simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: September 2007
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Sunday, 30 September 2007

Risk Not Living

The danger at these falls is not what you think I mean. Let me explain. I have not been particularly inclined to do nature photography. Perhaps seeing so much mediocre, ordinary and cliched work (and not wanting to contribute more) or seeing extraordinary work (and not being able to create at that level) has left me on the sidelines. Of course these feelings easily apply to other genres of photography as well, so it all comes down to what type of subjects and work inspires you - where your passion lies. Add to the mix living in a dense urban environment and getting away infrequently. So, when I do get to a natural environment, I prefer just experiencing it - not through a camera. For me, this has been the danger of photography - seeing everything as one would through a lens and as a potential photograph. When habituated to this practice, one risks not living ...
Photo note: This photo was taken at Binnen Falls in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, near the Lullwater and Audubon Center - click here. I have seen numerous photographs of waterfalls and streams using a long exposure - this creates a very interesting effect with the moving water. Seeing these falls inspired me to give it a try.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Sfera Con Sfera

As I have written in my previous post on the Knotted Gun, the United Nations is not at the top of the list for residents or independent visitors. On a recent visit, I discovered this beautiful sculpture, Sphere Within a Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera) created by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro. He has a long and varied list of achievements and work - click here. This metallic sphere is one of a series of six located throughout the world - at the Vatican, Pesaro (Italy), Dublin, Berkeley (California), Washington, D.C. and this one at the United Nations, donated by the Italian government in 1991. I have read a number of interpretations of this work such as "the fractured outer surface of the sphere reveals a complex inner sphere that represents the harsh difficulties of the modern world at the end of the second millennium." Or from Lamberto Dini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy "a sphere growing inside another sphere, as if a world torn asunder by the horrors of war and suffering could still give birth to another world: a more prosperous and just world, within an international frame of peace and progress for generations to come. What better image for illustrating the primary role the United Nations are called upon to play: a global quest to build a new world wherein all peoples can co-exist peacefully and develop in freedom."

Friday, 28 September 2007


This is not an endorsement for Barack Obama, the United States Senator from Illinois and Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2008. I am not particularly political nor that informed regarding the various candidates. But this was a huge event for Washington Square Park and the first time I recall a presidential candidate having a rally here. Obama’s campaign aides said that 24,000 people attended the event. Initially, crowds were confined to the outer perimeters of the park. At one point, however, frustrated attendees just broke through with security giving up. The crowd funneled through the openings, metal detectors and into the central plaza, where the speaking platform and press areas had been set up. I was able to get a line of sight to Obama and listened to his 41-minute address. The audience was quite mixed with many NYU students - at 46 years old, he definitely appeals to a younger demographic. He came onto the stage to a song by rapper Kanye West and mentioned hanging out in Washington Square Park when he was younger (he has also admitted to the use of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine as a teenager). Many attended because it was just something to do. Most seemed to find Obama quite charismatic. His background is very interesting. Born in Hawaii in 1963 - his father is from Kenya with a PhD from Harvard and his mother from Kansas. Obama himself has a BA from Columbia, a Harvard Law degree and a number of other impressive academic and political achievements. Campaign promises were made to a cheering crowd, such as universal health care by the end of his term and ending the war in Iraq. Obama characterized and championed himself as a Washington outsider - not the first time we have heard this claim ...

Thursday, 27 September 2007

La Plaza Cultural Garden

I have become enamored of community gardens since the start of this website. I was always somewhat aware of them, but like many, I just had a passing interest. Years of living in the city combined with getting away too infrequently can make one yearn for some green space and really appreciate the parks and community gardens NYC city has to offer. And for those of lesser means, these can be the only nature they may have to enjoy. I have featured a number of gardens previously - click any of the following four links Albert's Garden, Laguardia, FishBridge, West Side Community Garden. The East Village/Lower East Side has over 70 of these community gardens - here's a map. La Plaza Cultural Garden is located at 9th Street and Avenue C. I have read that the flowers along the fence, created from tin cans, detergent bottles, beer caps, and other junk, were done by a local resident known as the "Flower Man." It also appears that some or the creations are birdhouses - click here for closeup photo. This garden, established in 1976, has a very complex and extremely fascinating history. Read more here and see their website here. There are many events held here and the garden functions as a performance space and cultural center. La Plaza is a registered Backyard Wildlife Habitat with huge willow trees which provide shade and shelter to humans and wildlife. La Plaza has been home to artists, including Tito Puente, Gordon Matta Clark, Keith Haring, Robert Wise and Buckminster Fuller - at one time there was a geodesic dome built with help. A short film entitled Rock Soup profiled the Garden in it’s infancy with a dirty, haunting look at the homeless in La Plaza Cultural in the late 80’s. Click here to view it ...

