June 2, 2014

FACEBOOK, The Happy Place! Warning: this is long and offensive.


I've been away from blogging for about 7 months. I decided to take a break for a while and try another avenue of sharing my work and day-to-day activities. I also felt I must have been one of the last holdouts to be on Facebook. I decided early on that I would rather have a few Facebook "friends" that were actually acquaintances at some point than collecting hundreds or thousands of "friends" like some people have done.

To be perfectly honest, once I set up my account, I immediately went "hunting." I was so curious to see the people I knew from long ago who still lived in Virginia. First, I looked for the girls from my high school that were the best looking, the brightest and then the guys who were considered the best looking, secretly hoping that the guys had aged horribly and the women had stayed the same. I began with the girls who wouldn't give me the time of day. The cheerleaders, the popular girls, the ones with the faces and bodies my friends and I admired in the halls (more like gawked at). My plan was to go to a certain popular athlete's FB profile and go through his friend list, but I found out at a recent reunion (of sorts) that he had been charged with soliciting a minor (his daughter's best friend) and was now either in jail or banned from the Internet. On to plan B.... I went to one popular girl's friend page and as I scrolled through the photos I recognized the names but I couldn't place the faces. But then, "Wait...Holy shit...this girl weighed 104 lbs in school...who is this HUGE woman holding a margarita?" I found myself saying "Holy shit" over and over again. "Who is this fat guy with a gray beard that looks like Santa?"....I see the name....my memory kicks in...."Holy shit? What happened to him?" Now, realistically, I don't expect everyone to weigh what they did in high school. But really, most of these people were slim, beautiful and athletic. You managed to gain 75+ pounds in 35 years? How does that happen? For women, I'll give you 10 lbs per kid... I'll understand someone putting on 25 lbs over the years. But a few pounds a year? Anyway, I was shocked...And realistically, they were probably shocked when they saw my face pop up. What happened to Stephen...he looks all craggly and weathered... That may be true, but I didn't get fat! Craggly is out of my control.

I have a theory about fat: There are two kinds, "poor fat" and "rich fat." Poor fat comes from eating Happy Meals and junk food, drinking soda and eating chips. Then there is "rich fat." This comes from going to nicer chain restaurants sucking down 3 margaritas, some poppers, a few bread sticks and a steak a few times a month. From going to backyard barbecues, drinking a 6-pack every time a game comes on the TV. My friends are all "rich fat." Anyway, last year someone walked up to me at a small reunion and said, "Gee, doesn't everyone look great?" I looked at him and said, "Are you kidding me? They're all fat and look like shit." That's FB...One big reunion...most of the people you didn't really ever want to see again.

Another thing I find truly annoying about FB is the mundane bullshit people post (myself included). The cake they baked, the sandwich they had for lunch, their kids jumping and playing, the bird in their backyard, their stupid dog or cat. News flash: Other than immediate family, nobody gives a shit--I promise! Then you have all the "What kind of [blank] are you?" posts. "What band are you?" "What animal are you?" "What city should you live in?"  The CRAZY thing is, I take these stupid tests wondering what kind of car I am (I was a Mercedes S-Class). You find out what city you should live in (I got Paris), and I found out I was an owl. WTF? It's addicting. Then, before you know it, you find yourself posting the sandwich you ate, the drink you just ordered and the ferry trip you rode on. And, you get pissed when there aren't enough "likes" to your own stupid mundane photos. I put up a photo of my deceased mother and I and got more likes than ever before. Later I put up some photo from a job I did that I thought was pretty nice and got 6 likes. What's up with that? Nobody likes my work? And, you feel obligated to "like" other people's stupid photos even if you think it's total bullshit. Being a photographer I admit I may be a tad more critical than most people regarding composition and such... but come on, if I see another golden sunset or kid standing on a rock while hiking I think I'll kick my Mac off of my desk. But, I grit my teeth and click "like" because they clicked "like" on my burrito post 3 days ago. It's so easy to get caught up in the FB world.

