Thursday, December 31, 2015

NYPD Gears up for 2016

What does it take to ensure a safe New Year's Eve celebration in Times Square? A lot of people in uniform, apparently. These NYPD officers started mustering around 2 p.m. on 40th Street while I was eating lunch with a friend. And I'm sure they're just a sample of the force that will be patrolling as the clock approaches midnight.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Folks line up inside Esposito Meat Market on Christmas Eve to pick up their holiday orders.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Moss (Ancramdale, NY)

I walked through a pine forest today and was moved to take this photo of moss. It's so lush and complex, a wonderful ecosystem. People say that when it's all over, only the rats and cockroaches will be left. But I hope moss makes it to the other side as well.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Carol (Midtown, Manhattan)

Todd Haynes, director, and Christine Vachon, in a q&a about their film Carol at the Paris Theater. Then afterward, they went outside and snapped a photo of the marquee, right. I love how even totally amazing and accomplished filmmakers don't take the wonder of their accomplishments (as evidenced by the beautifully understated, class Paris marquee) for granted.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Old (Upper) West (Side), Manhattan Valley

I'm not sure of the provenance of this cowboy. Street art? A long hidden Marlboro Man (or figure from another even more ancient ad campaign) newly revealed after the demolition of a neighboring building? In any event, I'm glad he's getting some air while there's still air and bit of blue sky to enjoy.

Friday, October 23, 2015

No Smoking ... or whatever (Garment District, Manhattan)

Not that long ago, the idea of outdoor "no smoking" zones seemed silly. But when many cities (including New York) banned indoor smoking, smokers began clustering at building entrances, generating tobacco clouds and butt piles. In other words, the indoor bans only moved the problem of second-hand smoke outside. The solution outside many buildings has been to post no smoking signs, like the one above. And while it seems to have forced many smokers to find another perch, or least get a little more exercise before enjoying a puff, the signs clearly don't always work.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Stop Being Fearful (Union Square Subway Station, Manhattan)

It took me two days to read this note. On the first, I was carried along by the rush hour crowd, and anyone with sense never stops on subway stairs at such a moment. The crowd is unforgiving (because it's composed of individuals like me who are very unforgiving when someone blocks the flow). The next day, however, I was ready with phone in hand. I waited for the surge of people to pass and then paused long enough to take a snapshot. Although I'm posting this under the date when I took the picture, I'm actually writing this several weeks later and can report that while graffiti often lingers in this city for months and years, this little bit of advice was was scrubbed away a couple weeks ago.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

You Either Think This Poster is Gross or Brilliant (Reykjavik, Iceland)

The first thing they tell you when buying a pass to enter the Laugardalslaug swimming pool in Reykjavik is that you must take a shower "without your bathing suit" before entering the pool. And if the verbal message isn't enough, the sign about greets you before entering the locker room.

Personally, I loved the explicit emphasis on cleanliness. I'm not a clean freak (in my opinion) but I find it strange that in America (and many other places, like Scotland, where we'd just visited before Iceland) people consider a quick rinse while wearing their bathing suit adequate preparation before entering a pool. C'mon people! We all know how dirty humans can get--especially in the areas highlighted in the above poster. I think the above sign should be mandatory at poolsides everywhere.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A Cemetery That's Not by a Highway (Edingburgh, Scotland)

The New Calton Burial Ground was established around 1820 so it's "new" only when compared to the Old Calton Burial Ground. According to Wikipedia, some of the bodies from the old cemetery were moved to the new so that "a number of stones predate the cemetery but are indeed true markers of those interred."

In any event it's a beautiful place, drawing me in for a visit even though I have no connection (that I'm aware of) to those interred.

It's a stone's throw from Holyrood Palace and a block from the Royal Mile. Its central location makes it unlike many of the cemeteries I've seen in the U.S., which are often in out-of-the way places where they and their annoying habit of reminding us of death can be compartmentalized and forgotten. And they're often near highways so the living have easy access and can make speedy getaways.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What's She Thinking? #StreetArt (Pollokshields areas of Glasgow, Scotland)

I saw this outside the Shields Road Subway Station on my last full day in Glasgow. I wasn't sure at first that it depicted a face. I found the image hard to read but intriguing enough to pull out my phone to record it. Now that I see it on my screen, however, it seems obvious that it's a face. Or does it?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Does Illness Look Different Depending on Your Language? (Upper East Side, Manhattan)

I found these signs at Lenox Hill Hospital a bit of a mystery. Why is the iconography in the Spanish translation different? Do Spanish-speakers wear old-fashioned ice bag on their heads when they have a fever? Are they more likely to have bags under their eyes? Does their vomit not come from the middle of their mouths but from below? And do they experience a different kind of misery when they get rashes (a squiggly-line kind of misery rather than a frown?) Their airplanes, which apparently tend to be white rather than English-speakers' black planes, seems to travel in straighter lines too.

