The Third Eye …

looks back to the future … back to a world that will never be again … and foreshadows a world that is yet to be.

One hundred years.13

Corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street, New York, 1910

current day photographs

 Current day picture of the same corner   

I sometimes go on about the best gifts and the most special moments of my life when someone gave me something that is so-me, I wonder if they did a walk-about in my brain.

That is what my dear friend,  Laura Drake did when she sent me an email with eighteen one-hundred year old black and white photographs.

Today, I will feature seven of those eighteen photographs … those of my beloved city … New York. All the captions under the old photographs were written by Laura in her email.

Anyone out there who is a photography lover, knows that what your naked eye sees is nature’s kaleidoscope. But through the photographer’s eye … what I call The Third Eye …  little compares to the depth of black and white photography.

One hundred years.15

 View of Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn in 1909. 

 

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The Manhattan Bridge from the Brooklyn side today

Images from another time … 

One of my early memories is of standing in my parent’s room in our cold flat in Sunset Park and wondering what this strange three-sided box attached to the wall might be. It was the big guy’s make-shift dark room, a tiny structure containing his chemical bins, a thin cord tacked across one wall, and two extension cords; one with a 25 wt red bulb that hung inside, and a second with a red Christmas light that hung over the door. No one dare enter when the red tree light was on.

From the age of twelve, until he was almost eighty my brother constructed various types of homemade dark rooms, the last, a darkroom he built in his basement in his Scarsdale home. He gave me my first Brownie Hawkeye when I was seven and taught photography in the high school where he was a math teacher for thirty years.

He fostered the love of photography in several of the children of the family … my daughter catching the bug when she was eight. With a point-and-click Canon I gave her when she went off to summer camp the first time, my baby girl began an odyssey that she continues today.

Purist in the field of photo-art and all photojournalists will attest that even today, with digital available, the old school needs to be taught and revered, and is still considered to be the best way to develop black and white prints.

If you don’t know … photographers never developed their chromes (color shots) … those were sent to a special lab. But all black and white photographs were developed in the seclusion of a dark room.

One hundred years.16

Fire at 55th Street, New York, 1915

On January 6, 1915, an electrical short in a manhole started a fire that filled the subway line under Broadway at West 55th Street with smoke, resulting in chaos for a quarter-million commuters. The New York Times reported that one person, Ella Grady, was killed. We note that photographer George Grantham Bain, like many of us writing checks just after January 1, was a year off in dating this photo. 5×7 glass negative, George Grantham Bain Collection.

 

west 55

Along that same street today

The passion that drives us …

She rose early, brewed a small pot of espresso coffee, and closed herself in the dark room to work on some of her new negatives. Antoinette loved the colors of darkness, found comfort in their shadows. The thrill of watching an image rise, draped in red light, rising from the primordial soup, a face, a hand, life beginning, images stolen, moments frozen and forever still in her hands. (From Frozen in Black and White)

 Much of what we write when first the need grabs us by the throat … when like a lioness on the kill … her teeth dig deep into the throat of her prey … she shakes it … bares down and brings her kill to its knees.

So often, those first thoughts become the hardest to write.

Antoinette became my alter-ego long before I knew I was going to write stories.

What you see with your inner eye, those images you fashion when you are in that zone are the same images that a photographer struggles with when he gazes through the lens of his camera. Patiently, often for days, a photographer will set up his equipment and wait for that perfect moment.

One hundred years.17

Fifth Avenue, New York, 1913

 

fifth avenue

The corner of Fifth Avenue and 5oth Street today

 

One hundred years.19

The New York Public Library, New York, 1915.
Didn’t realize they had 4-laners in those days.

 This was the New York Public Library main building during late stage construction in 1908, the lion statues not yet installed at the entrance.

Yes, Laura … the extra lanes in those days were to accommodate the trolley tracks. Today, they accommodate the burgeoning traffic.

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New York  Public Library today

We all need to do our homework … 

I have researched the art for years … not only because I will eventually do that one story of Antoinette …but because the look I saw on my brother’s face has remained with me all my life. I had to find a way to know what he felt, what was going on in this mind. I’ve read triple digits of books, seen a half-dozen documentaries, and read countless articles on the internet … studying the art of photography and the quest of the photojournalist.

