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This week’s writing challenge is about changes that are made in an instant: “Just as we can suspend a moment in time by snapping a photograph, an instant can change our lives forever. For this week’s writing challenge: tell us about a moment when your life was changed in a split second.”
I find this a difficult topic. I wonder how candid I can be about my almost 70 year life. I like to think that I “just live my life” and for the last decade give or take that’s been true. David Kanigan posted a blog entry entitled You Regret Nothing? and I replied:
“Regrets — sure we all have regrets. That’s a cliche. Here is what Rumi says about it:
If God said,
“Rumi, pay homage to everything
that has helped you
there would not be one experience of my life,
not one thought, not one feeling,
not any act, I
If you are happy about where your voyage has taken you your regrets can only be conditional. But be careful — if you could change important decisions and events in your life — would the change take you off course?”
This challenge topic made me think about events, decisions, the past and causes of change in my life. I am happy about where I am now even though there are decisions I made, things I’ve done that I would not do again given the chance and would not recommend if asked. I do not regret having arrived where I am, yet there are regretful things in my past. This thought process is a fugue going on in my brain. The melody is not unpleasant, it’s persistent though and sometimes I need to turn it off.
I’m planning a series of blog entries in a separate, new blog, comprised of vignettes and memories from my life. Most of them I suspect will be points where my life changed direction. I’ll start with one here:
I was about 5 or 6 and playing in what I recall as a very large sand box with other children. Boys — we were all boys and we started playing roughly, filling toy trucks with sand and throwing the sand at each other, wrestling, fighting. The sandbox was in Smoky Park, on 95th avenue in Richmond Hill Queens, so called because at the far end of the park, the opposite end from the sandbox, there was a huge railroad yard and at the time – the 1940’s – all the locomotives were coal fired steam engines. The earth back there was completely black. By the sandbox was dust and soot but less than by Atlantic Avenue where the park ended.
I felt like a strong kid, holding my own in this childish combat. Play kept getting rougher, we were getting dirtier. Then I suddenly realized that someone could get hurt — in fact I was sure we were about to hurt each other. So I stopped. I didn’t want to rough house any more and somehow when I stopped the other kids stopped too. I don’t remember what we did — whether we simply went home or continued playing but from then on I was careful most of the time to avoid being too rough as I played.
I think about this often and have for as long as I can remember. It’s a simple single point in my life that has influenced my behavior every day since.
Here’s a wonderful video I just came across on YouTube — Enjoy:
I was waiting for my father-in-law to have his Doctor’s visit at Lutheran Hospital in Sunset Park Brooklyn. So as usual I walked around the neighborhood. The sky had been threatening all day and now clouds of enormous proportions came together. I walked out on the Sanitation Department’s pier on a public street but past many no trespassing signs and got out to the chain link fence closing off the pier. Only had my iPhone — forgot to bring a real camera. Note to self — iPhone is great but sometimes you need a real one. I stuck to lens of the phone between the links and got a few decent shots. The sky deserved a better photographer and camera but I am happy with my results — considering.
I think my online friends Vladimir Brezina and Johna Till Johnson were out in the water heading from Manhattan to Coney Island the same day. They recorded some really great images from their kayaks — posted here in their wonderful blog — Wind Against Current.
Later that day there was a double rainbow back at my in-laws home in Gravesend —
It was a great day for photography and I’m glad I didn’t miss it entirely. Next time I hope to have both my iPhone and a real camera. Or at least an iPhone 4s upgrade!
To see these images in my online gallery please go here and look in the Brooklyn gallery.
The moon was full over Brooklyn last night, more specifically over the Gravesend neighborhood. It cast a lovely, ghostly light as always. Spiritual or macabre depending on your mood.
Gravesend is a unique place, the spot in Brooklyn where immigrants tend to first settle. It was settled in 1643 by Lady Deborah Moody and a merry band of English Quakers – the first of many immigrants to follow. I know this because of the plaque at the historic cemetery nearby (fitting).
