Friday, December 30, 2011


Inwood Hill Park, at the northern most tip of Manhattan, contains the last remaining primordial forest on the urban island.  The park was opened in 1926 and the natural forest was mostly left untouched by landscapers.  Because of this, as you walk around the park, deep into its vine-covered trails, you almost feel as if you are in upstate New York, far from the city.  It is high in elevation and you must navigate many hills to get there.  The forest sits upon its glacier-scoured rocks, bound by the Hudson river to the West and Spuyten Duyvil Creek to the North.

I rode my bike there last summer, with my digital camera and 35mm Canon in tow.  It was a perfect day and I was mesmerized by how disconnected I felt from the city almost the moment I set foot in the park.  The hilly paths are so steep you lose your breath in some places.  One can get lost in the trails and I remember how amazing the Hudson river looked from lofty perches of the park.  Along the paths are many different types of trees, and some of them twist into grotesque shapes like something out of Grimm's fairy tales.  A truly magical place I wish to see again.

Eventually the elevation dips steeply downward as you reach the northernmost tip of the island.  Below lies Spuyten Duyvil (dutch for Devil's Spout), the channel connecting the Harlem to the Hudson river, and above towers the Henry Hudson Bridge.  This is a beautiful bridge with a single fixed arch, an imposing structure breaking up the otherwise peaceful surroundings of the park.

Near the end of the park I reached the lowlands, that had been partially flooded by tropical storm Irene and saw the famous painted "C" for Columbia University.  This was painted in 1952 by the university's crew team, of which my dad was a member in the '60's.  I lay on a bench in the sun with some friends I had just met up with and together we started our long journey home, biking down the east side of Manhattan.  It was a good day. 

Some Things

I'm home sick so I've been lying around, reading, resting, not doing much of anything. I consider myself a very active and productive person, so it's hard to just sit around all day. I haven't felt this sick in a while though so I'm gonna do my best to just stay put 'till I'm good and ready.

In the meantime I realize I haven't posted in a while, so I've decided to photograph some of my favorite things and tell the little story behind each of them.

Elvis is back, indeed. I picked this up on my trip to Memphis while touring Graceland. I've been a huge Elvis fan ever since I formed a tribute band with my friend Petros in college. Together, we studied every song, every move, his life story, and found our respect for the man grow with each revelation. This is the first album he released after his stint in the army and I believe it to be his best. First of all, the sound is amazing. It's one of the first stereo pop albums ever made and you feel like you're right there with the band in the studio. This release compiles all the outtakes and you get to hear how the songs develop and improve with each run through by these amazing musicians. I was surprised to see that the album was recorded in just 2 all-nighter sessions (going from 8:00 at night until 7:00 in the morning!).
This transistor radio was bought at the Brooklyn Flea in the One Hanson building. My friend and I decided to buy each other gifts under $5 while there and this was her present to me. In the days of mp3 players and iTunes, it's nice to have a good ol' fashioned portable radio. I bring it to summer bbq's and picnics and people love it.

There's something about a coaster. A little representation of art on a square that you place your glass on. It also says something about the pride people have for their furniture.....don't put your glass directly on my mahogany coffee table! I personally don't have a problem with my guests placing their drinks on any of my tables, but I still love coasters and their compact, understated charm. I bought this one at the highly esteemed Raffles Hotel in Singapore.
I bought this print in Cuba. The woman who sold it to me said it was a likeness of Fidel Castro, which I'm not entirely convinced of. Regardless of who it is I think it's a beautiful portrait. I love the longing eyes and expressive hands. I bought it as a gift for my grandma, which she kept for a while, but wanted me to have it following her move up north. I now keep it on my bookshelf.
This cast-iron bird bath was found in an antique store I went to with my dad while visiting my parents in Vermont. We were driving around his Chevy Camero on a warm summer day when we chanced upon this little house filled to its rafters with old instruments and furniture. The piece has a very Lewis Carroll feel to it. It's currently mounted on my wall, seemingly growing out of it.

I love it when I see family photos placed in the mirror frame. I don't have any of my own but I do have one of this mystery woman. I found her in an old junk store in my neighborhood hidden amongst piles of old, disregarded photographs and postcards. I was intrigued by her mischievous little smile; she's cute as can be! The handwritten note on the back simply states, "May 1941." A WWII nurse perhaps. I'm sure many a wounded soldier fell madly in love with her.
"Such wonderful socks were not to be found when I was young!" says good ol' Wayne Knit. Thanks to new textile technology Wayne will probably never have to darn his socks again. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks? I found this masterpiece in an antique store in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The big crack you see formed under my ownership I'm afraid.

