Forgery; Another thing they probably don’t teach in the boy scouts.

I always hated parent/teacher nights, and though I have few memories of my first two years at Our Lady of Fatima, my memories of the next six at Blessed Sacrament are still pretty clear. While moving to a new neighborhood and moving on to a new school was a welcome change. It did come with some unique pressures and expectations. You see, due to my parents working conflicting hours and the fact that their marriage was over by the time I was halfway through the first grade, my grandmother, who was a member of the church and lived just a short four blocks away. Always seemed to get the call when there was trouble.

Fast forward a few years, and I went from being told to sit in the corner and face the wall to being getting selected to join the smart kids in what was called ‘Group 1″. While this was a step up academically, there also added responsibilities and expectations to get better grades while performing at a higher level. While I could hold my own in social studies (aka History) and Language Arts (aka English) Science and Math would create challenges that would plague me throughout the years. While my grandmother, a mathematical genius in her own right, Her tutoring and reassuring did little to conquer anxieties that were manifested in the classroom by a towering and mean Sister Michael Marie. While none of the priests, sisters, or brothers of the Catholic Diocese were what you would consider kind, Sister Michael Marie seemed to have an unusually large bug up her ass. One that made her particularly venomous and quick-tempered. Looking back, she had to be about six feet seven with the build of an NFL linebacker. Rumor has it that she only joined the sisterhood she had tried out for the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets before being turned down due to the vast quantities of male hormone supplements in her nether regions.

Somehow though, going from class to class, teacher to teacher had a better than expected outcome. Most teachers noted that I was a good student who could benefit from working harder and being a little less of a wise ass. There were a couple who indicated that my impulsive nature and self-control issues were my most significant obstacles; nothing my mother didn’t have prior knowledge to. Forgery (1 of 1)

I would have probably gotten an extra scoop of ice cream or even sprinkles that night if it were not for that last visit to my Math teacher Sister Michael Marie. When my mom explained that the kids were scared of her, Sister Michael Marie growled back, “No, they aren’t.” Luckily, they always kept fire extinguishers within reach, considering I saw her breath fire that night. It was then, when I looked at my mother as if to say “She’s all yours.” before deciding to wait in the hallway,

As tempers quelled and the meeting progressed, my mother and Sister Michael Marie discussed my case whee my teacher ultimately agreed to send me home with a weekly report card detailing the weeks’ tests, quizzes, and my shortcomings. My mother would read, sign, and trust me with its return before deciding on any form of punishment or torture. After two weeks of scorn from Sister Michael Marie and scolding from my mother, I knew I had to take things into my own hands. Though I had no training or prior experience with forgery, I began to study my mother’s handwriting and signature carefully. Within a week, I had it down to a science, from the loops and swoops to the artful curve in the “M’. I still recall the detail I put into signing that first report and the entranceway of the building I would pass before entering the schoolyard. Luckily, that Math wench never caught on. When my mom asked why she wasn’t getting any more weekly reports, I would innocently shrug it off and say, “I guess she forgot.” Though there was some mention of her calling the school to reinstate the reports that had magically ceased to show up, that call would never take place. With the help and angelic patience of my grandmothers’ tutoring, I managed to raise my disgraceful F to a somewhat acceptable D. For years to come. I would use the skills I learned in the fifth grade to offset the punishment and explaining that I would surely follow a letter sent from school reporting falling grades, behavioral issues, or flat out suspension. At the same time, I was never proud of the more deviant behavior I displayed during my adolescence. I like to think of some of my misdoings as survival techniques.

 

What’s that Smell?

As the dusk began to fall over the warm, sunny Tacoma sky and we continued to explore the industrial area just across the Tacoma Bridge. My wife kept asking “Do you smell that?” “It smells like shit.” TB-1After checking the bottom of my shoes and my tighty whities. I confidently replied “That’s horse shit.” Quickly and visibly puzzled, she cocked her head before asking “How do you know the difference between the smell of dog shit and horse shit?” Knowing an answer was required. I quickly replied “I grew up in New York City.” Despite that lingering smell and the questions of it’s origins. I really enjoyed my time under and around Tacoma Bridge.