What drives us to translate the images our inner eye sees … what need to translate into something tangible we can give … a true gift … a story … a black and white photograph?

Bay Ridge, Brooklyn … March, 1967

Toni Gallucci did not believe the old cliché about a thousand words. She knew some pictures were only worth one word she could barely whisper. She fixated on a print hanging in the red darkness, and whispered one explicative. A sound broke through her solitude. She stopped to listen. It was the phone. She ignored it. (From Frozen in Black and White)

One hundred years.20

Wall Street, New York, 1911. The 2 sidewalks together are as wide as the street in this pic.

 The sidewalks were later cut so that it is impossible for three people to walk side-by-side … yet the streets of the business district are still so small,  and curve in such severe angles, it is difficult to reason why they have never cut off the district to traffic period.

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Not much has changed today

The inhabits of those buildings and what goes on behind their one-hundred year old bricks is quite different today. Along this famous street were the captains of industry and the giants of Wall Street. The now defunct Bache & Company, Kidder Peabody and a dozen more have vanished … like the Grand Daddy of them all … Merrily Lynch … that after a hundred years was sadly sold to Bank of America during the 2008 financial crash.

One hundred years.21

Fifth Avenue, New York, 1913.Look at those top hats!

 

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This photograph captured by a photographer for the Daily News, shows a much different scene on Easter Sunday.

Honor those who came before us …

Writers, musicians and poets … composers, sculptors and the pioneers in photography, reproduce our world. From etchings on cave walls to our present day, preserving history has been the quest of all artists. Photography has evolved from clunky, fat cameras with the man under the black drape … to the photo-shop and i-pod wonders of selfies. The desire to capture moments of our history in words and images has driven us for centuries.

There a over two thousand world famous photographers who are known for their extreme photo art, photo journalism, and op-art. They worked with United Press International, Associated Press, Life Magazine, Look Magazine, The New Yorker, and of course, the famous Vanity Fair photographer of our generation … Annie Lebowitz.

They have left us a legacy … an opportunity to look back on our future.

What cuts you to the bone?
What drives you to write that one story?

And what can we learn when we look back to our future?

fOIS In The City

Note: A big thank you to Laura for the inspiration of the eighteen black and white images. She called it Kismet. I agree. I do believe that her Kismet is her soon-to-be published women’s fiction story.

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Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow …

and New York City becomes an amazing winter wonderland.

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The winter of 2014 is proving to be one of those winters in New York.

snow in new york

 

There were three New York winters that stand out in my memory. Once in the Sunset Park area when I was in grade school … once in Bensonhurst, the fifth winter my babes and I were on our own … and the last winter I lived in New York.

You’re a kid. Snow is a day off from school … an adventure … a day to play with the elements, toss it in the air and watch it cascade around your face … scoop it up and fashion round balls to throw at the factory windows … or at your middle brother.

Snow is magic. It falls on the city streets and in the parks and lays the hustle of traffic and city noise to rest. It is an early morning walk in the park … the crunch of new snow under your feet … the tickle of flakes against your cheeks … it is sweet and makes the kid in you happy.

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Some snow storms, events, blizzards or those record breaking inches are more severe than others. They make headlines, shut down bridges, stall traffic, halt subways and like the Giant White Whale … teach us that nature cannot be tamed.

The first was February, 1952 …

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The snow came down for three solid days and paralyzed my world in Sunset Park.

It started late at night. I heard them talking in the other rooms … adults annoyed by the thought of losing a day’s work. Could they not see the wonder of it all? Were they blind or stupid?

I slipped out of my covers and took a fast peek around the corner of my open doorway. The coast was clear. It was safe to leave my bed. I went to my window and threw up the blinds. For hours I watched as it came down, shinning in the reflection of the street lamps. Hour by hour the streets grew whiter … quieter. It was sticking.

Early the next morning, I waited while my mother fortified me with hot oatmeal from a big cast iron pot. I waited while she made the coffee … mine mostly milk and sugar. I waited through toast and grumbles … through warnings and being wrapped in layers of protective clothing. “Be careful and don’t cross over the trolley tracks.”

