simple is beautiful
New York Daily Photo: November 2007
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Friday, 30 November 2007


Apart from this photoblog, I also do a moderate amount of photography for my business, shooting all the various products we manufacture and sell. We were very pleased with the dramatic variety of effects we got recently with a shoot, so I thought I would share five of the photos (out of 35). I revealed the unique nature of my business in a previous post - click here and note the 4th comment. This is also how I have the privilege of knowing high-wire artist and juggler Philippe Petit who has been featured twice (see other related postings below).
LEDs have become cheaper and brighter over the years, which has resulted in the proliferation of all types of illuminated items in a myriad of product categories including toys, shoes, clothing, ornaments etc. Juggling is no different and the performance aspect is really driving the interest in illuminated products - companies like mine are endeavoring to offer everything possible in an illuminated version. People just love illuminated props and the simplest routines elicit oohs and aahs from an audience - jugglers get a lot of mileage from their skill set when using illuminated juggling equipment. The photos are of me juggling three clubs in the dark with our color changing model. In this LED variant, the hue slowly cycles through the color spectrum. So in a figurative and literal sense, this really is my signature ...

Related Postings: Artiste Extraordinaire, Spinning, Fire and Drums, Spiegelworld, Titans

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Our Lady of Pompei

This was looking like an average story of a nice looking church. Until I read that this church was named after the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Pompeii in Italy which was founded by a former Satanist - Bartolo Longo (1841-1926). Read his story here. He was later beatified on October 26, 1980 by Pope John Paul II, who referred to him as the "Apostle of the Rosary." The church in the photo (built in 1928), Our Lady of Pompeii, is located on the corner of Carmine and Bleecker Streets in the Village. It has very high visibility from nearby 6th Avenue and is a landmark in the area. I have shown it as viewed from behind (to the west) along Bleecker Street. Its construction was organized by Father Antonio Demo (born 1870 in Lazzaretto di Bassano, Italy - died in 1936 in New York City) to replace a former church where he was pastor. In an interesting side note, the former church is where St. Frances Xavier Cambrini worshipped and taught - she was the first American citizen to be canonised. The church was built in 1928 in Italian-Renaissance style with an interior graced by marble columns, frescoes and murals. This area of the South Village still shows signs and remnants of its Italian heritage - the shops along Bleecker Street between 6th and 7th Avenues are a good example. Between 1880 and 1920, more than 50,000 Italian immigrants settled here. Father Demo's legacy continued with the naming of the triangular plot across the street from the church - Father Demo Square - click here ...

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Danger and Caution

The rules to Capture the Flag are incredibly simple (in theory) - the goal is to capture the opponent's flag, located at their team's base, and bring it back to your team's base. Yet to watch this game played in the city is to witness something bordering an anarchistic mêlée. Some players are running everywhere (nearly crashing into onlookers) and others are standing for no reason I can fathom; some are chatting with the enemy, sometimes in jail; boundaries seem ill defined or not at all, and the score is not announced. The members of the two teams - Danger and Caution - wear identifying plastic strips around their wrists. The flags are knotted rags as seen in the photo. Thinking this was a new geek creation unique to the city, I was surprised to learn that this is an old game - I actually found reference to it in a Boy Scout manual from 1947 and that Robert Kennedy Jr. has been known to have 100 person games at his property in Mt. Kisco, NY. There are versions which incorporate areas of neighborhoods in Brooklyn. The photos show the game as played by NYU students in the evenings in Washington Square Park. Capture the flag is part of a trend in urban gaming with others like Pacmanhattan and manhunt. I've discussed the game with a professor at NYU (with a PhD in physics) who frequents the park and has observed the game and also is confused while watching. He agrees that it is only fully understandable by the young and wild spirited :) ...

