i can’t go out and i can’t stay in

My good friend Mike Mararian had another solo show opening Friday night, at a gallery in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Great turnout.  Katie Scott (left) and Alicia (right) are seen here.

I borrowed Mike’s hat briefly.  And that’s the man himself on the right (and I believe that’s Dan in the background).

Jenn pays tribute to the legendary Allan Lee.

If every city has its own official liquid, you don’t want to know what New York City’s is.

• Scavenging has been a fun and often-productive activity for me for as long as I can remember.  Perhaps it could be linked to my Southern roots, where you drive around town, and anything out on the curb is fair game to add to your own packrat collection (I think several of you guys have ridden shotgun with me, years back).  That moved onto the justification of removing of remote, government-owned objects sometimes, and certainly anything in an abandoned area was available for the taking.  Never did this feel too much like direct stealing.

I haven’t fully considered aquiring food the freegan way, but scavenging lately has been on my mind in the context of bicycles here in New York.  I’m referring to abandoned (but locked), rotting bicycle frames that you probably see a handful of every day you commute.  It’s been an internal battle for me: surely bad karma will hunt me down, should I decide that I could use an old threaded stem attached to a decaying corpse of a bike.  So, I’ve never touched a locked but abandoned bike.

Let’s take the red Shogun road bicycle currently attached to the fence of the dog park on 7th Avenue and 17th Street in South Slope.  It showed up a month or two ago, in pristine condition, connected to the iron fence via a standard-size U-lock around it’s top tube.  After it remained unmoved, untouched, un-checked-on for the first solid week, the front wheel walked away.  Then, in a matter of days, the rear wheel was gone, perhaps at the same time that the handlebars were pryed from the bike’s stem.  The pedals, seatpost, and saddle were the next to vanish.  I guess it may be similar to the way flies and beetles naturally break down dead animals on the street to aid in the decomposition cycle.  The frame (often the only thing actually locked in these cases) is permanently left, the same way that the insects will consume the skin, tissue, muscle, and body fat of carcasses, yet will leave the bones to eventually become brittle and succumb to long-term weathering.

But the question is still there: is there a threshold for the exact moment when a discarded bicycle is legitimate, honest “fair game” to potential scavengers?  Obviously if your bike is locked for more than about ten seconds in the Union Square area, it’s considered fair game by the scourges of society (the number of stolen bike posts involving Union Square on Craigslist is scary).

• On the subject, this evening I found some steel drop bars and two bike tires in a large pile of trash on my street.  It’s business as usual around here.

• Sadly, two of my old staples in Manhattan are looking pretty rough: both Lounge (ideal for its inspirational, curated fashion), and National Wholesale Liquidators (ideal for achieving middle-america prices on household junk) are getting priced out of their SoHo and NoHo spots, respectively.  Both stores are heavily marked down and tearing down excess aisles daily, and may be gone completely by early January, at this rate.

• Last Wednesday I caught a performance of Pina Bausch’s Bamboo Blues at BAM.  While it seemed good, I’m not positive I’ve yet aquired a taste for contemporary dance.

Recently at the Broadway-Layfayette stop in Manhattan, there’s been a resurfacing of the top-notch Belvedere Vodka ads, but in print.  This self-portrait of Terry Richardson is on a poster about six feet tall.

Macri Park near Metropolitan and Union in Williamsburg.  Pretty laid-back atmosphere, but cozy.

The Gowanus Canal has high tide and low tide.  During low tide, you can find all your lost stuff.  The smell of this highly polluted waterway can be a little foul though.

here’s to the first thousand

I vote for more than one bike month.

• So it has been a good thousand days. A few years ago, it got off to an action-packed start, with this little quote from Day 2:

“…two of them start beating the dreads guy’s head against a parked car’s door… Blood is running down the faces of at least 3 of the men, several have cuts near their ears that look pretty rough, the dreads guy has blood coming from his nose, perhaps mouth.”

I’ve been debating about it, and I think I may be dropping the “day” nomenclature. At least to see how it feels for a while. We’ll see. In the meantime, here are some recent film scans from an old Canon SureShot 80 I’ve been testing out for a few months.

