Sunday, March 6, 2011

Manhattan Memories


Back in the 1990s when I was a fledgling teenager, my father used to live on east 15th street in Manhattan. Since my parents had divorced, I'd go and visit him sometimes on the weekends. He lived in this tiny railroad apartment in a prewar, 6 story walk up that was so old and rickety, the floors and walls were literally caved in. There was this sense that the whole building could collapse at any moment. There was never any sun light that shined through the windows because there was another building about 6 feet away. This meant you had to keep the lights on even in the middle of the day. Depressing at this may sound, what made up for it was the fact that right outside was downtown Manhattan.

My father had close friend who had two sons a little younger than me. He had an Italian wife and they lived in Stuyvesant Town just a few blocks away. They were a typical Manhattan family, politically liberal and cultured, although they were not quite yuppies. This was the mid 1990s, back when a working class blue collar family could afford to live in Manhattan. We would all get together, sometimes accompanied with my dad's girlfriend, and go do things in the city. We'd go to the South Street Sea Port, Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, Museums. Sometimes we'd just walk around downtown and take in outdoor street festivals and shows. We'd always eat out at restaurants. They were good times. There was always an exciting cultural event that was going on. After all, this was Manahattan, and rarely ever a let down.

I have few pictures from that era; this was the days before digital cameras. I do have memories however. There were these neighborhood kids several years older than me who we knew that would hang out on the stoops of the apartments. They were Latino, new-yoricans, most likely. Downtown kids, before it became so fashionable. We went to Katz Deli over on Houston street, and my dad, always the outgoing one, would joke about the orgasm scene from the movie When Harry Met Sally that was filmed there. We'd go to Greenwich Village when it was still very bohemian and absorb the culture. I think one time we even went during the gay pride week or parade and my dad's Irish girlfriend pointed out a bald headed man in full drag. "Only in New York" she commented. We all laughed.

I was along for the ride. My dad would pick me up in Queens and drive me to the city. We did an awful lot of driving around the city back then come to think of it. My dad after all was a limousine driver. That Lincoln Town Car I remember took us so many miles.

We'd all go out to Veniero's on 11th street and indulge in the Italian pastries while making a lot of noise. We'd walk out into the hot summer night air feeling a little relieved, still cold from the air conditioning. The hustle and bustle of the city providing the ambiance around us. Summer nights in the city when you're a teenager, so many unforgettable memories.

And it was all so secular. Religion was never a part of our adventures on the town. There was never any church or inculcation into any faith. We seemed like a bunch of secular humanists/cosmopolitan New Yorkers. There was a slight Buddhist/Hindu element from my dad's side, but never anything actual meditation or chanting. It was more like the occasional wishing to an unknown energy that you'd strike it rich. It was more like the self-serving god than anything real, whether tangible or otherwise. The secular element made it that so much better. There was no religion trying to make me feel guilty or for me to rebel against. There were no forced rituals or scriptural memorization. Religion simply just wasn't there. Thank god for that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Dead of Winter


I haven't been able to write any good posts lately. Not much is going on in my life. All I've been doing is going to work and then coming home pretty much. I watch the occasional Hitchens video on YouTube, and listen to the Real Time With Bill Maher podcast on iTunes. Religion still intrigues me and my obsession with the Secular Metropolis. Other than that, work takes precedence over all things fun and endearing. I don't mind staying home on a freezing night and spending time on work related jobs, or creating 3D GoogleEarth sketchups. When the weather gets nice and warm, as it is about to do in a few weeks, I'm going to start minding.

I plan on doing more outdoor things this Summer. Bike rides, camping, bars yes, and outdoor music festivals. Oh man I can't wait for Summer. I'm planing on going down to Washington D.C. for a weekend to visit an old friend. That should be cool. I'd love to properly check out our nation's capitol.

So there is much to look forward to. I need another vacation badly, let me tell you. And all I have to do is wait.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going to Brooklyn: A Bike Ride


One morning last Summer I got up really early and took a bike ride down to the Brooklyn promenade. It was a beautiful sunny day in August. Here are my pictures:

The industrial area on the Queens/Brooklyn border has a sense of desolate grace to it:


This is an old rickety bridge that spans Newtown Creek:



Headed to Brooklyn:


Downtown Brooklyn rising. New highrise apartments:



Downtown Brooklyn Baby:



The Oro Condominium:



DUMBO:





The East foot of the Manhattan Bridge:


The Lower East Side "Skyline" as seen from Brooklyn:


Standard Lower Manhattan Skyline Shot:


The New Beekman Tower topped out and almost ready for its close up:


The New Brooklyn Park Under Construction:


And Now for Some Brooklyn Heights, One of the most beautiful neighborhoods in New York:


One of the many hidden treasures tucked away on the quiet, shaded streets of Brooklyn Heights:




You can get a hickey on Love Lane:

Downtown Brooklyn is brown stone country:



On my way back I pass through South Williamsburg, the Dominican part:


McCarren Park on a beautiful August day. I stopped by to work out in the outdoor exorcise area, and even took my shirt off.


