Sunday morning around 8 am, listening to Gene Harris, looking at the patio door, condensation coats the outside, droplets race down from the top in jagged silver streaks. Left over coffee fills the air layered with cinnamon, drizzled honey traverses one toasted gold round waffle on a cool white square plate.
Meantime, Hurricane Harvey batters the shores of Texas, mumbling newscasters in the background as the devastating images play unwatched. I reach inside to find the channel from which calm and crazy pours out. Words and stories, bits and pieces jumble in my mind, to form hooks for my imagination to snag on.
A little dark-eyed blonde girl kisses her palm and sits pensive, as a giant pink bow pinned to the side of her head forces it to tilt. She stares into the distance thinking about her future, anxious with internal conflicts.
Should she be a gymnast or a doctor? Should she feel guilty about loving her parents differently? She can’t decide how she feels about her new-born brother taking all the attention that she once owned exclusively.
The seductive scent of sweet stretching webs of cotton candy fills her nose as she forgets everything she’s thought about and leaves in search of the pink confection.
Beethoven comes on next. Love is defined by having the same style cell phones, and reading texts simultaneously while standing close, like strangers not talking.
Elsewhere, an older woman who chose to not care for others watches with disdain as a family sitting next to her resolves a conflict between sisters. One sister wants to stay, one sister wants to go, the father checks sports scores on his phone and the mom hugs her crying daughter wondering how she got to this place.
The sky grew dark and the wind began to howl. A loud crack of thunder and rain poured down to patter on tin overhangs. People of every shape, size, and color race to shelter while others remain calm and keep walking. People pushing strollers run along side those pushing wheelchairs.
Crowds appear spontaneously covered with wet ponchos. Fashion demand shifts to Saran Wrap stylings in colors with hoods, from obese gangs of fathers in big bellied shirts, and sagging senoritas jiggling in culottes and cutoffs.
The streets become shimmering mirrors of dark shadows dancing with light splash reflections of overcast skies. When one squints, the humans disappear and only wispy white ghosts can be seen running in wet Converse.
Elsewhere, at another time, in another place, others also walk, but for them, it’s in the sunshine. Some ride in a different direction than the crowd. Some wear shoes while others remain in pajama pants and socks. Some walk alone while others are lucky enough to have someone else to help and watch out for.
As Ray Brown takes the A train, the Empire State Building rises in the distance to compete as the sharpest point scraping the sky against puny pointy posts and puffy parallel poles.
Down on the ground, among the masses, each individual stands out in their own unique way. And in so doing, makes them all the same as each other. One runs, one walks, one shoots, and even the signs resemble the unilateral crowd as it shouts, “one way”.
It’s 3:00 P.M. on a Saturday afternoon and a nap simply must be had. Ingenuity takes over, a couple of milk cartons and a baseball cap later, a hyperbaric chamber is formed enabling the sleep deprived, to alcoholically or narcotically drift off, magically guarded against any sensory input.
On another street, a fellow napper feels the snooze coming on and lays down his crutches to grab slumber by a stoop. Perhaps it’s the wearing of the baseball cap that makes them sleepy… or perhaps the sidewalk is a lot more comfortable than we all realize.
Elsewhere and in other places, sun bathing nymphs attracting unwanted attention are sprawled out practically naked in a public park.
One practices her feminine wiles with a round of ancient slow sensuous back arching. Another flexes her intellect with foreign literature. The third attempts the “no seduction at all” performance, by allowing the simplicity of a bouncing blonde pony tail against a black bikini back, to do all the talking.
Together, everyone is alone doing their own thing; it’s what makes them/us all alike. While some just bring a dog or a book to the park, others bring their piano and gift the bench sitters with tickled ivories and Metropolitan melodies.
As the music plays, the famous pigeon man of Washington Square Park continues caring for his flying feathered friends.
Somewhere along the way I learned that determining I had a deja vu moment, was evidence that I was in the right place at the right time, regardless of how wrong some moments might seem.
Saturday was one of those days. Sensing a strange feeling of euphoria, we headed to The Missing Room, catching all the lights just right along the way, changing lanes at just the right time, driving at the same rate of travel as everyone else on the street. Arriving perfectly on time.
Later that day, we closed the store promptly at 2pm, and cruised down Central Ave. to visit some of the funky antique and vintage stores busting with gently used possessions formerly owned by others. Got the perfect parking spot on the best block. Entered stores precisely as others were leaving at exactly the same time, perfectly choreographed to catch the door.
In need of sustenance around late afternoon, we stopped for sugar-free, gluten-free, dairy free chocolate gelato. A car pulled out of the best parking spot just as we arrived in perfect harmony with the day. We walked, stopped to inquire about real estate that we couldn’t afford, conversing with a realtor whose face was pulled very tight, apparently too much Botox we thought.