A concrete factory near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn.

Timeless Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Maybe one day. Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Spare mountain bike tires. Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Foodstuffs outside of Mama’s Food Shop in the East Village, Manhattan.

• I caught up with Mr. Appalachia, Corey, and Jenn over at that new barbecue place that replaced the old barbecue place (Biscuit BBQ) on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, and the verdict is in: it is somehow equally bland. While the food has more flavor, the lameness of everything being served in Mason jars combined with overpriced meat results in a bland experience.

• I walked to a bodega last night about a block from my apartment for some gatorade and heard no less than three cars rocking the new Lil Wayne album. I mean, I’m certainly not one to hate on him, but it’s no Weezy mixtape. Just saying.

• Also: a goodbye goes out to my dear grandmother. She’ll be missed.

if it’s yellow, let it mellow

4th Ave and 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

• The heatwave this week has certainly brought some odd people out into the streets.  “So, Barack Obama or that other guy?  You American?  You speak English?”  I was asked on the street, from a man who then ran up to a guy in a wheelchair and dove onto the sidewalk, pretending to shoot the man with a rifle.  New York.

Jenn and I saw a pretty serious screening of The Living End (1992) over the other night, but followed it up with a slightly happier screening of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull a few days later, also at BAM. The Living End was my first Gregg Araki film. The director’s introduction, plus an extended Q&A after the credits rolled, provided a full context (of the AIDS epidemic in the west coast gay community during the late 80s and early 90s). Slightly stylized violence and a large amount of character sympathy drive the film’s momentum, and keep it interesting. And yes, the token film school guy was there… with his trademark voice and that “I already know the answer to the question I’m going to ask, but I’ll ask it anyway so that other people can hear me asking it” style.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the fourth Indiana Jones, the latest Spielberg blockbuster, certainly felt successful on all fronts. Not only did the plot revolve around skulls and mummies in South America, but it also had borrowed cleverly from Dominic Sera’s Kalifornia (1993), when Indy finds himself in a fake desert town used as a nuclear testing facility (some may argue Brad Pitt’s identical discovery of the same location in Kalifornia is the only memorable moment in that film). My coworkers were right in suggesting the only lacking element of the fourth installment are the down/slow moments that can foster a little character development. Regardless, it fits right alongside the originals. I only wish I could have watched it with my siblings, like old times.

• The rolling summer thunderstorms are here. It’s not to the same voracity as down south for the most part, but the other night, Brooklyn did receive some hail.

Jenn and I saw Leticia at the newest vegan hangout, ‘Snice, in Park Slope last night — happy birthday! The cafe/restaurant has good prices, though I foolishly felt tricked into thinking my sandwich contained meat (on the no-meat front though, the meatless wings at Kate’s in the EV are good though).

• On Saturday evening, The Opera Singer & Archie threw a going away/engagement party at Justin’s loft in Bushwick. Big Joseph and James were there in great spirits, plus a bunch of other people. They head out for Illinois later in the month.

Radio Lab from WNYC (the full hour-long shows, not the 10 minute crappy ones) is a great option for helping one get through the morning office hours, in between meetings. I’m still catching up on a ton of old episodes. At moments, the two hosts become far more compelling even than Ira Glass’ praised “This American Life.

• “Who gets the girl? The guy in the SUV, or the guy on the bike? We know—at least in New York City… it’s the guy on the bike.” – Brendt Barbur (in an interview with L Magazine).

spring green

My cousin Julia has been working in a studio in the Five Points building in Long Island City.

The artists’ spaces are surprisingly locked-down and private, rather than communal.

Most things are green in Central Park now.

Different hairstyle options.

Spring all around.

This one is actually Regent’s Park, London near sunset. Just seemed to fit with the series on urban parks.

No shortage of food on the streets in the East Village. Despite the label, it looks more like beef to me.