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When she finally let me escape her adult world, I jumped down the steps, two at a time. On the outside landing I looked for Petie. Through a white haze I saw him running up the street to find me. And we were off.

Ever notice how kids don’t get cold? No matter how wet, no matter how many hours they roll in the white stuff, no matter how many times they are called inside to eat or change or get new mittens. They don’t feel discomfort. They feel joy and freedom and fun.

We  not only crossed over the trolley tracks on the fist day, we made our way up two avenues to Sunset Park. It was worth the lickings we knew we would get. One of the neighbors was bound to see us and report back to our moms. But it didn’t matter. Being in the park was the best. Crossing over the trolley tracks to the open field behind the Bush factory was worth a good smack with her wooden spoon.

snow1952

She threatened to ground me. I knew that would never happen. Snow made her crazy,but having me under-foot made her insane. She yanked on my braids and warned me again and within minutes I had new gloves and was off to do battle, to build a damn by the sewer grating, to run up to the firehouse and let the  men build us a real snow man.

Note those nifty plastic hats and galoshes, little ankle socks and no matter what the temps … skirts and dresses.

Through grade school and high school, through marriage and babies, jobs and family outings, nothing would trump the fun we had. Escaping our big brothers, running in packs like wild wolves …the winter of 1952 remained the best.

The second was the winter of 1978 …

I was living in a small, cold apartment in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. The kids were eight and five. The big one, my daring young boy, duplicated my adventures. I didn’t warn him not to cross against traffic to the big park across the avenue. In my heart, I wanted to be with him, doing battle with the wonder of the white stuff.

The girl, the little one, was five. She hated the grass in the park, the sand at the beach … and most of all … she hated snow. Tiny and small, she ventured to the front door, took one look at the six foot high walls lining the walk-way out of the building and turned heal back inside. She remained inside with another tiny muffin of a boy who spent the entire time in his Doctor Dentons … a cardboard box with his stuffed animals in tow. She poked out her lips, issued orders and they followed each other up and down the steps for days.

Starting in December, New York was hit with a series of storms … both big and small … all of them cancelling schools. I had just graduated college and was working temp for Kelly Girls. Cancelling schools and day care meant I had to stay home. Other than not having a pay check, I actually enjoyed it.

Then it came … The Great Blizzard of 1978:

78_blizzard_daily_newsHeadline News

The Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978 was a catastrophic and historic nor’easter that brought blizzard conditions to the New England region of the United States, New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area. The “Blizzard of ’78” formed on February 5, 1978 (a Sunday) and broke up on February 7, 1978. Snowfall occurred primarily between Monday morning, February 6 and the evening of Tuesday, February 7.

blizzards

 

While the family looked on in horror, this house broke off its foundation and floated out to sea.

The Wednesday before the storm hit, I came home from work to find an Eviction Notice taped to my apartment door. It was not the first. But this was the last chance, the seventy-two-hour notice. I had three days to vacate. My home didn’t float out to sea, it was yanked out from under me.

We lived in that apartment for five years … five winters freezing with no heat or hot water … five miserable winters while I went to school and worked and prayed for summer and my bike path along Shore Parkway.

I had a strange arrangement with the landlord’s nephew, Mark. I lived on grants and temp jobs and paid the rent in three and four month increments. He called often and threatened. I promised a check would soon be in the mail. During the previous summer, I met a woman who lived in Washington Heights. She convinced me to move. So I plotted and planned. I held out for five months without paying the rent … stashing my money to relocate to Manhattan.

They do say that the worst of times can be the best of times. We partied. Me … my babes… every kid between five and fifteen … my adult neighbors. We partied and shared food. Our apartment doors were open and hoards of kids played in the wide hallways, ran up and down the six floors and generally made a holy mess. Stores ran out of groceries so those of us who had food, cooked for the elderly and babies of families who had not gotten to the stores in time.

Mark heard rumors that I was having an apartment sale and moving out. “You running out on me?”

