Thursday, July 2, 2015


Floating out over the West Side Highway to its west and the High Line to its east is the new Whitney Museum. Designed by Renzo Piano the building terraces out providing views over the city both up toward the brownstones of Harlem and down to the spires of Wall Street.
The Whitney's collection is devoted to American contemporary art from the twentieth century through the present. Painting and sculpture, representational and conceptual, moving images and collages are all represented in the collection.
It was a warm Sunday when I made my inaugural visit to the Meatpacking District. One of the first things I saw once I took my eyes off the structure itself was the cluster of vendors peeking out from between the throngs of people crowding the streets either on their way into the Whitney or approaching the staircase leading up to the Highline. Whether the hat vendor held a permanent place at the corner of Gansevoort and West Twelfth Streets or if he was taking advantage of the day's heat
I had no way of knowing but what unconsciously filled my imagination even before I got into the museum was the amount of visitors who had donned hats for the day and their connection with the imagery of hats in the museum's collection. It was the hook that drew me from floor to floor in the museum and started my finding places where I could snatch moments of time with my camera of the interaction of patrons, their hats and the art.
He felt judged by the men in top hats staring out from the canvas as he walked by. He couldn't or wouldn't make eye contact even though he knew they were mere representations. Still it felt as if their eyes were following him. He couldn't forgive himself for the way he treated her leaving her sitting in the café her napkin wet from tears with streaks of black mascara smudged in its folds. He'd have the word, "asshole" tattooed to his memory for the rest of his life.
The rim of her hat gave shade to her face even inside away from the direct rays of the sun.  Her folded arms gave her an air of haughtiness. She stood aloof from the argument in motion beside her, her disdain separating her from everyone around her. The field of disgust had even pushed her husband to a safe distance behind. Her beams of disapproval made even the paintings on the wall begin to blush.
He had to turn away from the gaze of the man in the painting. Forty years ago he would have met those searing eyes with an unspeakable resentment spitting at his shoes as he walked by. Today the look only brought pain from a lifetime of being on the wrong side of love.
The sophisticated ladies had their admirers. Everywhere they went they'd draw a crowd of whispers and discrete finger pointing.
It wasn't long before another group of faceless gawkers stopped to admire their chic appearance but their ruby red wooden lips never cracked a smile until the woman with blood rather than sap tried on the tallest one's black bowler hat.
Mama had a hip displacement years ago that left her favorin' her left side makin' her walk stooped and limping toward that shorter half. Over the years the constant pressure on her left side caused that hip and butt cheek to bulge and grow like a batch of kudzu many sizes over its original while her right side dwindled to nothing more than a shadow of its former self. When Henry saw pinned to the wall what reminded him of Mama's flesh colored underwear hanging from the backyard clothesline he couldn't help but pull out his iPhone. He'd snapped the photo and then delete it. Shooting and deleting was what he had wanted to do to Mama's underwear hanging on that line for all his buddies to see and have reason to tease the hell out of him. Shooting and deleting that piece tacked to the wall finally gave him a way to rid himself of the embarrassment of Mama's undies that had dogged him his entire life.
Both men looked at Phil, one from underneath a baseball cap and the other from underneath a straw Panama. Their partners walking away oblivious to the turmoil Phil was roiling inside each of them. Each of them wrestling with the question, "Should I stay or should I go?" One would stay, but one would go.
Everything seemed very black and white but the reality was there was a hell of lot of grey going on. There was a grey cast to the walls. The painting was loaded with greys. There was a greyness to the bearded man's intent. The guards decision to engage rested in that grey area between acting and staying back.
Time may change what we wear, a tie over an unwashed shirt on a working stiff - a pair of Ray-Ban shades hanging from the neck of a hedge fund manager, but not what we struggle with. Whether personally or occupationally we all find ourselves at some point just trying to get a mule and a plow.

Starbucks: Harlem, New York City, 2001
Alice Attie, photographer
In the permanent collection at the Whitney Museum New York
Represented by the Foley Gallery, New York City