Photo Note: The photos are from from August 30, 2007. I intended to coordinate with the group of players and do a more extensive shooting with a flash system, but it never happened.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Housing Stock

This magnificent building at 451 Broome Street in the SoHo Historic District caught the eyes of couple of photographer friends and myself on a recent walk. I could find no details on this building specifically - amazing, since in another locale something of this quality would be worthy of group tours. But SoHo is packed with quality structures, so a building really has to really stand out in an extraordinary way architecturally or historically to make itself known. SoHo is bounded by Houston Street on the north, Lafayette Street on the east, Canal Street on the south, and Varick Street on the west. Like much of the city in the 1960s-70s, this industrial neighborhood was in decline and was discovered and populated by artists who found upper story floors (which became known as lofts) with their enormous spaces, large windows and cheap rents very desirable. Most of the use of these spaces for living was technically illegal, however the state of the neighborhood caused these violations to be overlooked. SoHo has also been known as the Cast Iron District - the ornate facades of many of these 19th century buildings are done in cast iron. Like Tribeca and DUMBO, the quality of housing stock ultimately determines the degree of gentrification a place will attain. We see this all over the world with places like the Marais in Paris or Providence, Rhode Island, which is seeing a renaissance, driven by its old factory buildings. Contrast this with neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Brooklyn or the East Village - they certainly have been gentrified but I do not believe you will ever see these neighborhoods approach the level of SoHo, with Madison and Fifth Avenue retailers like Louis Vuitton, Cartier and Coach. Here we had a centrally located neighborhood with beautiful architecture and cobbled streets. It was just a matter of time ...

Related postings - click any of the following links: Bleecker Tower, Scholastic Building, Bayard Condict, The Wall, Jersey Girls, Stephanie, Hoopmobile, Gourmet Garage, Alidoro.

Monday, 26 November 2007

First Oasis Restaurant

On February 19, 2007, I posted on one of my favorite dishes - Ful Mudammas (click here) - made by First Oasis Restaurant at 9218 Fourth Avenue in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, where I travel to get it. The owner/chef, Said Albahari from Syria, previously owned Magic Carpet Restaurant on Carmine Street in Manhattan for over 20 years, where I was a regular customer from its early days. At the time, I was a strict vegetarian. Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine quickly became favorites - both have some extremely good vegetable dishes. I have generally found vegetarian fare from an ethnic restaurant to be much tastier than meals from vegetarian restaurants, where the food is driven more by the dietary restrictions. Ethnic restaurants, on the other hand, have a real culinary tradition behind them with a creative use of spices, condiments and unique preparations. However, even in NYC, authentic Middle Eastern food is not that common. The cuisine is perhaps a little too exotic for the average American palate. A perusal of Middle Eastern restaurant listings shows mostly falafel/shawarma type places. Many of the better places are found in the outer boroughs where there are neighborhoods with concentrations of various ethnic groups and their attendant restaurants. One of my favorite meals is Ouzi - shown in the photo upper left. This is absolutely delicious with raisins, nuts, vegetables and rice in a phylo pastry dough, served with a yogurt sauce (meat and vegetarian versions are available). Moustache (previous posting click here) in Manhattan, also serves ouzi. First Oasis is very authentic with an extensive menu of Middle Eastern specialties like kebabs, mussaka, kebbeh, labneh, hummus, baba ghanuj, stuffed grape leaves, tabuleh, seafood. traditional desserts (halavah, baloza, baklawa, ladyfinger) and beverages (tamarind). The owner takes his cooking seriously - dishes are made from scratch. The food is excellent and inexpensive. Highly recommended ...

Interesting Note: I discussed the dearth of Ouzi and Ful with the chef from Olive Tree Cafe (previously posted - click here). His feeling was that customers were too unfamiliar with these dishes and would not order them. In the case of Ful, the cooks made in regularly for themselves in the kitchen.

Interesting Anecdote: During one of my last meals I had in Magic Carpet in the Village before it closed, I was accompanied by Sara Jessica Parker (of Sex in the City fame) at a nearby table. According to the staff, she was a regular, getting deliveries frequently (she lived around the corner). One of her last comments during the meal was enthusiastic: "This food is delicious."

Photo Note: At the top from left to right: Vegetable Ouzi, Spinach Pie, Ful Mudammas.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Black Friday

Today is Black Friday - everyone knows the day after Thanksgiving is considered the commencement of the Christmas shopping season and is one of the busiest shopping days of the year. The most common explanation for the origin of the term Black Friday is that it is the start of profitability of many businesses - putting them in the black (an accounting term hearkening back to when accountants used red ink for loss and black for profits). In actuality, many businesses do rely on holiday sales to show a profit for the entire year. An older origin of the term is an implied comparison to stress and chaos of other black days such as Black Tuesday, the day of the 1929 stock market crash.
It's remarkable that holiday shopping has taken on such epic proportions - frenetic shoppers fueled by desperate retailers. I once remember hearing a remark that shopping is what Americans do best. So shop 'till you drop :) ...

