Tuesday, November 27, 2007

"Monday Morning's Memories: A Weekend On Long Island"

Another weekend on Long Island is over, a nice weekend in Vel's realm that ended with the best pizza I have ever eaten in the States - island pizza.

It was a weekend full of thoughts,
a sunny weekend,
a cold weekend.
It was a weekend full of walks,
a colourful weekend,
a sea weekend.

It was a weekend full of talks,
a grave weekend,
a laughing weekend.
It was a weekend full of tunes,
a silent weekend,
a singing weekend.

It was a weekend full of
small stones
and big trees
and buzzing laptops
and crackling sheets of paper,
big books,
small words,
big poetry,
small mistakes,
bad dreams
and good mornings.

It was our weekend.

Thank you!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"Thanksgiving, Central Park"

Damn, is it already the fourth Thursday of November?! I was thinking to myself last week, when everyone left The City to celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends and families. The American harvest season is over, people traditionally give thanks for the things that they have at the end of this season.

I am spending parts of the weekend at Vel's in Port Jefferson, escaping from the noise for a while. But on Thursday I went to visit some already familiar faces again, and enjoyed the colourful leaves of the trees in the park.

One of those faces is Sir Walter's (Scott, above). He is a Victorian bronze sculpture who took off his veil in 1880 - hanging out next to his fellow writer Robert Burns in Central Park ever since, rain or shine. Another familiarity is the saxophone player (below) who just tuned into another jazzy song upon my arrival. I guess he isn't standing there quiet as long as Sir Walter, but he didn't seem to be a newbie either.

After listening for a while I did what I always do when I walk across the Park and what I came to appreciate: I got lost. Ended up circling around one of the lakes until I finally reached Columbus Square again, ready for my rather non-traditional but still nice Thanksgiving dinner. Want to know what it was?

Well, that is something I don't reveal in public ...

Friday, November 23, 2007

"Islip (2): Janet Goldner's Sculptures"

I told you about my final destination the other day - well, here we go:

I finally got to see Janet Goldner's sculptures in Islip.

They are situated in the yard of an old carriagehouse that is by now some kind of the arts center of the town. Of course, as almost everything else these days, it was closed down for the season. Which gave me as much time as I needed to walk around without any further distraction and the opportunity to examine the sculptures, take some pictures and notes, and another deep breath or two of the sweet Long Island air.

All sculptures are dealing with immigration to the United States. Some very impressive facts and quotes are carved out of the steel-templates.

They tell a great deal of what it was like to leave home and find a new one on these grounds. In fact, they tell a great deal of what it is like nowadays, too.

I took some of those people's memories with me, some I would like to share with you, as Janet Goldner shared them with the people of Islip and their visitors - visitors like me who are here to find out a little bit more of what it means to be American.

Wanda Riviera, immigrated 1989, Puerto Rico:
"The said NY is beautiful, a lot of freedom. When I came here I felt freedom, then I was scared."

19th century Italian story:
"When I got here I found out three things: First, the streets weren't paved with gold;
Second, they weren't paved at all; and Third, I was expected to pave them."

Mary McCarthy to her family in Ireland, 1850:
"When you are coming do not be frightened, take courage and be determined and bold in your undertaking. As soon as you receive this letter write to me and tell me when you are to sail and the name of the ship as I will be uneasy until I get your answer."

Louise Nagy, immigrated 1903, Poland:
"Everyone lived in little cliques so they could help each other out. Maybe one knew a few more words than the other. They used to live 10, 12 people in one room because one was helping the other get established."

Rose Halpern, immigrated 1923, Russia:
"We paid him to take us across the border. About 50 people, we all paid him. My father carried my brother, he was 5, 6 years old. Carried him on his back. And we crossed, finally crossed the border in mud up to our knees."

Vernor Nicolls, immigrated 1915, Barbados:
"The first morning my father said 'I have something to show you.' We went to the window. He said 'This is snow. Open the window, touch it, hold it.' I remember very vividly that first experience."

Walter Wallace, immigrated 1923, Lithuania:
"It was kind of bad 'til we got to know people, speak the language and quit being called greenhorns."

Carmen Ayala, immigrated 1958, Puerto Rico:
"The government accuses me of being lazy, but I want to work. I also want to learn more English. I don't know what to do if I can't find a job. I am thinking for the future of my family. I am thinking about the poor people and the old people. I am thinking what is going to happen to us."

Pauline Curtis, immigrated 1930, Albania:
"My mother's number was called first, six months later my sister's, then it was four years before my number was called. My father stayed in the US for five years before we could become a family again."

Dr. David Ho, immigrated 1965, China, AIDS researcher who pioneered the use of drug "cocktails" to fight HIV:
"People get to this New World and they want to carve out their place in it. The result is dedication and a higher level of work ethic. You always retain a bit of an underdog mentality."