She loves you, yeah yeah yeah! I love these vintage Beatles pins that an ex girlfriend bought for me several years ago. The Beatles are an obsession for me; I know every song and every bit of trivia you can throw at me. But this type of memorabilia captures an innocence of youth long since gone, teenage girls being able to wear their favorite moptop on their lapel.
I collect refrigerator magnets. Anytime I travel to a new country or city I look for a magnet to commemorate my visit. They're kitschy and cool and nicely dress up the plain white surface of the cold, bulky home appliance.

I found this brass bell at the same junk store I found the WWII nurse. I like the idea of marking a special occasion with a ring of the bell. And so I do from time to time. Something along the lines of, "dinners ready!", ring-ring-ring! The ring of a bell perks the ears of angels, they say. Hopefully it brings along a bit of luck too, for me and you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Rinsing Lettuce?

As we Americans approach the eating festival of the year, Thanksgiving, I would like to broach a food-topic that has caused me a bit of confusion over the years. My local grocery store displays its lettuce rather on the wet side, meaning it appears to have been washed already. The leaves are lightly blanketed in cool, crisp water. I even give it a little shake before bagging it to remove some of the dampness.

I know you are always supposed to rinse your lettuce to help ensure e coli and other bacteria have been washed off (not a total fool-proof method to be sure, but an accepted one). My point is, however, do I need to rinse this lettuce that has obviously already been sprayed with water? I mean, it seems a little redundant to rinse produce that is already quite wet.

Anyone else encountered "wet" lettuce at the grocery store and have an opinion on this?

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Farm Colony

Last week I explored the abandoned remains of the New York City Farm Colony in Staten Island with a friend, armed with my Canon FT and Holga 120. I had heard of this whole compound of various ruined buildings nestled within the weeded grounds of a 100 acre lot in the middle of Staten Island. Too enticing to pass up!

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. The sun was shining, the air was unseasonably warm and the leaves were still changing. We hopped in a car and followed the winding concrete path of the expressway across the Verazzano. We looped around the grounds a couple times until we found the best break in the chain link fence to make our entry. There were some houses across the street and we didn't want anyone to see us go in. So we parked in front of our secret entrance and sneaked in behind the camouflage of the car.

The compound grounds were so overgrown with vegetation, I almost felt like were were walking through the ancient Mayan temples of Guatemala. You could see the remains of paved streets but they were wrapped in vines and felled by enormous trees over ye
ars of storms. The buildings stood alone, empty shells of their former selves, crumbling away into nothingness. Windows broken, stones cracked, graffiti covering every flat surface. The insides were dark and damp, blanketed with dust inches thick. Occasionally we would see the black markings of a former camp fire, or sinister messages written in spray paint.

The story began in 1829 when the area was known as the Poor Farm, where New York's destitute could earn room and board for their manual labor on the farm. In its height the agricultural colony could produce vegetables to support 3,000 people. By 1915 there were 824 residents supervised by 150 employees housed in a series of rubble stone and brick buildings. Unfortunately, as the population of the colony aged no new, younger hands were moving in. By the end of the 1920's the site had stopped being a farm and became a housing complex for the infirm.

The Farm Colony, as it is still known, has been completely abandoned since 1975, however no funds exist to revitalize the area. It has been left to rot.

After a couple hours my friend and I bumped into a trio of goth teenagers. They were carrying metal pipes and other makeshift weapons, convinced there were lunatics running lose throughout the compound. They told us rumors of murderers and prison escapees. Even more supernatural events that were unexplainable. They said they had been there at night once. Although I was suspicious of their tales I know I wouldn't want to be there at night. It was a pleasant place to explore during the day but at night would be another story.

We bid our new found friends goodbye and headed back to the car. It was a great day and as we headed back home I thought of the former colony and wondered if it would ever get a chance to serve its community again. There would definitely be many weeds to pull if it was ever to be a farm again.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Lower Tunings

Lower tuning is different from alternate tunings in that instead of arranging the notes to be played "open" (popular amongst folk and blues guitarists) the strings still follow the standard EADGBE tuning but dropped to a lower interval. Thus a EADGBE tuning becomes DGCFAD, for example. This way a guitarist can achieve a different sound without having to deviate from standard chord positions of the fingers. This method of tuning is popular because it...
  • can better accommodate a singer's vocal range
  • allows for a deeper and thus heavier, thicker sound to the guitar
  • gets better action on the strings, useful for more dexterous solos with pitch bending or hammer-ons
  • contributes to the guitar staying in tune more easily
There are many guitarists who use lower tunings. I first discovered this method of tuning in college while trying to learn Nirvana songs (Kurt Cobain tuned to D# or D). D# is also favored by Jimi Hendrix, Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Billy Corgan (Smashing Pumpkins), Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day), Eddie Van Halen, Slash, James Hetfield (Metallica) and Jerry Cantrell (Alice in Chains). Some guitarists tune even lower, down to D or C or even B. There is even something called a Baritone Guitar, designed for such lower tunings.