Photo Note: I have assembled a collage of photos of the major retailers I have featured on this site since its inception (March 2006). The photos are listed clockwise starting at the upper left. (click on any to go to that posting and it photos): Saks, Macys, Tiffany, Takashimaya, Apple and Sherry, Cartier.

Horn of Plenty

Apart from the traveling, I find Thanksgiving to be a comforting time of year - very comfy as far as eating is concerned. It is a time of year where family, friends and food come to the foreground and other responsibilities can be pushed aside. Thanksgiving Day is still rather non-commercial, with the emphasis on thanks and giving. This is a nice respite from the over-the-top commercialization that has affected virtually everything. It also is the day where overeating is not only allowed but encouraged and expected. An old Saturday Night Live skit comes to mind where wives were virtually force feeding their husbands (who could eat no more) in their plush upholstered chairs on Thanksgiving day. And then there is the famous scene in Monty Python's the Meaning of Life where the enormous Mr. Creosote is persuaded to eat one last wafer-thin after-dinner mint, whereupon he literally explodes.
The photo shows the scene at Dean and Delucca, the gourmet emporium in SOHO, the evening before Thanksgiving. There was a time when places like this inspired awe and wonder with residents and visitors. This food mecca has been a destination for many. But we are all a little jaded now, given places like the ubiquitous national chain Whole Foods and exposure to a myriad of goods and services via various media and the Internet. The kind of things these iconic NYC gourmet shops were renowned for have become much more available outside the city. For most, America has become the horn of plenty ...

Note about the Horn of Plenty or Cornucopia: There are many variations on the telling of this Greek myth. In one telling, Zeus was raised by Amalthea on the milk of a goat. In return, Zeus presented her with the horn of the goat which had the magical power to be filled with whatever the holder desired. The modern cornucopia is now a wicker basket with the shape of a goat's horn.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007


I have not done a posting on the Waldorf Astoria Hotel per se (I will do a more in depth piece in the future), but did feature their famed clock earlier this year - click here. The Waldorf epitomizes classic, iconic New York. If you want to see a place that just exudes old world charm and luxury, New York style, this is the it. The Palace of New York and art deco masterpiece. Of course the Plaza (no longer a hotel) and the Pierre give it a run for the money, but if I had to pick one hotel that says "New York" this would be it. There are so many historical associations including ringing in the New Year with dance band leader Guy Lombardo. Presidents, Queens, dignitaries, celebrities of all types - the roster, past and present, reads like a who's who. The hotel has the largest elegant ballroom in the city - four stories high. This is home to the annual International Debutante Ball. The U.S. government maintains a large suite on the 42nd floor as a residence for its United Nations ambassador. The presidential suite has been home to every President of the US when visiting New York since 1931. If, BTW, you have never been (whether resident or visitor), I highly recommend you visit and wander about. The main lobby is a must see. Have no concern about visiting as a non-guest - there is too much traffic for anyone to police. Act like you belong and you will ...

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Fuerzas Irresistibles

Today I became acquainted with José de Diego (April 16, 1866 – July 16, 1918) - statesman, lawyer, journalist and poet. Born in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, Diego spent time between Spain and Puerto Rico and was an advocate and leader of the movement for Puerto Rico's independence from Spain. An important figure in Puerto Rico's history, many things have been named in his honor - roadways, schools and his birth date as an official holiday. He was also known as father of the modern Puerto Rican poetry movement. The last six lines of his poem, Fuerzas Irrestibiles, are on the wall of the public community garden:

La idea es el vapor: vapor divino,
que invisible y potente, como el viento,
marcha seguro a su inmortal destino.

¿Quién osa detener su movimiento?
Si se alza una montaña en su camino,
abre un túnel y pasa el pensamiento!

The poem and bas relief speak to community solidarity in this neighborhood, which has a large Hispanic community and Puerto Rican heritage. The community garden, Bello Amanecer Borincano, was started in 1984 by Carmen Pabon (it was later partially bulldozed). Click here for photo. The location is at 119 Avenue C (in Alphabet City) which has the official alternate name - Loisaida Avenue - Loisaida is Spanglish for Lower East Side. The term was originally coined by poet and activist, Bittman "Bimbo" Rivas (1939-1992) in his 1974 poem "Loisaida." the renaming of Avenue C was a token of appreciation for his contributions to the Lower East Side, his home, and for his people ...

