Day 66 (March 7, 2014) – New York, NY
“One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” – Bob Marley.
There are moments when I’m absolutely floored by subway musicians playing their hearts out for a few dollars from rushing commuters who are typically oblivious to any sounds other than the chimes of closing subway doors or the distinct rumblings of a train pulling into the station. The busy footsteps of fleeting passengers and the occasional rolling suitcase or bag adds to the sounds of the daily commute. But, on this Friday night, there are strings added to orchestra and a soothing melody that disrupts the normal chaos. I notice rushing commuters slow their step as they are drawn to two street musicians sliding bows across strings with the dexterity of a philharmonic string section. Their heads and bodies sway with sounds of Mozart and Bach and Beethoven and chorus of footsteps. (side note: I have no clue if I’m listening to Mozart, Bach or Beethoven – they are just my default characters when I think about classical music. I could be listening to a song by YoYo Ma or any other classical musician. All I know is…it’s beautiful).
Along with other weary commuters I stop and take in the sounds. I’ve seen these guys before. I’ve dropped a few dollars in the violin case before. I’ve wondered about their story. (We all have stories.) At first glance you wouldn’t peg them for classically trained musicians. I know…you can never judge a book by its cover, but still. The baggy jeans and over sized shirts probably hiding muscular arms sculpted from drags and pulls of bows over tight strings. With a closer inspection you will see worn hands and creases in skin that would seem to indicate hard lives. But still, I don’t know their story.
Today, I am grateful for the impromptu subway symphony these two musicians provide this lonely and tired commuter on his way home after a long week. I listen to two or three songs with a crowd of passengers growing. Like me, they realize that they actually weren’t in a rush to go nowhere. We applaud the street musicians for being masters at their craft. A few dollars and loose coins are their reward as we show appreciation for their passion and the gift of music they provide this night. Before I head out. I lift my camera and release the shutter wishing you could hear the beautiful sounds as I slowly walk to the train.
Day 65 (March 6, 2014) – New York, NY
Back in New York. Missing the LA weather. I’m cold, miserable and tired. I kinda feel like this guy in my photo of the day.
Note to self… afternoon flights out of LA are never a good look. I got home at around 1:15 AM last night and made to the office the next day for an early morning staff meeting. Perfectly roasted, organically raised, Blue Mountain harvested coffee was my savior. Just the aroma of fine Jamaican coffee beans was enough the erase any negatives affects of a long flight filled with reviewing reports and writing while simultaneously trying to watch Thor: The Dark World. (If you haven’t seen Thor….don’t. Definitely not a great Marvel film…and I’m a Thor fan!) So, on this day of meetings and conference calls, I coast. The second and third cup of coffee running through my veins keeps me attentive and function….but by 4:30 pm….man, was I crashing. And by 6:45pm when I finally left the office…I was a zombie. Not “Walking Dead” zombie-like, but almost there. I’m surprised I got home without falling asleep on the subway or without taking my photo for the day.
Half asleep. Coffee high gone. I lean against subway door for support. I photograph the person directly in front of me, a mirror of myself. We are both exhausted and secretively glad this day is over.
Day 64 (March 5, 2014) – Los Angeles, CA
“Either they don’t know, don’t show, or don’t care about what’s going on in the hood.” – Doughboy – Boyz in the Hood
I just had to make at least one Boyz in the Hood reference on this trip, since: 1.) I’m in LA!! 2.) I ventured to South Central to find my image for the day and 3.) technically I’m in the HOOD! To me, these three things brings out my inner Doughboy and has me pumping 2-Pac and Snoop as I walk through the hood. And, if this was 10 or 20 years ago you might even catch me rocking some Chuck Taylors, extra high socks and a Raiders sweatshirt just trying to blend in. Who am I kidding, I’m sticking out like a sore thumb here. I think I just have an east coast look to me. So, as I walk around the streets of South Central I’m a little extra cautious and fully aware of my surroundings. I took the the train out here…yea I said it… I took the TRAIN out to Doughboy’s neighborhood. No need to hop in a low rider or hail a cab…I’m on public transit with the people! And I’m on a mission!
Over ten years ago when I drove across country with a friend who was moving out west to be a star, Watts was our first stop when we got to LA. I had to go because I saw these strange looking towers in a few movies about guns, hopelessness, violence and death in the hood (I think that sums up most of the movies that uses South Central as a backdrop). I still have the photo of me proudly standing in front of an art installation that I knew absolutely nothing about. Over the years coming back to LA, I learned more about the origins of Watts Tower and the artist, Simon Rodia, who created them. He started building them in 1921, but didn’t finish until 1954 and they kinda look like something Antonia Gaudi would have created. But this is not Barcelona, it’s the hood and you just don’t see that much public art in places that “people” have forgotten (except, of course a random mural or two).