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Jersey Girls

No, these girls are not from New Jersey, nor are they the 911 widows that Ann Coulter accused of "reveling in their celebrity status." I ran across them on Jersey Street, a short, two-block alley in SOHO, while returning from Pickle Day on the Lower East Side - as interesting as pickles may be, they're not an all day commitment. While walking on Lafayette Street and passing by Jersey Street, I was startled to see three women with one lying provocatively on the trunk of a taxi. They were alternately posing and taking photos with their point and shoot camera, so of course I decided to jump into the fray. They were very accommodating and did some additional posing for me (and have been waiting for these photos and posting). Click here for the entire gallery of photos. The three girls, Erica, Maiy and Jari are dancers with a company called Vixens managed by Torey Nelson. Nine (of approximately 15) members of the company were there for a photo shoot for their portfolios. "We all have dancing experience in different genres including but not limited to Hip Hop, ballet, modern and jazz. We are a young company with goals of taking the Dance World by storm"
BTW, the cab driver was not a prior acquaintance. He just was driving by and asked if they wanted to take photos with his taxi.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Jamal is a regular in the neighborhood - I met him last summer when he was working as Pedicab driver. So, I was surprised to meet him on Bleecker Street in the West Village with a 4-week old kitten in a guitar case. The kitty, which he had rescued from a subway platform, also had an eye infection. Animals in need will certainly get people to rise to the occasion, even from New Yorkers who are frequently stereotyped as unsympathetic. New Yorkers can be cynical, skeptical and leery of scams (which are common), but when a legitimate need is perceived, people here, like anywhere else, will respond. Jamal collected $325 in just a few hours the day before, most of which he said used on a visit to the vet and medications for the cat. At one point, Jamal asked me to help, so I held the cat while Jamal administered the eye drops. It was not difficult at all with such a young cat - he offered little resistance compared to an adult cat, where such a procedure can be a real undertaking - cats are notoriously uncooperative taking meds.
BTW - The sign in the photo had a different message on each side. The message shown is from the previous day used to collect for the vet (he turned the sign over before I shot this to show me the original message used to raise money for the vet. Click here for a photo with the message I saw when I arrived.)

Monday, 24 September 2007


I am not a biker or part of the biker culture. And I do not enjoy the deafening roar of bikes with straight pipes - a sore point with many city residents. However, I do appreciate a well engineered and pleasant looking machine. And this Harley, with its gleam and striking satin finish parked on the Lower East Side, is partly that. Partly, because there are aspects of the engine and bike engineering that are archaic and could be improved (actually, some changes are being made with newer models), but due to the strong cult phenomenon which has grown around Harley, many aspects of the early design have been kept. Harley Davidson as a company is a fascinating story. Founded in 1903, the company was nearly bankrupt by 1969 - the image of the outlaw biker partly to blame along with deteriorating quality and proliferation of Japanese motorcycles which were less expensive, better made and had superior performance. In the 1980s, the company was resold and under new management began its assent. Rather than attempting to compete with the Japanese, the company marketed Harley's retro factor - there are many things associated with Harleys: chopper customizations, the unique "potato-potato" sound of the engine, hardtails, etc. The marketing of the historic aspect of a product brand is a smart move seen with many legacy businesses like Levis, Coca Cola, Disney, Lego, etc. It also readily lends itself to product line extension and licensing (Harley sells accessories and apparel). In the late 1990s, there were waiting lists as long as a year for some models. The bike has come an American icon with a certain symbolic iconoclasm. The median age of Harley buyers is now nearly 50 with many affluent, well known or powerful individuals as owners - Jay Leno, investor Jim Rogers, etc. ...

Sunday, 23 September 2007


In the East Village on 8th Street and Avenue C there is a window display of various archaeological findings divided into several themed sections - The Time to Relax, Setting the Table, What is a Privy?, and The History of Our Block. The artifacts in the displays are circa 1850. Between 1846 and 1850, over 1200 buildings were erected in this area (now known as Alphabet City) which became known as Kleindeutschland or "Little Germany" due to the influx of German immigrants. The photo is of several chamberpots in the display on privies. The caption reads "What is a privy? Before houses were hooked up to the city's water and sewer systems, people used outhouses or privies. In urban settings, the superstructure or little "house" used for privacy and seating sat on top of a shaft or pit, usually lined with stone, brick or wood. These shafts often survived beneath the ground. When privies filled up, scavengers were hired to clean them out. When privies were no longer used for their original purpose-typically when the building was hooked up to the city's sewer system-they were filled with trash and soil and covered over. As a result, privies contain archaeological treasures that provide clues to understanding everyday life in the past. Before indoor plumbing, people had two choices. They could use the backyard privy or the chamberpots kept under their beds. Each morning the pots would be emptied into the privy and they accidentally broke, no doubt, they would be dumped in, too."
I selected this group of artifacts because people seem fascinated by personal hygiene in other times and places. One of the most asked questions NASA gets involves bathroom use in space - there is even a book: How Do You Go To The Bathroom In Space? by astronauts William Pogue and John Glenn ...

