Jukeboxparables

WT2010 – USA – Day 42/43/44 – New York, NY (Antiques, Art, Memorials & Alcohol)

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 26, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 42/43/44 – New York, NY (Antiques, Art, Memorials & Alcohol)
[On the iPOD] Brainiac / The Replacements / Sparklehorse / David Bowie / The Libertines / New Order / Pink Floyd / American Football / Dizzee Rascal / The Whitest Boy Alive / The Thermals / Johnny Foreigner

Heading over to Brooklyn for the last time, I wanted to see if I could find some more bargains in the excellent shops around there. Wandering into an antique furniture store for no real reason. It’s really interesting checking out antique stores in foreign countries because their cultural history is so dissimilar to anything you’ve experienced back home. Amongst the furniture were toys, instruments, trinkets and nik-naks. Something that stood out in this particular store was a huge collection of ‘Life’ magazines dating back decades. Flicking through them is like stepping back through time.

Another interesting collection near the vinyl music section of the store was a collection of photos, literally in a huge pile in a 2metre wide crate, you trawl your fingers through them finding snapshots of memories people had shared and mattered at some point in time. It’s funny how you can discern what era a photo was from by the style of print of the photo and fashion/style of the subject. There was something from every decade from the 20’s and 30’s I’d say. Another area had boxes and boxes of postcards; used and new dating from as far back as the 1920’s. I flicked through them reading the messages from sender to recipient, one dated 1917 another 1946 and another 1974. I literally wanted to read them all but it would have taken days.

Wandering onwards to a used clothing exchange, a cool shirt for $10; perfect. My stomach rumbling I wandered back to the main strip and a Pizza place. Have I mentioned New York’s obsession with Pizza? It’s utterly ridiculous, there is one on every corner and that’s not an exaggeration. This particular store had an amazing selection and was probably the best I’d had in NY. I was then staring down at the wall eating my bbq marinara ranch chicken with pineapple! when I noticed a banner reading “Welcome new recruits” and the logo reading “DHARMA” hold on…

An Internet link flashed straight into my mind. Over a year and a half ago I came across an Internet link where someone had blogged about being in Hawaii and roaming around in-where they somehow stumbled on the shooting location of the TV series “Lost” and found a whole bunch of props from the show unattended and started taking photos. I linked everyone I knew to this blog because I thought it was rather amusing (and I loved the show at the time)

I was all set to ask the attendant where the hell he’d gotten the banner but then overheard people in the booth next to me talking about it first hand; “So a guy who worked here was in Hawaii and…” (long story short It was the same guy!) and apparently he decided to take the banner as a souvenir. Here I am, having traveled 15,000km and I randomly stumble into the guy’s Pizza place staring at the very sign I’d seen online.

Got back to my hostel and spoke to a dorm mate Bryan who was going to see a movie with other pals, I ended up tagging along (the movie being Kick Ass, which is an apt movie title) Afterwards they all decided to head for drinks in Lower-Manhattan so I tagged along. Next thing I knew we were putting cool songs on the jukebox and ordering pitcher after pitcher and approaching 3am (on a tuesday mind you) we decided to grab some food and call it a night.

We were wandering towards the subway when Bryan spotted an Art mural being posted up. As it turns out the mural was this The Artist being none other than Shepard Fairey (he was actually there finishing it off) The name sounded familiar but it didn’t click. I’d soon realise it was the same artist responsible for the world-famous OBEY works. Bryan knew his work a lot better than me (I think a friend had mentioned him in passing a few years back) But it didn’t click immediately. It was quite the experience, seeing this being worked on whilst tipsy drunk in New York and actually meeting the Artist there.

The Following day and I’d been pondering visiting the WTC site. I didn’t initially want to do it, because I knew it’d effect me profoundly and I’d be on a downer for the rest of the trip which is not to be disrespectful but In the end I decided I had face up to reality and do it. I hopped a train down to the financial district and wandered about there first. I came across a man bowing down before a giant bull-statue (the symbol for wealth/wall st? I’ve been told?) I’m not sure if it was performance art or simply some poor disgruntled American whose lost his home thanks to the recent Crisis’ (He was yelling at it; “Are you mocking me?”)