The sign offered its warning in many other languages. You can see from the image on the left that most people travel in black planes and don't wear old-fashioned ice bags on their heads except for Creole speakers.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Where School and Native American Pride Meet (Puyallup, Washington)

I had the privilege of traveling to Puyallup, Washington, with Juan Carlos Borrero (holding the camera) and two colleagues to direct a video about a wonderful summer camp for kids from Chief Leschi High School. We knew from the moment we arrived that this is a different kind of school and a different kind of community. The magnificent totem pole is clue that the student body is largely Native American--specifically 98% Indian, representing more than 60 tribes and bands from throughout the United States.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teenagers Offer Recommendations to Improve Police-Youth Communication (Lower Manhattan)

The Youth Justice Board, a group of teenagers who study a policy issue affecting youth, present recommendations at Pace University on how to improve youth/police/community relations.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Is a Car Still a Car if it Doesn't Have a Gas Tank? (Brooklyn, NY)

Great deal... except for the part about needing a gas tank, gas line and brake work. Oh yeah, and it looks like sh*t.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

R is Not for Red Hook (Red Hook, Brooklyn)

While working on a video in Red Hook, Brooklyn, today we walked by this iconic sign. One might think at first glance that the "R" stands for Red Hook, but the floating period suggests otherwise. The actual story, according to the blog Lost City is this: "This used to belong to paper goods manufacturer named E.J. Trum. When John Turano & Sons Furniture took over the address in 1978, they tried to tear down the Trum letters. All but the stubborn "R," and a period, were removed. There they remain."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Green (Garment District, Manhattan)

The leaves, especially in New York City where a layer of soot blankets everything, are always the greenest when they first appear.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Flowers & Tube Socks (Upper West Side, Manhattan)

You know it's spring in New York when the trees start blooming and the street fair vendors start selling tube socks.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Redundancy (Bag of Almonds from Walgreens)

Take note: This bag of Nice! almonds from Walgreens is made of almonds (see "ingredients") AND contains almonds (see "contains").

Friday, April 24, 2015

Murals of Brownsville (Brownsville, Brooklyn)

I spent the day in Brownsville and had a chance to visit some of the amazing murals created by teenagers in collaboration with Groundswell and other partners, including the Brownsville Community Justice Center.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Payphones are Still Useful for Communication (Even if No One Dials) (104th Street & Amsterdam Avenue)

Payphones are still part of the street flora in New York City although I never see anyone using them--at least not to make phone calls. They get more use these days as public bulletin boards, attracting flyers, graffiti, and stickers (and stickers with graffiti), like the one below.

The notion of "payphone" will one day pass into history, and with it the memory of a way of life when people weren't connected to the world and everyone they knew via a touch screen in their pockets. 

These days I hate to carry change, and try to avoid it by always using a credit card, but in the 1980s and 1990s, pay phones made carrying coins a necessity. Once when I needed to make a call and didn't have the 20 cents, I asked a passing couple if they could give me change for a dollar. Seeing that I needed to make a call, they handed me a quarter and said, "Keep it." I was amazed and tried to press the dollar on them, but they refused it with a laugh. 

Twenty cents may seem insignificant but the act of giving wasn't. I thanked them profusely, but I've realized since that it wasn't just a quarter they gave me. They also gave me a conviction that people have the capacity to be kind and generous, and you might never know in advance when or how someone will come to your aid. The fact that I remember that brief interaction from 25 years ago speaks to the lasting impression it made.

Friday, April 10, 2015

'We Invented Social Security & We're Proud of It' (Madison, Wisconsin)

More often than not Social Security and other safety-net programs get a bad rap. Politicians and reporters call them "entitlements"--which sounds derogatory to me--and popular wisdom says they'll need to be curtailed or they'll eventually break the federal budget. But there's no hint of doom and gloom on Bascom Hill, where this sign proudly proclaims University of Wisconsin Professor Edwin Witte's role in the development of Social Security. And this bold declaration is within sight of the Capitol Building, where Scott Walker, enemy of labor unions and public education, is trying to leverage his governorship into a presidential candidacy. Fortunately, Social Security has lasted longer than the careers of many nay-saying politicians and hopefully will continue to help government secure "the well-being of its citizens" for many years to come.

Biggest Fears & Dreams (Madison, Wisconsin)

A series of handwritten signs on Bascom Hill on the University of Wisconsin campus offers refreshingly candid insights into the minds of their unidentified authors.