I hadn’t been to New York in 12 or 13 years. I was last there right as Times Square was undergoing its massive change and people were griping about SoHo being overrun by yuppies and the chain stores that sell to them. It’s now a tourist trap/brand touch point for those brands who are willing to pay. It was more crowded than I remember, but I figure that is due to the time of year (holidays) and the weather (excellent 60° F). The counterfeit watch salesfolk spoke under their breath as if it were heroin “watch?” “watch?” “hey, wanna buy a watch?”

Those counterfeit watches used to be the Hard Rock shirt (remember the 80s?) of New York… returning with a counterfeit watch was better than any shirt, though. I always picked up one or two and this trip was definitely different in that I felt no compulsion to buy a fake Rolex. Take fake Holga pictures? Hell yes.

For the first time in a long time I felt inspired to take photos. A lot of photos. While I was worried about Heather’s meeting all Friday morning long, it was nice to walk around Manhattan and Brooklyn taking loads of photos. Later, we set out getting blisters and sharing time, shaking our heads at the insanity of Manhattan. It’s a miracle that the city functions, if you stop walking 80 times as fast as you are compelled and think about it. It’s a lot of shit, a lot of garbage and a lot of wiring. It all works to a degree. It’s also full of amazing people.

I got to meet Sarah Brown for the first time and while getting sloshed on infused vodka perhaps overstepped the boundaries of good taste. Not that New York knows anything about boundaries or good taste. Not that I know anything about boundaries or good taste. I think it went well.

I also got to see and meet a ton of other people, no less sterling and awesome. Eating good food and drinking good booze while staying out late and limping home, compact flash cards and bellies full.

However, watching my lady take on the entire cab system armed with a cell-phone and an attitude was something to behold. There are moments in urban living where you must surrender to the tide and surf it like the bastard that it is. Saturday late-afternoon in midtown Manhattan during the very peak of the holiday season was one of those moments. It was laughable how no single cabbie would take us and our luggage a mere five blocks. Couldn’t they head down about twelve blocks and then cut across and come back up? Nope. Easier to roll down the window and ask where we were going and then speed off (one did abandon his cab while Heather tried to make a formal complaint; it is illegal to refuse to take a person somewhere in New York… but try telling that to anybody. It’s pretty clear that New York hates people. Very Kafka slash Gilliam.

* * *

Perhaps it was how I appeared after hauling luggage and a large camera bag through Rockefeller Center and Times Square at the peak of holiday shopping that Heather suddenly started calling me Bobby using her best Edie Falco in the Sopranos voice. I can only guess where she pulled it from and I’ll be laughing about it for some time. While I’m looking rather vaguely De Niroesque and asking if you are talking to me while Cream plays in the background and the camera pans slowly around me while you crap your pants at my badassedness.

Aside from the refugee moment/freak show, most of the trip went without incident. And I’m really pleased with the photos that I’ve already shared and will be sharing over the next while.

Finally, I kept asking myself if urban living is worth it. If you want to get ahead and care about your career in terms of The Man, there is no better place to work it than a big city, and likely few better than New York City. But Manhattan is a glorious cluster fuck of epic proportion. And I’m not sure that I have the will to navigate it purely for the sake of hipster cred. I do have the will to navigate it for the profuse photographic opportunities it presents. I do not have nearly enough memory storage to come close to capturing the depth of texture or flavor. But I tried.

  • paula

    New York stories are the best stories in the world.

    Everyone has a New York story, even me. I love/hate New York.

  • doctor t

    Looking forward to more shots, and seeing NYC through your lens.

    And “Brazil” is one of the 10 greatest movies ever made.

  • Wicked H

    Until I make it there myself, these are fantatic ways to re-wet my appetite for the Big Apple.

    Thanks Jon!

    Merry Christmas to the Blurbodoocery Family!!!

  • mihow

    I can’t speak for all those living in NYC but my voice might account for some. Many of us who live here don’t cover that much of the city most of the time, which means we don’t deal with the plethora of hassles Manhattan might create most of the time. We leave that up to the tourists. ;] I cover a lot of ground now only when people visit and those days are indeed mightily exhausting. Those are the days where I questing why I still live here.