I informed him that his uncle got the best of the deal and I was taking five months … one month’s rent for each of the five winters I froze. He laughed and wished us the best. He never sued or tried to get his uncle’s money from me.

snow in new york ...

I found two crazy people to help me pack, had my apartment sale, and managed to get out on the fifth day. I rationalized that if the city was paralyzed, the City Marshall would not be able to get through either. I was right. I saved the important stuff … my books and record albums (you do remember those round black things) and the kids.

It was late on the last night. My ex came from Staten Island to get the dog and drive us to my mother’s house. Never let it be said that we ever get too old not to depend on our moms. While he was packing up the dog and the kids, I grabbed a red crayon that was left behind, pulled over a step ladder, and wrote these word on the ceiling in bright red … THE MAD MOTHER FROM BROOKLYN WAS HERE.

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What could have been a nightmare, became one of my fondest memories of snow and winter and the magic that happens when people help each other. Believe it. It does take a village.

My last winter in NYC, 1996 …

It came down for months. One storm after the other. Inches after inches … snow drifts against the four-foot wall that surrounded my roof-top terrace. With barely enough time to breath … the storms were relentless. The citizens of NYC once again … adjusted and enjoyed.

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This time there was no one to play with … no little ones to give me  vicarious thrills. The kids were grown. I worked in the neighborhood and was able to run everything from my apartment. With no need to be responsible … I spent most of my time on the computer. digging out the car from one side of the street … only to find out that someone took my spot.

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The neighborhood children played on the steps leading to Fort Washington Avenue and I never ventured farther than my computer. I grumbled and complained. The kids grumbled and complained. Fellow workers … friends and family alike … grumbled and complained.

It was official. I no longer loved to play with snow. I still sat for hours watching if fall … the reflection in the street lights … a late night in the middle of the street to watch children make snow angels … the amazing quiet.

A total of 22 snow storms hit New York that winter … from January through March. Snow records climbed to new heights.  I paid a fortune to store my car in an indoor garage because I got tired of digging her out.

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In short or long terms … I was not a happy camper. I no longer romped, rolled or relished the white stuff. And in the middle of it all … I began to pack for yet another adventure twelve-hundred miles south.

Maxine and snow

 

Fast forward …

I am supposed to be older and wiser. I might just be older. But these days I watch snow on television of in movies. I read posts of FB friends who still live in the north … pictures of my home state, pictures of Canada … pictures of places I never intend to visit in winter.

I love the Sunshine state and its rather short and mild winter. I can turn on the heat with the flick of a switch … the same switch I use for cool air in summer. I pull into a car port and never … ever … and for all time … do I need to dig out of a parking space or wait for snowplows to make my street passable. I drive down the lane in a gated community that is never clogged with snow, ice, slush or grid-locked traffic.

It is always quiet here. Always green. Always warm or hot or mild. Yes, yes … we might get hurricanes or bands of hurricane weather. We might have lots of rain and heat and those pesky Snow Birds from the northern regions.

Weather, I have read, is one of the main deciding factors to where some folks retire. Those of us who have lived our entire life in the northeast often move south. We have a friend who moved from Florida to Chicago … a strange move to be sure. Then there was Laura Drake’s move from Southern California to Texas … Texas with its extreme temps give her a bit of each … sweltering heat and brutal cold.

We might move where our hearts are. I did not. My heart remains in New York, Brooklyn in particular. But my heart and my body debated and my old bones won out. Now snow is but a memory or an image I see on the news.

Tell me if you will
Do your special memories of
playing in the snow?
And does your heart live where your
old bones reside?

fOIS In The City

 

maxine and betty white

More Maxine

Note …

If you have young bones, are you living where you were born or has your heart found a new home?

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Waiting for Godot …

Is to wait in vain …

To hold the thought that someone is coming … that something is about to happen and you must remain steadfast.

Look down the road. Is the bus to take you away from where you are frozen in place coming yet?

Stand on the train platform. How long must you wait to hear the train whistle, its mournful cry filling the air, its steam trailing above the cars as it roars into your station?

Do you sit for hours peering through a small circle in a frosted window pane waiting for someone to walk up the porch steps to find you?

