My Financial and Menu Adviser visited dear old Lady Liberty today. My first time to visit her since the late 1980s, the weather was cold and blustery and the sky was harsh and crisp. It was the first or second official day of winter, and there was no global warming jokes to be told. However, "security" was yukking it up, big time. To visit Liberty Island, you must now wait in line not just to get on the ferry, but wait in line to run through a metal detector. This is an airport-style security checkpoint, where belts, jackets, wallets, cell phones, watches, nosehair trimmers, and, one supposes, cock-rings, all must be removed before you can proceed to the next line for the ferry. In the summer, this is probably fine. In the winter, it means that you stand around in a canvas tent, bereft of heat, while you hand your jacket to some Homeland "Security" associate sales representative. If your shoes set off the detector, then you take them off and run them through again, too. Of course, the people who decided not to have metal eyelets holding their shoelaces in place tracked in latent snow and ice, and so the floor you're standing on in your socked feet is wet. And so your socks are wet. I later learned that some of the six metal detectors were equipped with sandals, but you probably had to pay $5 to rent them for the 30 seconds you need them. In short, the path to Liberty is paved with ridiculousness, ineptitude, and poor signage. In my attempt to show the FMA the finer points of New York for her first visit, I needed to strike a balance between the cool and the touristy. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island fell into the latter category, strangely enough, but the good National Park Service couldn't be bothered to inform you that the last ferry from Liberty Island to Ellis Island was at 3 or 3:30. So, we missed the immigration museum on this trip - the consolation prize was the above photo, taken from the Battery Park pier.
It's entirely possible that I have visited Coney Island before. It's not like the place is as remote or as less-visited as Antarctica, evil machinations of property developers aside. If I have been there before this past Friday, though, I don't remember. It was a proper excursion. There were no other tourists, although I did come across about five other photographers. The occasional jogger (with a soft "j", according to Will Ferrell) attempted suicide by trotting past. The FMA and I wandered the desolate boardwalk and gawked at brightly-painted signage, not really protected in the slightest by our umbrellas as we were assaulted by a storm. Temperatures set a record low for the day, or the day following, but the weather is sort of irrelevant when Atlantic gusts are scaring off everybody but the insane and the seabirds.
My attempts to get going on this blog again have stuttered more than a bit, although I haven't stopped taking photos or writing. Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year, and there's no better place to spend it than in Boston. The leaves are in full blaze, woodsmoke fills the evening air, and the impending winter freeze is on everybody's minds. It's the kind of crispness that can sharpen the mind, or a knife. With the FMA off visiting her Parental Authorities for the first time in nearly three years, I was in Boston for a friend's wedding and stayed through All Hallow's. My original costume idea had to be ditched when I found out the theme of the party that my friends were taking me to, but I think I did alright for such short notice. More photos to come. If you recognize somebody in a photo or their costume, please send me a note.
Back in March, when I last posted regularly to this blog - for shame! - my Financial Adviser and I took a friend of a friend of hers around San Francisco. We dragged her to burritos, we insisted she take a scenic walking tour, and we were so worried that she'd miss the Golden Gate Bridge that we walked across with her. Granted, this was about two weeks before the unofficial beginning of summer. That's okay as long as you remember that global warming doesn't exist. Summer months for San Francisco, traditionally, tend to be a bit in April and May, with a bit more in September before a big final hurrah in Ocotober. Lisa, as she insisted we address her, was from England. Our fog rated high on the "wimpy" scale. To be honest, she loved our namesake bridge. As did the FMA, and even myself. Y'see, there aren't many natives, or even transplants, who've walked across the entire span, up from the Presidio in SF and down the hill to Sausalito. THe day we went was windless and warm, with clear blue skies reflected above the bridge towers and in the water below. That, of course,is part of the grandeur of the Golden Gate. It not only inspires, but it kills. The waters beneath are notoriously lethal for both suicidals and those who make tragic mistakes. The bridge, though, she perseveres. We love her for her beauty and symbolism, and rarely curse her for the lost souls that throw their bodies over her barriers. Like the moon, she is a harsh mistress. Yet nobody leaves her presence without realizing that despite all the metal, despite the era that she was the pinnacle of and not the entrance to, she has maintained through the years to assert her prowess as a symbol that we all respond to. To write about San Francisco and ignore the Golden Gate is to write about New York and assume that the World Trade Center never existed, or that the canals of Tokyo were nothing but a fiery dream.
