Friday, December 31, 2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

World in my eyes

World in my eyes

A few scenes from my commute

As quickly as it came, the snow is almost gone.  I'm kind of glad it's melting so quickly because there's nothing worse than slogging through black sludge.  Anyway, it seems forever since I took these pics, but these are from this morning and yesterday.

Fifth Street, near the 9th Precinct:
5th St & 1st Ave

Just off Great Jones:
Shinbone Alley

An abandoned cab still stuck on Sullivan:
Abandoned cab

And, True Grit.
Downtown Auto

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

So, THAT happened...

I really didn't take the blizzard forecast seriously as it seems the weather people always over-dramatize a flake of snow.  But, I guess they were right this time!  Even as the snow started to fall Sunday afternoon, I went outside to take pictures, thinking I had plenty of time and it would be a pleasant afternoon walk.  Not so...after only walking four blocks down 2nd Avenue, I quickly realized this was not going to be the usual friendly snowfall, as the wind was already driving crystal ice shards into my eyes.  So, I hunkered down for the night with a stockpile of canned soup and DVDs.

At 10pm, this was the view from the front door:

Flickr user Irene Rx captured the thunder and lightning that accompanied the blizzard in this cool video.

And, the aftermath on 1st Avenue:

Looking down First Ave from 6th Street

Doesn't look like those bike or bus lanes will be seen again until April.

Meanwhile, on Avenue A...

Looking down Ave A towards 7th Street

What a nice day to walk down the middle of the street, the only traffic being flocks of pigeons and the occasional tow truck and plow trying to dig out the six or so stranded buses...

Freeing a bus on Avenue A & 7th Street: Part 1
Freeing a bus on Avenue A & 7th Street: Part 2
Freeing a bus on Avenue A & 3rd Street

See more snow pics here.

Happy shoveling!

UPDATE:  see footage from Hurricane Irene, which struck on August 27-28, 2011, here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'Tis the Season

Season's greetings from Avenue A...
Season's Greetings from New York

From Ted Baker...
Naughty Santa

From Mars bar...
Anarchist Santa

From Webster Hall...
Merry Christmas from Webster Hall

From the Gog family...
Christmas at the Halloween Store

And, let's not forget the Gimp...
Holiday fun

Winter Solstice

Saturday night on Norfolk Street...

Beth Hamedresh Hagodol

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Destruction of Lower Manhattan

With so many landmark businesses and buildings disappearing lately, I've been wondering how NYers felt at other times entire neighborhoods have been wiped out.

One of my favorite books is photographer Danny Lyon's The Destruction of Lower Manhattan.  In 1966-7, 60 acres of buildings along Beekman street were demolished, river to river, to make way for the World Trade Center, a ramp for the Brooklyn Bridge, and Pace University.  An entire chunk of the city was wiped out in one fell swoop and, fortunately for future generations, Lyon was there to document it.  He moved into a loft at Beekman and William Streets and, with not much else to do, went exploring the comdemned area, camera in hand.

Photo credit: Danny Lyon

In the book's introduction, Lyon says,
I came to see the buildings as fossils of a time past. These buildings were used during the Civil War. The men were all dead, but the buildings were still here, left behind as the city grew around them. The passing of buildings was for me a great event. It didn't matter so much whether they were of architectural importance. What mattered to me was that they were about to be destroyed. Whole blocks would disappear. An entire neighborhood. Its few last loft occupying tenants were being evicted, and no place like it would ever be built again. The streets involved were among the oldest in New York and when sections of some were closed by the barriers of the demolition men, it meant they would never be opened again.
As I am very sentimental about my neighborhood and the city in general, it struck me as strange how Lyon and, seemingly no one else, cared very much for the architecture being destroyed.  I think this detachment actually gave him a better photograpic eye - an objective point of view resulting in a collection of images that do not favor sympathy for the past or a desire to blaze into the future.  He remains steadfast in the present - that precise moment of death, when the line between being and not being is finest.

The desolation captured by Lyon is what continues to haunt me.  If you walk down Beekman Street and the surrounding area today, you'll be in the company of a few thousand people at every turn.  Lyon's photos show how empty the area was at the time.  He even states in his Epilogue that he moved to that particular part of the city "to get away from people."  One photo that sticks in my mind is of the intersection of Beekman and Water Streets where a group of women stand on the corner, looking absolutely bewildered.  The Beekman Hostpital had been torn down just days before, leaving no trace.

