Having grown up in Queens, New York and living just a few blocks from Times Square and the then gritty 42nd st. for close to ten years as an adult. Moving out west allowed me to explore places I’d never been. Though growing up with urban surroundings might not be for everyone’s thing. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. Still, any trip outside of the city and outside of my element brings out a child like excitement and sense of wonderment that cannot be measured or contained. If it weren’t for my wife refusing to drive into a ditch or pull over every time I exhale an “Ooh” or an “Ahh”. We would never reach our intended destination. Here’s to those who wholeheartedly embrace the phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
When my wife asked if I’d go sweater shopping with her, I immediately agreed. Knowing how much time she invests in trying to make sure I’m happy, it seemed as if my wish that she finally do something rewarding for herself had finally arrived. Having become used to accompanying her to a mall or outlet, I was a bit puzzled when she got off the highway and began navigating her way down a winding, dirt road. Was this a well crafted surprise or perhaps a pit stop where jugs of apple cider and sugar coated donuts await. Judging from the barking dogs and strange looking beasts that flanked us on both sides, probably not. It was then when my wife pointed to a small hut and said “That’s where I’m going to look for a sweater.” Being that I already own four sweaters and try to limit my shopping to bacon and records. I took a moment to enjoy the farm and meet its inhabitants. Enclosed within a wide open field were twenty or more Alpaca spread out over what looked like a pretty big field. Like many of the farm animals I’ve come across while traveling, Alpacas are pretty chill and seem more curious than bothered by visitors. Within a few moments, a number of them gravitated towards me, perhaps to say hello, or more likely to see if I had brought presents. Then, just as I began to move closer to the fence, the one pictured below came around the corner like a boss. I don’t know how she got out, but the man who ran the farm told me she was quite the escape artist.
I’ve been tuning in to the History channel’s TV show ‘American Pickers’ a lot these days. And while many of the characters and destinations featured on the show could easily find their way to an episode of ‘Hoarders’. Digging through a families history as opposed to unearthing years of unattended cat feces somehow appeals to me.
As a kid growing up in the shadows of Shea stadium, the junk yards guarded by attack dogs and pop up automotive repair and parts shacks just a few feet beyond, I became enamored with old trucks, their histories and the miles they accumulated while making their rounds. You see, everyone and everything has a history as well as a unique story to tell. For myself, I’ve always felt a responsibility to document and whenever possible preserve it. Knowing full well, that nothing is permanent.
As I sit here in the coffee shop I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the combination of Seahawks fans stopping off for a drink before heading to Sunday’s big game and ever present population of homeless who use the shop for their bathroom visits and to charge up their electronic devises. One who took up four tables while doing so. Things I’ve come to both expect and accept as a coffee loving, coffee house freak. Having grown up in what could be considered as a suburb of New York City. (Jackson Heights, Queens to be exact and having lived in a section of Manhattan once known as Hell’s Kitchen. I’ve been used to feeling quite comfortable living within very varied surroundings. However, it wasn’t until I began traveling extensively, especially the country and farms. For it was on those trips and excursions that I found my true peace and happiness. So much so that, years after my move to New Jersey. I found myself opting for weekend trips to upstate towns and farms more then the possibility of hopping a train or a bus to the city. Having enjoyed both in my lifetime. I would never judge or criticize anyone for the lifestyle they choose. I’ve experienced both at different times in my life and both have provided countless rewards and lessons. I just feel that after a lifetime of city life. I might be opening up to something different. For now, my little weekend getaways are the perfect balance I’m looking for.
For years now, our weekends have included road trips that have taken us to many cities, states, farms and out of the way eating destinations. Some of my favorite have been out to the countryside where we get to enjoy things that us city folk don’t get to enjoy during the work week. And with all the roadside attractions and calls to “Stop the car. I’m getting out.” It’s a near miracle we ever get to our final destination. With all the recent verbal onslaghts of “People live here, you know.” and “You’re on private property.” I have learned to choose the ground I tread on lithely. In this case, with a 50 mm lens. I was able to keep a safe distance. Though no one showed up or emerged from the collapsing structure. I definitely felt a presence and history as I walked among the ruins.