• My parents flew in over the weekend, and, with Jenn joining us, we had a chance to finally eat at the Clinton Street Bakery, just a block from my apartment. In addition, I scored some tickets for Cry Baby on Broadway through my office, plus we saw The Visitor for free over at my building as well. Cry Baby has very slick scenery changes and is very fun in general, being in a similar vein as Grease. The majority of the characters had fake tattoos to make them tough. The Visitor is set in the NoHo/West Village area, and ends up becoming a timely piece on immigration laws, in a smart, calm way. It doesn’t point fingers at past events or current administration, but takes the path of a calmer melodrama. Unfortunate title, as about 2.5 horror films per year seemed to share the same name. My parents enjoyed the fact that we had just been walking through most of the areas portrayed in the film.

• I’ve received some emails from people and even a letter from my landlord about a potential water contamination issue. Apparently around 10% of the water at any given moment is from the Croton Reservoir, which has been failing tests for microbial bacteria and stuff (potentially resulting in some not-so-fun symptoms). But, they’ve known about this for years: like in 2003. But then other less-credible sources indicate there’s no issue: 2008. Seemingly, there’s still an argument for some sort of minor filtering via Brita/PUR, etc, at the very least.

• Only a few more days until the famed Five Borough Bike Tour. If you need a registration (they’ve been sold out for a month), a friend of mine has one, for face value, unlike a lot of the scalping in the bicycles section of craigslist.

Upper West Side. Notice how the engine bay is immaculate. Somebody was angry with the owner of this Acura.

chef pants invades

• In a remote area of construction in the Upper West Side, we found a garfield stuffed animal crucified and left for dead.  Heavily faded, bloated, and missing an arm, it was difficult to determine time of death.

Jenn and I met up with Erica & Constantine for dinner at a small, snobby, new restaurant on 5th Ave, somewhat close to Southpaw.  Good food (steak, chicken, salmon tartare, and complimentary clams, but the owner was a little overbearing.  Later, we unsuccessfully attempted to bowl down at Melody Lanes in Sunset Park (we were faced with a 1.5 hr wait), so we met up with D.Lehman, Mr. Appalachia, and Ben Calloway over at Buttermilk on 5th Ave and 16th in Park Slope.

• I have no clue how those tiny urban boutiques survive.  You know, the ones like DQM, Prodigy, or Billionaire Boys Club, etc.  I mean, they have about five items for sale (which maybe isn’t the best word, because there isn’t anything sale-like about the prices), and the three-four employees in the 300-square foot space would much rather continue playing their video game console (perhaps Playstation 6 or whatever the kids have these days) than help any customers.  But it could be that I’ve never hung around those exclusive places enough to effectively pay my dues and gain their respect enough for them to assist me in purchasing something.  Or, I suppose, it could be similar to a bartender just intentionally not wanting to serve you… though, I never see anybody buy anything.  I mean, Republican Rob and I discuss the phenomena of the urban boutique from time to time, and his main theory involves unseen money coming in from a large behind-the-scenes celebrity (ie: Kanye, Pharrell, etc), which would always keep things afloat, despite never unloading any inventory.  It’s image.  (haha, actually, just from a little research, I see that Billionaire is Pharrell-owned, and Prodigy is going belly-up.  I think Rob was onto something.)

• Each time at the pay-what-you-want American Museum of Natural History, I find new things.  This time, I was most interested in the shapes the skeletons on prehistoric animals made.  Extra-large deer-like things, and ancient bears and stuff.

• Last weekend, Hillary, Zena, Jenn, and I took a number in the waiting space for Jin Fong’s famous weekend dim sum, then, once our number was called on the microphone, we paraded up the long escalator and into the large banquet hall.  Everyone was happy.  It was my third or fourth time eating there, but the first time for everyone else in the group.  If you’re unfamiliar with dim sum, its a lunch-brunch meal where waitresses roll carts by your table, and they announce (or sometimes just unveil) what their cart contains (mainly an assortment of dumplings) while you request (and point to, a lot of times) the items you’d like to be added to your table.  Then, the waitress stamps your card, which you later use to pay at the cash register near the exit.  I still haven’t figured out how to accurately gauge what the final bill will be.  It seemed like we had something like 12 stamps on our card, but the total for the four of us was $32.  It’s a steal.  I’d love to try the other larger dim sum options in this city – let me know if there are any you recommend.

