NIGHT TRACINGS NEW YORK RAMBLES


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NEW YORK RAMBLES (page 34)

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Edgemere

February 2013

A 7 mile walk from Far Rockaway to Broad Channel

The freezing gail force winds finally subsided making it far more palatable to go to the beach. Despite the fine weather there were few people out except for an occasional dog walker or jogger. Along some stretches I had the entire beach to myself. This quickly changed upon reaching Arverne where work crews were out salvaging what metal they could as they disassembled the parts of the boardwalk that has twisted into modernist abstractions. Had it not been for a bench here and there still tightly bolted down, one might never guess that these contortions were once part of a well traversed walkway. Some sections suffered very little damage but in other places I felt I was wandering through the ruins of some ancient city recently uncovered by shifting sands. Many have long claimed that there are two New Yorks; this notion has never been more evident than now. Hurricane Sandy may have forced many residents to flee, but now more are leaving due to despair. We live in a unique time, not because of hard times but because of our inability to generate hope.



Kissena Hollow

February 2013

A ramble in Kissena Hollow

Warm air has come up from the south and the fog lingers all day. In this ghost world nothing is real. As night comes down the will-o’-the-wisps ignite far beyond my grasp. They cannot tempt me to stray from my path; I am already where I want to be.



Kissena Hollow

February 2013

A walk through Kissena Hollow

Both days and nights are filled with the callings of geese. The lake is still frozen but covered with a blanket of slush. The ducks fly in and skid across it as they land. A loud chorus of honks and quacks goes up breaking the silence. Gulls spiral upward adding their cries to the mix. What is all the fuss? The ranks on the ice are reshuffled and all is quiet again.



Woodside

February 2013

A walk from Woodside to Corona

Listening to the weather reports I thought the apocalypse was on the horizon. It seems that nothing less will get people’s attention these days so everything we hear is hyped. Some places did get hit hard, but here in the city it was just another snowfall. We are now all connected to this elaborate modern technology that can help to predict storms more accurately, then we are presented with spin. We may all live under a giant umbrella of propaganda these days but main result is that no one believes anything anymore.



Bayside

February 2013

A loop between Flushing and Bayside

Queens is known for its many vast cemeteries, but smaller ones can also be found tucked away between factories and homes. Many of these are locked up behind strong fences or lost in weed filled lots. We mark our graves with stone, some of remarkable character and expense, and then we forget about them as time goes by; our responsibility done. Death may indeed be eternal but memory is surely short lived.



Fort Totten

February 2013

A walk from Fort Totten to Flushing

Its been about thirty years since I last wandered through the old gun emplacements at Fort Totten. It was summer then and and the surrounding forest had engulfed the structure like a mysterious long forgotten Mayan ruin buried deep in a jungle. Much of the vegetation that had been prying the concrete apart is now cleared away revealing the entire length of the battery. It is quite an impressive sight and still much a ruin, but clarity sometimes takes away as much as it gives.



Kissena Hollow

January 2013

A walk in Kissena Hollow

There was nothing special about the recent snowfall or the light of day but I felt compelled to go out and walk anyway. The only thing out of the ordinary is the temperature, which has barely climbed into the double digits. There is something appealing about this, something that made me want to go out more despite the discomfort I knew awaited me. Why this in particular should draw me out I do not know for it is not something that will register on film. Apparently there are days when even I have to remind myself to listen to my feet rather than my head. My walks are not a chore, they are my art.



Central Park

January 2013

A walk from the Upper East Side to Chelsea

Even for the likes of me the day was dark, damp and dreary. The landscape wasn’t lifeless but it took all I had to draw the most meager results from it. Then from a deep ravine rose a strange amorphous form, some alien creature whose unexpected arrival added a shimmering spectrum of color to the surrounding bleakness. It floated upward through the still air slowly gliding through the prickly tipped trees without a care as if it was impervious to this world.



South Beach

January 2013

A walk from South Beach up to Clifton

Looking down at the grass along the edge of the shore I was reminded of swirls of nearly colorless hair that may be found on an old man’s head. At the beach, half a turquoise ladder, strange remnants of wicker and sign placards with messages now scoured away poked out from the sand. My attempts to capture these abstractions was interrupted by a security patrol who insisted I leave. Where else but in dystopia can a beach be closed. Great efforts are being made to project authority supposedly to save me from myself; yet just across the street sinkholes have been devouring sidewalk and street for months with no help in sight.



Dyker Heights

January 2013

A walk from Bath Beach to Dyker Heights to New Utrecht

The streets of Manhattan may get dressed up for the holidays but some of the best displays of lights are to be found in the outer boroughs. Everything from the most modest to the most extravagant and outlandish can be found where personal taste and perhaps wallet size are the only bounds. Some displays are so elaborate that they cannot be constructed without professional help. I find this curious for the lights are supposed to be magic, not ostentatious consumerism. This requires ritual as an elemental component. To contract out one’s spirituality seems to miss the point of it all. The end results however are a welcome feast for my eyes that I am loathe to discourage.



