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Three photos from a moving train…

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Beautiful NY State. It really is. I took these photos last week while on a train from NYC to Buffalo. I love the fall colors before the snow came. The bottom photo I think is particularly interesting in that that camera focused in a the stream and everything else is a sort of blur because of the motions. Anyhow, I just came across them and thought I would share.  

Urban Simplicity.

Greenwich Village at Night with a Few Words…

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I was in NYC this past weekend, and no matter what city I find myself I am always drawn to it’s funkier neighborhoods. I love their color, flavor, visuals, and eccentricities. If I’m in Toronto, for example, I usually gravitate to Queen Street West or the Kensington market. The half-dozen times I’ve been to Paris I’ve stayed on the Left Bank. When I spent a very brief time in New Orleans in the late 1980’s I had an apartment in the heart of the French Quarter. And the neighborhood in which I currently reside–Allentown–has these same qualities but on a much smaller scale. So it should come to no surprise that when I visit NYC I usually end up in the Village, I always have. Technically not all of these photos are from Greenwich village, a couple are from Union Square, which of course is the next street over. The above photo is one of my favorites. It’s a group of Hare Krishna followers who are in Union Square every time I go there, they have been for as long as I can remember. I often listen to them sing and watch them dance for a minute or two. And this time I took their photo. After I did I dropped a couple dollars in their collection bowl. And as I turned to leave a young woman thanked me and offered a candle for me to place on a small altar with a hundred others (to the left of the photo). There was a small cushion to kneel if you’d like, and say a prayer. I did. It was lovely really. To kneel briefly in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this incredible city and say a silent prayer. When I closed my eyes it was as if I shut everything out and I went in, if even for just a few seconds. As I stood and turned to leave again, she thanked me again and asked if I were hungry. I declined, but it was truly lovely. Anyhow, while there this weekend I took a few photos and thought I’d share. Click any for a slightly larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

A Doorway Separated by Eighty Years (interesting but a bit eerie)…

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I have been interested in photography (or some other art-form) my entire life. And about 25 years ago I discovered a small but thick book of glossy photos at a local library by George Brassaï. It was published in 1933 and titled Paris de Nuit (Paris at night). I was mesmerized by it. M. Brassai, a Hungarian by birth, spent most of his adult life in Paris and was friends with many artists and writers of the time, most notably Henry Miller. Well apparently M. Brassai lugged his camera with him when he and Henry Miller went out for their all-night jaunts. But as usual, I’m getting slightly off topic.
Last summer my son and I went to Paris on holiday. I have always loved this city and had been there 4 times prior but not in more than 15 years. During that 15 year lapse cameras went from film to digital (for an amateur such as myself this is a good thing). The beauty of digital is that you can take hundreds of photos just to get a couple you want to save. I took more than 1000 photos in the week I was in Paris but only really saved a few dozen (click here, here, and here to see some of them). 
While in Paris we visited a few Museums, and one of them was the Centre Pompidou where I came across an instillation of photos by George Brassai which I lingered over.
Paris, of course, is one of those cities (for me) where I often feel as if I am walking in a dream. Not only because of its incredible history but also because of its beauty. One of my favorite areas of the city is Montmartre, and where I took a great deal of photos. 
Anyhow, recently on my lunch hour at work I Googled images for Brassai and one of the photos that came up was the one pictured above. It’s from his Paris de Nuit book. Again, I was messmerized…but this time I couldn’t get the image out of my head. I had seen that shot before. Then it dawned on me. I had seen that image in real life. So I went back and looked through my Paris photos from last summer and found it, but it was more close up and taken in the daytime. I cropped the above photo to somewhat match mine. I mean no disrespect to M. Brassai (by altering his original) nor do I think that my image is even in the same league as his, it’s just to illustrate my story. And there they are, side-by-side, an image of the same doorway separated by 80 (or 81) years.
Anyhow, I remember the day perfectly. My son and I were tired and hungry. We had walked a lot that day and it had rained a lot. It had just stopped raining and as we marched through Montmartre I caught a glimpse of this doorway and it stopped me in my tracks. It looked timeless. So I took out my camera and snapped a quick shot. And as I did, unbeknownst to me at the time, I stood–quite literally–in the very same spot that George Brassai stood some 80 years earlier. And this, I think, is pretty interesting…

10 Random Things I saw While Walking in NYC this Past Weekend

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I was in New York this past weekend. And whenever I’m in a large city–especially NYC–I love to walk. I had a camera with my (surprise, right?) and snapped a few photos. Actually I snapped nearly two hundred photos, and here are ten of them in no particular order (but I will give brief explanations to some of them).