• I finally removed the larger, unused larger chain ring on my bike.  Here’s a new shot (above).  A lot of my coworkers and friends have signed up for the Five Borough Bike Tour in early May.  If you sign up in the next week or so, you can still get the early registration rate, which comes to $46.50 or so, with a small service charge.  The real draw, aside from it being one of the largest rides around, is the chance to ride the BQE and the massive Verazano Bridge all the way to Staten Island.

• From the cutting-room floor: OK, there are at least 15 things wrong with this shot.

• A north-facing building on 2nd Street between Avenue B and C received an organic makeover at some point last year.  At a glance, the only name I recognize from elsewhere is the “Best” on the door.  But speaking of getting up in this city, Chef Pants has been pretty active in the past two weeks.  I’ve seen his poor penmanship near the LES Crabs tag on Houston just past the dumpy little architecture firm, beside the newish wheatpaste Elvis Playing an Assault Rifle at the 1st Ave entrance to the 2nd Ave F Train station, and on a handful of the cross streets between Avenue A and B (such as like 4th, I think).  As far as bizarre names go, “Teeth Soup Meat” may beat “Neckface,” “Earsnot,” and “Elbow Toe.” People definitely like body parts around here.

rubbish tip

Hmmm… looks like I’ve been shooting trash (no, seriously, literally rubbish, etc) for at least five years.  Shot on a trail in Dover, UK, in 2003.

• I’ll go ahead and say it.  It looks like I’ll be spending even more time over in Brooklyn starting in a little over a week.  I took a new job in the most populous borough (“extra, extra large, like the borough of Brooklyn, the residential”).  I know, I know, you’re all like, “how backpacker to quote Talib, especially when the kid fell off after ‘Reflection Eternal.'”  Well, my response to you is: true, it’s a backpacker move, and yes, “Move Something” was indeed on “Reflection Eternal,” which yes, I’ll even agree it may have been his last good album… OK, I’m starting to think this vein of thinking causes people to end up with multiple personalities within a fortnight. (sidenote: weird, according to wikipedia, the duo of Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek together called themselves “Reflection Eternal” for that album, and that the album had a separate name… hmmm… regardless, you know what I meant).

• Good luck to Big Dirty with the WK12 thang over in Portland.  Fingers crossed.

•  The weather recently in the city has been incredibly cycling-friendly.  I hear on the street that it may drop to the twenties next week, which may start to creep into the time of the year where the wind feels so cold that you swear its cutting groves into your face.  It’s always a wind-factor thing.  And sadly, as a sans-mustache (but still mullet-sporting) Chitwood reminded me, “don’t forget about March.”  And he’s right.  Winter in the Al-Gore-Warming days is Feb-March instead of Dec-Feb.

• But what are we — tangential acquaintances accidentally on the same elevator forced to discuss the weather?  Back to New York.

• I received word (via Will at RazorApple) that Sagmeister’s got a show that opened this evening, and will be running through February down at the Lower’s own Dietch Gallery.  I mean, they have an animated illustration of a tight-pants-wearing Terry Richardson (minus full sleeves) on the homepage.  Automatically this place is worth a visit.  And, as I mentioned last go-round, Sagmeister’s also lecturing on the evening of the 19th.

• For your late night needs, Soma.fm has a streaming audio station called “Secret Agent,” I just realized this evening.  I mean, sure their poorly-named “Groove Salad” can be hit-or-miss with the electronica scene… but this channel seems to keep it downtempo and stylish in a clean way.  It’s listed under “electronic” in the iTunes radio channels.  Recommended.

Land’s End, the southern most tip of the United Kingdom, with its rocky landscape and continuously crashing waves, remains one of the most breathtaking places I’ve had a chance to explore.  Shot in 2003.

Regent’s Park, London, December 2007.