Fender came out with a guitar in the sixties called the Bass VI, which is tuned an octave lower than standard E. This is a strange mixed-breed that looks like a guitar (same design as the Fender Jaguar) but who's notes sound like a bass.
John Lennon and George Harrison played this guitar for a time in the late sixties (featured on Hey Jude, Let it Be, Helter Skelter amongst others).

I find tuning to low D to sound especially good on an acoustic guitar. The notes just sound fatter and I've employed this tuning method on a few of my own songs. However, I don't do it often since I don't like the idea of constantly having to re-tune my guitar (I suppose if I had many guitars it would be easier).

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Great Geyser

In July I traveled to Iceland with a friend. A beautiful country indeed, even if the weather may be a bit unpredictable. On our second day there we drove to the Haukadalur Valley, where the Great Geysir lay. Geysir derives from the Iceland word geysa, meaning "to gush". And gush it does...every 10 minutes or so! It hurls its boiling water up to 200 feet in the air.

It was a sight to see but admittedly standing around waiting for it to blow can be a bit dull. But we managed to entertain each other enough during the downtime.

A scene from downtown Reykjavik

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 Years

It feels weird not being in New York on the 10th anniversary. And yet I'm kinda glad to not be there on such a mournful day. On the other side of the planet, as detached as I can be in the internet's a good place to be right now.

I was standing on my rooftop that morning with one of my best friends, staring in absolute horror. The intensity of the trauma and fear during those moments brought us to our knees. I think everyone in New York was living in a surreal state of shock for weeks afterwards, if not months.

And so here I am in Singapore, just back to my hotel from dinner with an old friend whom I haven't seen in years. Someone I went to college with who now lives here. Reconnecting with an old friend I think is an appropriate way to commemorate a day when many relationships were forcefully severed. It feels right and I will fall asleep content with my life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A few words on Steve Jobs

Well, it's the end of an era. Steve Jobs has resigned as CEO of Apple. I don't want to get into the history of apple on this blog.....there's really no need, you can easily google everything you want to know. We all know that Steve Jobs created Apple in the 1970's (the first home-made, wooden apple was priced at $666) and that he turned around the company in the late '90's when he took over as CEO. And I don't need to tell you what an impact his "i" products have made on the modern media culture. Luckily, he'll still be on board as the chairman, and I'm sure his influence will continue for years to come. It remains to be seen how the direction of the company will carry on.

Me and my latest purchase, the Air

I was first introduced to apple when I was a kid in the '80's. We lived in the bay area, in Los Gatos, and I remember my dad taking me to the apple store. Being a fan of Tron and War Games, I was in awe of the technology. The future was there right before my eyes. I was so excited when we took our first Apple IIe home. It instantly became a center piece of the household. There were no fancy graphics, no internet or email, just a green screen with contrasting white type face. That was our only computer for years.

The Apple IIe

I didn't think about apple again until I was buying my first computer in the late '90's. I was working at an architecture firm at the time and, although my office used PC's, my IT guy recommended I buy a Mac. I bought the last of the beige G3's. I immediately created my own website; a homepage for my band at the time. I got really into photoshop and html. I still don't have an iPhone, but I love my iMac and iPod nano. I'm definitely an apple user, through and through.

So good luck to you Steve, good luck apple. Safe journeys.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

My philosophy on love (for today)

Love isn't something you feel for any one boy or girl. True love is felt for everyone.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

UFO's over Brooklyn

Last weekend my friends and I saw at least 20 UFO's flying over Brooklyn. It was Saturday night and we were enjoying a BBQ on my friends rooftop when we spotted them coming from the south, flying steadily northwards. We couldn't for the life of us figure out what they were. They were flying too low to be meteors and they definitely weren't airplanes. It was clear that they were on fire, moving in an orderly direction, and totally freaking us out.