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Izzy and Art

When I saw these two men being interviewed with a boom mike overhead and a camera rolling at the recent Bluegrass reunion, I figured they may be important in the music world. So, I decided to take pictures first and ask questions later. Upon inquiring about their identity, someone very knowledgeable volunteered to educate me. Both were significant figures in the music world. The person on the right is Izzy Young and on the left, Art D'Lugoff. Izzy Young, born in NYC in 1928, is noted for his important role in folk music. In 1957 he opened the Folklore Center on MacDougal Street in the Village in NYC - a small walk-up shop, with books and records which became a meeting place, central to everything going on in the local folk scene at the time. Dylan was a frequenter of the shop, listening to music and reading books in the back room. Izzy arranged concerts with folk musicians and songwriters - he produced Dylan's first concert at Carnegie Chapter Hall in 1961. In 1973, Izzy closed shop here and moved to Stockholm, Sweden where he opened Folklore Centrum. Art D'Lugoff opened the Village Gate in the 1950s. Any New York resident who has been in the city for any time knows of this major nightclub on Bleecker Street. During its 38 years in operation, the Village Gate featured names like John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, and even Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Allen Ginsberg in a benefit for Timothy Leary. The club closed in 1995 and the space is now occupied by a CVS pharmacy ...

Friday, 21 September 2007

Bluegrass Reunion

We have bluegrass here in NYC too. In fact, it appears that bluegrass and country are making a comeback in the city with a number of venues featuring it like the Baggot Inn (click here), the Parkside Lounge, Barbes, Freddys and Hank's Saloon in Brooklyn, the Rodeo Bar, Joe's Pub, The Ear Inn, etc. It may come as a surprise that country and bluegrass would have a following in the city, but frequently people seek out antidotes to the stresses and complexity of living in such an intense urban environment. Music can be a great release and complete immersion in a genre like bluegrass, where the lyrics hearken back to a simpler time, can really have a therapeutic effect. Country and bluegrass have had an image stigma , but in many ways, things don't change that much as far as interpersonal relationships and perhaps this is why these music genres with their stories and lyrics still resonate and find an audience, even among the "sophisticated." The event in the photo was the annual Bluegrass reunion in Washington Square Park sponsored by the Folk Music Society of New York and draws hundreds, some coming from afar. It's a true reunion too - some of the participants have not seen each other for years. The music and weather was great, with numerous little jam sessions happening spontaneously. There were music world luminaries like Izzy Young and Art D'Lugoff. There were guitars, mandolins, fiddles, double basses, banjos, washtub basses and the amazing Bob Gurland playing mouth trumpet ...

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Urban Bike Polo

I really thought I was witnessing something relatively new, probably developed in NYC. An urban styled twist on a classic sport. But as it turns out, Bike Polo, Cycle Polo or Bicycle Polo has been around since the late 1800s. Itwas invented in Ireland in 1891 by Richard J.Mecredy and played as early as 1900 by the British army and the Indian Maharajas. It is a relatively formalized sport, played on a court (typically grass) with various rules and regulations governing play and equipment. This is the sober, suburban version - click here for the U.S. Bicycle Polo Association. The game I ran across (shown in the photo) was in the Sara D. Roosevelt Park in the Lower East Side - click here for more photos. What we are seeing here is Urban Bike Polo, a much rougher variation with fewer rules and equipment which has evolved for the urban environment with traffic cones for goal posts, street hockey balls, plastic mallets and most often track bikes (fixed gear). It's bike messenger style meets polo. And as I read further, I find of course there is a world associated with this activity - websites, newspaper and magazine articles, equipment vendors, teams, clubs, championships, hundreds of videos on YouTube including one taken with a malletcam (video camera installed in a mallet) - click here. One NYC team is appropriately named the Ratkillers. Makes me feel like where have I been and why was I the last to know? ...