This is most annoying of all: Facebook is a happy place. Rule #1, don't piss ANYONE off. I learned this early on when one of my "friends" posted some bullshit about 2nd amendment rights with the comment "never let them take our guns." I responded simply saying that I support owning guns but also support strong restrictions such as lengthy background checks and registration. I also said that no one needs to own a semi automatic gun with a multi-shot clip. I gave her a death toll of homicides in the U.S. She went crazy telling me I was the devil and against the constitution. She said  that I "was the problem with this country." And, suddenly, I was "un-friended." I felt glad to be rid of her and also very surprised that the debate got so out of hand. I should have learned. Soon after that, a very good friend of mine's wife was posting something about the NFL. Having NOT learned my lesson I responded with a comment about how no other organization will allow a convicted felon to come back from jail and be rewarded with a $5 million dollar contract (Michael Vick). Every sports loving imbecile jumped on that post until it got completely out of hand with name calling and near threats. Everyone quickly became aware that I detest sports for so many reasons. "Really...you toss a ball and make $3 million a year and the average teacher makes $45K...You can barely spell your name you fucking meathead." In the end I was "un-friended" for a second time, and glad for it. I was sick of seeing her labor-intensive cakes she baked, complete with green frosting for grass and chopsticks for goalposts specially made for game day....With each of her posts I wanted to respond "Get a fucking life"  but held back (a Facebook no-no). Take a deep breath Stephen.... To each his own...If you want to spend 4 hours making a cake that has team names on it who am I to say I think you need a more meaningful hobby?

So, with that said...I think it's time to say farewell to Facebook. Hopefully, like Myspace...it will soon fizzle out and be a distant bad memory. Facebook, the happy place.

October 23, 2013

Yoko Ono's Wish Tree

Toward the end of last week's art crawl we stumbled across this little "tree of tags". Curious, I stepped into the gallery and discovered that it was a small installation by Yoko Ono. Somewhat self-explanatory, you write your wish on a tag, tie it on a branch and hope for the best. Though oddly, after getting home and looking at Yoko's note of instructions, it says to fold the tag in half...which as far as I can see, no one did, including me. So, I don't know if that voids the wish or not. Also, as you might notice, I tried to be different by writing with a black pen as opposed to the small pencils provided. Wow, look at me thinking outside the box. What a risk taker.

 I feel sorry for this tag hanger.

 This made me grateful that someone wished for my job.

 Rodney King must have stopped in before we arrived (yes, I know, he's dead).

And there's mine. Not exactly wishing for "world peace." 

October 17, 2013

Night Time

 West 4th, West Village

 Washington Sq. Park

 Ice Cream

 Destitute, Theater District

 Drug Nod

 Jazz guitar, Sixth Ave. and West 4th

Marble Hill (Bronx)

October 15, 2013

The Best Deal in NYC

The other day I decided to take the Staten Island ferry. It was late afternoon and I rode across like I have hundreds of times before. I went to the snack bar and got myself an ice cold beer and sipped it as I stood on the windy deck. The weather was beautiful and the breeze invigorating. I got to the other side and hopped back on the return trip. Every ride offered new photo possibilities carrying a whole new group of riders. The trip from Manhattan to SI is usually crowded being mostly commuters. The attendance back to the city is sparse. As I rode along with the sun setting, colors became more saturated and beautiful. Arriving back in Manhattan I immediately hopped back on for a second round trip. And again, the light more beautiful than the last ride. Upon arriving in Staten Island I let the ferry I had just taken depart and waited for 20 minutes for the next one. Each boat being different in size, shape and deck configuration. The next one came and I boarded as the light was fading. Finally back in Manhattan after 2 solid hours of travel and the light almost gone, I jumped back on for one last trip. That's a record for me..3 round trips back to back. Total cost of transportation? Zip! (not counting my beer)!  The best deal in NYC.

October 13, 2013

Yams and Nerds

A few months ago I bought a yam at my local market thinking it was a sweet potato. Little did I know that the two are not even distantly related. I set it in the kitchen window with every intention of eating it baked with a little butter. A few weeks passed and it started to sprout and those sprouts grew quickly. Giving up on the thought of eating it, I decided to make it a science project and see how long the sprouts would grow. I even tied chopsticks to the "twigs" to help them grow straight. I later read that yams can grow up to 7 feet. Within a few weeks they were already 2 feet long. I found it very odd that such a plant could grow, from itself, without any dirt or water. Who knew? Before "Mr. Yam" could take over my entire kitchen window, and not wanting to just toss him in the trash, I decided to set him free. The park behind my building seemed a nice place for him to live so I took the yam and walked up the trail looking for a good spot. Not knowing much about yams or  what type of terrain they might better thrive in, I looked for a clearing in the woods.
 The park
 Yam before being set free.
 I gently tossed my "tuber" friend into the woods while humming "Born Free." I'll miss my little yam. I'm half curious to climb down into that jungle in a month or so and see if it survived.

The annual Medieval Festival (Nerd-fest) was held a few weeks ago in Ft. Tryon Park. Right here in lovely Inwood. 
They stress being true to medieval traditions, though I saw countless iPhones and other devices being used.
 A leather beaked nerd?

 Singing minstrel nerds.

 Nerds clubbing one another.

 What does one do with a shot like this?

"So, Earl of Loserville, tell me, when was the last time you thrust your mighty man-sword into Lady Kibbletits?"
"Well Doofus of York...I have to say, it's been quite a long time...a long time indeed."