Thursday, June 25, 2015


There are too many blocks to walk down, too many streets to explore, too many hidden treasures that go missed until one day you discover the unexpected. I stumbled on Gansevoort Market on my way to the new Whitney. The market has its origins dating back to the 1880's when an early morning parade of horse drawn wagons would congregate on the former site of Fort Gansevoort laying out their bounty of fresh produce, meats and dairy.
The new incarnation of the market now operates out of an old warehouse on cobbled stoned Gansevoort Street in the old meatpacking district. It rolled open its garage-like doors in October of 2014 with an array of small vendors selling their wares out of more contemporary versions of the previous market's covered wagons.
Aligned in rows in much the same way they would have been over a hundred years ago it's an epicurean's field day inside the open but air-conditioned market.  The minute you walk into the timber and brick building you're struck by the color and smell of cuisine on the make. This ain't no Mickey D's.
In the back is a sky-lit seating area festooned with a canopy of twisted vines that seem to grow out of the floor forming an enchanted garden perfect for sitting and enjoying your meal. This open sitting area surrounded by an assortment of food vendors is an idea swiped from food courts inhabiting malls in every major and minor city in the country, but here it's done right.
There's an international theme running from booth to booth making it almost impossible to decide which nation is going to make your taste bud compass point in that direction.
There's the traditional Colombian arepas, a sort of tortilla that is prepared in both sweet and savory varieties, at Palenque.
Or you can traverse the Atlantic for crepes prepared the way the French do with drizzled chocolate and fresh cut strawberries.
The hombres of Tocmbi have driven another of their VW vintage vans with the roofs sawed off serving tacos, enchiladas and their homebrewed teas and lemonades.
You could also zigzag your way across the aisles and take a trip to Spain at Donosita with their market of regionally inspired fair
or go on to Italy for a slice of pizza or some chicken parmesan.
I opted for a lobster roll and chips with a blueberry infused lemonade.
Then I went in search of dessert. Every meal of mine has to end with a touch of sweet and the choices at Gansevoort Market makes it difficult to land on just one. The carnival of color at Dana's Bakery made my eyes itch from visual sugar shock but there's no way I can pass up red velvet and here there were several to choose from.
I could go with the red velvet moon pies sitting next to the sprinkle crusted donuts but my final decision was to go with the red velvet twinkie.
How could anyone refuse a red velvet cake in the shape of a Baby Boomer's staple stuffed with sour cream icing?
Then if, like me, you were doing this journey unaccompanied, you could always buy a bouquet to take home to allay your guilt. The market left no stone unturned. If you get a chance please go see for yourself.

Gansevoort Market Opening Day, 1907
Photographer, unknown
Photo image from the Museum of the City of New York

Thursday, June 18, 2015


The pale green and orange chairs now litter Greeley Square as pigeons strut between the tables and under foot picking up bits of dropped Fire Belly Korean BBQ and Red Hook Lobster.
Urbanspaces has lined the square with shack after shack of food vendors for their Broadway Bites event selling tastings smeared on crepes or wrapped in seaweed and rice.
The atmosphere is a melting pot of languages stirred in with a menu filled with ethnic food choices. All of this is available in an outdoor setting rich in culture and diversity. The lanes between the tables and booths are filled with young local shop workers, down-and-outs made to feel a bit normal given a place at a table or tourists feeling as if they've discovered a New York surprise.
The flow of people is endless making the people watching as entertaining as the foods being grilled, baked and scooped from under the makeshift tin roofs of the vending booths.
The menus are so appealing I've now come for the third time since I've been back in New York.
I've tried a kale salad,
Asian cimi balls
and the best dreamsicle snow cone I've ever had.
Tonight it's going to be fish and chips,
or maybe a grilled cheese and truffle sandwich with a cool ginger beer
and a seat on one of those celadon chairs where I can watch the world walk by in al its diverse shapes and voices,
even if the voices are ones I'd wish were whispered rather than screamed

Eating al fresco is more a European tradition than an American one but we're catching on. Ordinances against outdoor dining have fallen off the books in most American cities or put on the same page with laws requiring hands free cellphones to be used while driving or no sodas sold in containers larger than eight ounces. Those restrictions seem to have fallen on the law book page that now read ignore by the enforcers.
There's something so celebratory about outdoor dining under the stars with strings of little lights swaying overhead.
The small Tuscan towns we've loved to venture to have draped their restaurant gardens with these sparks of romanticism. It's such a small gesture but the effect is magical.
The lights in Greeley Square are no different zigzaging overhead adding an artificial star cover to a city whose lightshow burns out the heavenly stars.
Although the outdoor dining is just as wonderful for lunch, it's the evening dining that brings out the best of the Square.
We've taken the look and brought it back to our backyard in Madison and our daughter has taken full advantage.
There's a weekly bonfire with friends where bootlegged beer is hidden in red solo cups and marshmallows are skewered and roasted over the fire for smores.

Trattoria L'ingrasciata, 1961
Enzo Sellerio, photographer
Represented by Eric Franck Fine Art