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Synchronicity on 72nd Street.

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Synchronicity takes the coincidence of events in space and time as meaning something more than mere chance, namely, a peculiar interdependence of objective events among themselves as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers.” ~ Carl Jung

I was in New York for an extended weekend last week. That’s not unusual, I try to get there at least once but usually twice a year. What is unusual is an idiosyncratic experience I had, and for reasons I am not entirely sure, feel the need to share it. So here it is.

As per usual with me these days, before I travel to NY or anywhere I jot down a few or more places I want to photograph. I’ll do a bit of research prior and then plan my days around it. Two of the places I wanted to photograph were the 125th Street Viaduct (pictured above) and Bethesda Terrace in Central Park (pictured below). I’m more of a “downtown guy” and hang out in the east or west village, so it was sort of interesting for me to travel that far uptown.

On my second day there I took the train up to 72nd Street and walked the short distance through the park to the terrace. It was beautiful, but being nice out and also a Saturday it was packed. I wanted to get a shot of of it with few or no people. So I decided to come back the following day. I also decided that I would not travel to 125th Street to photograph the viaduct simply because it took time and my time was somewhat limited (as I wanted to visit a few other locations).

So the next day after lunch I took the train from 14th Street, which is close to my hotel, and headed uptown. After the train started I could hear the conductor announce something but couldn’t make out what he was saying. The person next to me told me this train which is usually a local is now an express, which means they only make a few stops. The next stop was 42nd Street; there normally would have been 2 or 3 stops before that. No problem, I thought, as most trains—even express—seem to stop at 86th. Worst case scenario I’ll either hop a local the 14 blocks back or walk (which is something I love to do).  As it turns out the train didn’t stop at 86th; the next stop was 125th Street, the very place I had decided not to go. Okay then, I guess the Universe wants me to take a photo of the viaduct after all, so I did. Then I hopped another train back to 72nd Street, where it did stop this time. And this is where it gets a little strange.

I have to preface this next part with a few things. Firstly I’ve had some things that have been weighing heavy on me lately and was thinking about them as I walked. Secondly, and this is where some overt religious speak comes in, I also have to qualify the next few statements. I am a person of faith. Meaning I believe (know) that there is something greater than I. Name it whatever you like…God, Universe, Spirit, Divine; I use them all interchangeably. What I don’t believe is that God is an old white guy sitting up on a cloud looking down and judging. Quite the opposite, actually. My belief is that God/Universe/Spirit is all that there is…that we live within Its presence.

This said, I also consider myself a Christian. Meaning that I follow the teachings of Yeshua ben Yosef (Jesus the son of Joseph), the poor Jew from Nazareth who latter became known as Jesus the Christ. And this is where it gets a bit tricky for me. What I mean by this is that I question things. So many things. I’ll just say that I read the bible as metaphor more than anything, that it is meant as an inwardly spirit-pointing book to guide and change us. Reading it literally is where many problems arrive. These of course are simply my own humble opinions. Now I have to qualify these statements with a request…if you do not share the same views as I this is fine, but please don’t try to save or convert me or send me hate mail.

Anyhow, There I was walking down 72nd Street on a lovely warm NY spring evening and thinking about these things that were weighing heavy on me. In fact, I was praying. Not aloud, of course, but to myself. I wanted some things to change and I knew that I couldn’t do it alone, in many ways I was surrendering to the Divine as I walked down the street. As I walked I was speaking (mentally) the Universe and thinking how maybe it would be better if I prayed to Jesus like a “good Christian.” The problem was that I have problems with that. This is actually what I was thinking when as I walked and saw something etched in chalk which is pictured below. It stopped me in my tracks. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I questioned (aloud this time). Passersby looked at me as I repeated myself.

Now if you are not familiar with John 3:16, it is one of the most quoted bible passages, especially by evangelicals. This is why I have a problem with it. For me it sounds exclusive rather than inclusive to other faiths (or no faith) and this is where (one of) my problems lie.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16

So what’s to make of this? Is it just silly mumbojumbo? Maybe, but I do think there is something to it. At the time, as I do now, I felt the Spirit was sort of giving me a shake to wake me up and remind me that everything will be fine.