Once at the ice cream place, we were served immediately, two people got up from a table just as we were ready to sit. Slurped it down and started to walk. We walked this way not that. We were heading for there not here. We walked at this pace not that.
And at the same moment that we arrived on this street a couple of blocks away, right by the bay, a parade of bicycles suddenly rolled upon us.
And as spontaneously as it occurred, it ended. We walked along the shore, similar to how a sailboat could drift where the wind blows it.
And near the marina, by the dock, I saw a huge pearl necklace floating in the water. I imagined that some very large fish was hiding it here till they would gift it to their mate on Valentines day. How a-fish-ient I thought.
Further down the street people were standing and walking. A woman in socks and sandals was shouting, “who wants to get Lays? Lay’s Potato Chips… come and get’m”. As everyone looked on and wondered if she was able to do that.
A few steps further down the road I caught Santa Claus off-duty catching some rays and having a cocktail. I always wondered where he vacationed in the off-season, and there he was getting what looked like a pretty nasty sunburn.
As we headed back to the car, we saw three women in amazingly colorful dresses, led by a man with a wrinkled shirt. Clearly he was the husband and they were his wives following dutifully. He had a tall skinny one, a short skinny one, and one not so skinny in between.
Later that day, we went out for dinner. I wanted to end the day as magically and with as much serendipity as it began. We arrived at the outdoor deck, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, ready to eat. Believe it or not, no one got up and left their table in exact coordination with our arrival!
I looked over and saw the best table for two, where two other people had just finished their soup and looked like they were ready to leave. In an effort to assist the positive ethers along a bit, I went up to the couple and asked how the food was and if they were done.
They said the were finished and that everything was delicious. I then offered to pay their check if we could have their table right then, right there. They asked me if I was sure, thinking to myself, how much could two bowls of soup cost.
They promptly left, and in a goofy, cocky way, we took over the table while the rest of the waiting crowd watched in disbelief. As soon as we sat down, the waitress brought over their check. Expecting to see a small check for two bowls of soup, to my chagrin I saw a huge check for the whole afternoon that they had been sitting there drinking. Apparently the glasses and dishes had been removed from the table before I got there, when I first hatched my scheme.
As I reluctantly pulled out my credit card from my wallet, to pay for someone else’s beach party, I kept looking around for that feeling of deja vu, like wondering how this was the place I was supposed be at. But nothing was coming to me.
Then I realized that, that nice young couple who walked away with a free dinner… was probably telling their friends the story about how amazing their luck was, and how they must have had to be in exactly the right place at the right time for that to happen.
I didn’t really want to go, I’m not really that into politics. I figured I might get a few good pictures out of it, and that’s all it really takes to motivate me these days. “Hey Barry, wanna shoot this college graduation?”, me: “nah…it’s not my thing, I’m a Street Photographer.” them: “oh yeah? well you might get a few good pictures out of it…” me:awww… okay I guess…”
So going to my local women’s march this past Saturday was nothing political to me, it was just a chance to get a few good pictures. But something happened while I was there. The anguish of the people affected me. Their need to express themselves was overwhelming. Their fears about tomorrow, mixed with the resurrection of hippie objections, exploded into a global love fest where lost souls could comfort themselves.
I just walked around and caught as much as I could. I admit I broke down crying a couple of times from being among so many people worried about the future. The power of the masses mobilized in protest was an inspiring sight and an empowering event.
This message of “… don’t fuck with our freedoms won, because there are more of us than you…” was so powerful that all I could do is document what these people needed to have happen now. Document a little piece of what was going on all around the world on that day.
For some it was a party. A reason to meet for breakfast and a destination to go to afterwards on a beautiful sunny Saturday. For others it was a venue to remind the pollyanna public that some bad shit went down this past year…
I know this sounds a little weird, but my camera sort of had a mind of its own, capturing images in weird ways, with weird settings and odd displays. Part barbecue, part outdoor shopping mall, part stroll at the marina, and part protest, the masses gathered.
I saw this beautiful family entering the park where the protesters gathered before they marched. A serious family with a serious sign about how Black Lives Matter… entered just as I was there… then I heard them say, :…it’s still early yet… why don’t we go out for breakfast…” and they promptly tucked their sign under their arm, turned around and went in search of coffee…
Even the most rebellious of braless women needed to take pause with her protest in order to check her texts…
Older ladies from times gone by remembered the joy of flower power, and relished the opportunity to come out and play again. But at the same time reeked of the absurdity as they wondered why they need to do this again. Wasn’t this settled? Didn’t we make progress and move on since then?
Sure, there are lots of retired old hippies down in Florida. Though the statistics wiggle a little here and there, the general gist is that 10,000 baby boomers enter retirement everyday… and will continue to do so for the next 20 years.