Wait. As the two Russian misfits in Beckett’s play wait for Godot to appear … millions around the globe wait to live … wait to do what they want … wait for Mr. Right.

waiting for love

So often Mr. Right is disguised as a butcher, a baker, a candle stick maker. He does not ride down the road on his trusted white steed. He drives a truck or teaches children to sing.

Dreams cannot find you standing in place. They are fluid and are meant to keep moving.

Once upon a time …

I was a street kid in Brooklyn. I was a blushing bride. I was a single mother and a twenty-nine-year-old freshman in college.

A few moons later I was a street vendor in Washington Heights.

I did many things, worked and learned many skills.

Seven years ago I thought it might be a good idea to write a book.

The craft of writing has given me a new respect for patience. My parents must be rolling in the clouds, laughing at the fact that I have finally learned the one thing I refused to learn before.

 Patience …

is not the same as waiting.

Patience is learning and doing something over and over again. Like a musician who must practice cords endlessly to play an instrument … like a singer must exercise their voice every day to hit the right notes … I am the kid who could not sit still who has finally learned …

Sit your ass down and get the job done.

“Listen to me, young lady. You’re going to sit there until you learn or you’ll get what-for.”

don't quit

  Don't quit

 

For a long time I was impatient, anxious, stretching my compulsive nerve ends until they snapped.

But the universe had other plans and it has sent me a message … either I work patiently on this writing gig or I might rush ahead and miss the mark.

To give myself a modicum of discipline, I come here once a week to create a story … something to entertain or enlighten.

In the entertainment community there is a well-known fact about over-night successes. It takes years of work and rejection, cattle calls and doors slamming in your face to become an over-night success.

Writing is no different.

Now in my sixth year, my blog has evolved since the first post in November, 2009. I experimented with short posts, funny cartoons with my own captions, and worked through six or seven of the categories on my side-bar.

This is a writer’s blog … a combination of truth and fiction. This is my way of learning.

Well … this and a half-dozen books in four genres, some thirty odd short stories and a few dozen of my pitiful attempts at poetry.

Each year, I remove all Christmas and Holiday posts. If you were to scroll through the archives of each year, you will not find much for any December.

Also, I have deleted over one-hundred other blog posts because I didn’t like them anymore.

I am a slow learner.

Because of my hyper-active-impossible brain, I had to read and reread and redo all my lessons. I was the average student who got A’s … except in conduct. My conduct was not that of a young lady, but more like a wild cat.

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I found out early that I got A’s, not because I am smart, but because I am a stubborn, willful pain in the ass.

About my books, I am a writer in waiting. My family and some of my friends have asked me the same question for the last four years … “What are you waiting for?”

My stock answser, “To be good enough.”

I am a late bloomer.

maxine.getting old

 

In 2014 I became an official old fart with more to look back on than forward to. A crusty old broad who might any minute kick the bucket … cash it in … buy a ticket to the farm and fall off the mortal coil.

Or not.

What comes next …

I could wait for market trends to change … wait for someone to notice my amazing talents and sweep my off my feet.

My own history has taught me that Prince Charming didn’t sweep me off my feet … that son-of-a biscuit knocked me off my feet. And after I dusted myself off, I smacked him silly and took to the road with the kids.

I throw down the gauntlet in pubic and in print. Even knowing I can delete this and change my mind whenever the mood strikes.

Since I haven’t died yet, I opt to live my way. I opt to keep writing my books.

And the blog-of-it-all?

I’m debating whether to return to one sentence prompts or my city-scapes.

I could write a love story or a murder … I could put someone in peril along the Brooklyn beaches. Maybe a Russian mob story in Brighton Beach or a comic tryst that is a bit of both.

I could tell you about a little known part of my city … introduce you to the Brooklyn of my childhood while some of it still exists.

I would ask your opinion, but being a feisty crab, I have decided to become a committee of one and do whatever the hell I feel like.

Stay tuned and you might find something to delight … something to tickle your fancy. Or not.

Tell me my lovelies …
Do you wait for Godot
or do you get on the next bus that comes down the road?

fOIS In The City

 

maxine on getting old.02

 Maxine on getting old

 

 

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