 

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Once Upon a Time…

I have a long history of bad dreams regarding my childhood, the places I’d been, the characters in my life and some of the crazy things I had seen and experienced. Thankfully, I reached a place in my life (a good one.) that’s given me a sense of closure that’s allowed me to look back upon those times with a sense of humor. While writing about many of those experiences has helped immensely when it came to that closure. It’s given me something I never could have expected. That being able to sharpen my memory and bring a greater sense of detail to my writing. Time and perhaps forgiveness has given me the strength and to a great extent, a chance to look back, laugh and share some of these stories with a sense of detachment that allows me to write as if I was penning fiction. Instead of waking in the middle of the night due to a nightmare. I wake refreshed with a fluent memories of an experience I haven’t thought of in decades.

One involving my Mother leaving me in the care of a very nice woman who managed or  possibly owned a dry cleaners, While I can only recall being left there once. She was a very nice lady whose storefront was highlighted by a supersized fish tank that housed some rather colorful coy. I mean, I can’t think of a better place to leave your kids. “In before 9:00. Ready by 5:00.” had to have its origins.

The other, and perhaps the head scratcher of the two, came when left in the care of my father. Considering my parents worked shifts that almost insured they’d rarely see one another. (My Mother worked the regular 9-5 as a secretary in Manhattan. While my Dad’s city job as a bus driver had him on a 3-11 schedule. As far back as I could remember, my Dad was doing a lot of side jobs making money here and there doing work for bookies and loan sharks. While there were countless times when I could tag along to the bar (Cheese burger & fries, a plate of calamari and a couple of cokes. Armed with a handful of  quarters for the jukebox. The hours would just slip away.) Or the local O.T.B.   (Off Track Betting for those not old enough to remember.) Where I could sit and watch the races on closed circuit tv or run to the corner hot dog guy for a mustard, sauerkraut and onions Sabrett.

Through the years though, there were a number of occasions where my Dad couldn’t take me along with him on his rounds and had to get creative. The local gas station on the corner of 83rd st. and Astoria Blvd. just happened to be one. Though there were three filling stations within a two block radius of my Pop’s house. My Dad must have known the owner of this particular one. During the hours and occasions I was left in his care. I don’t recall any strange goings on. There was the office (or reception area) with a gumball machine. I spent time watching the mechanics work on cars. I can recall thinking how cool the collection of tools looked on the peg board. Those roller carts that allowed them to magically disappear under the cars and oh, those awesome car lifters that would raise the cars off the ground magically. The people there always looked after me, kept me entertained and safe from the constant traffic that flowed from La Guardia Airport into Astoria Blvd.

From a very young age, I had come to love visiting junk yards whether it be for a spare car or motorcycle part. Or to tag along with my Dad when he went to collect money for the bookies or sharks, By four or five, I had come to love the smell of gasoline.

Years later though, after hijacking my Aunts copy of The Daily News. I was somewhat surprised to see that the same gentleman my Father trusted to care for me was being arraigned on charges of extortion, arson and kidnapping. It was just one of many instances when someone I knew and trusted showed up in the local news paper or led off the days TV News report. It was just a part of growing up. People doing what they felt they needed to do to get from point A to point B taught me a lot about life and the many grey areas that you find along the road.

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A Playful Moment.

I had so much fun shooting with Gia yesterday. Her laughter, smile and those incredibly expressive eyes. In the days leading up to our session. She sent me a couple of pictures of models dressed in flowing raps. (Imagine saffron robes blowing in the sahara winds.) While she never managed to track down the material. The idea stayed fresh even as we had begun our shoot. When it came time to change into the next outfit. She asked if I had any sheets we could use as a substitute. Thinking on my feet. I decided to use on of my photo backgrounds instead. Wrapping it around her upper . I had her friend hold the the ends. Creating somewhat of a loving tug of war. Notice the smile and the playful exchange she’s having.