Photo note: I only noticed on close examination that the illustration's background is a replica of a Certificate of Naturalization of the United States of America. Click here for close-up.

Monday, 19 November 2007


Yesterday afternoon I was privileged to attend a public program at the Tribute World Trade Center with Guy Tozzoli and Philippe Petit entitled A Conversation About Bold Imagination. The program was held in a small cozy room with 75 or so attending - it had the feeling of an intimate family gathering. I had the sense that everyone there knew more about one or both of these men than would be typical ... The audience was mesmerized - I know I was. I have written before of Philippe - click here for the article and photo of a street show. Since writing this blog in the last one and a half years, I have become much more attentive to the words of others. Philippe is extraordinary - I have not seen anyone who speaks so poetically in an extemporaneous fashion. He told of his notorious walk between the Twin Towers on August 7, 1974 and how he planned this in secret over the course of 6 years. Philippe is a man of many talents - tight-rope walker, unicyclist, magician, juggler, pantomime artist, pickpocket, street juggler, writer, illustrator and speaker. At the time of Philippe's walk, Guy Tozzoli was the Director in charge of overseeing the creation and building of the two towers. His stories and anecdotes of the process of becoming director, meeting Philippe and dealing with his arrest were wonderful. He always comes across as a warm, positive human being. At the time prior to Philippe's walk, the towers were really seen in as monsters without soul - Philippe's act made them human. Guy is President of the World Trade Centers Association, an organization of nearly 300 world trade centers in almost 100 countries.
Philippe described his walk as an artistic crime - one that did not take from anyone, but was a gift. Many thoughts and feelings came to mind as I listened to these inspiring individuals and thought of the towers - but one word really jumped out and made titling this article so easy - Titans ...

Friday, 16 November 2007

Advertising Gone Wild

New York City has always been a place where commerce and advertising have been prominent in the landscape - Times Square is a good example. However, the combination of digital technology (with the ability to print enormous signs on vinyl) and the lure of advertising revenue has taken it to new heights with building walls in the city being blanketed by ad murals, not to mention advertising in a myriad of other variations - newsboxes, ads projected on streets etc. What the smug New Yorker always saw as a blighted feature of the suburbs, and believing that the sophisticated culture of NYC provided immunity from the same, has now become a prominent feature of the city. Commercial interests are relentless and tenacious, however, and keeping them in check requires, if I may borrow from the ACLU motto, eternal vigilance. Commerce usually wins - even in France, Apple Computer managed to hang Think Different banners, featuring Gustave Eiffel and Pablo Picasso, on the facade of the Louvre. The Gap ad in this photo hangs on Houston Street, a few blocks from The Wall, which I wrote about previously. Houston Street is ideal for this type of ad - the street is heavily trafficked and has many large building facades. What surprises me most is that in many cases these murals are placed over apartment windows, obstructing views and light (in some cases you see cutouts for the windows). But alas, the issue of billboards is not new. I ran across this article in the New York Times which I thought was recent: BILLBOARD COMMISSION ADVISES DRASTIC REFORMS; Fire Hazard Is Increased, Real Estate Values Depreciated, and the Beauty of the City Marred, It Reports, by Many of the Big Signs and Their Structures.
Date of article: 1914 ...

Related Postings: Big and Beautiful?, Manhattan Mural, The Wall

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Boyd Thai

Boyd is a tiny Thai restaurant at 210 Thompson Street in the center Village. After my meal there last night with a friend, I spoke to the owner, who was most cordial, and gave him my NYDP card. Owner/chef Boyd has had previous restaurant experience - he owned a restaurant in Thailand prior to coming to the US and has worked in Thai restaurants in NYC including the well-known, stylish Planet Thailand in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. In the last year I have been eating there, I have found the food consistently excellent and the staff to be attentive and friendly. Reviews in publications like MenuPages, Timeout New York, Yelp and New York Magazine are overwhelmingly positive. One thing that stands out about this place is the creative flair they bring to the menu offerings, going beyond the standard Thai fare with dishes like Chile Crusted Tuna with Grape Asparagus Curry, Tuna and Mango Salad or Roasted Duck with Avocado Orange Salad. I love the exotic spices and use of tropical fruits like papaya, mango, tamarind, lime, coconut, avocado, orange, pineapple and lychee. The cuisine is seafood oriented but there are plenty of Thai standards (like Pad Thai), curries and vegetarian entrees. There are also many nice small touches (like the dinnerware) all to uncommon in places in this price range - most inexpensive restaurants tend to treat dining in a very utilitarian manner. There are Early Bird specials before 7 PM - a full dinner with appetizers for only $9.95/$10.95. A real find ...