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Myers of Keswick

There are an estimated 100,000 Brits in New York City (and 250,000 in the Tri-state area - New York, New Jersey, Connecticut). And like any ethnic or cultural group, someone has to cater to their culinary needs. Peter Myers, of Keswick in the Lake district of England, came to the United States in 1972. On July 4th, 1985, Peter and his wife Irene, opened Myers of Keswick. You can read the entire story here at the shop's website. This small, quaint shop is located at 634 Hudson Street in the West Village - the ambiance is one of a country store. Click Here for more photos. British cuisine and foods do not have a large following, so it was not surprising to learn from Peter that nearly all of the store's clientele is of British ancestry. Many make a pilgrimage, coming from as far away as New Hampshire or Virginia to stock up on goods. Myers offers an array of fresh goods (butter and cheese) including authentic homemade classics like savory pies and sausages (for which they are well known) - Peter is a third generation sausage maker. They also stock an array of British staples - packaged items such as beans, crisps, cereals, biscuits, soups, jams & marmalades, drinks, teas, sweets and and the infamous Marmite - that substance deemed to be virtually inedible by all but the Brits. I am frequently turned down when asking about taking photos, even of commercial or retail establishments where they stand to gain more exposure. Peter, on the other hand, in stereotypical British style, was quite accommodating - in fact a little surprised I even asked. That's him in the rear of the photo ...

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Mr. Moon

I had no idea what the inspiration for this was. Unfortunately I did not get the opportunity to ask - the character and guide were quite busy adjusting the wardrobe and negotiating a slow, careful, coordinated promenade down the block and through the crowd at the recent Kitchen Highline Block Party. Click here for more photos. This was the visual tour de force of the day with oohs and ahs and cameras snapping. I tried to ascertain whether this beauty is a character of literature, myth, fable, children's story, opera, ballet, traditional ethic figure - or is he/she just an original creation? Note that person who is visible walks on stilts. Then on close examination of the photos I took, I noticed a paper-cutout drawing hanging around the neck of the companion - enlarging the photo shows what appears to be a multi-limbed character with the title "Mr. Moon" clearly labeled below it. Click here for the evidence. But is Mr. Moon the main character or guide? An online search reveals a number of characters named Mr. Moon (including a children's book called Pink Magic). But I don't find a mention of a multi-legged character. Any suggestions?

Monday, 17 September 2007


Sunday was the 7th annual New York City International Pickle Day. I'm not sure we need such a day, but apparently picklers feel they need equal time, and NYC was pickle country at one time. The festival, co-sponsored by the NY Food Museum and the Lower East Side Business Improvement District (LES BID), was held on Orchard Street between Broome and Grand Streets on the Lower East Side, on the same block as famous pickle vendor, Guss' Pickles. There were pickling demonstrations, children's activities, tours, exhibits, music, book signings and of course pickles and pickled products for sale and as free samples. And Guss' Pickles? - well that's a whole other story and controversy. A hundred years ago, NYC had 200 pickle shops with half of them in the Lower East Side. Now, virtually all are gone but Guss' Pickles, founded by Polish immigrant Izzy (Isidor) Guss in 1910. Through a number of twists and turns there are two companies battling in court over ownership of the name Guss'. Read about the twisted tale here ...

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Block Party

What's nice about a block party in NYC, as opposed to a typical street fair, is the down home neighborhood feel and its non-commercial nature. When I lived in Chelsea in my first apartment in the city while in college, I was fortunate to have been on a block that was not only beautiful with its row of brownstones, but also had a wonderful neighborhood spirit. Like old NYC of film and days gone by. We knew many of our neighbors - stoop sitting and socializing was the norm. It was a nice segue from the country to the city for someone new. The block I lived on was closed Saturdays during the summer for activities planned by the residents. I don't see block parties like this in Manhattan anymore - I'm not sure how often they happen (a friend tells me they are still quite common in Brooklyn). These parties are typically held at a time and place where disruption of traffic will be minimal such as Chelsea very far west (West 19th Street between 10th and 11th Avenues in this case). The Kitchen Highline Block Party (shown in the photo) was produced by the Kitchen (an interdisciplinary art space located on the same block as the party) in collaboration with Friends of the High Line (click here to lean more about the High Line project). There was an entertaining mix of live music, DJs and other artist-led activities and performances. Hula-hoopers, food, a reptile petting zoo, face painting ...

