Thursday, December 1, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Ms. Rodham Goes to Washington (Fort Greene, Brooklyn)

I took a train to this fortuitously named subway station in Brooklyn on Saturday night. The name  proved prescient in 1992 and hopefully will prove just as prescient today. 


Saturday, November 5, 2016

A Crossroads of Contrasts (Times Square)

Times Square has always been a crossroads of contrasts. Its old image--as an epicenter of porn and depravity--contrasts with its newer identity as a showcase for Disney and so-called wholesome (i.e. commercial) family fun in the form of Applebee's and Ripley's Believe it or Not. And yet (in another contrast), pockets of porn still linger, side-by-side with packed tour buses and Broadway theaters. There's also the wealth of the world travelers who clog the sidewalk contrasted with the growing number of homeless who sleep on it. And this video shows a musical contrast in the Times Square subway station: a Michael Jackson wannabee dancing within earshot of an Amish chorus.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Gem State (Boise, Idaho)

I spent a few days in Boise, Idaho, this week. The downtown was old-style and human-scale. The domed capitol building, surrounded by a lovely park, conveyed the sense that democracy was within reach of the people. And I found something comforting in the presence of coin operated newspaper dispensers, which I haven't seen (or at least noticed) in ages in New York.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the Sidewalk (Hells Kitchen)


Every day, I see more and more people sprawled on the street. A scene like this is typical: life going on while a guy is flat on the ground. Often, the blankets, boxes and bedding around the figure suggest they are homeless. Less often, the person looks as if they've collapsed on the spot--I assume intoxicated with a substance, as appears to be the case with this man whom I saw a couple weeks ago at the corner of 9th Avenue and 43rd Street in Manhattan. What's unusual in this photo is that a police officer is on the scene, although the situation doesn't necessarily call for police intervention. A representative from a social service agency would be ideal.

I suppose in the old days (whenever they were), a stranger might have offered a helping hand. Did such days really exist? Perhaps in a small town people were (and are) willing to lend a hand, when requests for help come infrequently. But in Manhattan, where there are people begging on every other street corner and bodies and blankets squeezed into doorways and along sidewalks across Midtown, stopping to help does not feel like a viable option. The problem is too large for any one good Samaritan, and even stopping to give a quarter or a sandwich isn't a solution (although perhaps it is a solution of the moment, for one person's fleeting need).

Each person I see provokes a series of questions: Who are they? How did they get there? Are they in any way responsible for their current unfortunate situation or are they entirely victims (and why do I feel the need to assign blame anyway)? Aren't there social services that can help them? Why are there so many street people? Why don't they rise up and demand change? Why don't they travel to a friendlier environment where they can sleep on soft ground and not cement? What was their life like 10 years ago? What will it be like 10 years from now?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Happy (Gowanus)

My colleagues watching a video I directed to celebrate our organization's 20th anniversary.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Turning Their Backs to the World (Flower District)

Saw these two content cats in on 6th Avenue in the 20s. Night was falling, the store was closed, the streets were filled with activity, and these two fellas couldn't have cared less.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Butterfly in Central Park (Manhattan)

Central Park is full of surprises--paths that seem to appear from nowhere, terrain as diverse as a nation's, ponds that (if you use your hand to block the surrounding buildings from view) evoke a rural idyll. This little patch of wildflowers was just one of those surprises. But obviously I'm not the only one to have discovered it. This swallowtail joined me in admiring the beauty.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sleeping on the Street (Various Neighborhoods in Manhattan)

Near Union Square.
About a week ago, I felt as if I was constantly seeing people asleep/passed out on the street. I don't know if they were all homeless but I assume the person in the doorway (photo above) nestled among various belongings was. Perhaps the others were too drunk or too tired to go home. I'm not sure what the point of taking their pictures is. I wondered if it was an invasion of privacy. One could argue that if they're going to sleep in public, they've surrendered their privacy, but then if they don't have a space of their own in which to guard their privacy, perhaps the right thing to do is create the illusion of privacy by ignoring them. Except I couldn't ignore them. Seeing them left me feeling upset, fearful, anxious. I decided to snap photos of everyone I saw, but then I skipped a few people... and then I stopped seeing them.

Did they go away? I'm not sure, although I find it hard to believe people stopped sleeping on the street. I'm afraid that after a brief moment of seeing them, I once again simply stopped noticing them.

