lampost art

The snow has finally melted away uncovering the sidewalks and revealing things. I’ve always found it curious that people like to use the bases of lamposts as a canvas. In our neighborhood, it is a common sight to see embellished lamposts.

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I liked that the bike chain left on the post was covered in pink velvet

I liked that the bike chain left on the post was covered in pink velvet

Elaborate lampost art on the Mosaic Trail on the left. And a whimsical Harry Potter tag on the right

Elaborate lampost art on the Mosaic Trail on the left. And a whimsical Harry Potter tag on the right

The master of the adorned lampost is Jim Power, aka, the Mosaic Man. Jim is a neighborhood artist that has been working in the community for decades. You can learn about him and support his on-going project by going to The Mosaic Man – Jim Power and his Mosaic Trail.

I ran into Jim last summer while he was out working on the Mosaic Trail

I ran into Jim last summer while he was out working on the Mosaic Trail

loisaida in hipstamatic

I’m happy for photography apps and camera phones. Some people might say,  “oh, there is no skill in that, no art, its just point and shoot”. Who cares? What is art? I’m just having fun.

I took these photos with my Iphone and the Hipstamatic app. (this is not a sponsored post). I love Hipstamatic because it reminds me of film. I do know real film. I learned to edit movie film, with a splicer. I touched it. My best time was helping a friend organize the edit of his 16mm feature film. We worked in his studio in a loft in Tribeca back when artists could afford lofts in Tribeca. We worked till late in the night, listening to good music. There were many canvas bins on wheels with metal frames. On the frames were hooks where we hung the ribbons of film. Each ribbon was a numbered scene. Some were short strips, others so long they became coiled bundles in the canvas bins. We spliced the scene ribbons together by hand. You had to clean the film first and when you pulled the splicing tape over the film, you had to make sure the two cut pieces were straight and as close together as possible to avoid a cut that the viewer would notice. Once you’d laid the splicing tape down on the film, you rubbed your finger over it to smooth all the air bubbles out. It was like working with clay.

Hipstamatic lets you switch up their digital lenses and films. You choose the lens and you choose the film, and you take the shot. You wait “for the print to develop”. Then you get what you get, except faster than if you had film developed. I like the sometimes unexpected results when you see the “print”. The Hipstamatic Field Guide illustrates the different film and lenses available.

I took most of these photographs on East 7th Street between Ave C. (Loisaida Avenue) and Ave D. It is a block of stately homes from the 1800’s that is lined with very old street trees. I used the Hipstamatic Tinto 1884 Lens (befitting of my neighborhood) and both the C-Type Plate film, which has a color wash to it and the D-Type Plate film that is black & white. This lens and film combination was tricky with light. Too much sunlight and the contrast was extreme. Too little light and you got a blotchy photo. The best result was on a bright but overcast day.

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Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park

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Tompkins Square Park

Tompkins Square Park

mulchfest 2014

I almost didn’t want to take the Xmas tree down at all this year. It was the freshest and longest lasting one we’ve ever had. It still smelled piney everytime I walked into the house. This past weekend was Mulchfest, the annual treecycling effort in New York City and so, time to say goodbye to the tree. Chippers are set up in parks and people bring their Xmas trees to be turned into mulch for the city’s gardens and street trees.

This year, I made a couple of extra trips on my bike to Tompkins Square Park to get mulch for the street trees on my block. This is the second year that I’ve participated in Mulchfest and it feels like it will be an annual tradition that marks the end of the holiday season. Time to start looking at seed catalogs.

the chipper in Tompkins Square Park

the chipper in Tompkins Square Park

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bags of pine mulch for the taking

bags of pine mulch for the taking

city gardeners

city gardeners

my cargo bike

my cargo bike

this year I was careful to not put too much fresh mulch around the bark like my friend Virginia advised.

this year I was careful to not put too much fresh mulch around the bark like my friend Virginia advised.

loisaida lights

I just returned from a weekend in the Catskills and the holiday spirit was in full swing with the houses dripping in xmas lights. Front lawns were dressed with freshly fallen snow and Santa and candy cane sculptures. People drape their bushes in bush net lights, which I think is the coolest thing.  Urban holiday lighting is so small scale compared to what you see in the countryside and the suburbs. We have mini pockets of holiday decoration. A solitary window draped with twinkling lights , a fire escape bedecked with icicle lights, the kind that people with houses string along their gables. Snowflakes cut out of white paper with blunt scissors by little hands are taped to a window. I love the holiday lights in Loisaida. It’s the cheeriest thing when it gets dark so early.

I took these photos two years ago. Walking home from the dog park, I walked with the pups past the tall and skinny lighted tree in Tompkins Square Park and out the east exit at 7th St. Then I saw the windows of the bar 7B. They were so very christmasy on that icy cold night that I had to stop and take out my phone for pictures. It was a struggle because the dogs would not be still and it was hard to hold the phone steady with their leashes around my wrist. I said “damn you dogs!” threw their leashes on the sidewalk, held them under my boot and aimed the phone. A passerby paused and smiled at the dogs, smiled at the windows and then at me and said “Merry Xmas”.