At the same time new families are being made with new moms and dads worrying about the same things their parents fought for so many years ago.
And the part party, part protest continued as groups of old gals gathered on a bench to talk about things new and things old.
Classic Rock and Helen Reddy lyrics find new relevance at the protest picnic.
Occasionally I’d see a sign or a protester that would gut me. Grandmas marching for their grand-babies. White gals preaching the words of the Reverend Martin Luther King. All while wearing funny hats and shielding their faces from sun burn.
Mothers teaching their daughters to stand up for their rights made me cry. On one hand why should they have to do that. On the other hand the privileges of our freedom should never be something that one feels they are entitled to. If not nurtured, if not kept vital, it will atrophy and wither away.
The day reminded me to thank our villains and nemesis, for with out their provocation we will lose our edge, forget our drive, and roll over and enslave ourselves in exchange for someone rubbing our belly or scratching us behind the ear.
It was a good day. An intense day, but a good one. And yeah, I got a few good shots. But the exposure to the mob reminded me that even though power corrupts absolutely, a mighty crowd will mobilize in an instant in opposition, unless their voices are heard.
Last night I took my dog for a walk. She usually goes out twice at night. Once before dinner, a quick walk. Then a second time after dinner when she patrols the edges of our community, a much longer walk. It gets dark earlier now and it is a bit more treacherous out as vision is significantly reduced.
I’ve gotten into the habit when walking my dog, to always look down. She likes to do her business where other dogs have done theirs. Last night, while on the second long walk, routinely looking down to avoid the slippery stink of dogs gone by, I walked right into a huge wooden door, precariously hanging out the back of a pickup truck, backed up to grassy trail where everyone walks their dog.
Yep, you heard right, it was dark, I was looking down instead of looking where I was going and WHAM! I walked behind a truck that was parked… it had a huge wooden door sticking out the truck bed by about 2 feet and I walked right into it.
It made me wonder how often we journey with head down, in avoidance of old shit, only to get smacked right in the face, from not seeing where we’re going. Would you rather step in it… or would you rather get whacked in the face from whats coming at you?
And as quickly as this flash of philosophical genius appeared, it disappeared, and was replaced with my obvious idiocy; I was just happy no one saw me walking my dog in the dark as I bumped into that huge thing.
A couple of months back, lots of people were happy to be seen by as many as possible, as they dressed up their dogs for Halloween. Everyone was looking down at their pooch, with no notice of potential doors about to whack them.
Occasionally, some hot dogs were busy looking up at their human, not paying any attention to where they were going.
Some people are just so busy, and so consumed with themselves, that they are oblivious to a super dog offering to save the world on command.
Elsewhere, slobbering, merled, bulldogs dress up in fabric saddles so tiny cowboy dolls can ride them. Naturally, a beagle pulls in demanding to sniff that saddled sassy hound. Leashes everywhere. Such an odd strap of control.
A faithful labrador sits, pants, and takes no offense to its person grooming herself behind dark shades.
See Spot read. She sits and stays because the command says so. I wonder how long she will obey.
All around are others of our species dressed up in colorful outfits in order to see and be seen.
Others have Pokemon fever and see nothing, go nowhere and repeatedly tap their finger tip against personal handheld glass monitors.
Tropical bikers ride past on sparkling tricycles wearing bandanas and bikinis. All around our tiny planet, incalculable activities are going on all at the same time.
Just on a hunch I wondered how many people walked into things at night while walking their dogs in the dark , and Googled “people who walk into things” and discovered that it is way more common than I thought. I guess I feel a lot less philosophical and better knowing I’m just like everyone else… actually better than most.
Have a safe holiday out there… and by all means… watch where you’re going!
A long time ago in a place far, far away, my most excellent friend Katy said to me, “Barry, so many words, so many pictures, you should start incorporating your pictures and words into videos or slide shows so we can get in and out of your blog faster.”
During a visit to Chicago I had a chance to walk the streets and snap some folks. Please enjoy my first slide show from a selection of street scenes taken walking around on a Monday. I shot lots of great buildings and did the 360° tourist thing on the top of the Hancock Building.
The most significant repeated image was of the homeless; at least where I was walking they were there. And of course I was very interested in the typography on all their signs. How do they know when to use all caps for a title? Or even the use of decorative fonts… or even humor when soliciting funds seem to be a frequently occurring theme.
Anyway…take a peek and please tell me what you think.
Press play and make it full screen. Thanks Katy!
And my most excellent friend Laurie requested the individual photos so she can dine on them at her own delicious leisure. Here ya go Laurie.
A long time ago during one of many hunts for the elusive Manhattan Sky Lion, I found myself on Wall Street, and in the distance I saw a single stylized lion-head sculpture, mounted high on the side of building.
