Hermosa Ciudad de México

When you start a new project, there are several things that must be considered. Energy, time and interest being chief for the personal creative pursuit. Whether or not it is possible depends on your levels of the previous three and the laws of physics, but that’s the territory of Mr. Randall Munroe of xkcd.com. Anyhow, as my mother says, there is no such thing as a perfect life balance, you always have more of one thing than another. In the case of Faces of New York, I started with a lot of all three major parts, but gradually came to have only interest. Interest is great, it sustains the mind and keeps the little pointy thoughts up in the front where they get the attention they need. But without time and energy, interest is simple idle fancy. Which, as it turns out, isn’t terribly exciting outside of one’s own head. AKA, a lack of updates makes for a boring blog.

So it is, a little over a year after I started the Faces of New York that I find myself in Mexico City, Mexico, beautiful hazy sunshine outside my 17th floor window, pondering how a year came and went, again, and what the future holds. Yesterday I was roused from a nap to find the noisy, but oddly choreographed spectacle of hundreds of riot police in a rectangle bounding what I presume, from the hammer-and-sickle flag, to be an equal or lesser number of some local vocal socialists. There were some calm-looking negotiations, after which the cops formed a sort of enclosed honor guard to the demonstrating masses, blocking traffic on one of the major arteries through Mexico City’s center, while the communists lofted banners and broadcast their message through a truck with a four-leaf clover of huge megaphones strapped to its roof.

Coming here has always made me a little nervous, largely because of the (apocryphal sounding) stories I’ve heard and equally because my Spanish is quite horrible. This time I came by choice; normally it is because no one else volunteered and I am assigned it. You see, since this time last year, I got a new job at my airline. I’m a manager of sorts, a pilot sometimes, and more involved and busy than ever before in both life and work. It really has been an amazing transition, but has taken a fair chunk of my time and energy away from other pursuits. Where before I lived the New York City life sans car, sans biz-casual clothes and worked odd hours, I now have a driving commute to work, in an office, wearing khakis. The polyester uniform remains for monthly use, in all its itchy wrinkle-resistant glory. There is a difference this trip.

Yesterday saw me run downstairs to take a picture of the protest from as close as I dared (which, granted men with weapons, wasn’t very close), walking down Paseo de la Reforma for miles alone feeling calm and at ease, enjoying the scent of spring flowers in the air cleared by last nights severe weather, and getting a totally silent yet strangely intimate shoe-shine from an old man in one of the shaded sidewalk stalls. I stumbled upon a similar-looking protest to the one I saw yesterday far down la Reforma, and can hear the megaphones sounding up again outside as they make their way past my hotel. Again.

2014 is turning into the Year of Confidence for me. Deserved or no, it’s a wonderful feeling. I have more control over my primary job than ever, carrying with it more responsibility and much higher expectations. I work with a team now, people who I am getting to know, who I like and respect greatly, and who can provide counsel when needed. Office politics exists in my life in kind of a dull, vaguely present way, which is both strangely engaging and very mentally challenging. People actually ask my opinion, and sometimes then even listen to my words in a strange turn of events. Entropy has increased around me in the guise of order, and it’s all terribly interesting to be a part of.

I leave you with a few photos from my trip here, hackles raised a bit by the changing tenor of the amplified voices right outside my window – well, a little below it to be sure, these aren’t helicopter protesters here – but with a sense of calm surety that has helpfully filled my life of late. I hope to get more FoNY photos up as the weather improves and I get a better handle on my new digs, so standby for that and, as always, thanks for stopping by.