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Governors Island

Shrouded in mystery to most New Yorkers, Governor's Island has only been opened to the public - since 2003 visitors are permitted during the summer season (by a free ferry). This strategically placed small island of 172 acres (20% the size of Central Park) in the New York Bay is only 1/2 miles from Manhattan and half that from the Brooklyn waterfront. The island has played a large role in the history of New York - Governor's Island was the landing place of the first settlers (from the Netherlands) of the tri-state region in 1624 and has been recognized as the birthplace of New York State. First named by the Dutch explorer Adriaen Block, it was called Noten Eylant. In 1664 the English captured New Amsterdam, renaming it New York. The island switched hands between the British and the Dutch over the next 10 years until the British regained exclusive control for the “benefit and accommodation of His Majesty's Governors” - hence the name. From 1783 to 1966, the island served as a US Army post and from 1966 to 1996 as a major US Coast Guard installation. There are over 200 buildings, featuring late 18th and early 19th century fortifications, pre-Civil War arsenal buildings, Victorian and Romanesque Revival housing, as well as early 20th century neo-classical architecture. Five buildings within the Historic District, including Fort Jay and Castle Williams, are individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This plot of prime real estate is a huge asset, with its unique location and spectacular vistas. Yet it lay fallow for years. In January 2001, President Clinton designated 22 acres of the Island, including the two great forts, as the Governors Island National Monument. 92 acres, or about half of the island is historic district. In 2003 the federal government sold the island to NYC for $1. In 2006, a more proactive position was taken regarding development. Competitive proposals have been made for development with announcements soon ...

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Water Club

Manhattan is an island, yet it's only recently that the waterfront is really beginning to be developed and utilized. It is surprising, given that space is at such a premium, that this huge asset has languished for so long. Now we have things like the immensely popular Hudson River Park. There have been some earlier forays into waterfront usage (click on any of the links for previous postings) - Bargemusic, South Street Seaport, the Intrepid Museum, the 79th Street Boat Basin, Christopher Street Pier, the New York Kayak Club, Battery Park City & promenade and the Chelsea Piers. Restaurants have also entered the fray with places like the River Cafe, Hudson River Cafe, Harbour Lights, World Yacht and the Water Club, shown in today's photo. The Water Club is located at East 30th Street in the East River on a moored, renovated barge. In addition to their nautically themed dining room, there is seasonal outdoor dining at the Crows's Nest located on the upper deck. Obviously the big draw here are the spectacular vistas from its East River location, with river views from every table. I have not eaten there, however, my understanding is that the food is good with Kevin Reilly as executive chef. Kevin Reilly (formerly of Union Square Cafe and Zoe) has designed menus for other eating establishments such as Bamn (click here for previous post about this new automat). For more information about menus, etc., click here for their website ...

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Theater for the New City

As a long time resident of NYC, I am ashamed to admit I have never been to a performance of Theater for the New City. That still holds true, because even though I did take photographs for this posting, it was at the tail end of a free performance in the park of Buckle Up. TNC is a leading Off-Off Broadway theater known for its avant garde, experimental work, radical political plays and widespread community service (click here for their website). In reading about the company, I have become very impressed with their accomplishments - they have won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and over 40 OBIE Awards for excellence in every theatrical discipline. Nobel Prize winner Gao Xinjian's first play in America was performed at TNC in 1997. The company produces 30-40 premieres of new American plays each year. Many influential theater artists of the last quarter century have found TNC’s Resident Theater Program instrumental to their careers, among them Sam Shepard and Academy Award Winners Tim Robbins and Adrien Brody. Theater for the New City was founded in 1971 by Crystal Field, George Bartenieff, Theo Barnes and Lawrence Kornfeld. TNC also founded the Village Halloween Parade with puppeteer Ralph Lee (which broke off to form its own organization in 1973); they still hold the annual Village Halloween Costume Ball ...

Wednesday, 12 September 2007


Howl! is a five-day event which takes place in the East Village (click here for more photos). The name Howl, is taken from a poem by Allen Ginsberg, written in 1955 in Berkeley, and considered one of the seminal works of the beat generation. In its fifth year (it was not held in 2006), this art festival is the signature event sponsored by FEVA, the Federation of East Village Artists. For three years, Howl! hosted the legendary dragfest, Wigstock. Howl! is comprised of numerous events in a variety of venues in Tompkins Square Park and in the surrounding neighborhood, with the major activities on Saturday and Sunday in the park. There is a poetry festival (with a reading of Howl, of course), a book expo, musical performances on two stages (Moby was one of the performers) and Art Around the Park (shown in the photo): "ART AROUND THE PARK is a live-action event featuring over 140 artists from the East Village and beyond transforming an eight foot high, 900 feet long canvas into a riotous explosion of color and creativity." A myriad of neighborhood establishments participate - bars, cafes, clubs (such as ABC No Rio - click here or the Bowery Poetry Club), galleries, community gardens, theaters, a museum (Fusion Arts - click here) and places difficult to categorize like Bluestockings (click here). The day was calm, however there was a little altercation with a guy reported to have splattered people with paint - click here ...