    Here’s the thing, any New Yorker has the ability to turn his or her 5 blocks or so into a neighborhood. We see the same people on the way to work, the same people at the coffee shop in the morning, the same folks at the bar. The same store clerks sell me my food and newspaper. It’s human nature to want something routine. I think. I take great comfort in that living in Brooklyn and at the end of the day I return to my home and watch the city prepare for its evening from across the river.

    I guess, what I’m saying is, I think the cluster fuck sensation is left mainly for those visiting New York City and those who are fresh transplants because the only time I feel that way anymore is when I’m showing someone around and it does subside, it really, really does.

    That’s not to say other annoying things take over, like getting a license renewed, or trying to pick up a parcel at the post office. A friend of mine recently tried to buy a car, for example, a practical pastime in America today, and had such a horrible time of it (cars weren’t on the lot due to lack of space, it would take days in order to see it. Test-driving was nearly impossible, etc.) Eventually, he went to New Jersey.

    That glorious cluster fuck feeling goes away after a while. It just turns into any other place to live. (Also, I’m willing to make a bet that 80 percent of the people you see in Times Square at any given moment of the day are tourists and not those who live here.)

    Oh, and the inspiration one feels? That never, ever goes away. And I think that’s one of the biggest reasons I can’t seem to quit this place.

  • http://mihow mihow

    Those are the days where I QUESTION why I still live here. Not questing. Hmmm

    (Sorry for the really, really long comment).

  • http://mihow mihow

    One more thing, had you come last year at the exact same time in which you were here, you wouldn’t have had a subway to use at all. Talk about a cluster fuck! :]

  • blurb

    Mihow, Brooklyn is awesome. Park Slope reminds me of San Francisco. And I could live there. I think you are dead right about cities and neighborhoods.

  • Bill

    Holy guacamole; you just reminded me of the fake Rolex my dad got for me when he went to New York in, yes, the late 80s.

    I loved that watch. The kids at school would try to put me down by telling me it was fake (the second hand did not sweep, it ticked), to which I retorted, “Of course it’s fake, my dad bought it in New York for ten bucks!” Which was the best part.

    Thanks for the memory. Merry Christmas.

  • krissa cavouras

    Jon, I can only enforce what Mihow said – which, in a way, is also what E.B. White said in his iconic Here Is New York. Each micro-neighborhood functions like its own little city, making New Yorkers some of the smallest small-town people around.

    But staying in midtown for a weekend makes it sort of hard to FEEL that, even if you do see it. Staying with friends in the places real New Yorkers live, the next time you guys visit, might be a great way to feel it.

    I love it here, I love every crazy pulsing fibre of it – but what I love the most is how much it all condenses down to feel exactly like home, no matter how big it is.

    One last thing – I believe the small type on the refusal law is basically that once you’re IN the car, they have to take you. Which is WHY they roll their windows down and ask, the jerks.

  • kiil

    Thanks for the pics. I’m an ex-NYer who has been overseas for the last 16 years and it was great to see my old stomping (I guess I just dated myself) grounds. Park Slope looks as great as I remember it.


  • Toyfoto

    I had the most frightening experience of my life in a NYC cab. Now I take the subway (and bring less luggage). OY.

  • southerngirl

    Great photos, Jon!

  • KarinGal

    Fantastic photos. They really capture the dichotomy of NYC — that’s it’s both about the big and the little, the vastness of its architecture and the intricacies of its carved and tiled details.

  • Julie

    I love the pictures, Jon. You’ve captured the reasons why I never want to leave my adopted home.

    Ditto on what Mihow says, especially about the Brooklyn part. My neighborhood, Windsor Terrace, feels like the small town I grew up in outside of Pittsburhg. I love how I know everyone and all the dogs in a three block radius. I love how I see the same people on the commute to and from work every day. I love how all my neighbors are competing to have the best Christmas lights in town. Brooklyn is a city (5th largest in the US) that feels like a collection of small towns.

    My boyfriend’s neighborhood (the Upper West Side) also has that small town feel, but you have to look harder for it. In the midst of the tall buildings (the opposite of all the private houses in my part of town), I’m always running into people I know. After a time, you realize that no matter how big the city, it’s not as big as you think.