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

The Wall

The Wall in SOHO is one of the most well-known pieces of installation art in NYC. Its size, brilliant colors (turquoise aluminum beams on a lavender wall) and location at the intersection of two of the busiest major thoroughfares, Broadway and Houston Street, all give this piece enormous visibility. In reading for this article, I have found egregious errors, heinous omissions, misinterpretations and conflicting facts, typical in online sources. And in the case of long and complex sagas like the story of this wall, the situation worsens as people pick up a fact or two and fill in the blanks, extrapolating as they see fit. To add insult to injury, the misinformation is then copied. All that being said, it appears that The Wall was installed in 1973 by Forrest "Frosty" Myers. According to the New York Times: "The building at 599 Broadway was constructed in 1917. The building next door, No. 603, was razed in 1944 as Houston Street was widened. That building's abutting wall was anchored to 599 Broadway with 42 steel tie rods ending in 42 exposed channel braces. This architectural scar endured until 1972, when Mr. Myers was commissioned to undertake ''The Wall'' by Doris C. Freedman of City Walls, an organization that placed large-scale artworks on the blank facades of buildings. The project was welcomed by Charles J. Tanenbaum, who then owned 599 Broadway. Mr. Myers devised four-foot aluminum extrusions affixed with stainless-steel bolts to the channel braces, forming T-shaped projections from the wall plane. The background was painted blue-gray and the metal elements were green." In 1984, the building was converted to commercial condominiums. The artist has been battling the condominium since 1997. In 2002, the work was taken down for repairs to the building - damage was being done by water penetrating through the artwork. The condo also wanted to generate income via billboard advertising, estimated to be $600,000 per year and was not interested in reinstalling the art. The work sat in storage for 5 years until a compromise agreement was finally reached in 2007. You can read about it here. The newly reinstalled wall will now also be illuminated at night ...

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

No Local Color

What can be said about this obscure little private, one block alley which lies between Duane and Thomas Streets, parallel to Church Street and Broadway in lower Manhattan? Not much at all. Would I recommend visiting it? - no, not unless, like myself, you like to visit alleys. Are there any interesting tidbits or stories? - none that I could find. Trimble Place is very uninteresting, drab, with no outstanding features or businesses, very little history other than it was named in 1874 for George Trimble, a 19th century merchant, director of New York Hospital and an officer of the Public School Society. The most interesting things about the alley are the buildings that surround it like the controversial 52 story residential tower next door and the bizarre 550 foot, monolithic, windowless AT&T Long Lines Building at 33 Thomas Street. There are actually many small alleys like this in lower Manhattan - Mosco Street, Florence Place, Benson Street, Ryders Alley, Mill Lane, Mechanics Alley and Jersey Street - click here. And in the Village there are several which are residential and much more bucolic and historic in nature such as Grove Court, MacDougal Alley and Washington Mews. Unlike most of Manhattan, the mayhem of small streets and alleys in downtown owes to their establishment prior to the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 which established an orthogonal grid north of 14th Street. I find the very TRULY nondescript interesting just for that reason - it's not easy being that featureless. Like the tract housing of Levittown NY or luggage areas at the airport. But there is always hope that Trimble Place may have its day. Look at what happened to Seinfeld, a show reputedly about nothing ...