Fifty years ago it was an Italian neighborhood. Now it’s Russian, Chinese, Korean, and still has some Italian residents. My in-laws’ neighbor is from Albania – he is a Muslim and a wonderful neighbor – something my Italian in-laws thought was an oxymoron.
Gravesend is a no frills place. There are no fancy expensive shops. Ok – there is a pretty fancy liquor store, run as many of the liquor stores are by Russians. When our 25 year old hip daughter visited last year she was tickled by the proprietor who was quite suave and elegant with a cultured Eastern European accent. Asking me to swipe my credit card he simply gestured and said “pleez.”
The avenues are for shopping. Avenue ‘U’ and ‘X’ and 86th street – ok not an avenue but under the ‘EL’ it functions like one. 86rh has many shops of all sorts – including a very large and well stocked oriental market. (86th street is probably in Bensonhurst officially anyway.)
On Ave ‘X’ there are a few blocks of mostly utilitarian shops Bagels and Beyond, a corner connivence store with a perpetual hot dog special – $1.50. But my favorite is a new coffee shop – Amore & Baci – very pretty and unlike it’s surroundings.
The Rite Aid drug store just announced that it was renovated and new – we did some shopping there today – Tucks and nasal spray. The store seemed a little cleaner but we couldn’t see any renovations.
Cuccio’s was another story. Completely renovated, it’s an old Italian bread store and pastry shop. Until recently it was pretty dirty and run down but over the holidays it was redone. And the result is much nicer. But the display cases weren’t full and they didn’t have any sfgyadelles – tomorrow the baker said . We think might always be tomorrow for sfgyadelles at Cuccios. The biscuits I just had with espresso where great though so we’ll give them another go.
I’ll continue this post when I’m back at my computer and can post photos more easily. The one of the moon is a photo of the screen on my camera taken with my iPhone. It’s still a picture of the moon thou, eh?
I love to take photos in art museums (almost as much as I love to eat lunch in them!). The atmosphere, architecture, people, and of course the art provide a splendid background for photography.
Sometimes I find the art lovers augment to works of art in a thrilling way. They posture, gesture and stare in ways that is often subconsciously consistent and/or complimentary with the art. They extend it or comment silently on it or create a new piece simply by being there.
Here are some examples of my art museum photos (I’ll post more after a while):
The image above is simply a shot of the lobby in the Brooklyn Museum. It makes a great architectural image because it is a beautiful space.
This is one of my favorites from museums. I call it Phoning Motherwell — that’s Robert Motherwell’s Elegy to The Spanish Republic # 108 the art lovers are studying. In their intensity and body language they have created another work for my camera to collect.
The one above is less striking but the person has almost become another sculpture, a taller, more slender person in black would have worked as well or better. (If anyone knows the identity of the sculpture please let me know)
This has architectural elements but also attempts to capture some of the atmosphere — the spirit of the New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Did I succeed?
Here are some examples of street art that I found in Brooklyn and Manhattan over the last few years. Some of it is true graffiti — just young people writing on walls — other examples were done by groups to commemorate something. But anyway — I love to come across street art (don’t like tagging tho — just scribbled initials usually).
Here ya go – let me know what you think.
The Gravesend section of Brooklyn is one of the New York gateways for people immigrating to the US. A hundred years ago or so Italian immigrants started arriving. Some of their descendants are still there but now there are also people from Russian, Serbia and Montenegro, China, Korea and lots of other places. Lots of young people who all seem twice as tall as their parents as well.
I visit family there often and usually take a couple of long walks with my camera, never knowing what I’ll catch.
There are signs of all kinds in city neighborhoods. Ads. Some a 50 or more years old, some are in the languages of newcomers, some are enigmatic. Here is one I love — I hope it stays enigmatic indefinately:
The elevated railroad that runs through the neighborhood is very photogenic — do you agree:
Here is another shot with a traveler arriving — probably from ‘the city’ (Manhattan that is).