Growing up in Queens I didn’t have many opportunities to visit farms or hang around with horses. The closest I ever got to a horse was when my Dad took me to the racetrack or the local O.T.B. (Off Track Betting) to collect debts from degenerate gamblers. As an adult I find myself visiting farms throughout New Jersey and upstate New York on a fairly regular basis. These little weekend getaways serve as somewhat of a detox from the pressures of city life and the stress and anxiety that often plagues its inhabitants. Fresh air, farm fresh food and a much-needed escape from the monotony of city life. I’ll take it.
Every now and then we need to be taken out of our comfort zone,.Shook up like good cocktail and have a little in your face with someone about something. When I look back on today’s little war of words. To be honest, with all the off the grid shooting I’ve been doing over the years. I’m surprised it hasn’t happen more often. Especially with some of the chances I’ve taken of late.
It was today’s little exchange however, that both caught me off guard and left me a little rattled. As we were returning from an Easter breakfast at one of our favorite upstate farms. We stopped along the side of the road to get some fresh vegetables to add to the days take. As my wife parked the car and headed towards the farm store. I crossed the road to get a closer glance of an old and (What I thought was abandoned barn.) As I began to cross the road I noticed two women walking towards me looking quite agitated. The younger one asked me what I was doing. I respectfully replied “I apologize If I’m on your property. It’s just that I was intrigued by that barn.” “Oh, that’s just an old broken down barn. I don’t mind if you take some pictures.” The offer seemed a bit back handed and she went on to note that the two dogs that accompanied her and what could have been her mother or the towns crypt keeper. So off I went. Moments later, that same woman was riding towards me on her bicycle armed with enough anger and spite to fire a mouthful of teeth straight into a vital organs. “This is private property! I didn’t say you could get close!” Jeezus, I thought she was going to pull out a pistol and shoot me dead. To say the very least, the exchange was so heated. I was expecting everything from a visit from the police to an updated version of leather face emerging from the barn. At the time. I didn’t feel I was in the wrong, but in retrospect. Maybe I just wore out my welcome. Lesson learned. Tread lightly, I suppose. I did manage to get a few shots without ever stepping inside. There was enough useless garbage stored inside the fuel a full season of Hoarders.
Last week as we travelled the winding roads and peeks that the colorful canvas of New York’s upstate beautiful landscape. Stopping often to enjoy the orchards and farms that served as the areas fuel for our bellies as well as a chance to stop to stretch our legs and breathe the mountain air. Though Autumn’s colors were still in their infancy. The browns, oranges and greens were more than us city dwellers had seen in a long time. As my wife loaded up on fresh veggies, fruit, apple cider and those delicious donuts. I took my lens to the skies and shot what I could while battling the harsh mid day sun. As we settled in at home that night and looked through the images I shot.
My better half seemed unimpressed with the skies lack of pop. “Plenty of blue, but where’s the contrast? Where’s the pop?” “Where’s the Drama?”While I agreed, I felt the need to defend myself, noting. “There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.” While my defense was just enough to keep me from having my came confiscated. It made me think aloud, “Why am I not using my filters?” Soon after, I dug feverishly through the containers of photo gear I rarely use and found a small assortment of filters that have gone unused for over a decade. Amongst them I found a polarizer I purchased at University Place while living in NYC in 1994. The next day, like magic, the clouds came out and danced with delight. Not having the time to drive upstate. I headed downstairs and took what you see below. Not bad, considering I hadn’t used a filter since I was a young sex machine in the 1990’s. Perhaps it’s time to start using them more often while attempting a return to my old (yet younger) self.
I’ve always been intrigued with dusty old things. The older the better. If it’s run down, rusted or sitting abandoned in an open field somewhere. It’s character, stories and history draw me in, inviting me to explore and uncover.
On our first trip to Blooming Hill Farm a few weeks ago. We immediately noticed this particular truck in distance. Driven by hunger, a little lack of balance and not being sure how to get close enough to inspect without dredging through the crops. We kept a respectful distance. On our return, my curiosity peaked and a sense of determination got me from point A to B without stomping the yard or losing my ever vanishing sense of balance.
As I grew closer I began to feel the trucks rich history and purpose. It had most likely served decades hauling vegetables from the farm to markets and restaurants throughout the tristate area. As I opened the cabins squeaky cabin door to capture the rusted steering wheel and eroded seats I imagined the many drivers who navigated that truck down dark and dusty roads on the way to the highway and it’s intended destination. And while my wife will often lurk close by wondering just what it is that draws me to things of this nature. She understands and perhaps shares that wanderlust.