I like the costumes and color. It’s a side of the culture you don’t see everyday. Most days everyone looks like part of the world. Same, western style clothes in drab color, but once a year it’s all about tradition and celebration. I missed this for so many years… missed it in that I ignored the opportunity to see the spectacle. It’s fun. The parade in Chinatown Manhattan is along narrow streets which makes for pretty intimate viewing. In Flushing Queens, there’s a lot more room to maneuver and you can get some behind the scenes shots. Either way, there’s a lot of color. The dragons are good luck.
Do they even say that anymore? But do you want to know what my fantasy has been? Yup, helicopter. Well, at least one… others – scuba, but you knew that. And the best would be to fly over your house and get an aerial. Silly, but fun. I had the good fortune to have made friends with Charlie. He had a Bell 47 (MASH, TV/Movie) helicopter. I had taken care of his mother while she was hospitalized. He invited me for a ride and the rest is history. Carol and Ginny were deadest against my adventure. Lisa didn’t want to know. (She knew I was going no matter what.) They were worried because helicopters crash. In fact I one day saw a helicopter crash. I was driving up the Westside highway and a helicopter dropped down over the Intrepid Space Museum (aircraft carrier). I didn’t know you could land on the ship. They didn’t. The pilot and air traffic reporter were both killed by a catastrophic engine failure. I’m still here after many many hours in Charlie’s ‘ship.’
I lived in Manhattan. It’s special enough for many people. I lived in midtown, that would be near enough to Times Square to see the glow of the lights at night. Occasionally, just occasionally, there would be a spectacular sunrise or sunset. It didn’t happen often. And rainbows are not seen to often either. I was glad to have a camera on hand.
That’s what Eric called it. He had a boat. We used ski-bob on the Hudson River up by Bear Mountain. We did it twice only. Here’s the memory. It was a nice day on the water. The kids had a ball. Great days come and go so quickly in a twinkle of the eye.
We were on a five borough bike tour of New York City. There were thousands of riders strung out all over. As we rode along a road near La Guardia airport… I snapped this shot from the rear while riding… and was immediately admonished by my spouse (it’s not her!!). Well, if you wear worn out clothes in public, it’s fair game. No names, just places. It’s not a nice thing. It is in the category of street photography. There was no intent to offend. But a word to the wise, watch what you wear and where you wear it.
This was my first experience with photographing hot air balloons up close. The memory it invokes has nothing to do with the picture. The backstory is that it was Long Island. Lisa had seen a notice for the show at Bookhaven Airport. She also happened to have the worst case of poison ivy, ever! She’d gotten it a few days before. The blisters and the itch were fierce. If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you’re probably cringing right now. We went to the show and the kids and I had our experience. I got my photos. We stayed till the evening to see the balloons launch. They don’t launch during daylight because of the winds. The picture that got away (missed) was the one at the end where Lisa frantically was dipping her blistered arms into the ice barrels (soda) to ease the discomfort. Yeah, I was not high on the empathy scale. Some things you learn much later in life. Sorry, honey.
For a long time the screensaver on my phone was my dog Nellie. I would tell everyone I loved that dog more than any of the family. She would always come, lick my hand when I got home, and never had an attitude. More recently this is the shot on my iTouch. No, I have no iPhone. It’s cropped vertically. It’s an image on the day of Lisa’s surprise party and David’s return from Argentina. Yes this was a very good memory.
My last roll of film was shot in 2004. I always thought I’d shoot some more film. There is still some slide film in the freezer. Nope. The price of digital SLR hit $1000 and I got my first Nikon D70. I had a neighbor downstairs who always complained when the water in my darkroom was running at three in the morning. From here on it was Photoshop. And my first event was David’s graduation. It was a leap of faith to give up film on such an important occasion. I had only just purchased the camera and was just getting used to its exposure capability. Things worked out well. We don’t have too many family (four of us) shots. This one didn’t go so well. Focus and the distracting background were a problem. I learned one other lesson. I’ve heard the story of the wedding photos in which one party or the other wants the spouse removed later. It’s also very true of girlfriends. They come and go. Luckily I had lots of shots with and without her. David and his sister have had their moments as well. But they will always be related. Thank goodness they get along well enough now that Julia is in California and David is in NY. They don’t pose together too often for me anymore.
Of all the places I least expected to be it would be on the ferry to Liberty Island and Ellis Island on New Year’s Day in 2000. I had not been there before nor since. It was Lisa’s idea. Sometimes I just don’t know what she’s thinking. Correction… most times. She had contributed money so that my parents and her grandparents names were on the wall of immigrants. We searched out their names. I took pictures, of course. The wonder of it was why we were there on this day of all days? The bonus? What a spectacular sunset! You just don’t order up one of these everyday. Yeah! It was pretty memorable. (Note: This was film. No manipulation. Priceless.)
It was the millennium. I figured it was the millennium, century, decade, and year in 2000. This won’t happen for a very long time. We were out on Long Island. Lisa wanted to be in the city early. She was worried about the crowds and traffic. We listened to NPR on the way in and I recall it was Car Talk. Arriving home in the early afternoon I decided to bring the kids a couple blocks over to Times Square. They were celebrating each and every hour as New Year’s occurred in another time zone around the world. So there we were the three of us. Toward midnight it would become wall to wall mass humanity hysterically awaiting the magical ball to drop. Here we were at ground zero earlier in the day. Yup, Times Square on New Year’s eve!! … and at the millenium!
I suppose I have to revisit my trips to the US Tennis Open. I store my slide collection in a set of custom-made drawers. I have more than 100k. That would be a lot of drawers. Anyway we had a party and Manny Milan, a senior Sports Illustrated photographer, was there with his wife. Our wives worked together. Mine mentioned that I had a lot of slides and Manny was pretty impressed by my storage solution. This led to an invitation from Manny for me to attend the US Open. I had a Sports Illustrated ID and wandered the grounds shooting the ‘semis’ and ‘finals.’ I learned a lot. First of all most all of the serious sports guys are shooting Canon. Nikon is in the minority. Forget equipment. It ‘s about getting the shot. That is generally defined as getting that image where the ball, racquet, and player are in the same frame. And it’s even better if it’s just the players face, racquet, and ball. Try this a few times. You think motor drive will do it. No! You will miss just about every time. Things are just moving too fast. And try to focus. So I learned to pre-focus and to time when to press the shutter. (Go ahead, get the ball just coming off the racquet!) And for all that you only got the image a small percentage of the time. And then there are the classic positions. Shooting from the baseline you want a face on view with the ball in the frame. From the sideline there is another goal. And the same can be said for being high in the stands with a full view of both players and the entire court. Time of day…. And so it goes. With digital cameras the images are taken off the memory cards and uploaded online even as the match is being played. Then there are the images that will not show up anywhere in the media. I will be discrete and not name names. At the baseline there is the ‘dugout.’ It is an area at the level of the players’ feet where photographers sit and shoot. The assigned seating is like a pecking order of importance. I got a back row view. I’m nobody. The male photographer in front of me nudged his female colleague as he showed her his LCD. She gave him a disgusted look. I couldn’t see the near court player nor could I see his image. I just stuck my camera up and out, fired off a couple images, and took a look at what there was to see. I have to laugh. It’s almost pornographic. A thong, and the pants are pretty much transparent (presumably sweat). But what puzzled me were the suspenders holding up the thong. Anyway this image would never get published. It no doubt falls in the outtake bin. By the way she’s still playing.
The tale of Xmas stockings goes this way. We had no chimney. But Santa arrived and brought the kids something for their stocking. He didn’t wrap them. And we left cookies – another story – on a plate for Santa. On Xmas morning, the kids would rush upstairs and examine their stockings first. I’d get photos and video. It was a close quarters narrow space because we hung the stockings on the stairway bannister. We never spoke of when the kids stopped believing in Santa. Really! They were in their twenties. Finally I asked when the moment came to them that there was no Santa… probably around the age of six? Well, they laughed sheepishly and told us they didn’t want to disappoint us. Too bad the spell was broken because that was the last year we did stockings. Oh the cookies… every year I had to eat the cookies and leave some crumbs so the kids would think Santa ate them. By the time Xmas eve comes you are pretty stuffed and even eating one more cookie is a chore.
This tradition ended pretty fast. For a while, every year Lisa would assemble a gingerbread house. It took her a few tries to work out construction issues. She wanted it all natural without any non-edible support. Believe me when I say that there were issues. When the kids were old enough they were the decorators. We’d have all manner of candy to apply. Though some people preserve the house and display it year after year, we ate ours in gleeful destruction. Then Lisa decided it was too much to do every year and we stopped.
There was a tendency to overdo the Christmas gifts in our house. It must have been a childhood compensatory thing. It means that there is ‘cleanup.’ Jane and David took it in another direction. It looked like they were having more fun with the wrapping than the gifts. As the commercial states, “It’s priceless.”
We always had a live cut tree since Lisa and I have been together. She told me her dad made a tree from cardboard once when she was little. Money being what it is, he said it just didn’t seem right to spend money on a dead tree. It’s another thing you do to correct things in your childhood. The kids always put the ornaments onto the tree. Initially it was just the ones you couldn’t break. Later on we still had to put the delicate ones above the height that the young nephews could reach. And finally with grown children we didn’t put up a tree at all last year. We went to my sister in law. …all grown up.
