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.
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.
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.) 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. 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. 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.
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.
We 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.
This 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 as “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.
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.
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.