From blocks away I steadied my zoom and captured her. In front of that distant wall, grew a construction site where an even taller building would soon be erected, covering up that rare lion forever. Now it was mine, an image that I saw, a view others will never see again unless I chose to show it to them.
Later that day at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, my daughter and I put the final touches on ourselves before heading downstairs to attend a relative’s wedding. As she prepared, she lifted up her hair and on the back of her neck flashed a tattoo of a sensuous stylized heart.
At a completely different and unrelated time, inside Kennedy Airport, my other daughter, arrived home from Israel, and after greeting her affectionately, she lifts up the back of her shirt to show me her brand new brand, a simultaneous allegiance and challenge to our tribal traditions, touting a Star of David proudly emblazoned on the flat canvas at the base of her spine.
Throughout my life, countless friends and companions dazzled me with epidural delights, from celtic symbols on feet, long feathered peacocks on hips balanced by fluttering hummingbirds above breasts, roaring boned barn fires burning up from the butt, and endless ink in private places, designed to seduce, remember, affiliate, tell a story, express artistic freedom, and control the visual packaging of one’s body.
As for me, I still have not found my skin graphic that permanently shouts how I will always feel, what I will always want to say, a memory of the past that won’t depress me, or any mark without a reason that I will identify with forever more.
Flash forward to this past weekend, there was a tattoo convention in town. I resisted going because the light is so much better outside for shooting. However, it was so hot on this Sunday, that I retreated to the air-conditioned venue for cooler inspiration.
I marched the aisles with my 85mm looking for unusual dark perspectives and non-staged spot lit poses. What I found was an odd mix of folks who love to put tattoos on those who love to get tattoos. Beyond the buzzing sound of dozens of vibrating needles, was the din of calm and quiet, as the dance of intimacy between art and flesh went all Rock N’ Roll.
Across the floor, bodies were contorted to expose just the right angle to get lit and stamped. Serious artists donning surgical gloves signed skin and colored characters on legs, thighs, shoulders, rears and everything in between.
For some it is an addiction of guilt and pleasure. For others its just a transaction in exchange for plain ole pain, as sharp needles carrying indelible ink piercing the skin. I walked and watched with amazement as common individuals transformed themselves to extraordinary masterpieces.
Also, the procedure of coloring on a person is usually carried out in private, or in the smokey shop near a bar, dock or gritty avenue. On this day, everyone was out in the public view which really is the essence of a tattoo. For why would one get a tattoo if it would not eventually be seen by others, unless just admired privately by the bearer.
I was consumed with the concentration on the faces of the artists, aimed at the complete submission by the bodies of work. It was hard to tell who was being honored more; the crafts-person leaving their mark, or the signed human who would carry the art for the rest of their days.
Forlorn faces worn by those who have passed, movie stars striking a pose, and wild animals ready to pounce, appeared on anatomy like a montage of aspirations, inspirations and fond memories. Sure there was the usual barbed wire arm cuffs, and Polynesian plume on puffy shoulders, but mostly there was the essence of people being changed, by the ones making the change happen.
Occasionally as I stole a photo here and there, an artist would leer at me, unable to give chase for the ink would dry.
Other times, the painted on patrons would stare, as I made permanent in my camera, the expression of their surrender.
Throughout the convention hall there were faces and bodies of every shape and size. I imagined for some the exterior package of their vessel was not consistent with how they would like to see themselves, or saw themselves from the inside.
Me and my camera put the eye in ink. I wondered about the artists getting their nose up close to someones ass in order to dot out a fragrant flower. There was a woman with her chest revealed to the world like the Grand Teton, in order to get tagged from just the right angle; nobody noticed, nobody cared… it was just flesh meet ink.
When my friends heard that I had shot the convention, of course they wondered if I had found an image suitable to be my mark for ever and ever. Disappointed they were to hear that I walked out just as unmarked and lily-white as when I walked in.
I thought about many things though. I thought about contacting some major sponsors and soliciting some form of payment from them if I was to wear their logo for the rest of my life. Shouldn’t Apple Computers pay me if I had their trademark on my forearm? Or shouldn’t Intel pay me for showing the world that Intel was inside me?
I wondered if in the future, instead of delivering ink just under the skin, if it would be possible to insert inert wireless pixels that could be organized in an array and activated from a website offering a collection of images to choose from. This way people could go out wearing permanent tattoos of their choosing, just for the night.
And as their beliefs and commitments change, so could their body billboard. Hell, people could sell sponsorship space on their bodies, like Nascar profits from a logo on a fender, or a tennis player with hat.
I suppose if I had to get one, I would choose the one that chose me. A glimpse of that lion head on the side of that building on Wall Street; something that I own that no one will ever see again unless I choose to show it to them.
