Archive for the ‘New York is different’ Category

Fri 26 Feb 2010 9:00 am   //   Posted in: New York is different

Lincoln and Brady, 150 years ago

This is one of the most famous photographs of Abrahan Lincoln. It’s one of the most famous photographs period. And it was taken here in New York City on February 27, 1860, 150 years ago tomorrow.

Lincoln, campaigning for president and needing to carry New York, was in the city to give a speech. Originally planned for Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, the event was moved to Cooper Union, then a brand new facility. On his way to the speech, Lincoln stopped at the photo studio of Mathew Brady, a celebrity in his day and recognized today as a path-breaker in the art and trade of photography. (His modern-day counterpart might be, say, James Cameron.)

Brady’s studio was at 643 Broadway, on the corner of Bleeker Street. There’s a café there now. I’ve eaten in that café a few times, each time oblivious to the knowledge that in the very spot where I was washing down an overpriced mesclun salad with a glass of white, Matthew freakin’ Brady had photographed Abraham freakin’ Lincoln! New York is such a place!


Fri 15 Jan 2010 6:46 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different

Need a spot? What’s it worth to ya?

A few years ago, a study found that 45 percent of the traffic in my neighborhood consists of drivers cruising for a parking space. Still, this sight is unusual even by Park Slope standards:

SUV with a sign that says Need a spot? TXT Pam to 95495

This vehicle, badged with bright green posters, has been parked in various spaces around 6th Avenue for a few days. What do you suppose happens when you send a text to that short code? Probably, it returns in an option to pay a fee in exchange for “Pam” coming out of her building and moving her SUV. (I didn’t test it because, despite my burning curiosity about how much that space costs, I don’t want this parking squatter to capture my cell phone number.)

Enterprise trumps neighborliness!

Tue 15 Dec 2009 7:00 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different

Having the whole place to yourself


Compared to other East Coast cities, Brooklyn likes to sleep in. Seven a.m. in D.C. is rush hour. But here, most stores are just rolling open their metal doors and brewing coffee. The schools aren’t open yet. The few vehicles rumbling around are mostly delivery trucks. As we near the solstice, it’s barely light out at 7. The sun is just about to clear the horizon and touch the tops of the buildings, setting them aglow as steam rises from rooftops. Most mornings I press out into cold to walk half a mile to the gym before work. Even when I’m bundled up and hustling as I lean into the wind, my morning walks are a time of peace and solitude.

Wed 25 Nov 2009 8:44 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different, No right to be good, TV

Giving thanks for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

High school bands. Lip syncing. Matt Laurer. Yeah, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is cheesy. Three hours of schlock is hard to take. It fills a lazy block of holiday morning time, when most of us have slept in late and, at best, have just begun to preheat the oven and chop yams. Still wearing our slippers and sipping coffee, we feel sorry for the NBC people who had to wake up early and go to work. Many adults find the parade telecast boring, and it’s doubtful any Pixar-raised child could invest more than 10 minutes in it.

But the Macy’s parade delivers a single, visual quality that towers (literally) over the sloppy choreography and humiliating celebrity appearances. The balloons! Round and colorful, they bob like hallucinations past the flat, stone edifices of the city. Tiny ants at the ends of guylines ease these cartoon behemoths around the corners of Midtown office buildings. The feat has become so routine—this is the parade’s 83rd year—that our eyes miss seeing it for the remarkable spectacle it is.

Some of my earliest, dimmest impressions of New York—before I ever visited the city—are of the Macy’s parade on TV. At no point did I ever imagine being there. As childhood impressions go, New York City was similar to the Land of Oz—vivid, fun and purely fictitious.

Now this is my 8th November in New York. I have never actually been to the parade, since I always travel to Maryland to spend Thanksgiving with my family. But I always catch a few minutes of the parade on TV, or I see the photos later. Don’t let familiarity spoil how cool those images are. Balloons and buildings, speaking to one another: A pairing of color and monochrome, soft and hard, fleeting and permanent. The Macy’s balloons are a perfect artistic response to the canyons of Manhattan.

Thu 19 Nov 2009 7:32 pm   //   Posted in: Art, New York is different, Photos

Jeanne-Claude, 1935-2009





Photos from Central Park, February 2005. More about Jeanne-Claude.

Thu 5 Nov 2009 6:39 am   //   Posted in: In the news, New York is different

Any headline writers left in this city?

I kind of love it when the Post and the Daily News run the same headline. Somehow it makes it seem like the world is unfolding according to plan. But “27th HEAVEN”? Is that really the best they could do?


Also, go Yankees!!

Sun 1 Nov 2009 8:15 am   //   Posted in: Brooklyn, New York is different, Photos

I love this picture


I recently worked on a booklet to commemorate my church’s 150th anniversary. While looking through some old stuff, we found this picture. We’re pretty sure it shows members of the congregation cleaning up after a fire seriously damaged the building in 1955. I can’t stop looking at it.

I don’t know what kind of camera was in use in 1955, but this photograph was printed wide; this scan is not cropped. The photographer focused on the four people in the middle ground, who are well illuminated by a flash. The two women on the left paused to look at the photographer, the two men on the right did not, and the man in the middle looks undecided.

These five earnest, concerned young adults wouldn’t look out of place in our neighborhood 54 years later. (With slight—but only slight!—wardrobe changes.) I love how Brooklyn can be such a “now” place, yet still be built on the hard work and history of people who came before us. We live in the same apartments they lived in, we wait on the same subway platforms they stood on, and we worship in the same buildings they worshiped in. Their ghosts are among us.

Sun 11 Oct 2009 8:21 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different

Autumn in New York

A short list of things I enjoyed this weekend:

  • Watching the Yankees win on TV at the 12th Street Ale House.
  • A Saturday afternoon snack at Little Buddy Biscuit Company.
  • A good run on the treadmill.
  • A nighttime bike ride to Red Hook to watch some old-time music at Jalopy.
  • A gin and tonic with good friends at Great Lakes.
  • The sound of the church congregation singing “Be Thou My Vision.”
  • Driving the youth group kids and friends upstate to pick crisp apples on a crisp day.
  • Sleeping in two days in a row.

Fri 11 Sep 2009 11:55 pm   //   Posted in: New York is different, Right now

Tribute in Light, 2009

Two photos and a video shot tonight at the Brooklyn Heights promenade…



Fri 11 Sep 2009 8:46 am   //   Posted in: New York is different


Friends outside New York City often ask what’s going on at the World Trade Center site. Here are some pictures that show the progress of the site: