nyc

[089] Skydiving Into Gotham

There are images that stop me in my tracks, and this is one of them. I just came across it in my Twitter feed. It appears to have been taken from a vantage point several thousand feet above NYC. The lines of perspective are exaggerated as the eye moves out from the center point, in a way that emphasizes the urban oasis that is Central Park – and gives you the feeling of falling into the picture. Geronimoooooooo!

CentralParkNYC

http://twitter.com/planetepics/status/452586483590107136/photo/1

Even with the distortion, though, the clarity is remarkable. I see buildings I lived and worked in, a long time ago. And the places in the park that I loved. Still do. Just haven’t been to them in awhile. The jogging track encircling the big blue Reservoir. The softball fields behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we could let Remi and Jesse romp off leash. Bethesda Fountain on The Lake. The roadways inside the park that were closed to traffic on Sundays in favor of walkers, joggers, cyclists, skaters, breakdancers, etc. Thom and I lived just four blocks behind the Guggenheim on East 89th Street and I’d rollerblade into the park and skate the great circle from midtown to Harlem. Listening to my Walkman. (FYI: this was after 8-tracks and before CDs.) Wearing only wrist and knee guards. I wasn’t young enough (even then) to justify that feeling of invincibility – but I was lucky.

And there’s the Great Lawn of Sheep Meadow where I saw the epic Simon & Garfunkel concert in 1981, and the ill-fated Diana Ross concert in the summer of ’83. It was a sweltering summer evening and a massive thunderstorm fired up just a half-hour into the show. Miss Ross was having none of it, though. She kept going in the driving rain, wind whipping that huge mane of tight curls, her flowing garments billowing like a runaway spinnaker… Ain’t no mountain high enough! A biblical downpour. No one left. It was insane. Half a million people could have been electrocuted where we stood… Ain’t no river wide enough! It was an amazing moment. And then the Motown Diva acknowledged Mother Nature’s superior forces and said she’d be back the next night to finish the show. I remember being swept along in a river of humanity exiting the park that night, soaked to the skin, everyone running for cover into the office building lobbies and hotels along Central Park South and around the Plaza. It was part disaster movie, part carnival. I don’t think they did many free concerts in the park after that. But what a night!

And you know what I love about the internet? I just found a clip from that crazy washed out concert!

 

An extraordinary image of an extraordinary park in an extraordinary city. If you know me or have followed this blog for more than an hour, then you know I love life in Los Angeles. But seeing this image and the memories of people and places and events that it triggers… reminds me of my first home, and my first love. It will always be true…

iloveny

Day 089 #100happydays


The End (so far)

[025] Apple Store Selfies

My first job (or, the first job that didn’t require me to push a lawn mower or dab zinc oxide on my nose) was in an ad agency perched high above the Plaza on Fifth Avenue. The General Motors Building gmbldg.cornerwas (is) one of the most prestigious business addresses in New York City, anchoring the southeast corner of Central Park – directly opposite the fabled Plaza Hotel, and flanked by the Sherry-Netherland Hotel and Bergdorf Goodman. It is a soaring, 50-story skyscraper in vertical stripes of blazing white marble and smoked black glass. Most people will recognize it from countless media images of that corner of the park. The building’s shape and stripes always reminded me of a pack of cigarettes upholstered in seersucker.

One strange thing about this magnificent office tower on the Plaza with all the swanky neighbors: the lobby was a car dealership. Of course, it was the General Motors Building… but it was just bizarre to be walking through this cavernous white marble lobby, surrounded by all these Chevrolets and Buicks and Cadillacs. And it was a working dealership! Eventually, FAO Schwarz took over most of the vast lobby as the flagship of its toy empire, vacating a space across 58th Street that was taken over by Bergdorf Goodman for its Men’s Store.

Atila

Atila

Another weird bit was the sunken retail space in the wide plaza between the building’s facade and Fifth Avenue. I think it was meant to echo the sunken space at Rockefeller Center (where tourists skate on a rink in the winter). There was an old barber shop down there where I’d go for my regular haircut and shoeshine. I still love old-fashioned barber shops. The person I now entrust my hair to here in LA is not an old-fashioned barber. His name is Atila. Nicest guy. He was the official hairdresser of the punk movement in Hollywood in the 80s. He has hair the color of a robin’s egg, and he must die of boredom granting my unadventurous hair wishes. But that’s another post.

The subterranean retail space of the GM Building on Fifth Avenue where I used to get my haircut was repurposed in 2006 to become the flagship Apple Store in New York. It is accessed by glass stairs or glass elevator through a now-iconic 32-foot glass cube at street level (à la I.M. Pei’s Louvre Pyramide, but worse).

Which brings me, at last, to the topic at hand. A couple of years ago, I invented a brand new cultural activity called Apple Store Selfies. You can do it alone or in a group. As with most things, it is more fun with a friend or two. It is simple. Whenever you find yourself at an Apple Store, anywhere in the world, go to any of the iMacs or MacBooks. Open the PhotoBooth app and take a selfie, saving it to the desktop. Then, open the Mail app and send yourself an email with the photo attached. (Don’t send it to someone else directly; the email will come from a weird numeric email address ARS023.050 or something like that, and will inevitably end up in a spam filter.) I should probably start an Instagram / Twitter hashtag for #applestoreselfies. Feel free to take the initiative.

Here are some of the selfies my friends and I have taken in Apple Stores. Now it’s your turn.