Sometimes watching the news can be a bit much. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t read. We choose what we want to think about. Sometimes I turn the volume way down and step away from the distant dreary drone of death and disaster in lieu of sinking deep into the cushy love affectionately offered by the couch waiting to embrace me.
When I choose to think about summertime, I think about beautiful women revealing their all, on beaches made for healing one’s soul. I think about feeling the sun toasting my skin as the cool breeze puffs me like a thick soft towel made from Poseidon’s breath.
That applause of clapping palm trees muffled by crashing tide, and the occasional soft gust whispers right in my ear. I close my eyes to better imagine the waves crashing in and out, in and out, and feel the hair on my arm dance with the damp wind.
Deep in through my nose the whiff of salt fishy coconut settles my mind and I drift off like a gliding seagull lifting and falling against the breeze…
A surfer dude sports a man bun atop his head as he walks the beach along his son the protegé. The dad turns away for a second to pick up some trash on the beach left by those less conscious of the beauty we’re all responsible for. The surfer stands back up to deliver a do-not-litter lesson to his son, and the small child is gone.
The frantic father looks all over the immediate area of the disappearance but the boy is nowhere in sight. Hysterically he retraces his steps trying to think where he went wrong or what could have happened. He steps out on the street and yells to a biker passing by, “… have you seen my son? he’s gone…”
The biker takes his hands off the handlebars and looks around, then yells back. “No man, I haven’t seen him but did you hear about the coup in Turkey?”
The frantic father runs through the streets calling for his son but no one turns, no one helps, no one hears his cries. He jumps into a museum for help, “… excuse me, but I have lost my son. He’s a small boy with a wet suit on just like the one I’m wearing. Have you seen him?…
The ladies at the reception area look at each other and then turn back to him, “… no we haven’t seen him but did you hear about the truck driver who was shooting as he plowed into a huge crowd in France and killed over 80 people!?”
Realizing the ladies were of no help, the desperate dad ran through the museum in case his son had wandered in. On the second floor he found some ladies looking out from a balcony. “… excuse me ladies… have you seen my son… I’ve lost him and I’m terribly worried…”
The ladies turned toward the fallen father and replied, “… no we haven’t seen your son, but did you hear that Donald Trump just chose a running mate, and he’s supposedly worse than Trump. Together, the two of them are going to repeal abortion and take away women’s choice over their own body!”
Then the three ladies just turned back toward the sky and continued their discussion about the Bravo show Million Dollar Listing of New York, and debated what the next step would be for Luis Ortiz, the cute latin realtor who decided to quit real estate for good.
The panic-stricken papa ran out of the museum distracted and delirious. Out in the street he saw a woman carrying a boy and the frenzied father yelled out to her as he ran past. “… excuse me ma’am have you seen my boy… I lost him at the beach… he looks just like me… he’s wearing a little wet suit…”
The woman replied ,“…I haven’t seen your son but you can have my little monster… I’m tired of taking him to the emergency room, I was just going to leave him behind a dumpster…I got to get rid of him… he makes my boyfriend drink too much, and beat him, and I need to keep my man happy so he keeps paying the rent…”
The frantic father ran away furious, determined to find his son…
Down the road a piece, the distraught dad came upon three men on bicycles. “Excuse me gents, I’ve lost my son and I’m going berserk trying to find him. Have you seen a little boy in a wet suit?”
The three men looked at the panic-stricken big man standing in the wetsuit, then turned back to the bicyclist in the middle who spoke, “… no man, we haven’t seen him, but did you hear about the cops that were shot by a sniper in Dallas? Five were killed and like 10 or 11 shot or injured…”
The surfer dude shook his head and looked down in despair, but continued his search…
Desperate, the father ran back to the beach thinking his son couldn’t have gone far without being noticed. The dad remembered talking to the boy about situations he may find himself in… and what to do if the boy was in those situations.
Beside himself and in a fit of fury the surfer dude cruised up the beach searching tirelessly. He passed by a couple of people in a tent with their dogs and yelled out to them. “Excuse me… but have you seen my son? He’s a little surfer dude… looks just like me… and he wandered off… have you seen him?”
The dogs started barking as the surfer shouted his raving request. The woman in the tent yelled back over the barking dogs, “no man… we haven’t seen your kid… but did you hear about the massacre at the gay dance club in Orlando, Florida? Like over 50 people were killed! They’re saying it’s like the biggest mass murder in American History… right after the Wounded Knee Massacre, the shooting in Bath, Michigan, the massacre on the Virginia Tech Campus, Sandy Hook, and all those other atrocities where people went postal!”