I used to live on W. 38th Street less than ten years ago.  When I returned to the area recently, I found it unrecognizable:  the entire block of buildings facing my apartment has disappeared, all the businesses I knew are gone, even my south-facing windows have been bricked up by a new luxury condo tower.  I am seeing similar changes happening in the East Village and, with the imminent demise of the buildings at 2nd Avenue and 1st Street, that part of the neighborhood will be something entirely different than it was five years ago.

The Beekman Street destruction was accomplished in one swift motion. It's taking a few years for the East Village (and other parts of the city) to completely change, but it's still happening at a pace that frightens me.  When I first discovered Lyon's book, I asked everyone I knew who lived in NYC in the late 1960s what they remembered of the event, but none of them remembered anything.  Thirty years from now, will anyone remember the East Village that I know?

Mars Bar - Dive In

This site has a few photos and further description of The Destruction of Lower Manhattan.

Here is also an interesting interview with Danny Lyon in the New York Times.

Related post:  Is there life after Mars?

Related post:  Friday afternoon in Mars Bar

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Is there life after Mars?

As the sad news travels around the neighborhood that Mars Bar will be 'temporarily' closing, my heart sinks.  Nothing here 'temporarily' closes for two years and, even if this were true, Mars would return in name only, stripped of its iconic graffiti-covered walls and devil-may-care atmosphere. 

Mars Bar at Mid-day II

Mars was the original inspiration for this blog.  Since I first laid eyes on the place, I was fascinated.  My original intent was to create a film, along with a collection of photographic profiles and stories of the bar as well as its patrons.  That proved to be a task well-beyond my capabilities at the time, so I've spent the years collecting my notes until the time felt right.


Unfortunately, that time may be sooner than later.  I've always known the end of days would come during my lifetime, but never wanted to face it.  So, here we are and I don't know exactly what to say except I'm devastated.

You will get a different Mars story out of every person who has ever experienced it.  One thing that is common to all is that it's a place like no other.  It possesses a strange attraction:  I was immediately drawn to it's frantic energy, wildness, violence, hilarity, vulgarity, uniqueness, freakishness and it's unequivocal acceptance.  It's the place where everybody knows your name and no one gives a damn.

Halloween 2010

There have been times when I worried I'd be sucked too far into the insanity that is Mars.  As it attracts, it also repels.  When trying to describe the place to anyone who has never been, the descriptions tend to be terribly off-puttng:  dirty, disgusting, violent, crazy, smelly, LOUD, obnoxious, scary, gross...sticky.  At the same time, it can feel as cozy and pleasant as a second home:  friendly, welcoming, amusing, a vacation from the stresses of reality.  I admit my first few visits were to blow off steam.  I wanted to go some place where I could angrily stew and no one would bother me.  Boy, was I wrong.  Not only was I bothered but the folks around me insisted I get happy and did everything possible to make me smile.

Sunday afternoon in Mars

The people I've met in Mars have varied greatly - some have been absolutely awful and terrifying, but the majority have become good friends and all of them are unforgettable.  There have been times when I needed company or amusement, so I've gone into Mars to sit and let the entertainment roll right in.  It never fails to turn any dull day/night into something worthy of its own screenplay. 

I will definitely write more in the coming weeks and months, as this whole experience settles in my mind.  I imagine there will be a flurry of photos, essays, blog posts, articles and videos from many people as I know so many are upset and want to share their own stories.

One fellow Mars fan is AWKWORD, who created the video below.  As he says,
In the spirit of preservation and cultural appreciation, this summer, I, an East Village-based emcee and activist known as AWKWORD, elected to film the music video for my revolutionary anthem "The People's Champ" at Mars Bar. The song being rallying call for a People's Revolution, it seemed fitting to film its accompanying video at a landmark known for its open-door policy for people of all ilks (except maybe Wall Streeters and corrupt cops/politicians)
 During the filming a few months ago, as I rapped before the cameras, with political Mars Bar art being created behind us and a luxury condo complex staring down from across the street, I despairingly presaged a near-future East Village in which ALL the Mars Bars, thrift shops and moms-and-pops are closed... And, unfortunately, it appears my fears may come to fruition.

Direct YouTube link here.

Parting shot:

Mural at Mars Bar

This 2005 mural reads:  "If you make it in NYC, you made it."


Related post:  Roy

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greeting cards now available

I've put together some greeting cards featuring the images below.  All images are mounted on 5x7" 140lb watercolor paper (black or white).  These are currently listed as a set of 5, but if you're interested in individual cards or want to specify the image/paper, just send me an email with your request.

For more details, please see the listing.