 

Faces of New York Copyright 2013 Walter Judy Photography

The Devils in the Details: FoNY Weeks 23-24

In a city of millions with thousands of buildings, new and old, there are a lot, lot of faces around this town. Lots of random lions, Athenas, gargoyles, bankers, street delivery men, students, etc. But my favorites, architecturally speaking, are the Devils on the buildings. I’ve already covered one or two places with faces of harsh, angry representations of the supposed demon lord of the dark. Perhaps we keep him around in a bid to convince evil spirits that:

  1. “Hey, dark souls and bad guys, Devil here. Yeah, don’t worry about possessing this building, already got it covered!”; or perhaps:
  2. “Yeah, so, all you lesser wights and ghouls, there is a badder bad guy in residence here so why don’t ya’ll recognize when you’re the lessor lions in the pride. Mmm hmm, you heard me, just move along now.”

Whatever their purpose, the supremely evil face must have some sort of grotesque irony in warding off ill will from a given structure. I found a few sightings of Big Red around Manhattan and Brooklyn, my favorites carved into an appropriate crimson sandstone on two buildings in the latter’s Greenpoint and Williamsburg neighborhoods. This group is from all over the place, with a few links to the past posts here, and here, and I plan on adding a whole separate category just for Devils in a future post.

On a side note, it was a hot very day when I shot these, unseasonably warm for September. How hot? You might say it was as hot as Hel.

Enjoy!

Faces of New York Copyright 2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Weeks 21-22, the Keys to the Castle, er, Garden

Revisiting one of my favorite little spots in my neighborhood in this edition of Faces of New York. Today we have the white terra-cotta façade of 36 Gramercy Park East adjacent the dark, shaded sandstone of number 34. Both buildings are residential blocks, and are, according to Wikipedia, among the first apartment buildings in the city. They have both played home to the rich and famous, most recently Jimmy Fallon in number 34. Such greats as James Cagney and Gregory Peck also lived in number 34, and to go along with the circus that is New York, Alfred Ringling (one of 7 Ringling Brothers) used to reside in number 36 (where they have chambers in lieu of bedrooms).

Number 34 is supposedly the oldest cooperative condominium building in the city. If you aren’t from New York and are from a part of the country with sane and affordable property norms, you’ve heard of a co-op. A farmer’s co-op. A cooperative grocery store. This is not the same thing as a New York co-op. In New York and a few other places, a co-op is a residential building made up of condominiums, flats, apartments, etc., where there is a co-op board. Sound familiar? Think of the most restrictive, nit-picky and asinine neighborhood association or condo board and you’ll get close to some of the co-op horror stories out there. As the saying goes, you can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. Or your neighbors, if you live in a co-op.

Rather, they get to pick you.

Then your neighbors can approve your purchase… and your paint colors, and any renovation that may affect the other units’ listing prices. So, Mrs. Smith, let’s say, has a lot of pull on the board, and she’s not a fan of brown. Mrs. Smith gets to naysay a young couple’s modern, classy paint scheme because, well, too much brown. So sorry.

Where in other cities, renters look for apartments on Craigslist and condos are a dime a dozen, New Yorkers will often lay out thousands for a broker just to rent a place, or go through a co-op board for the privilege of paying millions of dollars to buy the (tiny, tiny) home of their dreams. At 34 or 36 Gramercy Park East, you may have paid millions for your pad, but at least the views are nice. And you do get a much-sought-after key to Gramercy Park.

Faces of New York Copyright 2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Weeks 19 & 20, Amsterdam Centraal Station

“No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

FoNY Weeks 16, 17 & 18: From over Baghdad via Amsterdam

When you travel for a living, sometimes you’re out of town a lot longer than you would like. When you’re new at a company you get to fly senior trips while the senior guys are on vacation. Senior trips mean interesting destinations. During this month I’ve spent two nights in Puerto Rico, two in Amsterdam, one in Bombay (Mumbai), a day and a half in Ghana and lastly a night in Pisa, Italy. I’ve continued friendships on another continent, overflown the capitals of both Iran and Iraq, spent a few nights at home in the mix and taken a lot of pictures.