I relayed this story to a friend this past week and he commented how it’s not uncommon to see people write biblical passages around. True, I suppose, but what are the chances that I would be walking down a street in our country’s largest city when I saw this. That I came from an opposite direction because of the train mishap; I would have been on different part of the street and not seen this if not for the express train. Though more importantly, what are the chances of me coming across this while I was actually thinking the inverse of what this passage has to say? Slight at best. Anyhow, this is something that happened to me the other day which I felt compelled to share.

Synchronicity: A meaningful coincidence of two or more events where something other than the probability of chance is involved.”

~ Carl Jung

Cocovan and Her Love Letter to the World

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“Letter writing can be seen as a gift because someone has taken his/her time to write and think and express love.”
― Soraya Diase Coffelt


So this is Cocovan, or simply Coco, as she introduced herself. I first saw her when I was walking through Washington Square Park the other day and she was kneeling an arranging her scroll-like letter on the ground, and then sat at the heart-shaped chair and desk at the head of it. I was mesmerized in a way and had to see what was up. “It’s a love letter to the world from the world,” she said with a smile when I questioned her. She is originally from Paris and has taken the letter across Europe thus far and plans on taking it to all seven continents, collecting signatures and letters of love and drawings along the way. Beautiful, I thought to myself before signing it. It is interesting to think that my short letter to the world is on this scroll along with thousands others and will travel the globe. Safe travels Cocovan, and thank you for spreading love. To read more about the project and the artist, visit Cocovan’s website here.  

On Being Human…

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Her voice was rather loud for such a petite elderly women, I thought when finally seeing her. I could hear her before I saw her. It’s because I was seated and the subway car was crowded. The car fell silent as she squeezed through people while belting out her spiel, “I’m homeless and my only income besides begging on these cars is collecting bottles and cans,” she said. “Please, from the bottom of your heart, anything will help. I’m a human just like you,” she added.

There was no loose change in my pocket and I knew that the only denomination in my wallet were twenties, which I would not hand off. When she passed by me I was surprised at how average she looked. If not for her pleading I would never have guessed that she was homeless. “There’s probably 75 people in this car and no one can find it in there heart to offer me even a small amount of change,” she questioned? The car was silent, not a single person gave her anything and when she passed I couldn’t look her in the eyes. I was on my way back downtown after visiting the largest church in Manhattan, the Cathedral of St John the Divine.

In a recent philosophy class we were taught to question everything, especially our actions and motives. The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is said to have gone so far as to question his questions. So what is it, I sometimes question myself, that draws me to offer the homeless and street people compassion?

Spending my formative years in a public housing project, our family was poor but I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until later, after my dad had passed and we were living in the suburbs, when I received free subsidized lunches that I became aware of it, embarrassed by it. It was while living in the projects that a young friend of mine (we were probably 10 years old) told me that before moving into their current apartment, his family lived in a car for 6 months. It was also around this time that I first saw someone sleeping under a bridge, which was on my way to grade school. But still I question my motives.

In New York City this past weekend I was overwhelmed by the stark contrast between wealth and poverty. Homeless encamped outside stores that are telling us we need what they have, some sleeping in the city’s beautiful parks, and also sleeping in churches whose steeples seem to touch the clouds. Most were not as vocal as the women on the train, some simply sat behind handwritten signs, but her voice still rings in my ears. 

I met Jeremiah on 14th Street. His signs caught my attention…they were biblical passages with a message of hope. As I spoke with him I squatted down to be at his level—people rushed past—both of us invisible. He’s worried about his future, he told me, but he also has hope. That is what is really sustaining him, he also added, hope.

There was also David, who was sitting in a wheelchair at Union Square. He had no legs below his knees and his sign read, “Veteran. Please help.” I spoke with him very briefly and I felt tears welling in my eyes as I did. Though I am a pacifist I have the utmost respect for our soldiers that protect us. And now here one was on the street with no legs asking for money. When I put a couple dollars in his cup and thanked him for his service it felt trite. How arrogant of me, I thought, and I was fully conscious of my legs as I walked away. 

