by Susan Adcock
Nashville, TN

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.

Dear Liz,

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.

© Susan Adcock

Le Parker Meridien Hotel wasn't exactly a modest introduction to New York. The view from the roof there can make you forget you ever stayed at a Red Roof Inn.

I stayed at LeParker Meridien Hotel on the twenty-first floor, overlooking Central Park. Life is good. The roof top pool was what really overlooked the park.


Standing on a fenced cornice, forty three floors high, taking pictures at seven in the morning is therapy of a different sort. It became clear early on, that I'd be out of control, four days running.





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:

© Susan Adcock

The note said: "We hope you will take this money down to Central Park and take yourself for a carriage is an unforgettable experience."

Enclosed you'll find some money to be used on your trip to NYC. I know you will be pressed for time but, no matter what else you do, we hope that you will take this money down to Central Park and take yourself for a carriage ride. It sounds touristy but the truth of it is (and New Yorkers will tell you the same) it is an unforgettable experience....

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.

By the time I finally saw it in the distance, I thought I would fall down.

They supposedly 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.

" I shot pictures at Carnegie Hall sixty times," one of them said, "I never had it once."

Another suggested that I make my own...out of burlap....
" Take it to a shoemaker," he said.

A small group gathered and it became clear that I was outnumbered. They collectively decided that I would make my own blimp, basically pulling the wool over the eyes of the floor manager at Carnegie Hall. Great, I thought, I'd already been thrown out of the Tennessee Performing Arts Center, Carnegie Hall was the logical next step.

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.

" As a matter of fact, I would be" I said, "Someone has given it to me as a gift."

" Climb in, ask me anything" he said. "If I don't know the answer, I'll make it up."

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?"

Plain clothes police officers? My goodness, a whole group of them, right there, soothing the nerves of mothers everywhere whose children might happen to be in Central Park, alone in broad daylight.

I didn't see them follow us. In fact, I didn't realize that it was the same group of 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?"

Overcome, I spun to face them all, five total.

" In the first place" I said, "I wouldn't buy anything from anyone who calls it 'marijuana' alright?

And in the second place, I wouldn't buy it from a bunch of undercover cops."

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 liked it.

" Do you guys sleep at night?" I asked. "Do you come out here every day and set up innocent people who are obviously tourists?"

" How much can I buy?"

" Where is it?"

I have to say, they answered every question I rifled at them as if it were their mother asking. Before I left, they had shown me the goods and explained how it all worked. To have said yes would have cost me forty dollars and a trip to the precinct. I think if I had been a man, I'd have gotten the trip anyway, for being a smart ass. It didn't seem possible that I could stand there and interrogate a band of New York City police officers and be so well received. Nearly an hour later, they would invite me to a party. "No drugs" they assured me, "just beer."

© Susan Adcock

To have said yes (to his offer) would have cost me forty dollars and a trip to the precinct. I think if I had been a man, I would have gotten the trip anyway.

" Unforgettable." Indeed.

I decided on bubble wrap for the camera and set off to find some late that afternoon. There are seventeen locations of Staples in Manhattan alone. I found this appalling, which may be why I went into a gift shop and asked for some. A delightful Italian man sent me across the street. He said, "tell them Luciano sent you, they'll give you as much asa you need." I thanked him and as I crossed the street he yelled "Ciao, bella!"

I could live here, I thought. No problem.

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.

© Susan Adcock

At Carnegie Hall, the acoustics are so sensitive that blimping the camera is presented by officials as the only option. What the blimp is made of however, seems open for debate.

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 things:

1. The acoustics at Carnegie Hall are unbelievable.

2. Bubble wrap, under certain circumstances, is louder than any motor drive. And,

3. the wise men at b&h were right, no one cared if I had the damn thing covered or not.

At the first hint of applause, I flung myself onto the ground and unwrapped the whole thing, stuffing the 'bubblewear blimp' into my camera bag. It wasn't quiet and it wasn't pretty. The people on the back row noticed.

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.

" Don't worry" I assured them, laughing and recounting the day,
" I know the cops."

So there you have it Liz. In the future, don't buy any weed in Central Park and if anyone ever asks you the way to Carnegie Hall, tell them all they really need is a good pair of underwear and some bubble wrap.


Susan Adcock


Contents Page

Contents Page Editorials The Platypus Links Copyright
Portfolios Camera Corner War Stories  Dirck's Gallery Comments
Issue Archives Columns Forums Mailing List E-mail Us
 This site is sponsored and powered by Hewlett Packard