New York 2013 Archives


05 January 2013 | Permalink

The first time I ever saw a shooting star was in Italy. After about half an hour of lying on my back in an alpine meadow on a slightly chilly summer evening, I was rewarded by the sight of a brief, faint streak of white against the starry sky. It was so faint, in fact, that I couldn't be quite certain that I'd actually seen anything at all.

Tonight, as I was walking south on Suffolk Street a little after 6:30, the sky to the east lit up momentarily with a brilliant white light trail, a short-lived but intense greenish-white light traveling from north to south, just above the housetops, moving far faster than any aircraft. A bright central object was accompanied by one or two other, slightly less bright lights, each with their own trail, which burned out and faded away perhaps half a second before the main object disappeared. The whole display lasted a second or two at the most, but there was nothing faint or ambiguous about it. It was large and low and very bright and it made me think of videos that I'd seen of meteor fireballs or of spacecraft disintegrating on re-entry. After a moment's fear that what I had seen was an aircraft breaking up, I decided that it must have been a meteor.

Later, I started to feel less certain. Perhaps what I'd seen was simply the reflection of a car's headlights on my glasses, whose coating can give reflected light a greenish tinge. When I checked Twitter, however, I found that I wasn't alone: in Reading, PA, from Halifax and Flushing, and other locations, people described seeing something bright shoot across the sky, all at very close to the same time.

The Quadrantid meteors are peaking this week, so it's possible that my fireball was associated with them. All I can say is that I've never seen anything like it previously: it was whole orders of magnitude larger and brighter than any shooting star I've seen before.


Idiotarod 2013

New York, NY, USA -- 26 January 2013 | Permalink
9 pictures

The last time that I photographed the Idiotarod, the cops were out in force. At one of the checkpoints, a band of rather thuggish-looking plainclothes cops were issuing moving violations according to some inscrutable logic of their own. The police it seems, have a special hatred for the event. According to my friend J., recent years have featured police helicopters. When the organizers reacted by making the route of the race a secret, things turned farcical as the cops submitted their own entry in the hope of learning where to go.

Continue reading 'Idiotarod 2013'


February snow storm

New York, NY, USA -- 10 February 2013 | Permalink
5 pictures

Despite the Weather Channel's attempt to stir up viewership by naming this (and other) winter storms, the storm that hit us this weekend was - for most people in New York City, at least - largely a non-event. Even just in the time I've lived here, there have been much bigger snowstorms. Unfortunately, my attempt to subvert Weather Channel propaganda by suggesting that the event should be renamed 'Slushpalooza 2013' didn't catch on. Still, after a mild winter, it was the first significant fall of snow we've seen, and made for a few good photo opportunities.


Chinese New Year 2013

New York, NY, USA -- 17 February 2013 | Permalink
12 pictures

A small collection of photographs taken at the Chinese New Year Parade in Manhattan's Chinatown.


The bird is back

New York, NY, USA -- 24 March 2013 | Permalink
3 pictures

Or, strictly speaking, not the bird, but a bird. Which is to say, not the same hawk that I saw last year, but a younger, fluffier member of the same family.

Like its predecessor, this one appears to have taken up residence in Tompkins Square Park. Like its predecessor, it appears to get no respect from the squirrels. While we watched, a rather scrappy-looking gray squirrel scrambled up onto the limb where the hawk was sitting, advanced to within perhaps six feet of the bird, and sat there, tail fluffed up, seemingly challenging the young hawk to make something of it. The hawk eyed the squirrel with a rather put-upon air, as if all this rodent disrespect was putting it in an embarrassing position, but it didn't move. Evidently it had decided that being taunted by the tree-rat was less humiliating than striking at it and possibly missing. The squirrel held its position for a few minutes more, then leaped away with a flick of its bushy tail.

I've seen this before. When the hawks are young, the squirrels will often run up to within a few feet of them. I don't know if it's a threat display, to try to get the hawk to move away, or if hawk-teasing is a popular extreme sport for squirrels. What I do know is that they only do it to the younger hawks, who are presumably not yet expert at snatching prey on the wing. The squirrels give older birds a much wider berth, while the sight of an adult landing on a nearby limb is enough to send whole tree-fulls of squirrels scurrying for cover.