    You guys could definitely make it here. It would take some adjustment (not having laundry facilities in your building being a big one!), but I can totally picture you and Heather and Leta and Chuck in Park Slope. From the sounds of the taxi incident, Heather’s already proven herself New Yawk material. :)

  • amber

    I’m glad to hear you liked Park Slope. I’ve lived there for 6 years now, and I love it. I can’t really imagine ever living in Manhattan (I need trees!), but I love having easy access to it. I’m glad you guys made it out to Brooklyn. It’s often a trial to get visitors to trek out here, and it’s so worth it. I agree with others who have said that the important thing in New York is making your own little neighborhood. I have a little market in the Slope that I go into where the woman knows my and my boyfriend’s names, always asks about the other when one of us isn’t there, lets us sample the food she’s selling, and offers me recipe advice. I never got that in the small town I grew up in. I feel like it’s a strange twist that so many small towns and suburbs have been taken over by chain stores and malls that a huge city like New York now feels to me like the best place to get the personal, mom-and-pop kind of service. I love the old world/super-modern world coexisting thing that happens here.

    Happy holidays to the blurbodoocery!

  • Brewcaster

    Wow, I know I can’t handle NY for more than a week. Glad you got to meet Sarah B. She is a fellow Okie. Glad you made it home safe.

  • Montrose

    I’m a hayseed from Western CO and was in the same stompin’ grounds from Dec 12-14, frantically trying to navigate, and I missed much of what you captured. Thank you for stopping to photograph what I passed by. I did get to spend 4 hrs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art which was indescribable.

  • Piglet

    Loving this sentence:

    “While Iím looking rather vaguely De Niroesque and asking if you are talking to me while Cream plays in the background and the camera pans slowly around me while you crap your pants at my badassedness.”

    Glad you made it out of your photo slump.

  • ByJane

    Nice post, Jon.

  • KookieDangerous

    Visiting the BlurbDoocery is like sitting in the leather banquette in the back of our favorite spot (us and a couple tens of thousands of ‘our bunch’) and having to be careful I don’t snork the 15-dollar-a-glass red wine out my nose while you and Heather try to top each other in your tales of the City. Thank you for the cool shots of NYC, too.

  • marceline

    Here’s a trick for getting cabs: when the cab stops, just open the door, get in, and close the door. Then tell the cabbie where you’re going. He’s not as likely to refuse you if he has to physically get you out of the cab. Of course, this might not work with tons of luggage…

  • Star Shine

    Gorgeous photo, Jon! You really captured New York in an artful way. I lived there for three years. The entire experience was one gigantic love/hate relationship. Your description sums it up pretty well. The people are incredible–the best in their given fields. Still, the city can kick your butt.

  • lionemom

    I grew up in Queens and regularly went to Manhattan when I was a kid to take ballet lessons just above Greenwich village at the Joffrey school. My brother and I would be dropped off by mother and we would subway home. I was 9 or 10, he’s almost 2 years older. I loved where I grew up in Queens, we knew all the neighbors. My mother grew up in the house, so she knew everyone around the whole block. They were all European immigrant families too (my mother is 1st gen German.)

    The small town in a big city thing is very true. Once you lived here a while, that frantic overwhelming thing would go away. I agree with Mihow and Krissa and Julie.

    Not having lived there for quite a number of years now, I do miss it. Life is totally different out here in strip mall land. I didn’t know anything about the “mall phenomenon” until we moved an hour north of the city when I was 12. Then I understood that you needed a car to do ANYTHING, people were very snobby and all about appearances outside the city, and I learned about racism. I would go back to NYC at any opportunity I had. For the weekend, for the day, I showed more friends than I can count around the city just to GO there and be there as a teenager. I regret that I did not make myself re-take the test to go to Hunter HS in Manhattan, or take the test for any other great HS (Stuyvesant or HS for Performing Arts). I think my HS years would have been MUCH more enjoyable if I had experienced them there.

    Anyway, I could go on and on about my sincere love for that city. There is no other like it. I am glad you had a good time and so happy to see that you saw some of the true beauty that many people who live there day in and day out can miss in the hustle and bustle.