New York, NY, USA -- 27 January 2008
The softest kitty in the world is no more.
Pomelo, M.'s cat, died today, from lymphoma. The disease ran its course very quickly; she had shown no signs of illness or discomfort before I left for India, but shortly after I returned it became clear that she was ill and she declined steadily from then on. There's some consolation in the fact that she hung on long enough for M. to return home and say goodbye to her.
She was a truly delightful creature, and we both miss her very much already.
On our way to the Tompkins Square green market last Sunday, we stopped briefly at the community garden on Avenue B. While M. cast a critical eye over their flowers, I studied the Toy Tower, a ramshackle pile of timbers that rises sixty-five feet above the garden, decorated with toys and other found objects. I couldn't decide if it was my imagination, or whether the structure had acquired an ominous backwards lean.
Whether I was imagining it or not, the same thought has apparently struck someone in the Parks Department. The Toy Tower is to be taken down. It's sad to see another piece of Lower East Side history disappear, but I guess I should be grateful that my chances of being struck down by a falling railway sleeper or a mildewed toy kangaroo will now be measurably reduced.
New York, NY, USA -- 17 June 2008
It's quite possible that every human being is tormented by some great, personal, unanswered question. Is there a God? Why did she marry him instead of me? Do UFOs exist? And so on, and so forth. Few of us, however, go so far as to write them on a piece of cardboard and wear it on our backs as we walk down the street. And very few of us, I suspect, are tormented by the need to know the answer to this particular question.
Mermaid Parade 2008
New York, NY, USA -- 21 June 2008
In 2003, the first time that I went to Coney Island's Mermaid Parade, I actually dressed up and marched in the parade. My costume, such as it was, consisted of some nets woven with colored paper and hung with a collection of rubber sea creatures — a blue whale, a couple of squid, and a mermaid Barbie knock-off doll. I suppose I was some kind of allegory of overfishing. I also wore a rain jacket, because the parade took place in the middle of a torrential rainstorm. The rain may have made my bedraggled 'recently-trawled' look more authentic, but as a costume it wasn't exactly prize-winning material.
This year, by contrast, was bright and hot, and the parade was a much bigger and more spectacular affair. The participants included mermaids in every variety, size and hue, several dozen assorted Neptunes, stilt walkers, women with ferris wheels on their heads, schools of jellyfish, a large tree, marching bands, parasol-twirling dancers, a crowd of women in Marie Antoinette wigs towing a guillotine, a handful of robots, and much more besides.
New York, NY, USA -- 28 June 2008
Back in 2002, when I worked in Paris, I would occasionally get a phone call from the Musée d'Art Moderne.
“Olafur's installation has crashed again,” the person on the other end would say.
“Can you help us restart it?” At that point, depending on the seriousness of the problem, I'd either give instructions over the phone or get on the Metro and go over and sort it out.
Continue reading 'Olafur'
Fourth of July
New York, NY, USA -- 04 July 2008
I don't know what I've done to deserve it, but everyone was very nice to me yesterday. First off, there was a free concert by The Feelies and Sonic Youth (thank you River to River Festival). After the show, M. and J. and I went to our favorite Mexican restaurant, where they kept giving us free drinks (thank you, Maria). And after that, I went out and watched a very impressive fireworks display (thank you, Macy's). And I had the day off work.
I could get to like this 'celebrating American independence' stuff.
New York, NY, USA -- 26 July 2008
The very rich, F. Scott Fitzgerald famously observed, are different from you and me. But the difference is not simply, as Hemingway suggested, that they have more money. They also have precision brow planing.
Manhattan, NY, USA -- 03 October 2008
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.
Incident on the LES
Manhattan, NY, USA -- 04 October 2008
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.
Continue reading 'Incident on the LES'
Lost in translation
New York, NY, USA -- 17 October 2008
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.
2008 Vendy Awards
New York, NY, USA -- 18 October 2008
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.
What's in a name?
New York, NY, USA -- 25 October 2008
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.
Continue reading 'What's in a name?'
Halloween Parade 2008
New York, NY, USA -- 31 October 2008
Photographs taken at the Halloween Parade in New York's West Village, 2008.
New York, NY, USA -- 04 November 2008
I'd like to say that voting is an emotional experience; the truth is that it always makes me feel slightly and needlessly nervous, in the same way that standing in line at immigration does. I'm always convinced that I'm about to do Something Wrong and incur the wrath of officialdom:
“Under the Statute of 1869 dealing with Polling Places, Political Canvassing and the Sale of Strong Spirits to Natives, Mr McIntyre, failing to close the curtains on the voting booth from left-to-right as mandated, using blue ink to sign your name in the voter list, and — above all — presenting yourself at a federally-constituted place of election wearing odd-colored socks makes you guilty of the offense of aggravated discombobulation and tort. Take him away, boys!”
Continue reading 'Democracy 2K8'
Inflation - Thanksgiving 2008
New York, NY, USA -- 26 November 2008
“Look, it's Bud Lightyear!” exclaimed a mother with her family in tow.
“Mom, it's Buzz. Buzz Lightyear.” protested her oldest son. She ignored the correction loftily.
“And there's Spongebob!” she said, pointing to another of the huge balloons resting face-down on 77th St.
“Spongebud.” muttered her son mutinously.
Continue reading 'Inflation - Thanksgiving 2008'
New York, NY, USA -- 17 December 2008
On 17th December, members of Sex Work Awareness, Sex Workers Outreach Project and Sex Workers Action New York, together with friends and sympathizers, held a candlelight vigil in Washington Square Park to call for an end to violence against sex workers. This is an annual event, now in its sixth year. Vigils are also held every year on 17th December in other cities throughout the United States.