Last week I wrapped up another road trip. We drove form NYC to Florida to visit friends and relatives, and to get some relief from the cold. On the way we stopped for lunch at South of the Border. It wasn’t how I remembered it – but my first visit was on one of those a dark, rainy nights where the world is all but invisible..
I was here only once before, years ago. My parents were stationed in Orlando, Florida and I was going to school in upstate New York. After freshman year I accepted a ride from an acquaintance who lived in Miami. He had a van, long hair, and he drank a lot of coffee and smoked a lot of cigarettes between Annandale and Orlando. I was feeling crummy the whole trip – the last night at school had been celebratory and I probably smoked two packs of cigarettes along with whatever we all drank at the final party of the year. So I quit. I’d been smoking since I was eleven, I was addicted, but that was it – I just didn’t want to ever smoke another cigarette – so I didn’t. Still haven’t.
My driver wanted to go straight, without stopping, all the way to Florida. He mentioned dinner at South of the Border – something to look forward to. Other than that he didn’t say one word to me the whole ride, and, since he was a graduating senior on his way to law school that fall I was too intimidated to start up a conversation. I remember it was raining – dreary. Finally we pulled into the small metropolis that was SOTB and walked into a shabby little building where you had to order at the counter then take your food to a table nearby or out to the car. It was crowded.
After several minutes on line my companion stepped up to the counter and ordered for both of us. A woman at his elbow received her order but told the counter attendant to take it back. “He breathed over my food” she said. Loudly and glaring in our direction. I steeled a sideways glance at my companion. He was looking down at the counter, his cheeks reddened. After some back and forth the lady was brought a new dinner – the styrofoam container sealed shut. We stepped aside to let her pass.
We took our food to the car. We ate in silence. My friend drove. I slept a bit after that, and when we arrived in Orlando he helped me to the door with my bags, said hello to my parents and went on his way.
Frederick Johnson had a good deal to do with the development of this neighborhood in the late nineteenth century. Before it’s transition to a suburban development Dyker Heights was designated as farm land; crops included grains, fruits and vegetables. What began as a largely Anglican enclave evolved into an Italian neighborhood as those immigrants began pouring in during the first half of the twentieth century. Many of the homes were converted to Mediterranean style with notable statuary and topiary adorning their well-manicured yards. Sometime in the 1980’s the residents began outdoing each other with fabulous displays of light and color during the Christmas season. Now Dyker Heights is known as the number one destination for fans of Christmas light displays. I visited at dusk and was enthralled by the transformation as the sun set and the lights clicked on.
I’m looking forward to revisiting the area in the spring. The…
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The ICP Bookstore hosted a signing of my new, limited edition book, Outside the Lines, featuring work from my abandoned series on Friday, December 12. The book is nearly sold out but I have a few copies left. Look for the announcement of the second printing later this winter. Thank you for visiting the site!
For inquiries about purchasing a book or prints of the photographs you can reach me at email@example.com
Mia and I returned to Dead Horse Bay. She got busy working on a mandala – gathering beach glass, shells, metal objects and sorting them by color. She then used an old piling to create
a compass, and drew a large circle, then a spiral, in the sand. The collected objects went into the piece and it was a pleasure to watch her creative process unfold. I constructed some small weavings in the woods near the site, but I was mostly captivated by the place that day. The tide was going out quickly and, with each passing few minutes, more discards were revealed at the tide line. I walked south to discover some metal structures and other ruins along the beach. I photographed everything, and still can’t get enough of the tarnished magic of this place.
I took another trip to the Pennhurst School – a residential facility for children with disabilities that closed in 1987. The media had reported repeated instances of abuse and neglect, and the school did not keep up with advances in the treatment of mental disorders and differences. Most of the buildings and grounds of this immense facility are off limits. Here are a few images captured in the two buildings that are still open on occasion:
. For more information you may visit this site: http://pennhurstproject.com/
Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop the car and explore that abandoned building you’ve been passing on the way to Yonkers for the past 25 years. I actually got out of the car to check out what’s what with that. Next, I travelled 1/2 mile down the street and turned into the drive to the Lenoir Preserve. The last time I was here was the only time – with my young daughters to visit the nature center about ten years ago. This time I walked to the edge of the property and found an abandoned mansion with an insanely antebellum theme going on in the garden. I didn’t hop the wall today, but stole some images from a safe distance. Finally, on to Untermeyer Park, less then a mile from Lenoir, to move beyond the boundaries and photograph the edges of that site.
This is not my last visit to any of these places; just a start. Here’s a sample of what I found exploring closer to home.
I visited the game farm again this fall and found a deeper connection with the place. The longer I spent walking the grounds the more my perceptions of the site changed. I had about an hour at the beginning to be completely alone in the park – my mind went to bears in the Catskills – and why wouldn’t they be attracted to a former zoo where goats and rabbits roam freely and abundantly? I shook that off and continued to the far side of the park – the area I had to rush through the first time, and then made my way back toward the entrance. It was a beautiful fall day and a good one to be exploring outside; many of these are landscapes around the farm that I missed my first visit
This was one of the most fun and rewarding shoots I’ve done since I started the abandoned series. We went to a trolly graveyard in the rust belt. The owner of the trains collects these full-sized original train, trolly cars and buses and he keeps them on his property. They have taken on a lovely patina, and I’m intrigued by the way the sunlight describes the interiors of the cars. Enjoy!
My family spent over three weeks in Morocco in September. We did a two week road trip beginning in Rabat, traveling to Marakesch, Ourzazate, Merzouga, at the edge of the Sahara,the Todra Gorge Fez, Meknes, Chefchaouen, Ifrane, M’diq, on the Mediterranean, and back to Rabat. We stayed in Rabat when not on the road at the home of our dear friends and extended family. We had the privilege of visiting close friends of our hosts including an artist, a farmer and several family members in the city. We walked through countless medinas and souks and visited Roman ruins, royal palaces, museums and a state of the art shopping mall in Casablanca. We met a lot of people and had some up-close encounters with a variety of friendly animals. We climbed a 400 foot dune in the Sahara to watch the sunrise, after traveling by camel to the spot the night before under a full moon. We hiked up a mountain behind Chefchaouen to watch the shadow of the mountain slowly move across the landscape to illuminate the city below. We hiked through a gorge, into an aquaduct, through a hill town and up the mountain behind it. We visited a Berber house where we were served beautiful green mint tea. We visited a mine in the black hills surrounding the Sahara. We ate fabulous food prepared by our hosts and visited a number of restaurants, dining on lamb marinated and cooked for 24 hours, lemon chicken in tagine, sweet pasta spiced with cinnamon and raisins, pancakes with argon oil for breakfast, savory pastitsa, almond cookies, mint tea. We swam in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. We bought spices, herbs, dresses, shoes, soap, scarves, a Berber rug and a teapot. And then, reluctantly, we went home.
These are a few of the images from the trip. I’ll be adding more over time as I continue to process them. This was a trip to savor.
Cheryl, Cris and I spent an hour or so looking for Tamarack Lodge, a former vacation spot in the Catskills. The Lodge started out as a B and B and evolved into a resort that almost, but didn’t quite, rival Grossinger’s and Kutsher’s. The resort has passed through several lives in recent years, including one as an Indian Casino. It’s now owned by the local Yeshiva, and seems to be in line to become a condo development, but that remains to be seen.
We finally found the site and walked in to begin photographing. There was abundant decay, but in among the rubble also evidence of good times. It looked like it was once a really nice, peaceful retreat.
These are just a few of the images captured that day.