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Like Riding a Bike

One morning last week there came an authoritative knock on my door. On the other side of the door was a Viking helmet adorned neighbor blowing a horn declaring a day of action. Knowing the call of a Viking and the failure to properly follow Viking code full well. I followed him down to where the bikes, horses and Viking ships are docked. It had been a couple of years since I’d been on a a bike. (My last one, as well as every bike I’ve ever know has been stolen at one point or another.)IMG_3517 Knowing full well my history as well as my recent battles with gravity. Said friend let me take a spin around the safely enclosed garage to help me get familiar. After a few twists, turns, crashes and fall downs. I was granted my own Viking helmet and we were off. And while our buildings surroundings aren’t very bike or hike friendly. A sturdy mountain bike and a seasoned leader more than get the job done.

After a short ride down the hill and a slight turn to the right.IMG_3514    It seemed that we hit pay dirt. For that road led to all the things I love and enjoy both exploring and photographing.           Trains, factories, train yards… You name it.         The only thing missing was a junk yard with featuring an unchained rabid guard dog. I felt like a kid again. We hadn’t even made it half way to the end and I was already making reservations to return. After a few stops to take in the sites atop the railroad cars We took the road all the way to Secaucas before hitting what seemed to be the river of deceit.

After a break and a survey of the land we had discovered, conquered and thoroughly photographed. We headed back on the rocky path that brought us there. As time had passed I had become more and more comfortable with the slightly oversized bike. So much so that my buddy gave me his official thumbs up. Half way back, the days heat, coupled with my lack of balance began to take their toll. Like a good soldier, I kept the pace.IMG_3536 Assuring myself that, once we get passed this rocky strip of road and onto solid pavement, I’m home free.     Then, as soon as I hit solid ground. Every ounce of strength I had left gave out and I hit the pavement like a hundred and forty pound sack of wet bricks. Aside from a few bumps, bruises and damaged ego. I was fine. Though I ended up walking the bike the rest of the way home. The trip and the overall experience, as well as the opportunity to earn my very own Viking helmet, were more than worth the spilt blood. That weekend I returned, on foot of course, and did some more exploring as a solo act.   I really love that the area we chose to live in offers such a diverse and colorful landscape.

Let’s Roll Film on this.

I was strolling through Union Square when I came upon the group of Hare Krishna who gather at the parks south western corner to sell books, chant and play their unlistenable music. While this sight somehow manages to draw a curious crowd. It was the first time I ever saw them filming themselves. One can only hope it was being filmed to please their supreme Lord Krishna. That, they were filming a         “How to make it in the music industry without even trying.” video.

What’s Goes Up…

HoedownWe were driving through Connecticut this afternoon  when my wife, a native of Japan saw this big sign alongside the road.            She asked, like any foreigner to our darker, more seedy rituals      “What’s a Hoedown?” Seizing the moment like a tried and true wise ass.        I replied.  “It’s when a hooker (Hoe) fails to bring back the expected amount of money to her pimp.”       I replied. “When a hoe don’t show.” “That hoe goes down.” And I would have convinced her if I had managed to keep a straight face.             A few minutes later we came across this scene and my bad joke was forgotten.

Hoedown!!

Danger is my Middle Name.

OptionsThis afternoon while walking on a stretch of Route 9 highway.  I had a straight up  “Stand By Me” moment. You know, the moment where they’re walking on the train tracks and come upon the bridge. Well, in my case it wasn’t train tracks or the fear of an oncoming train bearing down on me. As I passed the cemetery gates and the overpass looking down on the train yard. I suddenly came to a dead end.         The rocky, gravely road I had been walking on for miles ceased to exist at what seemed like the final leg of my journey home.