When I met Michael, who asked not to be photographed, he was sitting behind his sign on Broadway in Lower Manhattan, not far from Ground Zero. What caught my attention with him was one of the sentences on his sign, “Just want to feel human again.” This was the second time today someone made this reference to being human.

Michael was reading the Bible when I offered him a dollar. When he looked up to thank me I asked him what he was reading. Romans, he said with a smile. I told him that Romans 12:2 was one of my favorite passages and he quickly thumbed through his Bible to find it and recite it. He’s been on the street about 8 months he told me and is hopeful, but at the same time is finding it difficult to find work (I cannot imagine trying to find work without a place to live).

So, I question in this public place, why? Why do I feel the need to speak with street people? Is it because it makes me feel good? Possibly, at some lower psychological level, but I don’t think that’s it. Do I feel sorry for them? That’s not really it either (compassion would be a more appropriate word). I don’t know why, I really don’t. But when I think of all the people I’ve met over the years I do know that we are all children of the same source. And in some ways, I believe, that when I speak with people from all walks of life—and offer a little bit of myself—it makes us a little bit more human.

This Too Shall Pass…

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So I’m in NYC for a few days and staying at my usual place just off Union Square. Yesterday afternoon aa I was heading back to my room I came across this art installation by David Datuna. The reason I know who the artist is because as I was photographing the instillation a young woman who helped install it came up to first t ask if I was with the media, and then to tell me a bit about it. The instillation is made of blocks of dry ice which spell out the word Trump. It is the artist’s response to Number 45 pulling out of the Paris Agreement. What’s interesting is that the artist used dry ice, which is a frozen gas (carbon dioxide), rather than regular ice (which of course is frozen water). The instillation, as it melts, doesn’t leave a puddle. It simply dissipates into thin air…

Urban Simplicity.

Aren’t you embarrassed by that little thing? A few words and a few photos.

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So a couple things. Firstly, I likely got your attention enough to click this link by the silly heading. But more on that in a minute.

I was in NYC the last few days. Just a short get away. I always love the energy of that beautiful city. I shot nearly 200 photos in three days, and it could have been many more if I didn’t refrain myself.

Anyhow, in an effort to travel light, or at least lighter, I recently purchased a small travel tripod for my camera. It is nice; it’s heavy duty but really easy to carry as I walked around all day. But the drawback is that it only extends to about 18 inches. So I tried to find something to set it on…a garbage can, mailbox, anything so long as it is steady. But if nothing was available I’d simply sit on the ground; this wasn’t the first nor the last time I’ve done that. Anyhow, I was doing just that when taking the photo of McSorley’s Ale House (below). After stopping in for a couple beers (they are always 2-for-one) I wanted a photo of the place but there was nothing to set my teeny tripod on. So I sat down on the curb. And as I was taking photos a women walked past. She stopped for a moment, looked as if she were going to keep walking, but then questioned, “Why are you sitting on the ground?” Motioning to the camera, I explained to her that I needed the camera steady for a night shot but my tripod was small and there was nothing to set it on directly opposite my subject. She sort of smirked a bit, and before continuing on her way, she replied, “But aren’t you embarrassed by that little thing?” I laughed out loud, sitting on the curb. So did she as she walked away.

And then a bit later, after walking over the Washington Square Park, I thought I’d take a picture of the arch (bottom photo). I did find a few things to set the tripod on but I wanted a shot off to the side. So I went over to the edge of the common area and sat on the ground. And now I started to feel a bit self-conscious…maybe I shouldn’t be sitting on the ground taking photos.

It was unseasonably warm, but because of the time of year it was dark even though it wasn’t very late, and the park was relatively crowded. And when I looked to my left there was a man in black tights and cowboy boots doing sun salutations. All I could do was smile and go back to my photo-taking. This was, after all, Greenwich Village…magnet to every eccentric on the planet. It was ok to be taking photos while I sat on the ground, and my teeny tripod was just fine. Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

N.Y.C. 6.26.15

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Urban Simplicity.

A few things I saw while walking around Greenwich Village this past weekend…

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Urban Simplicity.

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