Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Shreddable Society (Hells Kitchen, Manhattan)

A chapter of the AARP held a "Shred Fest" for 3 hours on 43rd Street, and the line went down the block. I'm trying to figure out what this says about society. That the fear of identify theft has reached epidemic proportions? If so, people could shred their credit card and bank statements using personal-sized shredders at home. So are people too lazy to do it? Or too cheap to buy the shredders? Or do they keep jamming, like mine used to do? There's something poignant about seeing so many people sharing the same moment--all equally inundated with boxes and cans and laundry bags of paper, all equally fearful it might fall into the wrong hands.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

I Hate Cars (Ancram, N.Y.)


The woodchuck had looked much worse. It was sprawled in the middle of the road with an eye dangling from its head. My husband's aunt pushed its body to the edge of the pavement with her foot, inadvertently reassembling it in a position that looked more serene. But the blood in the road tells the story of the sudden violence that ended its life.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Primary Day, but Don't Call it an Election (Upper West Side, Manhattan)

It's primary day in New York State, and for the first time in decades, a primary election in New York can actually help determine who the nominee will be for both major parties. For some reason, the smaller, less populated states go first in the primary season and by the time New Yorkers vote, the election is usually settled. But Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have mixed things up enough that the outcome is still an open question.
It's probably not accurate, however, to call what we're doing today in New York an "election". We vote but the power to select each party's nominee is in the hands of delegates and each party follows different rules. The Democrats have Super Delegates who aren't beholden to any vote but can pick whomever they please--a clearly undemocratic process, which is why I think calling the primary an "election" is a misnomer

Monday, April 18, 2016

A Day at Summer Camp (Puyallup, Washington)

I directed and edited this video about a very cool program created and run by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians. I had a lot of help putting it together. My colleagues at the Center for Court Innovation, especially Adelle Fontanet and Leah Russell, played invaluable roles as co-producers, and the team that runs the Tribal Justice Exchange provided crucial advice and feedback. The video features the natural wonders of the Puyallup community's tribal land as well as the talents of cinematographer Juan Carlos Borrero. Composer and musician Dawn Avery scored and performed the fantastic soundtrack. But at the heart of the video are the folks who created the amazing GREAT Camp, both staff and students. They welcomed us into their lives and moved us with their stories. For their kindness, honesty and friendship, I will be forever grateful.

Below is a photo of Juan Carlos, me and Adelle interviewing a group of counselors during last summer's shoot .

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Wonder of Neon (the Loop, Chicago)

They don't make old timey neon signs like this any more, do they? I think neon is magical. Not only is it beautiful but the idea that it's made from gas--and an element among an elite group that has earned the moniker "noble"--makes it extra thrilling. I suppose it's only fitting that this old-time sign promote the wares of a business that itself has changed dramatically. Nothing underscores the obsolescence of cameras more than the fact that I took this photo with my phone. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ramps are back (Union Square Green Market, Manhattan)

I'm not sure why I love ramps so much. Taste alone doesn't explain it (although they're delicious). I think it has something to do with the fact that it's unusual to find food that's grown and harvested in the wild which is edible from the tip of its roots to the end of its leaves--and that ends up in a farmers market, so I don't have to tramp around the wilderness myself to find it.

I've seen this particular man with a table full of ramps every spring for the last several years. He's in Union Squre most Saturdays, selling potatoes and homemade potato chips, but only in April and part of May is he hawking ramps. So the seasonality of ramps is also appealing--knowing that I only have a few weeks to enjoy them.

And now that I've said all that, I want to point out that it's important to collect ramps responsibly. As soon as I posted this photo on Instagram, I searched for other photos tagged #rampseason and found this photo by besupstate, which explains that "it takes a ramp plant 5-7 years to fully mature before it drops its seeds" and urges ramp lovers to "consider cooking with the stems and greens only, leaving the bulbs in the ground. Let's forage sustainably so we don't deplete them." That led me to the ramp entry on Wikipedia, which has a section on conservation, which reads, in part:

Allium tricoccum is a protected species under Quebec legislation. A person may have ramps in his or her possession outside the plant's natural environment, or may harvest it for the purposes of personal consumption in an annual quantity not exceeding 50 bulbs or 50 plants, provided those activities do not take place in a park within the meaning of the National Parks Act. The protected status also prohibits any commercial transactions of ramps; this prevents restaurants from serving ramps as is done in the United States.... Ramps are considered a species of "special concern" for conservation in Maine, Rhode Island, and Tennessee. They are also considered "commercially exploited" in Tennessee. Ramp festivals may encourage harvest in unsustainable quantities.

So I hope this man, and anyone who makes a living from collecting and selling ramps, doesn't let them go the way of the dodo or passenger pigeon or any of these extinct plants. And I hope that my enjoyment of them--and my extolling them here--doesn't contribute to an unsustainable demand. I'd be happy to eat them without the bulbs, so I hope vendors start selling them that way.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Too many cooks spoil the broth? Not necessarily (Clinton Hill, Brooklyn)

The open kitchen at The Finch was a constant whirlwind with the team filling plate after plate of delicious (and lovely looking) food. I was amazed how superb their timing was; entrees and sauces and side dishes emerged non-stop, everything appearing as if by magic just when it was needed, and then it was almost instantly whisked away by a cadre of servers. I suppose a restaurateur doesn't dare create an open-air kitchen unless his/her team knows what it's doing, but the show was impressive nonetheless. As was the food.