Anarchy in the L.E.S.

New York, NY, USA -- 06 April 2013 | Permalink
4 pictures

I'd noticed that there seemed to be more police than usual on the Lower East Side today, but until I turned onto Suffolk Street I hadn't seen any who actually seemed to have some specific purpose. Perhaps they were just out enjoying the fine weather.

On Suffolk Street, however, they were out in visibly greater force. There was a small knot of uniforms, a whiteshirt, a van, and even a few helmeted scooter cops loitering on nearby Rivington. The focus of their attention seemed to be the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center, which was surrounded by a small and slightly ragged-looking crowd.

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Half a saunter

New York, NY, USA -- 04 May 2013 | Permalink
6 pictures

... is better than none.

I had forgotten that this Saturday was the day of the Great Saunter, and had made an appointment for the afternoon. In previous years, I've been able to do the full walk; thirty-two miles around the rim of Manhattan. This year, I only had time to do half.

The weather, for the half that I was able to do, was beautiful: the sky was blue and almost cloudless, but it was not too hot. The fruit trees in Riverside and Fort Washington Park were all in bloom, and people were out running and bicycling and playing games. It was an almost perfect day for a lazy stroll along the edge of the Hudson.

The Saunter seems to be a bigger affair than I remembered. The lines snaking in and out of Fraunces Tavern, the starting point for the walk, were very long, and even with people starting off in separate groups, I had the impression that there were many more walkers than before. It also seemed to be more organized. The photocopied paper maps of previous years have been replaced by a glossy printed map, and instead of the indefatigable Robert sprinting back and forth to act as a human signpost on the less obvious parts of the route, they now had literally dozens of volunteers spaced at intervals along the way, giving out directions and, in some cases, granola bars. (The granola bar was very welcome; having failed entirely to prepare or even eat breakfast, I did the whole sixteen miles on one granola bar, two squares of chocolate and a few sips of water, which is unduly masochistic, even for me).

It was a good walk, and I was sorry to have to leave at Inwood and catch the train downtown. Maybe next year I'll do the whole thing again.


Incipit vita nova

New York, NY, USA -- 01 June 2013 | Permalink

Today is a big day for me. After more than six years, I finally gave up my job at Blip. It wasn't easy to make the decision to leave -- it's a great place to work, and I will miss my friends and colleagues there enormously. However, I have big plans.

As of today, I am now unemployed. I am not, however, unoccupied. The goal of giving up my job was to take some months off to work on my own projects, primarily writing, travel and photography. This is something that I've been dreaming about for a long time. The catalyst that made it finally happen was being accepted to the Clarion Writer's Workshop. I had applied without any real expectation that I would be accepted. When the email came saying "You're in", I realized that it was time to make some major changes. For anyone who wants to write speculative fiction, Clarion is a big deal. It wasn't an opportunity that I could let pass.

So in some senses, today is the beginning of a new life for me. I'm not exactly trying to reinvent myself, but I am giving myself the time and space to try new things, to learn new skills and to really work at the things that I enjoy doing. Getting accepted to Clarion feels as if I successfully walked a tightrope -- I'm proud of the achievement, but it's a beginning rather than an end. When I look up, there are dozens upon dozens of other tightropes, all of them higher and longer, and I have to walk them all if I want to arrive anywhere. That realization is both frightening and exhilarating.

So the next few months of my life are going to be about saying 'yes' to all opportunities, and trying new things, and re-doing old ones, and pushing myself as hard as I can, and not hiding from things that seem scary. It's exciting, it's terrifying, it begins right now.

On Tuesday, I fly to Eastern Europe for a vacation. At the end of June, I fly to San Diego for Clarion. After that, my plans are still in flux, but if everything goes as I hope it will, there'll be more words, more pictures, more countries, and more adventures.

I aim to misbehave.


Art Around the Park 2013

New York, NY, USA -- 02 June 2013 | Permalink
4 pictures
A small collection of photographs from Art Around the Park 2013, part of the annual Howl Festival.