Tuesday, 11 September 2007


I came across this memorial with a friend in the 9th Street Community Gardens on Avenue C. We liked the simple, homemade assemblage. It makes a thoughtful statement without fanfare. Today, I let the photo speak for itself.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Heirloom Tomatoes

A photographer friend, Bill and I routinely visit the farmers market at Union Square (click here for any of 6 previous posts: Union Square, Flora, Union Square Greenmarket, Luna Park Cafe, Metronome, and the fascinating story of Joe Ades - Genteleman Peeler). Bill has done a tremendous amount of fine work photographing fruit (click here). He has spoken of heirloom tomatoes often, yet I only first tried them recently at the Union Square Cafe - they make an amazing Heirloom salad appetizer. Subsequently on a visit to the farmer's market at Tompkins Square, I finally purchased my first heirloom tomato - and ate it. Heirloom tomatoes are hugely popular in the city right now and this trend is for good reason. You only have to taste one to see how much flavor we have lost to the products of agribusiness and modern commercial farming. The definition of heirloom tomatoes varies somewhat. Some use age of seed strain (50 to 100 years or older), others may use pre-World War II as a demarcation point. But in the most literal sense, heirloom tomatoes are ones where the cultivar has been nurtured and handed down from generation to generation. It is also generally agreed that they are open-pollinated and with no genetically modified organisms used. There are hundreds of varieties with names like Mortgage Lifter, Green Grape, Cherokee Purple, Green Zebra, Black Krim, Brandywine, White Wonder, Amish Paste, Stupice, etc. (click here for a sample list). If you have not had an heirloom tomato before, I highly recommend you get yourself to a good farmer's market as soon as possible and buy at least one. No need to prepare it, just eat it like any fruit with reckless abandon - watch the juice running down your arm ...
Note about the photo: this was taken yesterday at the farmers market (Norwich Meadows Farms stand) at Tompkins Square Park while attending the Howl festival - the subject of another posting this week.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Belle de Jour

When I stumbled on this place with a friend, we loved the the whole image - a quaint French restaurant in an obscure location under the Brooklyn Bridge and with what we romanticized to be the defiant, cigarette smoking Frenchman with attitude out in front. We did not eat here, but my reading of reviews and their website this morning tells me that this place could be a real find. The chef, Ovidiu Pastae, previously owned Au Coin du Feu (by the fireplace) in Vence, France and a SOHO sibling by the same name at 222 Lafayette (now closed). His newest restaurant, Belle de Jour Bistro, opened in April of 2007. It is named after the 1967 French classic film, “Belle de Jour” directed by Luis Bruneul and starring Catherine Deneuve. The bistro's building, located at 259 Front Street in the South Street Seaport area, was a flour mill built in 1809 and designed by Robert Mills, one of the first professional architects in the United States. Working primarily in the Baltimore-Washington area in the neoclassical style, Mills is most well known for designing the Washington Monument (along with the Department of Treasury and other federal buildings). After locating an article with a photo of Ovidiu (click here), I am now thinking that the man I caught in my photo may be Ovidiu himself? ...

Saturday, 8 September 2007


Real estate developers along with architects define the look of a city and the empire and legacy of William Zeckendorf Sr. (1905-1976), his son William Jr. and grandsons Arthur and William Lie continue to endure and impact New York. These are the Zeckendorf condominiums (read about them here) at One Irving Place, as seen from Union Square in the evening with the Con Ed tower - see my posting about Union Square here. I have photographed these Towers before for this website but I have not shown all four in one photo. Real estate developers are typically not seen in a very positive light by the average citizen; rather, they are resented by many for their wealth and the power they have over the primary assets of a city - the land and buildings themselves. However, they are absolutely necessary to the city's infrastructure, growth and reconstruction and when there is a good design aesthetic and sensitivity to appropriate architecture, they can be a force for the good. William Zeckendorf, Sr. is considered one of America's foremost developers and has worked with architects I.M. Pei and Le Corbusier. He is credited with projects which were seminal in the redevelopment of troubled areas such as these towers in Union Square and the Columbia at 96th Street on the Upper West Side. His most notable transaction was taking an option on 17 acres along the East River to build a dream city. Unable to exercise his option, and seeing the city about to lose the United Nations because it was unable to find a location for it, Zeckendorf called Mayor William O’Dwyer, who persuaded Rockefeller to buy the land for $8.5 million and then donate it to the U.N. In 1965, his company Webb & Knapp, collapsed and went in to bankruptcy. The family business was rebuilt with William Jr. at the helm. Style and personality also play a factor in the public's view of a real estate mogul. Donald Trump, for example, is seen by many as a pompous, arrogant, egotistical media hound with a celebrity lifestyle surrounded by supermodels. Combine that with buildings known for their veneer and one could understand why architecture critic Paul Goldberger once referred to his work as the "triumph of image over substance" ...