I’ve always laughed off banking conspiracies (you know the ones about the major banks of the world knowingly plotting in some clandestine/cult-like fashion to control everything; a tip of the hat to the empires of Rome) It all still sounds like utter crap, except for the Architecture and sheer money put into these buildings. They do almost to some extent look like ‘holy’ shrines to a bankers/traders money-fueled way of life.

The WTC site is huge, the footprint of the area below where the towers stood is probably two regular city blocks. My first impression of the people around was one of ‘We’ve got work to do” the cranes and construction workers scaling cast-steal beams in the far distance directing the pieces of a new tower in place. Signs around me point you in the direction around the site though I stopped short at a fire-station memorial with a placard of the faces of some 100 firefighters who scrambled as fast as they could to get into the towers to help people only to give the ultimate sacrifice in doing so.

Around the corner was a permanent memorial cast into the walls of the building. Some personal effects of one of the family members hung off it along with flowers and a flag nearby. The area was mostly tourists and school kids visiting, learning about the scale of what happened and what the future of the site will hold. The plans included a few things; from a new tower, to a park, to a memorial to two huge receding 2-tiered-level square ponds (which occupy the original footprint of the two towers) which will look amazing at night I think. For now the area is a buzz with construction. I tried taking some long-distance photos of the construction workers erecting steal only to have one walk past me and whistle at his buddy 50metres up as if to say ‘look good, your on camera’.

The vibe of the area is one of reserved pride. All the workers minds are on the job; getting these plans built whilst all the tourists stand solemnly in remembrance gawking at the new constructions forming before them. I will visit this place again when it’s completed. I think it’ll be a fitting tribute, you can always trust Americans for that. America is a country built on a secular constitution and I believe this place is holier than any place of religious worship.

Wednesday night was a trip back to Brooklyn and a venue by the name of the Brooklyn bowl to see Portland’s finest The Thermals with the best Jerseygirl ever; Molly. The band played a solid set which numbered something like 16songs-18songs. It was the second show in two days (the show the night before sold out) The crowd got treated a huge selection of songs spanning all of their albums with songs from The Body, The Blood, The Machine and last album Now We Can See seeming to get the biggest crowd response. Lead singer Hutch Harris exclaiming they were playing a longer set than yesterday because It was the last show of the tour, he also mentioned their new album is finished and being mixed by Chris Walla and will be out soon. For me; “Here’s Your Future”, “We Were Sick” and “I Called Out Your Name” were stand-outs. The band also played the song off the split 7″ vinyl they’ve released with The Cribs (which I hadn’t heard yet) amongst other new material which sounds rad overall. Full of energy, but plenty of room on the floor. The Brooklyn bowl is amazing; It’s a bowling alley and a restaurant and a venue in one. And you can see the band no matter what your doing! They even had projection screens above the ten-pins so you won’t miss anything if you’d rather bowl and drink and have the music as a live soundtrack.

Thursday, Last day in New York. I was considering visiting The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) because people have said it was ‘good’ but I kind of felt “museumed out” but after hearing Bryan and Ed rave about some of the installations there I knew I had to go. Luckily it closed 8:45pm on a Thursday. Little did I know what I’d run into…

I was expecting another run of the mill gallery, instead I got 6 levels of wow. Ill quickly summarise some of the stand out moments. Marina Abramovic is a performance artist who uses her body as her medium. She’s been doing this since the early 1970’s (in installation form) and MoMA just happened to be showing a retrospective of all of her ‘works’. For the first time, her older works were being performed by other people whilst she was present in a new piece which struck me as soon as I walked in.

It was a room with a square painted on the ground; A table in the centre and 2 chairs, one with Marina sitting there in an eye-catching red ceremonial style gown and the other free for members of the audience to participate in. People queued around the square watching on as Marina and a member of the public stared each other down. There was no time-limit for a person to sit there, some took 5minutes some an hour or more. I actually walked through other exhibits and came back to find the same women sitting there. For some it was too much, they’d leave with tears in their eyes perhaps recalling sad memories or successfully having read some in the blank stare of the artist herself. The performance was filmed and streamed on the Internet live and a photographer took photos of the participants which you can find here I overheard an array of comments from; “How completely lazy” to “I don’t think I could go up there” and “This is intense”. My interpretation of it was a commentary on the interaction between people on a daily basis, the distractions of speech and meaning removed.