Monday, 12 November 2007

It Shines For All

Who can resist an antique bronze clock and thermometer with the slogan - The Sun It shines for All, mounted against a historic landmark white marble building, on Broadway with the Woolworth Building as backdrop? Images of old New York and the romance of days past flood my mind with a vista like this one. Click here for photo showing the thermometer. The 7-story building is located at 280 Broadway at Chambers Street near City Hall. The white marble Italian palace was originally erected in 1846 as the A.T. Stewart Dry Goods Store - America's first department store. This grand palace of commerce was quite dazzling at the time. The structure is of major historic architectural significance - it is one of the first Italianate commercial buildings in the United States. In 1917, it was taken over by the New York Sun. The bronze clock and thermometer were added in 1930. The Sun occupied the building until 1950; in 1970 it was taken over by the City of New York. Sadly, the building remained in shabby condition for many, many years and the clock itself stopped functioning in 1967, was repaired, stopped working in 1987 and was repaired again. The building was renovated during the Giuliani administraton. Now the sun, clock, thermometer and building shine for all ...

Sunday, 11 November 2007

Bird Country

Regular readers of this site are aware of the spots of country I have featured, particularly the numerous community gardens. I, like many other New Yorkers, look for pieces and reminders of the country for any number of reasons - evidence of seasonal change is one of them. It is easy to go through seasons in the city with little to mark them except temperature and changing light. But to witness the other changes nature has to offer - leaves turning color, migratory birds, etc. - requires more work and looking in special places like gardens and parks. In seeking out the natural in the city, one frequently discovers surprises like grapes growing on vines in the center of the Village, red-tailed hawks eating their prey, butterflies, waterfalls, spectacular sunsets (click here for Manhattanhenge), a Time Landscape, a microclimate in Garden at Saint Lukes, turtles, squirrels and birds. New York City is actually one of the most important bird areas on the East coast - it lies along the Atlantic Flyway and draws numerous species from places as far away as Patagonia and Greenland each spring and fall, which is why Central Park is a great area for bird watching. This birdhouse was in the LaGuardia Corner Gardens in a tree laden with apples (I have picked many here when it is open). I can see a new city festival - New York Is Bird Country ...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Front Street

Front Street is part of the Historic Cobble Stone District in South Street Seaport. The area has been renovated, gentrified and developed (by the Rouse company) - I discuss the cloned look with other areas of the country in my posting on South Street - click here. The original architecture, however, has been preserved as you can see by the signage on the buildings in the photo above left. A walk down any of the streets is rewarding and the area's history can still be felt.

I like the quote from Moby Dick which is inscribed on a placard on Front Street. It captures the spirit of New York City at a time and in a place where its true nautical nature must have been preeminent:

"Circumambulate the city of a dreamy Sabbath afternoon. Go from Corlears Hook to Coenties Slip, and from thence, by Whitehall, northward. What do you see?- Posted like silent sentinels all around the town, stand thousands upon thousands of mortal men fixed in ocean reveries. Some leaning against the spiles; some seated upon the pier-heads; some looking over the bulwarks of ships from China; some high aloft in the rigging, as if striving to get a still better seaward peep."

I have done several postings on aspects of this neighborhood. Click on any of the following links: South Street Seaport, Belle de Jour, Dead to the World, Fishbridge Garden, Spiegeltent.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Fashion Forward

I thought you might like an update on my close encounters with the other kind. Some of you may recall the posting I did Out There which got quite a response (click here). I have since met the mystery man - André, who always seems to be outrageously dressed - that's him on the left sporting a new outfit. I see him regularly in the neighborhood and we always say hi - he is most cordial. On my first meeting after the posting I did, I introduced myself, gave him my card, told him that he had been featured on this site and that I had entitled it "Out There", saying bluntly but in a complimentary tone: "you have to admit - you are rather out there." Friends cringed when I told them about my remark, but he was pleased to have been featured and his response was quite positive (as I expected): "I like to think of myself as Fashion Forward." I love that. Most recently I saw him in the most outrageous, fanciful outfit - glittering, futuristic style - unfortunately I did not capture it on camera. The other person on the right photo I found very smartly dressed. I met him in Tompkins Square Park. I have posted on a number of individuals who, let's say, are rather unconventional and exhibitionistic, most notably Spike and Narcissism Gone Wild. Of course, some may consider these people rather tame in the world of body alteration: tattooing, piercing, branding, scarification, subdermal implants, and even cornea tattooing. Katzen the Tiger Lady, e.g. has full body tattoos resembling that of a tiger with whiskers attached via piercings on her face (I have met her and have photos of the two of us). She was once married to The Enigma, a sideshow performer who has had extensive body modification, including horn implants and a full-body jigsaw-puzzle tattoo ...