Starting with the top photo you may be wondering if it weren’t snowing (nope), and what are the people clutching. Well, unbeknownst to me this past Saturday was National Pillow Fight Day and this is a photo a really large pillow fight just as it was ending in Washington Square Park (to see more pics and videos–at Huffington Post–click here). 

The first photo below is a shot on MacDougal Street. It’s the front of the basement comedy club, The Comedy Cellar, which is in the opening credits to the show Louis, starring Louis CK (to see the seen in the opening credits, click here).

This next photo is, of course, the Empire State Building, as seen from a block away on Broadway.

This next shot is of one of my favorite buildings in NYC, the Flatiron building. I walk past it each morning and evening on my way to classes I’ve been attending. Interestingly, I recently came across this video of the scene at the foot of the building in 1903. I was standing in the very spot (as a took a few other photos) that the videographer was likely standing when they shot the video…gave me goosebumps.

This next shot is of the Gem Spa in the East Village. Most likely know that this was a hangout for hepcats for generations…from the beats, to the hippies, and rockers. In 1973 the New York Dolls posed in front of this store for the photo on the back of their album. For interesting info on this store and it’s roll in urban hipster culture, follow this link.

Below is a photo of a group of Hare Krishnas blissed out singing and chanting in Union Square Park. The first time I came upon the Hare Krishas chanting in this park was 1985 while stumbling drunk around NY with some college friends. We talked with them (and even drunkenly chanted with them a bit). They were very nice and didn’t try to convert us; they even fed us free vegan food. I thought of this as I tapped my foot and watched them for a few minutes. Their chant is mesmerizing and in fact difficult to shake…it’s quite beautiful actually; simply singing to and calling out to God (Krishna). To hear a beautiful rendition of this mantra sung by George Harrison, click here.

Below is an image of a Joe Strummer memorial in the East Village. I’ve visited this numerous times and have watched this video at least twenty times. The video shows the mural being painted while Joe Strummer sings Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. I really hope you watch the video…very moving.

Below is a photo of a chicken-headed man playing chess in the park at dusk. Umm…how could I not take a picture of this guy? After I took the shot he looked up at me and stared without saying anything…I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be freaked out. I did laugh, but then after the awkward silence, I left.

 Below is a photo of a building in the East Village. Do you recognize it? It’s the building that  is featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti album. This building (or at least the front steps of it) was also featured in the Rolling Stone’s video for their song Waiting on a Friend.

And the picture below…well that’s just a lovely and warm sunset over Lower Manhattan.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Photos of the Hudson River (taken from a moving train)

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These photos dispel a few things. One is that New York State is entirely occupied by New York City. I know that people don’t actually believe this (well ok, some may), but often when you mention you are from another part of the state (Buffalo, for example) to someone who is not from the northeast, NYC comes to mind. NY State, is in fact an incredibly beautiful state. This of course is just a minor sampling. I took these on a train ride home this morning as we sped up the Hudson Valley. The other thing these photos dispel is that you cannot take good photos with an inexpensive point-and-shoot camera (and from a moving train). While it does push the limits of such a camera, it can be done. I was only in NYC overnight and wanted to pack light so I brought only a camera that would fit in my breast pocket. At any rate, you’ve probably gathered by now that the train is my favorite way to travel long distance. But locally, it is a bike, of course 🙂

Urban Simplicity.

Six Photos of NYC

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I was in NYC over the weekend and snapped a few photos along the way. I was busy for most of the weekend but took photos as I walked to-and-fro. What’s interesting (I think) is that in my continued efforts to travel light (or at least travel lighter) I brought only one camera with me and it was this small pocket sized point-and-shoot. So yes, it was difficult to hold my hand steady for some of the dusk or evening shots on such cold nights. But still it is possible to capture the feel of a place while looking through an inexpensive lens…

Urban Simplicity.