I wandered through the works of Picasso for sometime then eventually moved on to more modern works like those of Kentridge. On my way up through the levels of sculpture and design I reached the second last level and walked in to find Van Gogh’s The Starry Night staring me in the face. I kind of froze, In the single art class I’d failed in high school we were made to re-draw this painting. It took me awhile to adjust to realise I was actually looking at the real thing (I wasn’t aware it was hung in America let alone the museum I’d just wandered into on a hunch) It is one of my favourite paintings to this day. Nearby were other Van Gogh works as well as those by Munch, Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Dali. What can one say other than wow.

I’d missed some of Marina Abramovic’s other retrospective works however I think they had closed for the night. They were being performed by other people one of which an interpretation of her 1974 work entitled “Rhythm 0” was chillingly retold to me by my mates at the hostel it goes like this;

A woman was in a room by herself, only accompanied by a table with 72 objects on it; including scissors, markers, a whip and knives and a gun with 1 loaded bullet. The audience was instructed to use the objects on the women as they saw fit they were also allowed to put her limbs in any position. Initially people used the markers to draw on her and put her arms in certain positions but as time went by people started to use the knives to cut her (on the face) and it all slowly culminated to the point where an audience member, grabbed the loaded gun, placed it in the hand of the women, moved her arm and pointed the gun towards her own head and began to pull the trigger only to have the audience gasp in shock horror and head to pull it away.

MoMA really is one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. My last stop before closing however was the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition. Basically he is the original intrepid exploring photographer. Starting in the 1930’s. As you enter the walls are plastered with maps of his journeys, he literally travelled everywhere before the average person knew what ‘there’ looked like and he took a huge array of photos being published by magazines such as Life, he also helped establish an photographers right to own his work. India/Indonesia during Independence / China during the revolution / USSR and the death of Stalin / The American post-war boom. He covered everything from the average shot of the everyday person to portraits of icons. I kind of got inspired after seeing his work and travels. Just thinking about it all logistically (how one traveled the world with camera gear in the early 20th century) It was utterly impressive.

I wandered around towards the Apple store on 5th Ave and that was pretty much the end of the day, my last set of photos in New York were black&white of random people interacting on the sidewalks of Midtown Manhattan some sort of pathetic attempt or homage to Cartier-Bresson? I don’t normally focus on strangers but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Later that night involved vodka, beers and generally a good time at the hostel (a hostel party of sorts)

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WT2010 – USA – Day 41 – The Bridges of the East River

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 25, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 41 – The Bridges of the East River
[On the iPOD] Joy Division / Interpol / Foals / Babyshambles

I was wondering ever since I got here where the best spot to view the bridges of New York would be, this is why staying at a hostel is a such a great thing; you can ask people. A dorm friend mentioned that High St in Brooklyn is the train stop to head to. The station leads you a hundred metres or so from the pedestrian entry to the Brooklyn bridge.

The Brooklyn bridge was built in 1883 and is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the USA. It links everywhere I’ve mentioned thusfar in Lower-Manhattan to Brooklyn across the East River. I was all set to walk across it except then I noticed a ‘tourist placard’ highlighting some areas of Interest on the foreshore around the western side of the bridge.

I only ended up walking to the first pillar and then turned back to get some proper photos of it from below and checkout the area of parks known as ‘DUMBO’. Which is apparently an acronym for ‘Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass’.

Right beside the Brooklyn bridge to the North is the Manhattan bridge though also linking Lower-Manhattan and newer it’s just as pretty in my view. Dumbo and it’s surrounds have all been gentrified lately which brand new parks and a foreshore walking area (construction is still going on) and a small group of restaurants peppered the area. No doubt it’s going to become popular when complete. I wondered what the area was like before all the new shiny buildings ‘moved in’. One old building was still in a derelict state with rusted cast iron doors. I peaked inside a crevice between a door to find random plate scraps about; probably the home to many a homeless person.

I snapped some photos of the Manhattan bridge, walked the shoreline towards the Brooklyn bridge and then to the extreme southern point of the newly constructed park. You could see The Statue of Liberty in the distance as well as a nice panorama of East Manhattan.