Posts of the Unusual. Click on any of the following 7 links: Out There, Spike, Narcissism Gone Wild, Spring Madness, Superheroes, Snake Charmer and Circus Amok

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Garden in Transit

When I first started seeing cabs with these floral patterns, I assumed that it was some sort of trend that drivers and the public would soon regret with the art deteriorating over time and the subsequent shabby looks and bad repainting jobs. I was relieved to find out that the decorations are stickers and can be easily removed. Apparently taxi drivers as well as the public share confusion as to the meaning of the flowers - many (incorrect) rumors have been circulating. Garden in Transit is a privately financed $5 million art, education and creative therapy project as part of TAXI 07, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first metered taxicab in NYC. 23,000 children in schools and hospitals - in addition to many adult volunteers - have painted 80,000 flowers on 750,000 square feet of adhesive panels. The project is sponsored by the community art organization Portraits of Hope, founded by Bernard and Ed Massey. It was 7 years in the making (first conceived and proposed to the city in 2000) and approved by the Taxi and Limousine Commission in 2006 - the Mayor's press release and formal announcement was made July 18, 2006. Garden of Transit workers approach cab drivers at night at their various haunts - diners, Kennedy Airport etc. and persuade them to participate. The decals are installed on the spot for free. The moving exhibition is for four months - September through December 31, 2007. After that, it is up to drivers/owners to remove the decals when and if they choose ...

Technical Note: The material used was MACtac IMAGin® B-Free vinyl with a patent-pending bubble-free air egress adhesive. This sophisticated material is frequently used for vehicle wraps and other surfaces with complex curves.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


It's always a pleasant surprise to do research for an article not knowing what to expect and find that there is a really interesting story behind something that on first glance appeared to be relatively ordinary. You could argue that one can find something of interest in everything and that a great writer can make perspiration riveting, but I think ordinary mortals would agree that some things are just inherently more interesting than others. Like teany. Teany is a beverage company - many who live in the NYC area are probably familiar with their tea/juice products, as they are widely distributed in the New York, New Jersey area. Teany is also a small tea house and restaurant, shown in the photo, at 90 Rivington Street on the Lower East Side. The company was started in 2002 by Kelly Tisdale and the musician Moby (they were boyfriend/girlfriend at the time). The shop offers 98 varieties of loose tea and vegan food (Kelly is vegetarian, Moby is vegan). Moby, who started his recording career as a techno artist, has a certain mystique and cultish following. It reminds me of the aura around David Bowie, who, coincidentally, lived across the street from Moby in Little Italy for a decade. Moby (Richard Melville Hall) was born in Harlem and brought up in Darien, CT - a startling contrast, with Darien and the neighboring communities of Connecticut being some of the wealthiest in the country. Never surprising when a life of privilege leads to rebellion - Moby was in a hardcore punk band in the early 1980s called the Vatican Commandos. Read Moby's bio on his website here. His name, btw, was a nickname given to him by his parents, referencing the novel Moby Dick, written by Herman Melville, his great-great-great-great uncle. Rumors of the closing of the tea shop in 2006 turned out to be untrue. There was, however a business change with a focus more on teas and less on food and Kelly taking full ownership of the company ...

Note about the company name: The company proclaims that "you can pronounce it however you like. tea-knee. tee-nee. tea-enn-why," and that Moby and Kelly themselves pronounce it "teenie," because they are "small," both in stature and in status.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007


Three rough rides on the sea let me know I was a landlubber. At one time, I had thought that sailing as a hobby would be something I might pursue. The romance of the sea as conveyed via books, photos, films, smells, the beach, vistas of and from the ocean - everything about the sea is compelling to me, except the experience of actually being on the water. I was going to qualify that by adding "especially when it's rough", but at this point, apprehension of seasickness and its extremely unpleasant queasiness gives me cause me to approach every nautical trip with trepidation. Of course, the world abounds with suggestions for prevention and cure but once you have motion sickness,suggestions of the well-intended around you just add insult to injury. I have been OK, however, on ferry and riverboat rides around the city. Distraction can be helpful and the vistas around the island of Manhattan are spectacular enough to keep one's mind off any pitch, roll or yaw. This photo was taken of lower Manhattan from a river boat. The highly reflective, rounded building just left of center in the photo is 17 State Street, about which I have previously posted - click here. I love the quote from a story by Isaac Asimov. In it there is an anecdote about a seasick passenger whom a steward assures "nobody ever dies from seasickness." The passenger responds "For Heaven's sake, don't say that. It's only the hope of dying that's keeping me alive.'"