Midtown Skyline from the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge:


That's all folks!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

New York: A Love/Hate Relationship


I'm going crazy because of work. I am working 11 hour days and getting barely half of that in sleep every night. Everyday I commute into the city, packed into to a train like a Sardine. I take an elevator up to the 23rd floor. The view from up there isn't as spectacular as you would think. Then I do the same routine on the way back home.

I know that in New York you have to work hard. I love this city but the amount of time you have to work is draining me on my life and energy. I almost long for a slower paced, hippie retreat in the middle of nowhere.

But, I still love this city. I still love its energy. Maybe the reason I have no energy is because the city is absorbing all of mine? I was watching some old newsreels about New York. They're fun to watch. Newsreels were shown in movie theaters during the intermission. It's interesting to watch these old newsreels to see how things were way back when.

In one called City of Magic from 1956, you can hear the narrator's enthusiasm for the big apple. I too carry that enthusiasm for New York tucked under my jaded expression. I know if I move away, I will get that longing for New York that I've had on extended trips away. New York was the biggest city in the world at that time, an unrivaled metropolis. It had to tallest building in the world, the Empire State Building. The city must have exhilarated so many imaginations and thrilled so many hearts back then, as it still does today.



Transportation in New York back in the 1950s:



Sunday, January 30, 2011

Urbanology


I am still obsessed with cities for some reason. Being that I live in one of the greatest, I love to compare it to others. One new sites I found allows you to take panoramic "virtual tours" from aerial shots of different point over New York City and other cities around the world. Check it out, it's pretty fun to play with if you're into seeing the city from above.

http://www.pixelcase.com.au/

http://www.pixelcase.com.au/vr/2009/newyork/

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Morning Hangover Post


In the middle of a deep Winter freeze, I woke up with a Vodka hangover. They're different from other hard liquor hangovers. I can feel the poison still moving through my veins. I drink water to dilute it from my body. It slowly works. I want to go back to bed and sleep for another 2 hours. Outside, the snow makes this bright white glare that forces you to squint. I've always hated bright light. There was another party last night. This one can be thrown into the dust bin of uneventful memories. I've been working so much and so hard that it seems I've forgotten how to party and let loose and have a good time. Work always stresses me out. I have nothing in common with my coworkers. This stresses me out big time. I'm at the wrong job. But, I have a job. I could be struggling now. Should I be thankful, or should I go back to bed?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Memories.....


I've had some flashbacks of years past recently. Being a bit younger and a bit more fresh-faced while amongst a crowd of friends that have long since left my life. I used to have friends that lived in my building whose apartments I'd go over to hang out. We used to play video games and watch Ducktales after school. There was an abandon lot near a hill we called Dead Man's Hill. It was our little hangout spot. It was like exploring a little jungle to us kids, filled with danger and surprise. One time, me and my best friend made it to the abandoned gas station there and saw these kids throwing rocks at the door. They said someone was in there and we just watched them throw more rocks and hurl insults. They left and eventually we saw a crazy homeless man come out. He mistook us for the perpetrators who were throwing rocks at him and he smashed me and my friend in the head with a big rock. This resulted in a police report and a brain scan at a local hospital. Other times were more pleasant. There was a big rope that hung from a tree over a ditch that you could swing on like Tarzan. There was another ditch filled with garbage that we lit on fire many times. One time the fire got particularly big and the fire department came. It was overgrown with weeds in the summer making it a perfect for playing manhunt. It's sad that I have no pictures from this time in my life. Eventually it became an apartment building and parking lot.

Then there was my foray into metal culture in High school. There's something about heavy metal culture. Metals-heads will wear the same shit everyday. They will utter the word dude as often as possible. New York metal-heads throw in a bit of hip hop slang in it too. It's a culture that is more preserved and less in touch with the times. Hip hop culture changes by the minute, but a metal-head from '89 might look exactly like a metal-head from '98. They were working class kids mostly from Astoria. Greek, Italian, Irish, Eastern European. Music was always a topic of discussion, which made me insecure since when I first started hanging with them, I didn't know much about metal. You could be publicly tested at any moment of your heavy metal knowledge. There was a game we played where we'd form a circle and we'd have to name a metal band based on the alphabet starting from A. When you couldn't name one you were out. Only the most hardcore and knowledgeable metal would be left standing. There was a strict feeling of conformity I remember. That's why high school is never a good time for most. I didn't dress like a metal head, and didn't know shit about metal. My first jump into anything rock at all was believe-it-or-not Marilyn Manson. Then it was Nine Inch nails. I got into Industrial Metal first since I guess it's an easier transition from Hip Hop. Then I got into classic rock and only just barely got into the Thrash and Death Metal.

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