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The bar 7B has been in lots of movies. I came across this video compilation: 7B: A History in Motion Pictures. Check it out.

loisaida dressed in fall colors

It feels like fall has been deliciously drawn out this year. The days are bright and warm and the trees and bushes are dressed in autumn colors. Fall comes late in New York City. They say that the thousands of black tar rooftops create extra heat in Manhattan. Maybe that is why fall is so much later here than just a few miles away.

fence at la plaza cultural de armando perez community garden

fence at la plaza cultural de armando perez community garden

Everywhere I look there are leaves on the sidewalks. Many colors of leaves, plain large brown leaves from oak trees, maple leaves tinged in red, many small wispy yellow leaves. It seems that the weeping willow trees are the last to turn – they are still green. So many yellow gingko trees. When I see the golden canopy of those trees, I know that I will forever be reminded of Zuccotti Park in the fall of 2011 when idealism itself was a golden thing as we listened to mic check under the bright yellow ginkgo trees. There is nothing as energizing as being around people who think they can change the world.

el jardin del paraiso

el jardin del paraiso

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The turtle pond in El Jardin del Paraiso is still. The red-eared slider turtles, those abandoned Chinatown pets, released into the garden pond are already tucked in, burrowed deep into the mud for the winter, nowhere to be seen. The goldfish are moving slow, shining in the water like jewels. They will conquer the winter like they’ve done for years, sitting at the bottom of the pond in the mud till they wake and come alive again in spring.

turtle pond in el jardin del paraiso

turtle pond in el jardin del paraiso

hurricane sandy one year ago

One year ago today, we were holed up in our apartment listening to the screaming wind and watching the branches of the weeping willow in the garden crushing the fence and spilling onto the sidewalk. Here is my post from last year.

Today on this anniversary, I came across this haunting black and white video posted by Scream Machine showing the flooding of Loisaida Avenue. I’d not seen before how strong the storm surge was when it came up the avenue. About 3 minutes in, they’ve edited in still photographs of the aftermath.

loisaida tree beds

Street trees are tough cookies. They survive in bad soil and polluted air. They give us back oxgen, and in the summer they cool our walks with their shade.

I like how people tend the street trees and create small gardens around the their beds. Here is a round-up of some of the tree beds in Loisaida this autumn.

wooden bed with white fencing

wooden bed with white fencing

a suburban look with mums

a suburban look with mums

lush bed garden with a bamboo fence

lush bed garden with a bamboo fence

metal tree bed fences make for good bike parking

metal tree bed fences make for good bike parking

a minimalist tree bed on Loisaida Avenue

a minimalist tree bed on Loisaida Avenue

this gardent was created and is tended to by my friend Raquel

this gardent was created and is tended to by my friend Raquel

tree bed made from the pieces of demolished tenements

tree bed made from the pieces of demolished tenements

the magical garden on east 6th street

There are many spots in New York City where you can feel transported to another place and sometimes even another time. Mostly it happens in indoor spaces. You walk into a tiny Vietnamese restaurant and all of the sudden you could be in Hanoi, eating Pho from a steaming bowl on a stainless steel counter under the florescent lights. Or you could be in an indoor market examining the baskets full of guava and fresh tamarind pods as you feel up the avocados trying to find two that are ripe enough for today’s dinner and you could easily be in Mexico City. Rarely can you be transported from an outdoor space, because New York is so very New York.

6BC Garden in all its glory

6BC Garden in all its glory

There is a community garden on East 6th Street that does transport me – to England I go. It is what I imagine a garden would look like in someone’s big backyard. It is not manicured like a formal garden of the upper classes, but exuberant and lush. I read once that there are people in England who like to tend their gardens in the nude. I think that it is the kind of garden a naked gardener would have. A wannabee formal garden that is a tiny bit wild.

A tiny lily pond

A tiny lily pond

When the gardeners took over the abandoned spaces in Loisaida and began to transform them, they salvaged the rubble. They used the brick and the broken pieces of ornate cornices carved in brownstone and limestone from the fallen buildings. The brick paths in the garden and the flowerbed edges are from pieces of fallen tenements. The buildings live on nestled in the good dirt.

a bench for contemplation

a bench for contemplation

brick path

brick path

spring flowering in orchard alley

It’s been the longest winter. We were wearing winter coats last week. Recently there were a couple of days where it went up to the mid-seventies and I saw girls walking around in shorts and people broke out their sandals not even caring that they hadn’t had a pedicure. Then the next day we were back in scaves and mittens, the sky was grey and the wind was biting your face. We’ve been so wishful and optimistic. I broke out my new yellow spring biking jacket on a sunny morning only to tie a sweater from work  around my neck as a make-shift scarf for the bike ride home.

Nevertheless, nature will not be held back and there is a flowering in spite of the cool weather. I took these photos in Orchard Alley, a community garden on East 4th Street with my new camera that I’m learning to use. The garden was tranquil despite it being a beautiful Sunday afternoon. Two gardeners were happily digging in the dirt and two little girls slowly strolled on the brick paths and smelled the newborn flowers.

Orchard Alley is peaceful jewel-like garden with brick paths and garden beds constructed with rocks from the rubble left behind. I remember it when it was a shanty town in the early nineties, rows and rows of structures in grey dust. The gardeners, the people who are compelled to make something out of nothing, put their hands on it and now it is a splotch of green in an urban landscape. If you walk past the garden in the early morning, right before dawn, you will hear a symphony of birds who sleep in a giant bamboo. Their chattering to each other when they rise, is so loud, so sonorous and so extraordinary in New York City that you have to blink and look around to remember where you are.

Orchard Alley community garden

Orchard Alley community garden

Paths made from brick salvaged from fallen tenements

Paths made from brick salvaged from fallen tenements

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