This week, to make up somewhat for the lapse due to travel, I present the Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam. It’s a beautiful building with a history that comes up short in years relative to its neighborhood, but stays long on extremely random artwork. The faces protruding on rock beams out of the west-facing wall are of famous Dutch involved in some way with the shipping industry. Shipping is, arguably, what the Dutch did, have done, and do. While there are no printed maps on the building exterior (there is a globe in the lobby ceiling ironwork), it does display a sizable Mercator projection.

Enjoy the show, there are many more weeks to come and a lot more of New York to explore.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 15: Gargle Goyles on Irving Place

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy PhotographyWelcome to the sunny, steamy, sultry second week of July on Faces of New York. It’s a great time of year to be an occasional photoshop creative type because that usually means both getting outside and returning to air conditioning. Computers, like their users, work best in climate controlled environments. This week, I took a short jog down to Irving Place just south of Grammercy Park in Manhattan. It’s a funny little street that gets blissfully little attention, and is one of the only truly local roads on the island because it only runs for 5 blocks north-south. It starts at Grammercy Park, and has the dubious honor of ending adjacent the former meeting site of Tammany Hall. The old tigers have gone north with the property values, their original headquarters is replaced, and it’s quite the sweet spot today.

My charge this week is 81 Irving Place, an Italianate co-op building constructed in 1929 based on designs by prolific Manhattan architect George Pelham, home today to 102 apartments and a dentist’s office. This building has been on my radar since the inception of this project because it is really close to my favorite coffee shop in New York, 71 Irving Place. It’s my favorite mostly because it is on a quiet street and has outdoor seating that is, unfortunately and this time of year especially, almost always full. So in a way, it’s my favorite coffee house that I can never get in to. Sort of like a general message from the City to her denizens: “Hello! Welcome! I have many nice things for all to enjoy! The food is amazing! The coffee just finished roasting! Now, please wait in this line…” New Yorkers, I should add, and though we do it often, don’t wait well in lines.

I hope you enjoy the gargoyles, plaques, friezes and sundry statuary that dot this fine old residential building as much as I have, in passing, for the past year. And if your teeth are feeling fuzzy, brush please, and then stop on by the dentist while you wait for your coffee. And while you wait in that line, walk around the corner and you might just hear the door-lintil dragon screaming “Atreeeyuuuu!”

 

 

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of Old Amsterdam, Weeks 13-14

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography
Centraal

Welkom! En bedankt voor het langskomen. Je zult dingen te vinden erg gezellig deze week!

It seems an appropriate greeting in the first (European) tongue of my fine metropolis for this second multi-week post here on The Faces of New York, more properly this time The Faces of Old Amsterdam. I made a little departure from the standard format this week to accommodate the fact that I’ve been on the road most of the past two weeks and have spent more time off Manhattan Island than on. To celebrate this short liberation (I still love you, o’ bustling city) I grabbed my camera gear and jumped at the chance to show some similarities between my fine home and her original namesake, Amsterdam. A serendipitous work trip provided the means and my friend, fellow board gamer and filmmaker Susie Oosting provided the sneakers-on-the-ground guidance around that fair city. She was as surprised as I originally was to see the faces in the architecture that, once you know to look for them, are seemingly ever-present around Amsterdam and New Amsterdam/New York.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography
2-3″ bust of a queen flanked by dolphins

The similarities in architecture between Old Amsterdam and New- are pretty striking… sometimes. New York is, of course, a city that likes to rewrite its history every few minutes, with this revisionism echoed in our disappearing classically designed structures. Sure, the Brooklyn Bridge et al will probably survive the demolition man’s shaped-charges or wrecking ball, but I feel that a lot of the old will eventually make way for the new; likely without a record or nod toward the past. Old Amsterdam doesn’t seem to have this problem, with many structures dating back to the 1600’s or earlier still standing, still habitable, and just as expensive, cramped and narrow as ever. Like I said, the similarities between our two cities are striking.