Oakwood Beach

December 2012

A walk from New Dorp to Great Kills via Oakwood Beach

The beach held an untypical quiet. Even the water was strangely calm with barely a ripple to be found, the whereabouts of the horizon unknown. Through the haze a distant ship caught my attention; it seemed as if it was gliding across the sky. I had walked this stretch before, past cottages glistening white. Now they were gone, most of them anyway, their remnants scattered sticking out from the sand or dangling from broken trees. These were sometimes intriguing, created great abstractions for my camera but there was danger lurking as well. Rebar sticking up between the shells on the strand promised that even a simple fall in the wrong place could prove fatal. Further inland I was greeted with an eerie silence. Not all were gone but most homes left were no longer inhabitable. One lane was almost completely washed away; the well built steps of former homes still standing in place like ghostly sentinels against a darkening sky. Soon what was grey grew grayer and the day was gone.



Madison Square Park

December 2012

A Midtown ramble

In the science fiction of my childhood, a giant glowing orb was sometimes presented as a superior form of life that could even come to be worshiped as a god. One such omnipotent presence now graces Madison Square Park but it is hardly the almighty eminence once foretold. Although this glowing buckyball arouses the attention of even the most skeptical, it serves as little more than a delightful diversion from everyday rounds. Tourists seem the most intrigued as it takes a lot to hold the attention of a New Yorker.



Coney Island

December 2012

A walk between Sea Gate and Sheepshead Bay

The boardwalk was intact but rickety. A step on the wrong plank would set off an unwelcome squeal. As I stood facing the ocean, a huge pile of splintered wood lay in between. For the life of me I could not remember what once stood here to create so much debris. After a few moments of pondering and spotting smaller piles of furniture, I realized this was all remnants of people’s homes and lives from Breezy Point that had been delivered by the storm serge and gathered up by cleanup crews. On the opposite side of the boardwalk, long ridges of sand ran the length of roadways. This too was part of the cleanup effort. It had been scrapped off of the main thoroughfares but there was nowhere to put it except piled high on dead end streets. It was just like in a blizzard, only this won’t melt.



Belle Harbor

December 2012

An 11 mile walk from Broad Channel to Neponsit

It was a beautiful day but full of contradictions. Great clouds were rolling across the sky and sunlight was glistening off the edges of hugh dark breakers rolling in toward the beach. Today their crashing seemed comforting. Yet nearly every footstep was placed on land previously flooded by the recent hurricane, making destruction my constant companion. The beach was a mess with the boardwalk shredded, and bulldozers were still busy at work scooping sand off the roads. Scattered evergreens had turned an unsightly bright brown from being saturated with salt water. The splintered wood and shattered concrete of twisted homes became wonderful playful abstractions for my camera, making it easy to forget the true pain lying underneath. It was a bit voyeuristic viewing other people’s misery, and sometimes this was quite literal. On some homes walls were completely torn off by the storm serge revealing beds, dining room sets, and closets full of clothes in perfect order just as they were hastily left behind six weeks ago.



Midland Beach

December 2012

A 6 mile walk from Dongan Hills to Midland Beach and on to New Dorp

The houses at the beach remind me of cracked eggs with their contents oozing out. Not all damage can be fixed. It is hit and miss. Some houses are fine, others just seem that way. A red notice marked “Uninhabitable” is not what you want to find on your door. Yellow notices reading “Restricted Use” are not much better. Some homes, or what’s left of them have large numbers scrolled across their walls; these are for demolition. In places the ground has already been hastily scraped clean leaving behind a muddy mess that is indistinguishable from the muck on the streets. It’s been just over a month since hurricane Sandy hit but it still looks like days.



Kissena Hollow

December 2012

A walk in Kissena Hollow

The air is damp, not quite a real fog but certainly not clear. Squirrels are noisily rustling through leaves piled high by men with leaf blowers while the buzz of chain saws sound somewhere in the distance. I set off to where my own footsteps are the greatest din.



Soho

December 2012

A walk from Soho to Midtown

Dealing with nothing but shape and color may seem like the easy way out when composing a photo, but it always seems to work.



Flushing

November 2012

A walk in Flushing

Artificial representations of wildlife seem to appear most on two divergent types of properties. There are those carefully manicured yards often with topiary or dwarf plants, and the greenest of grass. Then there are those who only have access to limited space that prioritize crowding as much onto them as possible over actually maintaining them. There is common ground however as both are bound together by extremes of the unnatural.



Midtown

November 2012

A walk in Midtown

There is a strange mixture before my eyes. Buildings with modern facades sit next to those of renaissance revival while street trees compete with sculptured topiary in pots. A chinese woman hawks insects woven from grass amidst rising clouds of steam from hot dog water. Jewelry sits in store windows fetching prices beyond imagination while only receiving a rare glance. Tourists pass natives in the streets, both speaking every language imaginable afraid to make contact. It all seems an uncommon jumble and yet it flows with harmony.