Friday, 7 September 2007

Knotted Gun

The United Nations is one of those places perhaps visited once (at best) by residents and perhaps not at all by the independent visitor not on a tour. I vaguely remember visiting and touring long ago as part of a high school trip before I lived in the city. The image of the United Nations itself has become somewhat tarnished as time passes with various issues and problems - enforcement of Security Council resolutions, bureaucratic inefficiency etc., leaving even less reason to find itself on the visitor's list. But it is still worth a visit. The large complex is unusually spacious for NYC and abuts the East River. In addition to the vistas and various buildings (which can be toured), there are gardens and outdoor sculptures. The work shown in the photo of a 45-caliber revolver with its barrel knotted is titled Non-Violence and is frequently referred to as the "knotted gun." It was created by Swedish sculptor Carl FredrikReutersward in 1980. A cast metal version was gifted by Luxembourg to the United Nations in 1988. The piece makes an immediate impression with its message quite clear. The inspiration for the piece was the death of John Lennon, a friend of the sculptor's ...

Thursday, 6 September 2007

La Esquina

Here's a place steeped in buzz, controversy, stories and articles. 106 Kenmare was the home of the Corner Deli, a mom and pop operation since 1932, set up in a tiny wedge shaped diner in a neighborhood now known as NoLita. Click here for a look inside. The place was purchased by partners Serge Becker (Lure Fishbar, Area, B Bar, Joe's Pub), architect Derek Sanders, Cordell Lochin and restaurateur James Gersten. It is now home to La Esquina - both a street level Tacqueria (with a menu developed by Café Habana founder Richard Ampudia) and a restaurant located underground. The restaurant downstairs is where the controversy lies - some even calling the Tacqueria a front for the restaurant. The entrance is a door marked "Employees Only" leading via a convoluted route past a kitchen downstairs to a subterranean dining room with a unique decor (I have not been there). Bouncers, lists - the scene is reminiscent of the nightclub days of the 1980s with their "exclusive" admittance policies (e.g. Studio 54, Mudd Club et al.). But I am intrigued and will investigate getting into the restaurant. When I first visited the Tacqueria soon after it opened in 2005, the place was insanely packed. Lines and chaos prevailed. Since then, things have calmed down and getting a meal there is now a much more civilized affair. Our office gets lunch there regularly and it has become a favorite. You can take out or eat outdoors at the small tables ...

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


As I have written before, it is easy in Manhattan to forget that this is an island. Which means surrounded by water, so with the glorious weather we have had, I mounted my bicycle and armed with a camera, made a short pilgrimage to the East River to see what I could see. To my surprise, I came across an enormous vessel - a US Coast Guard cutter ship named Hollyhock, docked for a few days just north of the Water Club (a waterside restaurant) who permitted them to dock in their waters. Military force personnel always seem very happy to engage in conversation with civilians - according to a crew member with whom I spoke, the Hollyhock was on patrol and had traveled from its home base in Port Huron, Michigan via the St. Lawrence Seaway to NYC - click here for a photo of two crew members examining my New York Daily Photo business card. In reading about the ship I came across things like: "the Hollyhock is a 225-foot Juniper-class seagoing buoy tender that was launched January 25, 2003 in Marinette, Wisconsin." Clarification was needed so I read that: "the Seagoing Buoy Tender is a class of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter originally designed to service aids to navigation, throughout the waters of the United States, and wherever U.S. shipping interests require." Perhaps not the type of thing that excites most readers, but this ship does represent the latest in shipbuilding, propulsion and ship control technology, allowing it to use a smaller crew. "A dynamic positioning system can hold the vessel within a 10-meter circle using GPS technology, allowing the crew to service and position navigation buoys more efficiently than before in 30-knot winds and 8-foot seas ."

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Carnival Day

According to the West Indian American Day Carnival Association website, this is the largest summer festival in the United States with over 2 million attending. Brooklyn has a huge West Indian population, so it not surprising that the Caribbean carnival takes place there. Now it in its 40th year, the event culminates on Labor Day with a parade along 15 blocks of Eastern parkway from Utica Ave. to Grand Army Plaza (read about the parade's history here). There are a series of events leading up to the labor Day extravaganza such as Dimanche Gras which features a costume competition. This festival/carnival is about food, music, costumes and the parade. There's lots of food on both sides of Eastern Parkway for the entire length of the parade route, with barbecuing and tell tale smoke everywhere. Eastern Parkway is a beautiful, wide, tree lined boulevard (also home to the Brooklyn Museum - click here). The food is authentic West Indian cuisine, spanning the range represented by the various Island nations, with specialties like jerk chicken, oxtail, macaroni pie, fried flying fish, curry goat, roti, callaloo, souse, salt fish, fried bake and coconut bread. The music was very loud, from the parade floats, vendors and the spectators. The festival officially runs from 8AM to 6 PM. Unfortunately, I did not stay long enough to see the best costumes, judging from last years photos. Note: that's red velvet cake in the lower right photo ...