Lady Kibbletits

October 1, 2013

This Weekend

 Mom and son on A train headed north. 

Dad plays in a punk band

 Old executive does a selfie.

 Time to stop smoking.

59th and Lex

September 17, 2013


Today while walking down Hudson Street at dusk I looked up to see the clouds beginning to turn a reddish hue. I rushed down 10th Street hoping to catch the sunset. I crossed over the West Side highway and stood along the path. In all the years living in NYC I've never seen a more vivid, beautiful sunset. This shot isn't manipulated, this is really what it looked like. People were stopping all around me, pulling out their iPhones, snapping away. Lots of oohs and aahs. I stood there until the sky slowly turned back to a soft gray, which only took a few minutes.

Two odd guys on the subway today. Above guy was on the A train headed downtown at noon. Hair dyed jet black, muttonchops and mustache a dark brown. Some heavy maintenance going on there. The guy below on the A train headed uptown tonight. He had very sparse peachfuzz but painted his whole head jet black. I wanted to take another picture of the front but he was very big and I feared he'd kill me if he saw me aiming my camera at his head. Some major maintenance going on here. I wonder what his pillow looks like?

 Unfortunate chair in Times Square. 

While making an egg wrap I looked down to find the eggs sort of smirking at me. So I beat them. A little grated Emmentaler cheese, a splash of Goya salsa verde....Very tasty.

September 10, 2013

Only in NYC

Saturday I was sent by WWD to shoot backstage beauty at the Monique Lhuillier fashion show from 6:00pm to 7:00pm at Lincoln Center. Knowing they always start the models makeup earlier than they say, I showed up at 5:15. I had vaguely remembered the usual rigmarole of checking in the front, being sent around to the back, finding the backstage entrance, being checked in by  security and then finally getting into the hair and makeup area. Quite the ordeal. Once inside, it was a tad cramped to say the least. 

Pampered would be an understatement.

This model had come from another show and was half an hour late and was the last to be prepped. The "team" descended on her like a triage unit in a busy downtown ER. Three people on hair, one doing manicure, one doing pedicure, one doing her eyes, another did foundation. Within 15 minutes she was ready to go. Amazing to watch. Like a Nascar pit crew.

I left 30 minutes late from that show and rushed to The Standard Hotel where a few people were waiting on me to shoot some very high end shoes ($1K a pop). The presentation had ended at 7:30 and I arrived at 8:00. They were not happy. Wasn't my fault. We set up a impromptu "studio" of white seamless and I quickly got the shots needed...lit all nice and pretty.

Starving to death after the shows, I called a friend to meet me for a bite. Only 10:00pm, we decided to slip over to Arthur's Tavern to see who was playing.  The house band was doing everything from Steely Dan to Michael Jackson (but funkier) tunes and we stayed for a few drinks. Great musicians, very fun.

 Stew Cutler--a great blues, jazz guitar player. 

As we were leaving a bit after midnight, we were outside and my friend mentioned that she had never been to the bar Marie's Crisis right next door. Being a piano bar that specializes in show tunes one can only assume the clientele is mostly gay men. I had only been there twice before with an ex-girlfriend while showing visitors around the Village. Being secure in my heterosexuality, I suggested we go in so she could satisfy her curiosity. At the same time, two British couples asked us if it was a fun place and we all went in together. Going down into the basement bar you feel like you're stepping back in time, walking in to some old pub in the in the Theater District in the 1940s. The place is painted red with tiny Christmas lights strewn across the ceiling. It's obviously filled mostly with regulars and a few tourists.  Lots of theater people with big voices and personalities. It's slightly cramped, having only about ten chairs.

The noisy crown suddenly becomes quiet as the piano player taps his hands on the top of the piano. The regulars saying, "shh...shhh...." until the room is nearly silent. After a pause, he hits the first few notes and seconds later a hundred voices are singing "Somewhere" at the top of their lungs. Almost ear-piercing, this is not a shy bunch. Whether you favor that kind of music or not, it's quite impressive to witness. Like the rest of the crowd, my friend knew nearly every song from her many years in various choirs and choral groups and couldn't stop singing and smiling. She later said it was the best night she'd spent in all the years she lived in New York. I didn't have quite the same experience but I did have a surprisingly good time. Occasionally I'd glance across the room and our British friends would give us a very cheery "eight thumbs up".  Leaving two hours later I got home just before 4:00am. A very long but fun night.

The barmaid sang a very sad song of unrequited love. She realized she would never completely have the man she adored but was willing to take the 50% he offered... You could hear a pin drop.

The tip jar at Marie's Crisis beat out Arthur's jar by a long shot...I saw some $20s.