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Williamsburg

September 1st, 2015

I’m currently writing and drawing a book about a bridge for a pretty big series of books I’ll be talking about a LOT at some point. I’ve learned more about bridges and bridge engineering in the last three weeks than I thought I’d ever want or need to know.
Last week I was in New York, leeching off a trip Sacha had to take for work, and taking advantage of it to spend a few days meeting with some editors at Abrams and Roaring Brook. When we arrived at the hotel on Delancey Street, I noticed immediately that we were right at the pedestrian entrance to the Williamsburg Bridge. So while Sacha headed out early for her client stuff, and since I didn’t have my first appointment until noon, I spent that morning meandering to Brooklyn and back.

The Williamsburg Bridge is the bridge over the East River I guess I think about the least when I think about those bridges. (Don’t you have a list, in order, as well?) For me, it’s the Queensborough Bridge, otherwise known as the 59th Street Bridge first. Woody Allen saw to that. Second would be the Brooklyn Bridge, of course. It was the first bridge I walked across when I was 17 visiting NYC in 1985. Third would be the Manhattan Bridge, mainly just because it’s next to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Several years ago, the pedestrian and bikeways were redesigned and rebuilt, and now the Williamsburg carries more bicycles on any given day than any bridge in the world. I think every single one of them was crossing at the same time I was.

So here is a collection of the photos I took on the walk. I was fascinated with the pink color of the walkway against the grey and blue of the bridge and sky. It was morning, about 10am, and the light was fantastic. Last but not least was the graffiti. It was everywhere, covering nearly every surface, to the point where it became just texture.

The pictures were taken with a Panasonic Lumix LX7 and with my iPhone.

See them on Flickr here or click the photo below.

a walk across the Williamsburg Bridge

nyc ’85

September 11th, 2012

In March 1985, I made one of the more pivotal decisions in my life, which was to attend a summer high school program at Parsons School of Design in New York City. I was sitting in my art class in high school, in Pasadena Texas, and up on the wall, above the chalkboard, was a poster depicting a huge apple*. The program was four weeks long and offered courses in Illustration, Communication Design, Fashion, Photography, Fine Arts, and probably other studies. When I told my mother, who had never been to NY and was from small town Arkansas that I wanted to do this, I don’t remember her having a nervous breakdown but now, 27 years later, and being a parent of two kids of my own, I’m sure she had one. Seventeen years old, four weeks in New York City.
Luckily, mom was pretty good at saying okay to crazy schemes and somehow the application got filled out, financial aid was applied for, and in late June of that summer I climbed on a plane at Houston Intercontinental Airport and headed off by myself to LaGuardia. I took with me my sister’s Pentax K1000 and several rolls of film. I knew nothing about photography, and knew less about f-stops. So it made sense that I ended up in NY with a fully manual SLR camera. Little did I know that in addition to the design stuff I learned, this four weeks turned me on to a lifelong love of taking pictures.
Upon arriving in NY, I stood at the taxi stand and tried to figure out what to do. I was standing there with a duffle bag and a portfolio case, and I suppose it was obvious that I was an art student because I heard a voice over my shoulder ask “are you going to Parsons?” Next to me stood the second most fashionable sophisticated-looking girl I’d ever met in my life (I’d meet many more of these boys and girls over the next few days). She’d also just got off a plane, was also attending the summer program, and apparently knew what to do because she got a cab, put us in it, and we headed off to Union Square, where Parsons had a dorm (there’s a restaurant there now called the Blue Water Grill, in case you know the area). We paid the cabbie (I felt like I was on a tv show) stepped out onto the street.
I looked to my left, down Union Square West and University Place, and for the rest of my life I’ll never forget seeing those two towers poking out between other downtown buildings. The next afternoon I went down and stood on the Union Square sidewalk and took a picture.

Union Square, 1985

A week later, on July 4, I went to the top.

The story of that full four weeks is a much longer story, but it goes without saying that it opened doors and showed me a path that I would otherwise never have known about. It should also go without saying that I made a beeline for both the Empire State Building and The World Trade Center, making my way to the top, and taking a lot of pictures. I just figured today would be a good day to post a few of these.

This view no longer exists. That's weird.

Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (a view that no longer exists)

*I believe the reverse side of the poster had a huge orange, and focused on the programs offered at Otis/Parsons in Los Angeles (which is now just Otis).

yo, taxi!

May 5th, 2011

Interesting piece in the New York Times today about the new Nissan van that is to replace the Ford Crown Victoria as the “official” New York taxicab over the next several years. The first time I visited New York in 1985, I was lucky enough to take a Checker Cab once or twice in the four weeks I was there. They were big and spacious and held a ton of luggage. By the time I moved there to go to college in 1987, I don’t recall ever seeing a Checker Cab. Rather, the Ford Crown Victoria — the same car the police department used for their cruisers — was pretty ubiquitous. While I was in school (design school mind you) I remember reading an article in a magazine about vehicles designed specifically as cabs. They were boxy and electric, and seemed much more appropriate as a vehicle that could get one around town while having more cargo room and taking up less space. When I loved lived in Paris I was surprised to find a large number of Mercedes taxis along with the Peugeots and Renaults. But it still seemed silly to have these sedans fitted with a meter and a sign on top pretending to be a variation on public transportation.
Over the last several years, as I visit NY often now, I’ve been seeing and riding in more and more Ford Escape hybrid SUV taxis. These made a lot more sense to me as taxis, what with the cargo space and the fuel-efficient engine. Now the Nissan NV200 has been chosen to take over, and by the end of the decade pretty much every cab in NY will be an electric minivan. Albeit one designed specifically for New York’s “peculiar” needs as Mayor Bloomberg put it.

While some seem to be lamenting the idea that a suburban minivan will be the new New York City taxi, I kind of feel that once the Checker Cab was replaced with the Crown Vic, whatever romance or ideal one had about the city cab was gone already. It was like riding around in Grandpa’s car. The Nissan, as goofy-looking as it is, makes more sense as a taxi. I espcially like the huge sun roof that will allow one to stare up at the skyscrapers as one goes from place to place. That’s my kind of taxi.

However, I will say right now that no matter how much sense these taxis make, and no matter how slick is the sunroof and how much gas will be saved, when I draw a taxi, my taxis will always be, more or less, a Checker. Everything Goes: On Land is full of taxis (comes out in September…) and as you can see it’s pretty clear that I derive the look and feel of these things in fact many of my cars taxi or not, from the look of the Checker.