Joggers were already taking over the area, though I did share a hello nod from a fellow wannabe photographer. It’s good to see this area in this transitional state I think, though I would’ve loved to explore it awhile ago.

Some food points of note were; ‘a home made ice cream factory!’ and further away from the shore an amazing store obsessed with chocolate of all sorts.

I probably spent a good half-hour sitting on the foreshore though. It’s actually quite amazing, or discerning even; that is what New York does to a person. For whatever bad things people might have to say about America, New York is the answer to all that crap. For all it’s crime and violence, social and homelessness issues and other problems It’s so big and encompassing you just get pulled in and before you know it your a part of it all. It’s as if it’s size gives it it’s own gravity.

It feels like I’ve been lazy in New York to some extent, every day in every other city I’ve had something planned but with the scope of the city you just feel content to wander around and feel you’ve achieved something. The subway is probably my favourite on this journey thus far, it’s grimeyness, noisiness and generally the rattling state of the tracks don’t detract from the fact its laid out fairly well and the trains run bang on time.

I think a fair comparison of the A C E line to Brooklyn is to that of; one of those ‘ghost ride’ trains you used to get on as a kid in dodgy theme-parks. Theres a section where you can see the walls 20cm either side of the carriage as it seems to be topping out at max speed and the carriage itself is banging left to right testing your grip on the railings until finally the conductor locks up the brakes probably seeing how quickly he can pull up at the station ahead. But it all runs like clockwork.

I had many a discussion with different people, some say New York is a hole to live in; it’s traffic the ‘general rudeness of people’ make it a nightmare. Others say it’s better to live here than to visit. I still haven’t made up my mind. In a way you can find everything New York has in other cities; it’s even better in some but it just has this vibe of a modern-cultural-melting-pot-juggernaught that’s been doing it longer than anyone else and it’ll keep on doing so no matter what you think or do. It’s vastness is totally welcoming, alluring even.

My first site of it in the taxi from the airport was simply ‘wow’, after two weeks I’m no longer ‘wowed’ but just feel like I’ve always lived here. It’s probably because most other cities in the world have copied what New York has to offer and I feel a comforting familiar similarity.

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WT2010 – USA – Day 36 – Brooklyn and Manhattan

Posted in Travels by jukeboxparables on April 20, 2010

WT2010 – USA
Day 36 Brooklyn and Manhattan
[On the iPOD] The Ramones / Interpol

A full day of walking yesterday, but It was time to venture out of the relative ‘safety’ of Manhattan (people and crime stats make it the safest place in New York) and everywhere else? Well you hear stores from different people and wonder. So It was a short walk and a hop, onto the L train and across the East River. I actually had no Idea what to expect.

Rising from the grungyness of the subway up a flight of stairs and your smack-bang in the action; Bedford Ave. A much more relaxed vibe than Manhattan, no skyscrapers in sight (except when you catch a glimpse across the river down a side-street) This part of Brooklyn really has a community/working class vibe to it and whilst you’ll find some nice stores and restaurants on the main strip you really have to go exploring; which I did completely aimlessly.

I ended up coming across *shock horror* an Indie record store (I’m like a St. Bernard rescue dog, I can sniff these things out of nowhere) Anyway for those of you reading most of these posts your probably sick of me mentioning them, but it’s tried and tested if theres one around theres usually other community minded people who will be running rad restaurants / other shops.

I walked all of a hundred metres and came across a used vintage clothing exchange called ‘Beacon’s Closet’. There was some utterly cool stuff in there (for really cheap prices) I ended up walking out with some cool t-shirts for like $6 a pop. Win. Amusingly also; I had a guy sitting down on near the door on my way out exclaim “Yo, I love your shoes, I ain’t ever seen that!”. I didn’t know what to say, so I just smiled and nodded and kept walking; to which I got “Oh, Nothing to say to me COZ IM A BLACK MAN”. At which point I burst out laughing, even though he was serious. I replied how it was a long silly story, didnt want to waste his time with it and told him to have a good one. He looked rather bemused at my accent. Aussie charm always seems to work in these situations.