The next morning we learned that nobody else we knew had seen them and that the burning objects didn't make the local news. Perplexed, we studied the footage shot to see if we could figure the mystery out on our own. After blowing up some of the camera stills we think we've finally got it. See the video to find out what they were.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Falling Dominoes

When I was a kid I was so obsessed with watching dominoes fall. Now I laugh at what a strange cult fascination this was for me and many others! Taking much painstaking time to set up each domino, careful to not let them fall during set up, only to tip the first one with a gentle touch and watch them knock each other down. One by one. They make that cool sounding "clickity-clickity" noise as they fall. It became such a popular past-time that network TV shows, like Ripley's Believe It Or Not, would actually air these falling dominoes as national entertainment! The insiders call them domino chains, domino rallies or domino runs. Bizarre.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Photographic memories

I love this picture of my parents from the '60's. My dad with his buddy holly glasses and skinny tie, my mom with the houndstooth vest she made herself. This photo was taken shortly after they started dating. Looks like a beautiful day. They're still this in love.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Train Through New Jersey

As I ride the train through northern Jersey
I imagine myself within each crack and crevice of its used landscape
Abandoned parking lots, split with wild veins of grass
wrapped in chain link fence like industrial ribbons
Kearny, 99 cent stores, phone cards, baptist worship center; faded signs burnt from the sun
I picture myself seated at the weathered, makeshift bench parked on an asphalt lawn
Playing solitaire while drinking coffee, songs ringing loudly in my head
I am alone, but somehow see it all captured on film; images for future generations
The heat is bold as I sit and watch it roll on by

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

India Part I

I am trying to think of a way to properly write about my travels to India, from which I only just returned. The place is mad chaos. And I loved it.

I was sent to Mumbai by my company for 8 days. It was an intense trip. As I stepped out of the airport I was immediately hit by a wave of thick humidity and heat out of which I could barely breathe. Stray dogs scurried around, people dodged the careening taxis, it was dark, lit by dim, yellow halogens. I commented on my driver's cap, "I'm completely charmed....drivers don't wear caps anymore in the US." He laughed.

I've never seen a city so crowded, so dense, so utterly lived in. There is never a calm moment during the night or day. Millions of people out and about, doing something, even if it looks inane. I once saw a man hammering a sheet of metal with a large sledge hammer on the street. He was a small, scrawny individual; could barely lift the over-sized tool. And yet he would swing it over his head and come crashing down on the aluminum, over and over again. Occasionally he would turn it over, to expose a fresh space in the alloy to bang away at. Everything here can be done on the streets.

Goats everywhere. People own them, but sometimes it's hard to tell since the animals wander around the streets, loosely tethered, eating lettuce. Seems a good, lazy life. They are a future meal.

Driving around town is maddening. There is a hierarchy in place, similar to the caste system I suppose. Buses and trucks are on top of the chain, followed by cars, ceded by tuk-tuk's, trailed by motorcycles and ending with bicycles. Each vehicle cuts off the other, missing a head-on collision by mere inches. Horns blare constantly. There are different types of honks, that I think I could've translated had I stayed a few weeks more. But the beeping is pervasive, as if a part of the air.

The streets are filled with drama. I saw a man fly off his motorcycle, skid half a block down the street, get back up and re-mount, speeding away. A crazy-eyed old man threw a rock at our car and it slammed violently against the passenger door, thoroughly freaking us out. Beggar children would come and knock on the windows at traffic lights, "please sir, please sir, please sir." I could see entire families sleeping on the street, torn sheets barely covering their naked feet. Men get a shave on the sidewalk. One night I hopped into a tuk-tuk, asking the driver to take me to a restaurant that was only a few blocks away. Instead he drove up and down the crowded street in circles, laughing like a maniac. I jumped out of the moving vehicle for the relative safety of the sidewalk.

For the most part the people of India are very friendly. We would wave and smile at each other as I meandered down the crowded allies. They would ask me to take their picture, help me with directions, recommend their favorite place to grab a meal, and sometimes just approach me to shake my hand. Although the medieval looking streets and the sheer numbers of people felt intimidating at first, over time I felt quite comfortable and safe.

After a full week of adjusting to Mumbai's buzzing atmosphere, I was finally feeling more at home. I could discern true poverty from just the typical living standards. I could sense a motorcycle speeding my way before I could see it with my eyes, darting out of the way as if through premonition. I could see order in the chaos. That pile of trash isn't there randomly. The neighborhood has chosen that corner as their refuse deposit, for lack of garbage cans.

Sometimes I wished I could become invisible, so I could walk along these dense alley-ways unnoticed. See life without my presence known. On my last night I came about as close to my wish as possible. I walked along the beach at night with no moon in the sky. The people of India love walking the beaches after sunset, when the air is cooler, and the waters of the Arabian Sea froth about their feet. I was among my Indian brethren that night, in near blackness, enjoying the simple pleasures of life. They could not quite make out if I was a foreigner or not. I was a mere silhouette and felt more alive than ever. I walked down that beach happily; whistling a tune and feeling totally satisfied.