Monday, 3 September 2007


Tropical birds and other exotic animals are occasionally sighted in NYC and with such a large, varied population, one will even catch some outrageous scenes like the guy who has a large snake, macaw and small alligator (click here) or a huge spectacular Albino Burmese Python slithering on the ground in Central Park (click here). I also saw two magnificent macaws on Earth Day earlier this year. The person in today's photo was an audience member (as was I) attending a free performance by Circus Amok (see previous posting here). The birds were extremely charming and got their share of attention - no surprise in light of their cute antics and the brightly colored plumage of tropical birds. The gray bird is a Congo African Grey Parrot. The larger of the two on the owner's shoulder is a an Eclectus Parrot; the smaller is a Hans Mini Macaw (owned by his girlfriend). As enticing as these birds are, the point here is not to promote the ownership of exotic animals. The entire subject is controversial, not only with issues of birds being taken from the wild but even with domestically raised birds - some individuals have concerns with keeping birds in cages or other confined environments. Also, of course, comes the responsibility and commitment - birds can form bonds with their owners, they can be destructive and need training. And then there is a very different kind of bird - click here ...

Sunday, 2 September 2007


You won't find this in any tour books - in fact I doubt find this in any books at all. There is also virtually nothing online. There is very little reason for most visitors or NYC residents to be in this immediate area across from 1 Police Plaza, circumscribed by various thoroughfares and ramps for the Brooklyn Bridge and FDR drive. The streets around it are relatively unknown, even to residents - Pearl Street, Madison Street, Avenue of the Finest and St. James Place. Why would I want to blog this and bore you, the reader? For one, the hulking monolith at 375 Pearl Street built in 1976 by Rose, Beaton, & Rose, has always intrigued me. And it has achieved a few distinctions - I have seen it on lists of the ugliest buildings in Manhattan. The huge illuminated Verizon logo with its swoosh, visible for miles around from Brooklyn, parts of Manhattan and other eastern approaches, is a point of contention with many who liken it to an enormous billboard that ruins views. The sign was installed in 2002, replacing the old bell logo from Bell Atlantic. Verizon was formed in 2000, the product of various mergers and acquisitions with GTE, Bell and NYNEX. Efforts have been made to have the sign removed, but apparently it complies with the law. Frequently described as windowless, the building does appear to be so, however, closer examination reveals that the distinctive dark vertical striations along its facade are actually created by columns of glass windows. The building was designed to be a switching hub but there was difficulty in bringing the lines into the building, so it is used for administrative functions. For the wordsmiths among readers - Verizon is a portmanteau of the words veritas (the Roman goddess of truth) and horizon ...

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Summer of Drugs

This year is the 40th anniversary of the Be-In and Summer of Love which was centered in San Francisco in 1967. Yesterday's event, Be-In Central Park, was held from 2 - 7:30 PM at the Bandshell, and sponsored by the Yippie Museum (click here for previous post). This is the second commemoration of the Be-In in NYC this year (click here for the previous event in Washington Square Park). Live bands were present. I arrived at 6:45 PM to the last band and a very small group - I hope the turnout was better midday. I found the situation quite sad and depressing. Many of the participants appeared to be hippies, burnouts, drug addicts, marginalized, counter-cultural or political activists. I don't think this motley, unkempt group are very good role models for the future. When it comes to advocacy (one recalls Timothy Leary's "turn on, tune in, and drop out") I think it is reasonable to judge the message by its messenger(s) and in this case, regardless of how one defines success, I think the drug message has to be called into question. Although good things did spring from movements of the 1960s, drugs turned out to be an extremely destructive path and those who continued to embrace them either paid for it with their lives or are seriously damaged and disadvantaged by their continued use. Drugs were a large component of the hippie movement and the original Be-In (some say it really was the summer of drugs). Underground chemist Owsley Stanley produced and provided massive amounts of his White Lightning LSD specially for the 1967 event. Many of the icons of this generation died from drug related causes, musicians and non-musicians - Jimi Hendrix, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, et al. I think David Crosby's comment is quite apropos: "Our generation was right about civil rights; we were right about Vietnam; we were right about poverty. Unfortunately, we were wrong about drugs." ...