Today San Francisco held its second "Sunday Streets" event of the year, where Our Fair Mayor attempted to greenwash his horrible record on alternative energy and quality-of-life improvements by closing the Embarcadero from 8 a.m. til 1 p.m. There were a couple of problems that I had with the event, all having to do with it being too short, and no future events scheduled. Otherwise, it was a fine idea that should return ASAP, regardless of what office Gavin the Slut is trying out for next. The FMA has been making great strides in her urban biking prowess, but wasn't quite up to the task of pushing herself clear across town on two wheels just yet. Taking migraine medication that prevents her from sweating - no, really - doesn't help, so we took our bikes on the bus and headed downtown. Once there, we headed south. Around noon, the crowd wasn't that dense. Cyclists, scooter-pushers, skateboarders, and rollerbladers (whom I always want to call bladerunners) of all ages were moseying up and down the closed northbound lanes of the Embarcadero. Southbound still had internal combustion traffic. We both commented on how many children were out on bikes. There were kids as short as three or four years old pushing mini-BMXs with training wheels around. Clearly, people were having a grand time. At South Beach Park we encountered the hula hoop contest, along with the first of a half-dozen Obama for President stations and at least 10 other organizations vying for the hard-earned eyeballs of passersby. We stopped for a pricey hot dog that went for 80 percent over cost because it benefited a neighborhood group... we hoped. At Mays Field, the proscribed route banged left to continue its southern bearing. We passed by a group of dancers, and encountered the Old West ragtime pianist who just couldn't bike without his piano. By the time we reached the beleaguered Pier 70 and the local sporting goods chain Sports Basement, the cops were pulling down directional signs and the DPW crews were out recovering portable barriers. Last in line, we managed to get free bike chain lubes and minor tune-ups. It was less dirty than you'd think it would be.
Peet's Coffee was the proto-Starbucks, the Alex Bennett to their burnt-bean Howard Stern. They make some mighty fine coffee, and my Financial and Menu Adviser - best you forget me before her, otherwise she'll come around and kick your booty - and I buy our weekly grind from them. Most often it's a pound of Colombian, ground to perfection. Perfection, you must understand, is a stove-top pot. Today, the Peet's closest to my office had run out of Colombian. I settled for Costa Rican, which I hadn't had in years and therefore couldn't pick out of a criminal line-up. I ordered the Costa Rican, and the barrista - oh, fuck it, she's a goddamn coffee-slingin' wage slave, the poor gal - asks me to choose the Free Beverage of My Choice and to give her a name to attach to the order. A coupon supplied by Parental Unit the Younger provided me with an opportunity to get any free drink of my choice, as opposed to the regular free tea or coffee, iced or hot, and given the "scorching" San Francisco weather I chose something chilled and loaded with chocolate and caffeine. Also, I gave my name - Diego Montoya. She laughed and asked if that was my real name. Sure it was, I said - in Japan. Turns out, of course, that she had lived in Japan for a year, and so we talked briefly about names, the TH dipthong, and getting by in Nipponland. As I left Ye Olde Caffeine Depot, I realized that only half of that energy surge coursing through me was due to the recently-imbibed chemical influx. The rest came from the thrill of making a connection with a previously faceless, unknowable person. Having just finished Clay Shirkey's excellent book, Here Comes Everybody, which ties the disparate threads of computer social networking and real-life consequence together into a neat little bow, it became apparent that this kind of connection was the quintessential experience of my generation: We meet strangers, and discover that they are not so strange, and are perhaps more like us than we had previously thought, and possibly even build longer-lasting business or personal connections with them - even though that last example wasn't the case today at Peet's. The point of all this is that I am terribly sorry for not blogging for the past several months. I've been busy, but who hasn't? Much of the busy-ness has finally paid off, with two promotions leading to a slightly less panicky approach to having spent three decades harrassing people. I'm a bit more able to balance my time, instead of solely - um, dually - focusing on work and karate. I haven't stopped photographing, so there will be more photos. I haven't stopped writing, even though most of my writing has been work-based of late. That's great if you're into software or watching me make a boring fool of myself on video, less so if you don't give a fig. So, in the future you can expect more Live! Nude! Girls! I mean, more hot, steamy photos, cold drug-laced drinks, and the kind of rare commentary you can get only from a native son living in his hometown. Stay tuned. (Oh wait. Does that outro show my age?)
Tree roots and Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Seth Rosenblatt (c) 2006. For the past decade or so, there has been a massive effort by the Cambodian government to restore as many temples to as close to their original glory as possible. This sadly doesn't mean that they've brought back the sacrificial altar. Instead, it's all about clearing away the rainforest and jungle that have encroached upon these sanctum santorii. While this is probably the best coarse of action for scholars of Southeast Asian and Angkorian culture and architecture, the temples that haven't been "rescued" resemble nothing so much as what can happen to any man-made structure after hundreds of years of neglect. It's starkly poetic, and as good a reminder as any that we are impermanent.