I wandered around Brooklyn some more and stopped for lunch at a Thai place, which had $5 lunch menu, pretty great value. Took some more photos as well as some backstreet photos of graffiti, which is all over the place. There’s a lot of warehouses and such down by the river. It’s where a lot of these funky stores seem to be. The real reason I hiked in that direction though was to buy tickets for a gig next week (The Thermals) because you couldn’t buy them online. Unfortunately the venue was closed! and didn’t have a day-box office. The guys at the music store said another venue in Manhattan sells tickets for them though.

So it was back across the river to lower manhattan to find this venue. I get there to find an open box-office but am told they DONT sell tickets for the brooklyn bowl. So I’d almost given up, later on I’d find out you COULD actually get them online. Great big waste of time.

The MET was apparently a big Museum that everyone must visit. I arrived just after 4pm with the idea of running through it in two hours. You get to pay what you want after 4pm, so I only paid $5 but it was a big mistake none the less. The place is HUGE! Is everything in New York on such a grand scale? Yes! I merely got to the end of the Greek art section and 1hour had passed, talk about getting lost in the exhibits. Theres big marble carvings to actual armour / swords / helmets on display. Think about it, 2000years ago some guy was wearing this in battle and killing people with that sword. You can’t discount smaller pieces either. I wandered straight passed a collection of ‘trinkets’ and then backed up and thought, hold on this is the real deal.

We’ve become so accustomed in modern times to just stroll past market places, sidewalk stalls of mass produced jewellery and what not. But here were coins and mugs and jewellery of high quality made and worn by someone 2000years ago. When you look at the big picture and take in all the art from this perspective you could stand there for weeks just admiring the scope of it all. The MET is one hell of an Impressive house of house of Art but it’s also about our History.

I decided flat out, I had to skip like 80% of the Museum because of the time left so I just skipped right along to the Medieval section because It’s something I’ve genuinely never seen before. I got there as it was closing but got in some quick snap shots. The Armour is complete Art unto itself, the detail put into the pieces that make up the suit and the decoration. Add to that; it all served an actual purpose for use in battle for whoever it was commissioned for. They also had a mockup set of Knights riding on Horses, and horse battle armour also. An utterly awesome sight. Then unfortunately it was closing time. I only saw a fraction of the MET. I think I’ll be back.

I then decided to walk across Central Park for the first time. You always hear bad stories, hell I’m sure at least 20% of the death scenes in Law and Order happen there right? All I’d been told is just don’t go in at night which is probably wise. Firstly, its HUGE so you can get lost in there easily. Luckily theres maps though. You find joggers, people walking dogs, families, baseball. It’s just been given a bad rep I think. It was gorgeous in parts too! I walked through an area called Shakespeare’s Garden and onward to a tower/house which was apparently occupied during its early history. There were squirrels running about in the grass and I then came across a racoon just strolling by. I can’t comment what it’s like at night cause I’m going to heed advice given to me, but during the day it’s the perfect break from the bustling city.

I emerged out the other side with one goal in mind; Times Square. So I hopped a train and a short walk and I was there; Times Square / New York City! Thankfully they’ve put up a sort of ‘staircase’ useful for gawking foreigners like myself so you can sit down and just take it all in. I watched the place light up as darkness crept in ever so slowly. It’s exactly like Shibuya in Tokyo, bright as day due to neon signs and advertising and the hustle of people walking in all directions. You don’t know which way to look.

I took some photos and helped out with people who wanted photos of them taken. I was walking towards the other end of the square when I noticed something in a window. A cookie. Not just any cookie! THE black and white cookie (for all you Seinfeld fans) I almost tripped over myself to buy it. It’s actually pretty amazing. I’ll quote Jerry Seinfeld:

“You see, Elaine, the key to eating a black and white cookie is that you wanna get some black and some white in each bite. Nothing mixes better than vanilla and chocolate. And yet still somehow racial harmony eludes us. If people would only look to the cookie, all our problems would be solved. Look to the cookie Elaine, Look to the cookie.”

As if mirroring the episode (in where Jerry tips his cookie to an African-American fellow) A guy commented on my shoes but spoke with an British accent. We got to talking bars and clubs and what not, Brit people abroad are always so outgoing. He mentioned that Brits aren’t like that back home though. I guess I’ll find out eventually.

Just like that I decided to call it a night, I threw in some random hipster shots modelling my new shirt purchases though lol. Still happy about those stores in Brooklyn, I think I’ll head back there and find some more.

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