Apple Store at The Quarter in Scottsdale

Apple Store at The Quarter in Scottsdale

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store at The Grove, Los Angeles

Apple Store, South Beach

Apple Store, South Beach

Apple.LA.Thom.Mandy.070613

Apple.LA.L+M

Apple Store Selfies make me happy.
Day 025 #100happydays

Throwback Thursday 01.23.14

Setting the Wayback Machine to the winter of 1983/84…
Ledge.SheridanSquare.1983

My friend Kimberly recently unearthed a lost batch of photos of our adventures in New York circa 1984. We both worked at Wells Rich Greene Advertising (but that’s another post). Here’s a shot of me (and my hair) dangling not-so-perilously out my bedroom window (there was a small terrace) 18 stories above Sheridan Square in the Village. The view from that apartment was spectacular – especially at night – with the Twin Towers filling up half of the sky. Those were great days in Gotham. Before the world changed.

Another pic from that same day, clad in down, down in Soho.

Steve+Kim.Soho1983For someone who went on to become quite an accomplished photographer, It’s funny that Kimberly doesn’t seem to know where the camera is. We look like a promo shot for an ABC After School Special about Dana, a promising young skier whose Olympic dreams are dashed by a nasty spill on the slopes that robs her of her eyesight. She is lost. Until Bart, a devilishly handsome social worker, saves her from stepping in front of a speeding taxi. She studies his face with her hands, and gets very excited as she thinks she has found that escaped orangutan from the Bronx Zoo! The jolt cures (what turns out to be) her hysterical blindness, and she goes on to take the silver medal four years later at the Winter Games in Calgary.

[016] Snapping Janus

In November 2012, The Weather Channel (note: not the National Weather Service; but that’s another post) decided to begin naming winter storms, after the convention for hurricanes. I suspect this had something to do with the arrival of “Super Storm Sandy” in New York a few weeks earlier. Sandy brought catastrophic damage over a wide area. It was a named storm because it was a tropical system occurring before the official end of “hurricane season” on November 30th. But what about non-tropical storms… that slam into us in January? 

go away ireneI can understand why TWC wants to talk about storms by name. These massive meteorological monsters threaten us; we perceive them as living, breathing entities. They are unpredictable, fascinating, awesome, frightening… real. Naming a storm puts a label on our mental file-folders where all of our individual and shared experiences can be stored. A hurricane or blizzard is not a person, but these storms do get personal – whether they are delaying your flight halfway across the country, or submerging your neighborhood in seawater, or temporarily transforming your familiar gritty cityscape into a white, fluffy meadow. When a potentially deadly storm is bearing down on you, it helps (somehow) to be able to tell it how you really feel (on the plywood you just tacked up over your windows).

And so, New York is now buried in the remnants of Winter Storm Janus. A combination of powdery snow and frigid temps (Polar 20140120_TWC_JANUSVortex 2.0) has transformed Gotham into a thousand small towns. Having lived in NYC at several junctures along my own timeline, I know that you live in your neighborhood, for the most part. You might live uptown and work downtown, but your staples are within a few blocks of your nest. The dry cleaner, Korean market, gym, Chinese take-out and the bagel place on the corner. When Mother Nature slows things down, your neighborhood becomes your whole world, for a little while. And no matter how much kvetching goes on about the tragic inconvenience of it all, the truth is: most New Yorkers secretly (or openly) love the change of pace. If The City That Never Sleeps is forced to take a nap, well, who are we to argue? Janus did it.

That’s also the difference between a hurricane and a snowstorm. Heat is energy, and that is what makes a hurricane such an energetic, dangerous event. Not that a blizzard is without danger.

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

Photo by Vivienne Gucwa

But our language betrays how we relate to the snow. It blankets us. It brings a hush. It creates a winter wonderland. (Unless you’re homeless or without heat; but that’s another post.)

New York in the snow is a phenomenon most easily appreciated by a New Yorker. Snow slows you down the way nothing else can, and that’s when you see a million details that you miss at the normal speed of life. Horizontal lines emerge in the vertical cityscape: tree branches, power lines, fencing, awnings, rooflines. Everyday objects become cloaked with visibility. You never notice the fire hydrant on your corner, but you know that’s what’s under that 3-foot lump of snow. The sapping of energy from this most energetic of cities is most noticeable at night. Snowfall in the woods seems natural. Hearing your boots crunch in the snow (and no other sound) as you walk down the middle of Lexington Ave… that would be unnerving if you weren’t so full of the wonder of it.

The NYC photos posted here were taken last night by Vivienne Gucwa. Google+ thought I’d be interested in her work, and put it in front of me this morning. So I am enormously grateful to that algorithm – and to Ms Gucwa. Here’s a link to her blog post on Janus, where you can find her galleries on Flickr. I’m somehow resisting the urge to start clicking because I know I’ll never stop, and I have a little work to get done now. I hope you’ll enjoy her work, whether you are a New Yorker, an ex-pat or anyone who appreciates the frozen romance of the American Metropolis.

New York City in the snow – and Vivienne Gucwa’s artistry with a camera – make me happy.
Day 016 #100happydays

I Don’t Want To Live In A World Without Flash Mobs

You might have to be over 40 to fully appreciate this… but here’s 2 mins of pure joy, at the intersection of Memory Lane and the Internet Superhighway. Whatever you’re celebrating this season, enjoy:

Why We Love NY

ICYMI:  This is a parody of Ian McKellan’s memorable scene as Gandalf battling the Balrog demon in Lord of the Rings.