Near Port Authority on 9th Avenue.
Amsterdam Avenue near 98th Street.
Near Port Authority.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Short (Incomplete) History of Germany (Hudson, NY)

The first volume of A Short History of Germany, published in 1937, which I pulled from the shelf of a used book store. The second volume, even if it takes readers up to 1936, must be blissfully unaware of how badly things turned out.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Why Do Sunsets Never Cease to Amaze? (Ancram, NY)

Yes, the sunset near Ancram, NY, really looked like this, bits of bright egg yolk afire in orange clouds.

Ad Space for Sale (Pine Plains, NY)

In many dystopic visions of the future, ads are everywhere, blinking fetchingly to get our attention, reading our minds to offer exactly what we crave, algorithmically adjusting prices to maximize market share and profits. But this handwritten ad, impossible to miss, is a far cry from that, appealing without being pushy, offering something people might actually need at an attractive price (assuming ones standards for quality aren't too high).

Sunday, July 3, 2016

An Afternoon with Franklin and Eleanor (Home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt Home, Hyde Park, NY)

They saved the world from Hitler and the Depression, but Eleanor and Franklin Delano Roosevelt can't save themselves from Instagram.

Patriotic Canines (Cold Spring, NY)

The 4th of July Parade in Cold Spring, NY, (held on July 3rd) featured canines in their flaggy finest.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Birth of a Bike Lane (5th Avenue, Manhattan)

Like a kid with crayons, street-makers stencil in the crosswalks and bike lanes before they paint the final lines.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Election 2016: The T-Shirt Version (Midtown Manhattan)

I get the feeling this t-shirt vendor on 8th Avenue is tired of the upcoming presidential election and it hasn't even officially begun.

Friday, June 24, 2016

For Short Time Only: A New View (Garment District, Manhattan)

The streets in Manhattan are often compared to canyons, with buildings substituting for mountains. But buildings are not mountains. For one thing, new ones come and go every 50 to 100 years. And when a building is razed, a new vista opens up. Light pours in. Life can be viewed from new angles.

Take, for example, 38th Street between 9th and 8th avenues. In one of those once-in-several-decades moments, a new view has been born, allowing strollers on 38th a little more breathing room, a little more sky and light, and a new perspective on 39th street, a block away.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Star Treatment (Rockefeller Center, Manhattan)

They wouldn't let us take photos at the taping of the Maya & Marty show. To satisfy my inner paparazzi, I snapped this image of the limo waiting for one of the guest stars (whose name is not very discreetly scrawled on the sign in the window).

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Subway Artist (No. 3 Train under Manhattan)

So this guy sits down and just starts drawing the guy opposite him. Takes him about 90 seconds to produce a picture. Enough time to create a pleasing likeness and elicit a donation from the subject, who takes the rendering with a smile.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Girl Walks Out of a Bar (East Village, Manhattan)

Lisa F. Smith, my colleague and friend (right), had a righteously fun book party to celebrate the publication of her memoir Girl Walks Out of a Bar, which she wrote in our writing workshop led by Jennifer Belle. The party was held in The Writers Room, of which Donna Brodie (center) is executive director.

Jennifer, left, gave an amazing toast in which she praised Lisa for her beautiful, candid writing about recovery from addiction.

Lisa's personal story is inspiring--and humorously told, and I recommend everyone interested in a) lawyers who work in high-pressure environments b) people who learn to grapple with life's challenges or c) having a good laugh buy Lisa's book!

Monday, June 6, 2016

Pedestrian Killed (Garment District, Manhattan)

This sad scene greeted me when I left work. An SUV (at 9 o'clock in the photo) hit and killed a woman crossing 8th Avenue at 38th Street. The avenue, usually packed with traffic for rush hour, was eerily empty as police tried to figure out what happened.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Old Downtown (Okmulgee, Oklahoma)

Eagle & Bear (Muscogee Creek Nation, Okmulgee, Oklahoma)

I'm spending the week in the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. My focus has been making a video for Tribal Access to Justice Innovation about the Muscogee (Creek) Reintegration Program, which is doing wonderful work helping ex-prisoners transition from incarceration to lives in the community.

The U.S. government forcibly removed the Muscogee Nation (as part of the horrific Trail of Tears) from their ancestral lands (what today is Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina). The Muscogee (who were called Creek by the European invaders) built their Council House in 1878 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma where it still stands today.