In shock, the man thanked the woman and continued his search…
The surfer dude shuffled on the beach trying to remember what he told his son in the story. He thought he said something like, if you ever get lost on the beach, look for the man or woman sitting in the giant chair. Tell them you’re lost… and they’ll help you find your way back to me…
In the distance the surfer dude saw the giant chair where a life guard was standing waving both his arms over his head. The surfer dude started to run to the chair. On the way he passed other surfer dudes who were all alone, except for their boards.
Running to the big chair, the surfer dude passed a strange man standing on the beach. For a second he thought that he was a bad man, waiting for unsuspecting parents to take their eyes off their kid for just a half-second… and he would swoop in and steal those kids.
But the surfer dude quickly dismissed the villain, knowing in his gut that his boy was at the foot of the big chair waiting for him.
Sure enough he was there. “Dad, I did what you taught me… I lost you, I didn’t panic, I looked for the giant chair and waited for you there. Where have you been… I was waiting so long…?”
The surfer dude picked up his little man and told him of his adventures while looking for him. He told the boy that no matter what horrible thing was going on in the world, nothing was more important to him than finding his son and he swore he’d never lose him again.
Just then a crack of thunder woke me up. I squeezed the sleep out of my eyes and realized I had fallen asleep on the couch with the news running on TV in the background.
Sometimes watching the news can be a bit much. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t read. We choose what we want to think about. Sometimes I turn the volume way down and step away from the distant dreary drone of death and disaster in lieu of sinking deep into the cushy love affectionately offered by the couch waiting to embrace me.
It’s time for a new car. My lease is up and I’m looking at the continuous showroom that patrols every road. Obviously the Cadillac Escalade Pickup has everything anyone could want for $72k. The prestige of a Cadillac, the size and utility of the SUV, including the convenience of a pickup truck.
Unwilling to pay that much for a depreciating investment, I resort to the envy of shiny new BMWs, economical shiny new Hondas, aspirational shiny new Infinities, juicy muscular shiny new Subarus, ridiculously cheap shiny new VWs, and the shiny new non-conforming Mazda 9.
While driving and dreaming of my next container, I wondered how much of a new car decision is based on the way we want to be seen while driving the car. Do we invite the stereotype that comes with driving a truck, or do we choose to welcome the usual mid-life crisis/genital size comments that come with driving a fast low sports car?
Then I realized that a vehicle is just the vessel folks wrestle with, until someone makes it their own. Prior to that it’s orphaned and inanimate. When one takes ownership, gives it a name, presets the stations on the radio, fills the glove box with personal what-ifs, registers it, and fills it with gas for the first time… we become the soul that possesses it.
Watching for new potential cars to possess, I wandered and weaved and found myself at the corner of “Pull Your Own Part” and “Cash for Your Crash”. Colorful fenders hung on rusty wrecked racks like bright automotive dentures waiting to be selected by mechanics seeing themselves as plastic surgeons, installing fresh faces on mouthless mounts.
Desperate to immerse myself in towers of trash, and collide with every make and model, I called the fender place to ask permission to come and shoot my Canon in their yard. First rejected and denied, then the owner told me about this other place that would let me walk and shoot as much as I’d like.
It seems that down the street from Fenders R Us, was a place sort of like Disneyland for Dents. You walk in the dirty greasy entrance, pay your $3 and exit into a universe of Car-casses like no one has ever seen before. Aisles and rows of cars and trucks from every manufacturer whoever had an assembly line.
I couldn’t figure out if I was privileged to see what happens to cars after they pass away, or if I should turn around and run from what was obviously Detroit’s secret death camp. I proceeded in like an accidental tourist, past a motor pulling mortician pushing a wheel barrel down a narrow avenue of autos.
Shoppers for stoppers, tires, dipsticks and doors, examined the perverse piles still trying to impress, with their mighty hoods raised high, twinkling an occasional glint from the last remaining chrome on a dangling side mirror.
Elders from our car-guy sub-culture toured trucks with apprentice mechanics hunting for horns, leaning on Lincolns, and fumbling with Fords. The stench of motor oil hung in the air like the bad breath of tow truck exhaust. I could almost hear the screeching brakes heard before the crashes that brought them all here.
The chassis circus almost seemed like it was performing gravity defying feats as the mangled metal mysteriously floated above the ground resting on rims and mired on Michelin.
Wheel wells winked at me with bright rusty disc brake beauty. Headlights stared straight ahead anxious for the night. Bucket after bucket of unbolted beast, shed wires, vinyl, rubber and steel.
The whole scene looked like the endless trashy piled spread of dirty unfolded clothing that might cover the floor of some junkies bedroom.
The sun started to cook the yard and the thrill of my fantasy walk through Ouch-schvitz started to wear off. I was too hot to shoot another sedate sedan, to tired to portray another pick-up, too pooped to pose another coupe.