The infrastructure in Brooklyn has been neglected just as the double parkers and illegall u-turners are, so maybe being ignored isn’t all bad for everybody. The old stations are really old. Timeless, I think. Many a crumbling. This one reminds me of an adobe outpost somewhere in what once was Indian country.
I have a lot more to share from my Brooklyn walks and other sources of inspiration, but I think I’ll stop for now and publish this. I haven’t written anything here in months and I really want to get back to actually publishing blog entries. I love the feedback I get once in a while and the writing process is very helpful to me. So consider this a dry run and look for more to come in the next few days. Its my New Year’s Resolution!
Update: I joined Fine Art America website recently and they have many Brooklyn image (some are mine of course!) here is a link to some of them:
Woke up this morning to read that Jeanne-Claude, the partner of Christo has died of complications of a brain aneurysm after taking a fall. In the words of Manuela Hoelterhoff in Bloomberg this morning: “Like the projects she created over the decades with her husband, Christo, Jeanne-Claude is no longer here, but the memory of her will linger.” They seemed to me to be a product of a former age — and now with this passing they are.
I came to think of the international public art creating duo as Jeanne-Claude Christo as if they were one person. They created art for public spaces such as the Gates, a 23 mile long installation of saffron-colored banners or gates in New York’s Central Park, putting Rauschenberg’s 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece to shame — at least in length.
Naturally they were far from one person because each is so distinct, so individual. She with flaming carrot colored hair, lipstick to match and a constant cigarette, he professorial, spectacles in place looking a bit like a mad pharmacist, must have had many heated, vibrant discussions regarding their projects as they called their creations.
Citizens of the world the couple lived in — of course — New York. But it took many years for then to find a Mayor willing to allow them to install the Gates in Central Park. Many of their projects were like that — taking many years and infinite patience before becoming realities. I often wondered how they supported themselves assuming at one point that they had inherited wealth. In reality they sold the artwork that were byproducts of the designs of their installations. This summer Aurora and I visited Easton Pennsylvania and checked into a fine establishment — the Grand Eastonian Suites Hotel. In the lobby we saw several beautiful design drawings of the Gates. The manager explained that the owners of the hotel were former MNew Yorkers who admired the Gates and therefore had purchased the drawings. They were large, colorful fantasies. But of course these were fantasies made real.
That is the accomplishment of Jeanne-Claude Christo — they made their fantasies real. In that regard and because of the public nature of what they do I am reminded of Philippe Petit, the Man on Wire who walked between New York’s Twin Towers on a tight rope in 1974. And of course she too was French making Christo an honorary Frenchman I suppose (he was born in Bulgaria but had emigrated to France by 1958, the year that the two met)
The Gates was the only Jeanne-Claude Christo installation that I ever saw. Many of the works of Christo in the early days were wrapped objects, later he wrapped huge buildings and statues creating a new work on top of what was, perhaps, something quite ordinary. In 1993 the couple recognized Jeanne-Claude’s contribution to Christo’s efforts giving her equal billing from that time on. One of the couples most impressive and difficult projects was wrapping the Pont Neuf in 444,000 square feet of champagne-colored drapes.
You might ask — to what purpose is all this wrapping and draping. But to ask is to miss the point. As Gary Winograd famously said: “Photography is not about the thing photographed. It is about how that thing looks photographed. – Garry Winogrand Or — I take photographs to see how the thing would look in a photograph. Jeanne-Claude and Christo wrapped and draped things to show the world how they would look that way. For me the Gates provided and wonderful reason to stroll through Central Park on a chilly February day meeting people from around the world who were all with me in our amazed , puzzled and ultimately delighted frame of mind. We were drawn out of ourselves by the work of the artists who seemed to extend the New York of Rauschenberg, Dali and Stieglitz into the present time. Dada is not dead as long as people are interested in turning our world, for a moment, on its head. I hope Christo is able to continue the work he did for so many years with Jeanne-Claude at his side. I look forward to his next project.