Day 63 (March 4, 2014) – Los Angeles, CA
I remember the first time I saw the Walt Disney Concert Hall designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. First words out of my mouth - “WOW!!!!” followed by a “naaaaa…that’s impossible…” and then a “how the hell did they build this!”. Frankly, I’m still amazed every time I see this building. It has to be one of my favorite buildings of all time and I building a love to photograph. If you follow my instagram feed (which you should be following! @escography – I’m nice with my iphone!) you’ll notice that I took photos of the concert hall each day that I’ve been in LA. It helps when the conference hotel is only steps away from architectural perfection (ps. I’m not an architect, but I would gladly play one on tv! looking for an agent while I’m out here!). To me, this is building is truly a work of art and courage. Gehry completely abandoned traditional linear architectural form for dramatic curves and a futuristic interpretation of design.
Ok…enough of the gushing about architecture. It’s a great building and you should definitely see it in person…but don’t expect any references to big eared mouses or princesses or any stuff like that. It’s named after Walt Disney but the characters are missing…….maybe this is just a new version of never never land.
Day 62 (March 3, 2014) – Los Angeles, CA
Sometimes I wander around familiar places and I am lost.
I’m in a weird mood today. I’m at a conference filled with creative people, but I’m wearing my economics hat. What is it about artist and economics that just doesn’t mix. I’m trying…but sometimes I feel like I’m speaking a different language. Oh well… enough of that. Time to take a short break to find my image. Again, I’m in down town L.A. taking it all in. Beautiful architecture. Seasoned homeless adults and younger people milling around. “Business” or government employees dashing to grab lunch or a quick cigarette. And countless people shopping or waiting for the bus (there are a lot of people always waiting for the bus!). The last few times I’ve been out here I’ve noticed more and more moral pieces and one catches my eye as I’m about to cross the street. I stop. Admire work and look for my image just as two little girls enter my frame. They look lost or at least in my mind they are despite their parents only a few feet a way. Again, I imagine a new narrative for this stolen moment. They are lost and scared. They want to go home.
Day 61 (March 2, 2014) – Los Angeles, CA
Sometimes the modern built environment is an incredible canvass for nature to paint.
It’s Sunday afternoon in sunny California…well..It’s sunny now, but when I arrived it was pouring rain. I’m more than happy to escape yet another snow storm in NY even if it Los Angeles decided to welcome me with rain. I’m staying in down town as I do every time I’m out here. No one thinks of downtown LA when they think LA. Most people think about the glitz and glamor of Hollywood or the beaches of Santa Monica…but for me.. downtown is my spot. It’s an interesting place to walk around – you see a mix of old art deco and pre-war architecture combined with new modern skyscrapers which are surprisingly tall given the city’s precarious location near a major earthquake fault line. As you walk around downtown you’ll see almost three or four different cities or people whose lives are so vastly different its hard to make sense of the circumstance. You will notice homelessness coupled with addiction issues as you head towards skid row; you will see young (and old) artist reclaiming an former industrial area and transforming it into a vibrant and colorful community; you might (actually you will at some point) bump into a random movie set complete with bright lights and the occasional car chase. As you continue to walk you’ll notice a large Latino population and well populated commercial corridor. You’ll see packed buses with service workers go to and from work and you’ll even see people rushing to the subway (yup…LA has a subway!). And lastly, you’ll see unbelievable wealth all around you -Porches and Ferrari, BMW and Mercedes – all the latest luxury cars can be seen crisscrossing the streets. This is definitely an interesting place and at times hard to understand. As a urban planner I know that the majority of the bus riders earn less than $15,000 a year and I know there are over 50,000 homeless people in LA County. I also know that there is extreme wealth with Hollywood turning out new millionaires on an annual basis.
The one thing everyone in this place has…is the LA sun. So, I look up and I am grateful for the warm weather and clouds that welcomed the sun.
Day 60 (March 1, 2014) – New York, NY
She sits regal on a crowded train with a stern look and clenched lips hiding any glimpse of a smile. Her court jester sits beside her playing games completely oblivious to the drama that surrounds him. I stare at the Queen of the 4 Train and hopes she doesn’t notice my camera.
Ok, people. This is me just having a little fun. I often turn my commutes into eccentric stories as my mind dances between passengers and train stops. On this day, I spot a woman with a puffy winter jacket and furry cap (crown) on head – undoubtedly her armor for another cold winter day. Besides her outfit, her expression draws me in. She is thinking but not thinking. She is here in the moment but far far away in thought. Her posture, coupled with her wears, speaks to her royalty (at least in my mind). It was hard not to notice her and to dream a story for her.
The Queen of the 4 – she controls the trains on the weekends and most likely is to blame for the constant disruption in service. I’m sure our frustration with train schedules and rerouted lines brings her comfort and joy – even if she’ll never show it.