It was time to return to my world of shiny and new and forget about this hell of shells, this termination garage where honking honeys go after they lose their souls. The last thing I saw before I departed, was a lonely bucket seat who had lost its drive.
This chairman looked like a homeless recliner, who recalled all the asses it carried for so many years, as it bitterly watched me leave. I walked out through the tiny greasy room where I paid my 3 dollars hours ago, and put this place in my rear-view.
I now look at new cars a little differently and appreciate their peak. I see how their pride shines as they roll forward to own the road. I now notice how they command the envy of humans who want them for a new shell.
I now see that I am the soul who enters my next protector, my mighty vessel to journey in, which gets me from here to there.
Late one night, this past week, a bizarre event occurred. I had been thinking about how busy I’d been and how I had neglected my art. Too busy to shoot. Too busy to write. Too busy to just giggle about something silly that filled me with glee.
I laid there in the bed, bingeing on Season 9 of Greys Anatomy, when I looked at my cell phone to see if anyone had tried to text me, or if anything interesting was going on with Facebook or Instagram. That’s when I saw it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I burst out laughing as my mind went crazy thinking of creative captions for the outrageous image.
I chuckled as I stared at an absurd artist who decided it would be a good idea to fill an enema bag with blue paint, then take the tip from where the liquid comes out, and insert it into his now Cyanus. He then proceeded to position himself over a large framed canvas, squat and release his creativity all over the picture, because he just had to indiGO, like a modern-day PicASSo.
I was awake to the wee hours of the night, snickering to myself as I read over two hundred posts, from creative artists around the world who attempted to name this type of art. Naturally, I was a huge contributor to the thread.
The next day I tried to show some friends the post and the comments, but it had mysteriously vanished. Apparently the Facebook Gestapo felt that showing off this guy’s bluteus maximus had crossed the line, from putting the art in shart, to some sort of fecal decal.
I share this story with you all because it seemed to wake me up and get me out on the street again. Despite my stifling self-talk including, “there’s never anything to shoot”, “it’s too hot”, you’re too tired to do this… go home, have a Corona and watch more Greys…”, I grabbed my camera, got out anyway and shot my butt off.
Enjoy my day of discovery in the alleys of downtown St. Petersburg. And for all you artists out there in need of motivation, try to find that guy out on the internet making his blue poo platter. I swear you will laugh yourself silly and the creativity will just explode out of you.
Bless me further for I have sinned. It’s been almost 3 months since my last blog posting.
Somewhere between celebrating my birthday, celebrating the birth of my second grand child and opening my new studio and gallery, the blog went to a back burner.
Certainly I can write about what its like to age within the vicinity of 60 yrs old, or how it feels to watch your baby make a baby, or how impossible serendipity rewarded me with a little shop located two blocks from the Gulf of Mexico; but all that seems almost cliché’. (not)
I won’t even go into the sheer glee of actually sitting in my new studio gallery while typing this, with a Chocolate Rugelach on my left, a bottle of Fiji water on my right, and how I’m head bopping to the tunes of Oscar Peterson, Gene Harris and Bill Evans on the Bose.
Yeah… I’m getting old. Yeah… it was truly a miracle to be present for another new human to be created. Yeah… all the best things in life conspired to gift me with a little shop to play in. But all that aside, walking mile after mile on the streets of Manhattan is what I care to share.
It’s such a nothing to put one foot in front of another, see life, and freeze it. I walk, I look, I think about my old aching body, I think about my babies and my grand babies, and how I need to collect the time views of Manhattan to cover my walls in the new studio.
A moment ago, my little shots were a secret. Pictures stored on portable drives or hanging in my home that no one ever saw. A moment later I’m perched behind a huge glass storefront where one can gain access through the door that jingles with an antique tinkle every time someone enters.
I sit and tap letter keys, wishing someday I could tickle ivories and play piano like the greats. I look up and look around and remember every picture captured, every moment of time frozen, as I take one step closer to Ansel Adams or Salvatore Dali…in my mind.
While strutting around Greenwich Village, I pass The Bitter End , New York’s Oldest Rock Club, and snap away at the hopeful musicians, singers and entertainers waiting in line for their shot at fame. As I pass them all, my attention gets pulled in by a fine artist sketching something across the street.
Whether it’s performing or fine… we are all artists.
A moment later, I’m walking into the Apple Store in Soho in order to see all levels of creativity at once.
Somewhere near Parson’s, The New School, a woman with torn jeans and purple hair strolls, and convincingly behaves as if she resents the attention she gets because of her appearance.
Back around and down W. Broadway, further into Soho, a man attempts to paint an entire building with a very tiny brush.