Photos from Moving Windows…

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I was in NYC yesterday for just 24 hrs. Took a plane in and a train out. Hence these photos. I took a 5:45am flight (geeze that is early for someone who is not particularly a morning person) and that’s an image above from the plane window. Awesome isn’t it. The sun coming up over the Atlantic Ocean as we approach NYC. I felt so inspired by this…a brand new day, a full day of opportunity. Is it just me or can you see the curvature of the earth? And the bottom three photos were taken from the train window as we sped through the Hudson Valley, which was in full autumn color. (Click any photo for a slightly larger view.)

Just One Reason I prefer the Train over a Plane

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There are many reasons I prefer the train over a plane for long distance travel (besides my mild fear of flying), but my favorite reason is simple…the view. These are a few pictures I took through the train window this past weekend; I had dozens of course, but thought I’d only bore you with these five. In the top photo, which was taken shortly after 7am, you can see the mist rising off the rolling corn field, and those below are taken after the train first hugs the Erie Canal to Albany, then turns right and follows the Hudson River down to Manhattan.

Urban Simplicity.

Seven Photos of Père Lachaise Cemetery

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This is a third installment of photos from my somewhat recent trip to Paris (click here or here to see others). These photos were taken at Père Lachaise Cemetery. And while it may seem morbid to some to go on vacation across an ocean and on a different continent and visit a cemetery full of people you never met, it’s really not…it’s actually a beautiful place and a moving experience. This was my third time at this cemetery. Yes, of course Jim Morrison is buried here, but there are many other notable graves worth seeing; maps are sold at the gate and most tour books list them as well. One of the more moving tombs was that of Oscar Wilde. That’s the front of it pictured below. You can see the lipstick kiss someone left on his monument; the sides of it are virtually covered in lipstick kisses and notes scrawled in lipstick. You’ll see many tourists here, and it seems weird to me, in a way…that there are tourists for graves (and I was one of them). It’s a large cemetery and my son and I walked for an hour or two, sometimes in silence. And in those moments of silence, as I looked across the tombs and graves, the following Bible verse came to mind.

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

To take an online virtual tour of the cemetery, click here.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Photos of Gargoyles

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This is another series from my recent trip to Paris. If you’ve ever been there–or even if you haven’t–you likely recognize these as the famed gargoyles that guard Notre Dame. I kept expecting to see Quasimodo around every corner I turned…

Urban Simplicity.

Nine Photos of Paris…

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Okay. I’m back…and here’s a few photos of what I saw. But first I want to thank those who commented, emailed, and continued to visit my humble blog during my absence. This is been the longest stretch–nine days, I think–that I’ve gone without posting since I first began. Thus, I’m posting nine photos; one for each day. Anyhow, as you’ve probably figured from the pics, I was in Paris for a week. I went with my teen-aged son. I’ve been there a few times prior, but not since he’s been born (he’s 17)…so it’s been a while. Being a professional cook, an amateur photographer, and someone who loves beautiful cities and architecture…it was overwhelming to say the least. When I first came up out of the Metro I was on sensory overload for a few hours. I warned my son before we went that I would be taking a lot of photos, and he handled it pretty well (I snapped more than 600 photos in all). This is one of the beauties of digital photography…the last time I was in Paris I was using 35mm cameras and the cost of film adds up; with digital camera I can snap away and pick and choose only those I like. At-any-rate, I will post a few series in the coming days or weeks after I scroll through them, but I promise not to bore you with all of them. This first series is the most generic, and some of the photos are those that you’d expect from a person who just visited Paris. It’s interesting that I did a few things that I have not done before on prior visits–and maybe wouldn’t have if I weren’t traveling with a teenager–such as going to the top of Notre Dame…which is where the above photo was taken (and what a great time we had). The photo most immediately below was taken on a corner of Rue Saint-Jacques. The one just below that, of course, is the Eiffel Tower (and it’s heavier than it looks). Just below that is Notre Dame herself. Just below that is a lovely little cafe in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Next is the Pantheon. Then there’s a little hotel I spotted up in Montmarte while visiting Sacré-Cœur (which, of course, is the next photo). And the last photo is the view from the tiny balcony of our hotel on Rue Gay-Lussac. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy the photos. It was an incredible time, but it also feels good to be back in my small but messy house with my two over-active and slightly over weight dogs in my little city in Western New york.