I strolled around the area for quite some time, trying to imagine how it would be for me to go on that one-way trip. I didn't come to a satisfying conclusion though. Then, on my way back to The City, I had a bagel and some creepy tasting juice-drink (Tropicana whatever, never again) at the sole café that is close to Islip station ("Bagels + More"). Some locals dropped by to have their take away lunch prepared. Bought the last package of vinegar crisps I initially intended to buy and then didn't, something I regretted when I was on that L.I.R.R. train again.

While I was sitting there eating my bagel with plastic cheese, the local radio station played Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" - and strangely enough it reminded me of home,

smiling ...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Islip (1): Long Island's Suburbian Dream"

The L.I.R.R. took me to East Islip this week, a small community on Long Island.
In 1693 an English aristocrat named William Nicoll purchased some land to build a family residence. His land comprised 210 km² from the Secatogues Indians, including territory reaching east to Bayport, west to Babylon and north to Lake Ronkonkoma, including the area I visited that day.

East Islip itself has nowadays around 4500 households. 70 % of the residents are married couples, many of them having children under the age of 18. The median household income for a family is about $ 80,000. In fall, the leaves of the trees are very colorful and from my observations I can tell that many people enjoy gardening and have a soft spot for terracotta figures and wind chimes.

Also, there is a Carriage House in Islip, which was my final destination that day, as it is home to five of Janet Goldner's sculptures.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

"Processing Data ..."

Green Tea, apparently of great knowledge of Chinese proverbs, says that "a wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it".

Changing systems means accepting various necessities for adaption.
One of the minor ones I am just working on is adapting to different seminar structures and increasing numbers of papers that are due within the semester itself, on top of the regular workload, and not - as I am used to - in the beginning of the next semester.
Apparently I am not yet fluid enough.

But still, there is hope: the day is still young and the kettle is already boiling ...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Brooklyn Museum - The Dinner Party"

I just happened to end up in the Brooklyn Museum today.

That's just one possibility of what can happen to you when you grab your stuff after a nice and long breakfast, walk down a random street, get on a random train around noonish on a random but rather coolish Saturday in November, at some point in the 21st century.

I could have made this a planned trip. But, why bother? Fate works it out for you anyways.

In some respect, museums are like churches and future employees - you don't call them, they call you.

Time to finally see "The Dinner Party" in real, color and colorful.
Judy Chicago invited them all to gather around a huge triangular table (forty-eight feet on each side):

The Primordial Goddess
The Fertile Goddess
The Snake Goddess
Saint Bridget
Theodora of Byzantium
Trotula of Salerno
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Hildegard of Bingen
Petronilla de Meath
Christine de Pisan
Isabelle d'Este
Elizabeth I
Artemisia Gentileschi
Anna van Schurman
Anne Hutchinson
Caroline Herschel
Mary Wollstonecraft
Sojourner Truth
Susan B. Anthony
Elizabeth Blackwell
Emily Dickinson
Ethel Smyth
Margaret Sanger
Natalie Barney
Virginia Woolf
Georgie O' Keeffe

and in addition to these 39 ladies, no less than 999 other women who changed the world one way or another but who were written out of the historical record until recently. An impressive piece of modern art - I allowed myself more time to absorb than usual.

I also had the chance to audit the presentation of Mary Beth Edelson and gain some interesting insights into her work, and to get to know Janet Goldner as we both just happened to have a belated lunch and a book next to each other in the museum's café. A lucky encounter.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

"New York City Marathon: Asides"

Whilst shooting sports it is nice to get away from your actual subject every once in a while and keep an eye or two on the crowd (below) or on fellow hunter-gatherers (above). This particular guy appeared to have at least as much fun with his lady than I had with my favourite new toy which looks quite similar in action.
And best of all, he was caucious not to step into my way even though shooting from almost the same spot; he deserves a Brownie point for that one!

Mum, Dad, why don't you leave your kids at home when they are much more interested in their gameboy (or whatever new mobile gambling device) than in some old folks running around town? It definitely would be less cold to sit on a couch than on the ground for this young lady!

Well, the last shot speaks for itself ...

Monday, November 5, 2007

"New York City Marathon: Run Forest, Run!"

This week's assignment for my photojournalism class was to cover the NYC Marathon. 42,195 km of something I've never seen before, Staten Island to Central Park, Manhattan, through all five boroughs of The City, the largest marathon race in the world - it promised to be very exciting. And it was!

I decided to be an early bird and went to 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where I took most of the shots that day. First, I took half an hour to walk down the track, to take a coffee to go with me (something I got used to very quickly living in New York), and to find a good spot from where to get my pictures - and above all, to enjoy the silence before the storm.

The first to get started was the wheelchair division. The quickest of all the marathon participants was Kurt Fearnley (AUS), who crossed the finishing line in Central Park after 1:33:58. Second quickest was Edith Hunkeler (SUI) after 1:52:38.

The wheelchair division was followed by the top men and women - all bones and muscles.

Martin Lel (KEN) won the men's race after 2:09:04, top woman was Paula Radcliffe (GB) after 2:23:09. Probably it would take myself about the same time to drive that route.
The tops were followed by the masses - a total of about 40,000 runners.

Have you ever had some thousands of people running towards you?
It is quite an impression, I can tell!

Keep moving, folks!