Later that day, I turned a corner and walked into a demonstration. The folks from India were protesting the Caste System. I stood there and shot away wondering about this idea, it’s source and how a change like this would affect and release an entire culture.
Can you imagine social separation and being labeled and limited by your family occupation, or by the name of your ancestors, or a geographic region? I suppose people have lived and died over the years based on the strength of their beliefs.
Perhaps it’s time to see things a little differently.
Speaking of culture and religion, on the other side of town, closer to Lafayette St. and 10th, there’s a really old church.
Then back down Houston Street into Noho, a cooking class is taking place. Did I ever tell you about the time I took a chocolate candy making class in Belgium, taught by a woman speaking only French? I was the only English-speaking American, surrounded by the rest of the class, a bus load of Korean women.
All of us acknowledged that there was no language barrier as we all understood the word Mmmm…
About a decade ago, when I lived in New York City, I swore every time I walked out my front door, it felt like I had jumped on a ride called Manhattan. Sometimes I felt like I could just stand still and the events would pass right next to me on the left and the right.
Every block had different stores, every street held different adventures, celebrities hiding in ebbing crowds of people, jack hammers banging, cab horns honking, and the offensive smells of the homeless on one side of the street… and on the other side of the street… the haunting fragrance of fresh bread, basil and oregano.
Most people living there do have jobs, and more than likely their jobs drive them to drink.
I think it was over by 7th Ave. near Washington Square Park… some kids were playing handball. How is it possible that games like Stick Ball, Handball, Street Hockey, Skelley, pitching pennies, mumblety peg, flipping cards, and a million other games of the street have disappeared from existence.
For some who grew up on these streets, playing handball behind a chain link fence is just a fuzzy memory.
And for some, they just refuse to forget and leave this city for it is their home. Their body betrays them, their mind abandons them, and the shops they used to buy food at for their family, get covered with graffiti tagged armor.
And just as the gangs use art to make up their territory, women continue to use make-up on their faces, to seduce any and all unsuspecting onlookers. I mean when you think about it, humans have been tagging their territory and painting their faces for one reason or another, since the beginning of time.
And also since the beginning of time, folks (Jews) have craved Knishes, Sour Pickles, Rubens, Pastrami on Rye, Hot Dogs, Mustard and Sauerkraut, Dr. Browns Black Cherry Soda and loud abusive wait staff.
At the center of the universe, the greatest city in the world will grow and get bigger and taller. As long as the demand for these Deli-cious memories exist… Katz’s will have a home at the foot of it all. Have I ever told you the story about when I was little, and how there was a deli in my neighborhood that had a contest to guess the weight of a giant Salami hanging in his store front window?
People came from miles around to guess the weight of the Salami and the prize of course was that they would win this 4 foot tube of processed pleasure. One Saturday I rode my bicycle over to the shopping center for lunch, and opted for a hot dog at the deli, over a slice of pizza.
As I sat there stuffing my face with the hot juicy dog stuffed in a soft steamy bun, I watched the people come in to the deli, and write their weight guesses on little pieces of paper with their name on it… fold it, and drop the pieces of paper in a jar.
I devoured my dog, when a heavily jeweled woman walked in fresh out of the beauty parlor. I watched and listened and she verbally guessed 18 lbs, and Ben, the guy who owned the deli said, “Oh man…that’s close… but not quite.” So I took the opportunity of being in the right place at the right time and applied a little incorrect math, and wrote my guess on the little scrap of paper and dropped it in the jar.
I figured if that lady was close, at 18 lbs, I’d guess a half pound over. And since there are 12 inches in a foot and 12 oz. to a pound (not)… I’d guess 18 lbs. 6 oz. ! A few weeks later, Ben called my house and I was the only one home and he told me I won the Salami!
Soon, my mom came home from work, and I told her, and of course she didn’t believe me, and I somehow convinced her to drive to the deli, so we could pick up my greasy trophy. Together we went in to the deli, talked a little with Ben, and somehow managed to get the beef bat into the car.
My mom was usually pissed at something, but this time she seemed extra pissed, and I asked her if she was okay. She turned to me and smacked me across the face and said, “What the fuck am I supposed to do with all this Salami?! Sometimes Barry I just don’t understand you one bit!”
Did I ever tell you about the time I was almost homeless? I lived across the street from this College that was always having fancy academic events, and I would occasionally sneak in to them and stuff my pockets with fruit and cheese cubes and run back to my little basement apartment under the stairs in this tenement.
Times were tough then, but a lot has changed. So when I walk the streets and see the homeless, I feel a special compassion for the incidents that must have led up to their situation. I often give them food and money, especially if they let me take their picture.
Some day I think I might have an exhibit in my new studio, and fill the walls with the best shots of the homeless and do a fund-raiser for them… wouldn’t that be cool.