Stopped in my tracks. I looked at my limited options.       Already bloodied and still bleeding from a fall about a half mile back. I wiped my sun beaten brow and began to contemplate my narrow choices. Option 1; Walk just a matter of feet (Maybe a hundred or so) on the shoulder of a very busy shoulder of the road that turned onto 9 South and the Pulaski Bridge and proceed to what is known asStand “The Circle of Death. Option 2;      Walk back about a half mile and cross at the next available signal. Having recently watched as car after car mindlessly broke for the shoulder (unfortunately for them, towards a tragic accident and in to the waiting sirens or the local police.) and how dangerous that spot tends to be. I began limping back towards the traffic light in the not so close distance. As I limped towards my destination I spotted a small break in the concrete medium and waited for my chance to bolt towards it.  Lucky for me, I made it across without being hit or causing any collisions. Before long I was home wiping the blood from my leg. If there’s anything to be learned from my experience. It would be to dress appropriately.                 Sandals and shorts are not recommended when walking the highways or exploring local junkyard’s or industrial complexes. Two, take the high road. Life is too precious to have it end foolishly.

Little Space, Big Space, Let Me In…

Spacious Accommodations
Spacious Accommodations

During an open studio tour this weekend. We had the chance to visit many of the varied creative spaces housed in Mana Contemporary. One particularly memorable exchange came during visit to Omorphy Photos. Just minutes before, I ran in to my neighbor and friend Kevin. During an exchange that lasted all but thirty seconds. His eyes widened as he said “Go upstairs to have your mind blown.              “Knowing full well our common interests in fashion and studio photography. I quickly made my way upstairs. As I entered the room my jaw began to drop as the drool rushed from the bottom of my gums to the tip of my lips. A deep, spacious studio with ceilings high enough to touch the Gods filled with a candy store of studio lights, equipment, backgrounds and enough inspiration to last two lifetimes. Against one of the walls, large prints displaying the results from that setup.           I sighed as I confessed how, while I always loved working with black seemless paper and muslins. I never had enough room to distance the subject far enough from the background to create the separation needed without compromising the space needed between myself and my subject. Lessons, that for me, came the hard way. His warm, engaging personality and the patience he displayed while listening to and even laughing during my rant. While the exchange gifted me with a lot of inspiration and creative energy. It wasn’t until I got home until I began to recall some of the times when I really got to test the limits and boundaries of the space my apartment / studio space offered.

When my wife and I originally moved to Hoboken.                     We quickly realized the limits of the space. Though a two bedroom. The awkward layout and the simple fact that we only had two small, badly designed closets made had me run out to the town’s Gothic Cabinet Craft and buy an armoire for the bedroom. For years that piece held my entire wardrobe as well as books, portfolios and many other odds and ends.

Okay, maybe not.
Okay, maybe not.

During one particular shoot I decided to test the limits of the space and replace all the junk with a beautiful woman. Short story long. That dingbat idea made me feel just a bit more grateful for the 12 x 12 space I was shooting in. Since then my wife and I have moved from our shoebox size 400 ft. apartment to a spacious 1,400 loft. In the end I am incredibly grateful for the change of scenery and space. And while our space has more than tripled. We have less than half of the furniture that once occupied that space.       Call it room to breathe.

http://omorphyphotos.format.com/about-omorphy

http://www.manafinearts.com/

http://www.manacontemporary.com/

Documenting My Travels

The Three Seater
The Three Seater

In all honesty, I never imagined a time when I’d be using my cel phone to take pictures depicting the commuters being inconsiderate pigs, but riding the PATH train and or the Subway daily can flat out make you lose faith in the human race.

However, as I get older and a bit more jaded. I can’t help but want to become a farmer or limit my interactions to dogs and squirrels. In recent weeks I’ve taken to using my phone to capture and maybe even bring attention to some of the people who continually make me want to gouge my eyes out. This image was taken just before rush hour on a train car that could be described as “Standing Room Only”. This rather up class lady made herself comfortable providing a seat for herself and her baggage. There was an elderly lady standing nearby and looking on curiously. I got up and offered her my seat which she gladly accepted and thanked me for. The lady in the picture was so involved with her phone. She never bothered to even look up. So in to my hall of shame you go. Enjoy your time in the spotlight.