Urban Simplicity.

A Couple Bikes and a One-Man-Band

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I took a day trip with my son to the vibrant city of Toronto. It’s a mere 100 miles / 160 kilometers from my home and a very simple drive (granting you don’t get stuck in rush hour traffic). And every time I go there I realize getting there once or twice a year is not nearly enough. I was window-shopping for another bike (yikes…more on that in a later post) and stopped at three of my favorite Toronto bike shops…Curbside Cycle, Sweet Pete’s, and The Urbane Cyclist. Anyhow, here’s a couple photos of bikes and a bicyclist I saw today. The top is a photo of an old delivery bike leaning against an ornate rickshaw-style trike on Queen West. And the series below are of a guy we saw in the Kensington Market (actually we heard him before we saw him). He has a small amp hanging from his handlebars and a microphone strapped to his face. There’s also a small bongo somewhere, a series of harmonicas, and 3 or 4 tambourines.  In the first of the three pictures you can see that he saw me take his photo. He started to slowly pedal toward me as he sang and clanged away. I thought for sure he was going to ask for money. He didn’t. He simply wanted to play his music and get his photo taken. I shook his hand (while he continued to sing and play) and he slowly pedaled away. It’s things like this that really make my day…people quite literally living outside the box that society tells us exists (but I think it only exists if we allow it).


Urban Simplicity.

Things You Notice When You’re Bored

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Firstly I have to say that I am rarely bored…if I’m not doing something my mind still is, it is for this reason I’ll often watch a movie, simply to go on vacation from myself. With that said, yesterday was one of the infrequent times I can honestly say I became bored, but I believe you will understand…I was trapped at an airport terminal. It wasn’t terribly long, just a bit over four hours…but it was my own fault (stupidly, when purchasing a ticket online I purchased it for p.m. thinking it was a.m., luckily I was able to get on another, but for hours later). Anyhow, it gave me time to think, read, nap, and listen to music (and drink too much coffee), but inevitably I became bored. I even read the label on my water bottle.

I’ve long given up purchasing bottled water after learning that it is largely unregulated, but at an airport–where one is no longer allowed more than 3 ounces of liquid through checkpoint–you are quite literally at their mercy (not only with choices but also the exorbitant prices). With that said, when I reached for the water in the refrigerated case I chose the cheapest there was, and it was still nearly $3.00US.

But before I go on with my observation I ask you, the reader, to observe for yourself…what do you see on either label that is either alarming or even sad (and yes, in the event you are wondering…I did get a few odd looks as I sat at a table taking picture of my bottle of water).

Let’s start with the top photo, the front label. “Purified Water Enhanced with Minerals for Taste.” Mmm…mmm, getting thirsty yet? Now lets look at the lower photo, the back label (I consciously added quotation marks and italics because I feel that’s how it should be more properly written on the label)…”Deep Protected Well” (huh?) And/Or “Public Water Supply.”

Well (and yes I see the irony of using that word) I think we know which And/Or it is, and we also know what “Public Water Supply” means…tap water. According to this site, nearly 50% of bottled water available in the US is nothing more than tap water.

Later, as I was exiting a restroom (washroom for my friends north of the border, and WC for my friends “across the pond”), I see an elderly gentleman refilling his water bottle at a drinking fountain before he got on his flight. Well isn’t that interesting, is what I must have muttered aloud. Because he turned to me and smiled before asking what I meant. I showed him the label on my half-consumed bottle. Yes, he told me, still smiling as he capped his bottle…it’s a scam. Yes it is, I said. We both wished each other a safe and comfortable flight, and then I uncapped my bottle to refill it straight from the tap…it was a much better deal.

Urban Simplicity.