I came to the sport late in life. I had skied once in college. I nearly froze some precious anatomy that day. I tried again when I was a grown-up and about froze that same anatomy. But this time it stuck. It then became my mission to teach the family. There was the time Lisa threw her skis in my direction. She swore I was trying to kill her as she stalked across the mountain to safety. Nothing is more frustrating than to carry your gear and struggle with your kids’ gear. It doesn’t matter that kids gear is small. It’s still awkward and cumbersome. You always think you need a couple more arms. And just when you get to where you’re about to put their skis on, someone says, “Dad. I gotta go.”
This brings me to another point. If you teach you kids when they’re young, they know no fear. They are too low to the ground to really get hurt if they fall. The next thing was to ski out west. So we soon were in Deer Valley, Utah. After a week of doing A’s on the baby hill, the kids objected to more lessons. I readily agreed but told them they would have to ski with me. I wasn’t great but I was on the blue trails. Out west the blues are equal to eastern blacks. They are equally steep just wider out west. I know I was nuts because people kept taking pictures of the kids, especially David, because they were so small. Really, when I think of it David was just barely walking.
One last anecdote – Lisa decided on one President’s day that we should go skiing. We went to Shawnee a small hill in Pennsylvania. How small? …Small enough that the parking lot was at the top of the hill. We got the last pairs of kids rentals. They were so beat up the plastic was all peeling. And on the mountain other kids were whizzing out of control and grabbing the nearest adult in order to stop. It was chaos. The finale was that David took a tumble down the metal staircase of the lodge. It was about 8 steps and a fair sized fall. I watched him tumble head over heel. He landed at the bottom and didn’t move. No harm, he had been dressed in so many layers the padding had completely protected him. I was horrified. We’ve never talked about it. I just picked him up relieved that he was not damaged and not even crying.
I skied with the kids a year ago. They are both better than me now. It does make me proud. I had better sense than to challenge K27 at Hunter when it was just a series of icy moguls. They both (survived) did it. No one told mom.
I was corresponding about skateboard photos recently. My own experience as usual was opportunistic. David went through a phase where he tried to master the board. Naturally I took the pictures. No broken bones… either of us. He’s actually pretty good in this picture. I was really not much of a stop action sports photographer yet. That would come when I had a chance to shoot the US Tennis Open a few years later. Meanwhile I had the awareness to try to catch the critical moment. I’d probably try for a different shot now. Still, this wasn’t too bad. David gave up the sport shortly afterward.
Haircuts for kids can be a bit traumatic. In NYC there are specialists. In one place we went the barber chairs were carousel horses and well … you know what. It was just inconvenient to get there and Lisa tried the old Italian barbers on 9th Avenue. They didn’t want to cut David’s hair. They just didn’t care too much for squirmy kids. David was a champ, never moved, and they grew to like him. And they didn’t really mind kids because there was always a lollipop afterwards. Julia always went along with Lisa and David so she was invited to a lollipop as well. One day many haircuts later I took David by himself. David received the customary lollipop. And the barber handed him one for his absent sister. He promptly stuck both into his mouth. In answer to my question he replied. “I have to eat them both before I get home and Julia sees.” Julia never did find out and it remained our secret.
David had been away for about a year and a half working in Argentina. We visited once. His apartment had a rooftop pool and spa. He lived quite well and had become acquainted with many people in his neighborhood. I was impressed. We did not stay in his apartment when we visited. Shall we say that he was not an excellent housekeeper and leave it at that. In the spring of 2011 it was Lisa’s big graduation. Julia was home once again. We had heard from David. He had quit his job in January and was traveling through South America without a specific return date. Julia decided to throw a surprise graduation party. And indeed it was a surprise. Lisa was clueless. I did the funding. On the day of the party I had gone down to the lobby to let some guests into the building. There at the elevator was a stranger kissing one of my friends. Then I realized it was David! Well his grandmother was thrilled. We hid him away as the ultimate surprise. Julia had Lisa downtown in a spa morning. Just like surprises go, Lisa was thoroughly surprised.
In a ‘roundabout way I will meander and recall the Kennedy assassination of 1963. It will be soon fifty years ago. When did I get so old?
This seems to be an annual rite. There is a body artist, Andy Galub. He paints his half naked models on the street right before the parade. And hordes of photographers are right there with him. It is quite a scene. Lately Andy has been trying for more attention by painting in the middle of Times Square. I have not been in NY To witness the event but it makes for interesting interaction with the public and the police. Anyway it’s all strange but true.
This year will be the first Village parade I have missed since leaving NY. Last year was canceled because of Hurricane Sandy. There are a lot of participants and the avenue is lined 10 deep from Spring St to 23rd St. It’s a wild and crazy night. This couple got married right before the parade and like Cinderella rode a coach up the parade route.