Central Park

November 2012

A walk in Central Park

In Manhattan the most obtrusive of trees that fell during the recent hurricane have been carted off and people now go about as if nothing has changed. Here and there however lie piles of chopped leaves mixed with sawdust slowly scattering into oblivion with every footstep passing through. I stop and stare. It is like the blood left behind after a tragic accident or murder; a sorrowful reminder destined to fade. Many of the trees that remain are alive with color, and the city beyond rises with promise as if there were not a worry to be had.



Midtown

November 2012

A walk from Midtown to the Upper East Side

To my amazement, I was able to reach and maneuver about the Thanksgiving Day parade route despite the large crowd and my late arrival. Even the balloons were flying high today with the absence of strong winds. I forgot how large they are and how quickly they move; I really had to scramble when they were overhead. I know the parade is one big commercial but the spectacle is no less real.



Upper West Side

November 2012

A walk on the Upper West Side.

I had never seen the balloons being blown up for the Thanksgiving Day parade due to one obstacle or another, but today all my stars seemed aligned. I knew attendance would be high but it was nowhere near the informal affair I had come to expect. Despite the great effort put into crowd control there were thousands of people wandering every which way not knowing what to do or where to go. I soon decided my best interests were in leaving, which was more easily said than done. My only shots of the once promising evening were of the subway entrance I escaped down.



Howard Beach

November 2012

A 7 mile walk from Hamilton Beach to Woodhaven

Down on Jamaica Bay there was little structural damage to be found from Hurricane Sandy, but the area had obviously been flooded. Trash that had long accumulated in the wetlands had risen up with the high tide and then drifted off with the serge. It lay strewn about in clumps, like a bad dream of our wastefulness we cannot forget. Whenever I spot damage in waterfront communities such as this one, it is often difficult to say when what occurred. They are always more subject to the vagrancy’s of the weather than the rest of us, and rot and ruin is prone to sit undisturbed for some time.



Kissena Hollow

November 2012

A walk in Flushing

The night remained cold and by morning the landscape was still crusted with the snow that came down the day before. Had it not fell so wet I would have woken to a much starker scene. Newly torn branches now lay scattered about amidst larger remains not yet carted off. Most damaged branches however remained high in the trees; half torn or balanced, poised to rain down upon the unsuspecting another day. I will think about my possible demise tomorrow. Today is for living and finding the beauty in it.



Kissena Hollow

November 2012

A walk in Kissena Hollow

The weatherman says I can expect up to three inches of snow for my area but there’s already four on the ground and it’s still coming down with fury. The conditions are horrible for photography with high winds blowing all about. The snow however is wet and gloppy and is clinging to leaves like glue. With only a narrow window of light left left in the day, I head out. Everything looks incredible. I want to capture it all. Snowflakes in my eyelashes makes it hard for me to see, while the snow accumulating on my viewfinder is making it nearly impossible to compose. It is a miracle that I am able to keep my lens dry for so long. Within the forest branches are hanging till they touch the ground. None of the trees previously felled here were removed, and now covered with snow they have become even greater obstacles. The place I know like the back of my hand begins to grow foreign. The danger point is reached as weighted branches finally began to snap and come crashing down to the ground. My wet fingertips are now numb and I cant feel my way around the camera. I will return home but not until the growing darkness forces my hand.



Auburndale

November 2012

A loop between Flushing and Auburndale

I’ve grown sick of photographing fallen trees. It’s not just from this storm, for there are reminders everywhere of Hurricane Irene and the tornado from the year before. Every block seems to have its scared veterans and stumps marking those who have fallen. Many home owners seem not to care. Trees for them were never more than an inconvenience, and now they are being perceived as an unwanted danger. I am still stepping over or walking around tall piles of fallen branches but my eye is turning elsewhere.



Hillcrest

November 2012

A loop between Flushing and Hillcrest

The damage to inland areas is predominantly from wind, and it is widely scattered. Most streets seem totally unscathed but pockets exist where the wind’s power is undeniable.



Kissena Hollow

October 2012

A walk in Kissena Hollow

City parks have been closed due to the potential danger of falling trees but I pay the warning no heed. I need to be out. There is very limited transportation to be had, and without electric I am also struggling for news beyond the reach of my footsteps. These are hardly excuses. I know I can get much further afield than I have, but being witness to the destruction of things I love is exhausting me.



Auburndale

October 2012

A loop between Flushing and Bayside

The main roads have been quickly cleared of fallen trees and limbs but there are few signs of electric power to be found. Here and there yellow police tape stretches across a street to mark off fallen power lines. There are so many overhead cables these days, it is hard to know what is what. Despite the heavy overcast I never loose my sense of direction; in the face of the nor’easter, every fallen tree has dropped toward the west. It is a great compass but one I can do without. My mind seems to be racing all the time yet there is barely a single thought to be had.



Flushing

October 2012

A loop between Flushing and Murray Hill

The destruction brought by Hurricane Sandy had come hidden in the night made darker by loss of power to homes and street lights. I spent the morning out in intermittent rain watching men with ropes and chain-saws remove fallen trees from my house. By afternoon I was free to go out and shoot but my heart wasn’t into to it. I forced myself out anyway, not even bothering to change my wet clothing.




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