the water stops. I have to turn it off and turn it on again, this time slowly. I've noticed that if I turn it on slowly it doesn't happen, but I still always turn it on quickly, because I want the faucet to do what I want, not to do what IT wants. Which says more about me than the faucet.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Central Park, March 2007

These Japanese magnolia trees surround the obelisk behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and are incredible to see at the peak of their bloom. I'd say give them another week, since right now they're still mostly in bud. Every year I try to catch them at just the right time and I rarely succeed, the blooms are so ephemeral. Fortunately, another of these trees grows in the courtyard below my window, so I can also watch spring come from the comfort of my apartment!

Even though the magnolias weren't quite ready, lots of other things were blooming in the park on Saturday.

There were crocuses...

...and more crocuses...

...and masses of daffodils.

Even the beleaguered daffodils in front of my apartment building are coming along, though they don't look anything like the ones above. (Ours are much more scraggly!)

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Revisitation No. 4

After our last snowfall a couple of weeks ago, I wandered past the playground that features these concrete beach balls. You may remember them from last year. I thought beach balls in the snow would look pretty strange, and they did.

As usual, there was no one in this playground, which was fenced and locked. That seems to be true no matter what time of day I walk by, and no matter the weather. It's a mystery.

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day - a little cool and just shy of 60 degrees, but comfortable enough that I was able to walk around in a t-shirt when I stayed in the sun. It felt so great to leave behind the burden of a coat or jacket, even if I'm not quite done with them for the year! (It got chilly again in the evening and we're in the 40's now.)