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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).