Photographs taken at the Halloween Parade in New York's West Village, 2008.
October 2008 Archives
Halloween Parade 2008
What's in a name?
When I first moved into my neighborhood, the most obvious candidate for what might be called a 'social hub' was probably the corner cafe named Lotus, a slightly run-down but friendly place that served snacks and coffee during the day, and later turned into a modest bar at night. It had a rotating clientele of neighborhood regulars, a few of whom I knew by name and more of whom I knew by sight. The most visible fixture was Robert, a film critic and editor who used to sit in the window with his laptop, and we would nod to each other as I walked up the street on my way to wherever.
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2008 Vendy Awards
When I used to work on 42nd St, I'd regularly get my lunch — collard greens, rice and peas, macaroni and cheese — from a Jamaican food truck that used to park outside the office. Their food was cheap and tasty, and it was a sad blow when construction on the block forced them to move. I never did find out where they went.
Today, however, I got a chance to try food from some of their competitors at the 2008 Vendy Awards, an annual event organized by the Street Vendor Project of New York's Urban Justice Center. The project itself deals with street vendors of all kinds, but the Vendy Awards are focused on food vendors.
Now in its fourth year, the event has started to get serious — and well-deserved — attention from the food press. The five finalists were a little short of vegetarian food on the day, but I tried falafel from Mohammed Rahman's Kwik Meal — as good as any I've had anywhere — and delicious pupusa from Rafael Soler's Soler Dominican, plus a handful of cookies from Treats Truck.
Lost in translation
As the black van reached the corner of Norfolk and Rivington, it was cut off by a police van that had charged the wrong way down Rivington, lights blazing. Inside a minute, it had been surrounded by five more police vehicles — three squad cars, a three-wheeler and the Cop Cab, a local undercover vehicle disguised as a yellow taxi. Uniformed officers ordered the driver, a middle-aged Hispanic man, out of the van and had him assume the position while they patted him down for weapons. Two white-shirted officers materialized from somewhere, while the uninvolved uniforms exchanged high-fives.
“What's going on?” asked the man standing in the doorway of the dry cleaners.
“No idea,” I said,
“but he must have a hell of a lot of unpaid parking tickets.”
He looked blankly at me for a moment, and then started to explain carefully that, no, they wouldn't send that many vehicles to arrest someone over parking tickets. He gave me a look that said that he pitied me for my lack of understanding of the way the real world worked.
I thought about trying to explain the concept of irony to him, but something told me it was a lost cause.
When I was in London recently, my photographer friend Max showed me round the Cross Bones graveyard in Southwark. The graveyard — which is on land now owned by Railtrack — was used as a burial site for people who, for one reason or another, were denied burial in hallowed ground. Foremost amongst these were the prostitutes who worked in the Southwark stews (brothels). The women were known as 'Winchester geese' because the land on which the brothels were built was owned by the Bishop of Winchester. There's a fine hypocrisy in the fact that the successive bishops were more than happy to collect rent from the brothels, even as they refused Christian burial to the women employed there.
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Incident on the LES
When I came out of my building, the street was full of ambulances and police vehicles. A group of officers in body armor and ballistic helmets, carrying submachine guns, were standing next to a big white ESU truck, watched by an interested crowd. I took a look and decided that whatever was going on was probably worthy of a few photographs, and went back to get my camera.
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In Taiwan, betelnut is sold by scantily-clad girls in glass booths. Artist Annamarie Ho has imported a betelnut girl (or rather an actress playing the part of one) to lower Manhattan. Her installation Betelnut Girls recreates a betelnut booth in a space on Centre St at Broome.
The booth itself is tucked away behind a popular taqueria, and many people probably walked past it without giving it a second glance. The actress told me that 'business' only picked up on the weekend, when a number of Taiwanese tourists saw the booth and did a double-take, surprised to see betelnut on sale in Manhattan. They were destined to be disappointed, however: apparently there was no fresh betelnut available, and the Taiwanese customers complained unanimously that it was too dry.