A note about the word landlubber - I misunderstood the derivation of this word, thinking the word lubber a play on lover. Lubber dates back to the 1300s and means a clumsy person. Landlubber dates back to 1690 and refers to an unseasoned sailor or someone unfamiliar with the sea and is a sailor's term of contempt for a landsman. I'm OK with the insult :)

Monday, 5 November 2007

Magic Mountain

The American International Building is located in the financial district at 70 Pine Street. At a quick glance, one might mistake it for something like the Empire State Building. This beautiful structure with its gothic spire abounds with art deco details yet is relatively unknown - surprising isn't it? One of the reasons is that it is difficult to really see from the canyons of the densely packed buildings in this area of Manhattan. The building is best appreciated from afar as in this photo which I took from the South Street Seaport area. It is famous for its motif of a snow capped mountain - the base of the building is clad in granite while the upper portion, clad in limestone, becomes lighter in color until one reaches the very top, where it is white. There are limestone replicas of the building carved on the central columns at the entrances. The area is also not generally frequented by visitors or residents except for Ground Zero, South Street and the ferries to Staten Island, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island - destinations which are typically visited and left without exploring the neighborhood. Admittedly is essentially a business district (dead on weekends) and will primarily appeal to architecture fans. The building itself was built for the Cities Service Company in 1930-32 - the same time period of the construction of the Chrysler and Empire State buildings. At 952 feet, it was the tallest building downtown until the construction of the World Trade Center towers in the early 1970s. Since 911, it is again the tallest building downtown, the fifth tallest in NYC and 14th in the US. The building has been used in many films e.g. Spider-Man, The Gangs of New York and Independence Day. The building is now owned by an insurance company - the American International Group. At one time is was known as The 60 Wall Tower - there was a bridge at the 15th floor connecting it to a building at 60 Wall St (demolished when City Services vacated) - you can see lighter bricks where this bridge once was. There is an observatory at the top, unfortunately now closed to the general public but open to executives at lunch. Now that's a nice perk ...

Sunday, 4 November 2007


Today is the New York City Marathon, a race which has become the largest in the world with 38,000 running and one of the most prestigious. It's amazing to see such an event in NYC - the race takes place in all five boroughs with major arteries closed off for the runners and 2 million spectators. The race starts in Staten Island at the base of the Verrazano Bridge, continues over the bridge, through Brooklyn into Queens, over the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan, up First Avenue, entering the Bronx briefly, then back into Manhattan down Fifth Avenue, finishing in Central Park. I am watching the finish of the men's and women's divisions as I write this. Paula Radlciffe of Britain won the woman's - she has never lost a marathon. The men's has been won by Martin Lel of Kenya ...

Photo note: This photo is courtesy of Lucy who originally started the blog with me in March, 2006. She ventured out this morning to 4th Avenue Brooklyn.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Village Halloween Parade 2007 # 2

Make sure to click on the photo to enlarge!

Friday, 2 November 2007

Village Halloween Parade 2007

I've chosen a small, somewhat representative collection of photos from the Village Halloween Parade (click on the photo to enlarge). The whole experience was overwhelming with an estimated 2 million people attending! I will be putting up a gallery of over 200 photos from the parade in the next few days. Check back on this posting and I will update with a link to the gallery. Many of the parade details, history, attendance etc. were covered in detail in last year's posting with a photo gallery. Click here for that posting and click here for the gallery of photos ...

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Village Parade 2007 Preview

Last night I attended the annual Village Halloween Parade - the weather was perfect and the turnout phenomenal. The number of attendees (1 million) and congestion is unimaginable and going in as a photographer with a press pass (as I did) or as a marcher is the only way I would consider it at this point. I have spectated from the barricades many years before - streets are blocked off, pedestrians are directed, restricted, hoarded with the spectators piled many persons deep. It's hard to get decent viewing without getting there 1.5 hours in advance for a front row position against the barricades. In the next couple of days I will post again on the parade - featuring photos and posting a collection of the best on a supplementary site as I did last year. But first, I have to sift through the 540 photos I took ...