NEW YORK FOR BEGINNERS
This story is from an e-mail that was originally written in October of 2000, in the middle of the night. I had been sent to New York City to photograph a group of people who support the Nashville Symphony. My hotel room, unbeknownst to me, overlooked Central Park. I had never been to New York or Central Park.
A mutual friend has asked and now ordered me, to send you this e-mail regarding my recent trip to New York. As you know, I went there to photograph the Nashville Symphony in its debut performance at Carnegie Hall. I also went there green. I had heard about it, seen it, read about it and gotten postcards from it but I had never actually been there myself, until last week.
Before I went to New York, some really great friends left thirty dollars at my house. Along with the money was a note that read:
That first morning, after stopping for coffee, I made my way to the
park. I wanted to check out the hansom cab (carriage) drivers and smoke
a ceremonial cigarette in front of as many joggers as possible. I decided
to postpone the carriage ride for some reason and chose instead to
walk the fifty or so blocks down (across?) Ninth Ave. to what I, as
a photographer think of as the virtual Wal-Mart of camera stores. It
is run by a group of Hassidic Jewish men who are all dressed like Hassidic
Jewish men, which I was secretly looking forward to.
had there, a piece of equipment I needed to photograph at Carnegie
Hall. Something called a "blimp" that
would muffle the sound of my motor drive. I'd never heard of it.
Turns out, the
one they had, wouldn't fit around my camera and they insisted (as a
group) that I didn't really need it anyway.
The following day was Monday. I thought I might squeeze the "unforgettable" carriage ride in that afternoon before I began working on the camera (I didn't know at the time that I'd be invited to dinner before the show and would get to reassemble this vesture in the bathroom of a restaurant that specializes in vodka).
After lunch and a brief tour of the Plaza Hotel, I stood, once again
among the carriages to photograph the hotel. As I turned, a gentleman
in a top hat asked if I'd be interested in a ride.
We talked for the next thirty minutes, not about New York but about his life there and how he came to have this job. I seem to bring that out in people. It's lucky that I am also fascinated by it. He liked his job very much, both of us were equally charmed, and I decided then that I liked New York in spite of many things I'd heard.
As we rounded the curve near the entrance, he pointed out a group
of men and casually asked: " What do you think those guys do for a living?"
see them follow us. In fact, I didn't realize that it was the same
guys until one of them leaned
in the carriage and
asked if I would be interested in buying some "marijuana." I
was stunned. I told him that I didn't think I cared for any and thanks.
They continued talking as I paid the driver, said goodbye, and got
down from the carriage. (It may be valid to say here that I was dressed
up for a pretty swanky lunch, with makeup and hair and the whole bit)
A few steps later, there they were again. The same guy leaned in and
asked: "Are you sure you don't want to buy some marijuana?"
Amused doesn't adequately describe the look on their faces. They looked
at me like I had just slapped them all and maybe, just maybe, they
Back at the hotel, I wrapped the bubble wrap around my camera body,
leaving a hole for the viewfinder. It was crude and I now needed a
roll of tape (donated by the doorman) and some fabric to cover it.
I sat there in the floor and tried to imagine a viable explanation
for all of this. The first shirt I pulled out of my suitcase was entirely
too big. I wouldn't be able to shoot at all if this creation became
the size of a basketball. If only I had something with elastic, I thought
and of course, it was right there in front of me all along. A pair
of black Victoria's Secret underwear. (not kinky; just underwear) When
the initial fit of hysterical laughter wore off, I picked them up out
of the suitcase and to my surprise, they fit perfectly around the bubble-wrapped
camera body. I'd have to cut the tag out and turn the elastic under
but on the whole, I couldn't have asked for a better disguise. Now,
if only I could keep a straight face.
As the concert began, I was relegated to the back of the auditorium,
some twenty- five yards from the stage. It was there I learned three
At one in the morning, I walked from the Red Eye Grill to our hotel
with two great and funny women and they joked about our maybe being
picked up for public drunkenness.
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