Quick bit of trivia: Ever wonder why the buildings in Amsterdam are so narrow? It dates back to an ancient tax based on the width of the front of the building. As a result, folks built narrow, tall and skinny. The narrowest house in the world is here, and is supposedly only 1 meter (roughly 40 inches) wide. And I thought my 3 meter-wide apartment was small!

I hope you enjoy this week’s installment. There are some travel-log photos mixed in for spice, to make things more, as the Dutch would say, gezellig.

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 12: Ludlow Double Trouble

Welcome to Week 12 of the Faces of New York. While shooting down at Babycakes for last week’s edition, I came across an interesting set of faces on Ludlow Street. Twice. Once at the Babycakes location, the side of which building is 81 Ludlow Street, and earlier, on my way down, at 109 Ludlow Street two blocks north and across Delancey Street. Two blocks north from there will get to you Katz’s Delicatessen, where the carnivores out there can get more corned beef and pastrami for you buck than anyone has a right to eat in one sitting. This is not a place where one has to ask where the beef is.

Both of today’s buildings share the same stone grotesques as keystones in their window arches and have similar façade designs, but have different color bricks for their construction. The paler brick at the 81 Ludlow does not offer the contrast with the limestone carving that the darker red brick at the 109 Ludlow location does. The smaller building at 109 offers more detailed carvings for the lower window arches themselves, including stylized classical dolphins (near the man’s face) and contrasting-color brick for the upper women’s faces. I was tickled to notice the sharp similarities between these two buidlings, not but a few minutes’ walk separating them, and hope that other people make the same connection too. While, hopefully, not knocking into their fellow pedestrians, or getting hit by cars.

 

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

FoNY Week 11: Lower East Side

A few weeks ago I did a little exploring down in the Bowery and crossed an invisible line into the Lower East Side, someplace where I really hadn’t spent much time. I was in search of a bakery, a vegan bakery to be precise, and the name BabyCakes had been brought up before by a friend. I found it, and there was much rejoicing. Some vegan friends were coming into town around then, and I needed to make sure we could all enjoy some sweets together. As it turns out, there is another excellent vegan place much closer to home, but BabyCakes is pretty special because it led me to both excellent dairy-alternative deserts and to this week’s Faces of New York shoot.

This week went back down to BabyCakes and shot 245-247 Broome Street in Manhattan. This building is unique in my explorations of buildings with grotesque accents thus far in its combination of older, brick and stone façade and the newer glass and steel renovation. I will reserve judgement on the beauty of this mashup for those with a better artistic or architectural sense of taste, but I am grateful to the architect(s) whose vision kept alive the wide variety of faces that adorn this pair of buildings. Somebody even did a bit of creative painting with a hint of devilish charm. I hope you enjoy this installment, and if you have a chance to head down to BabyCakes on Broome Street, do, their sweet and savory desserts are sure to be a clean sweep no matter what your dietary needs.

 

Faces of New York, ©2013 Walter Judy Photography

Faces of New York Weeks 8, 9 and 10: Hat Tricks

May turned out to be a busy little month with lots of flying and local goings-on. As a result, this week’s submission includes the last three weeks worth of the Faces of New York. The bulk of these are from Greenwich Village and the rest from SoHo. The ‘Village photos are from around the NYU campus, two of which (the medallions and the limestone grotesques) abut the east edge of Washington Square Park. The lions are on 14 West 4th Street, two blocks east of the park. Down in SoHo you’ll find the Stoic near Mercer at Houston, and finally the red sandstone grotesques, snakes, and gryphons are down at 284 Broome Street in SoHo. Trust me when I say, if you have a strong aversion to car horns and vehicles brimming with angry New Yorkers, you’ll want to avoid that part of town around rush hour (It’s on the approach to the Holland Tunnel).

There is more to come in June as the weather heats up, the parks become full and the available, open lawns of grass become happily trampled. Happily for the stamping multitudes of feet, not for the poor trodden sod.

Photos, musings and lessons from a life on the road.

%d bloggers like this: