Friday, May 29, 2009

grumpy reality

I said "yes, if I had lived in the 60's, I might have been as grumpy as him". I guess I thought I would be as expressive or explicit as him, or anyone of that era. Then I was told "yeah, that's what you always think about older times"... Dylan looks so sharp that he knows he is not a lost soul. If he ever were one, would he have lived until his balls came licking the ground and still tour around the world as the grumpiest and most boring live musician? One thing is certain that he kicked ass in his time, and he did not give too much a damn. He cared about himself, though... We all know the picture, where he is almost patiently waiting for the ship to come. He was patient with the rest of the world, that is why he is still alive. But he has never been patient wih himself, as grumpy and as in-your-goddamn-face as he can be. And yes, whatever others may think, I think "I'm Not There" is one of the coolest films out there...

And then we strolled down the long, thin corridors where Tante Marianne was waiting for us with her distorted reality, crooked looks and with the tainted love from the child on her lap... She was with Renate, in a proper 60's version of a Jim Jarmusch scene. Probably Dylan was holding his stomach not to throw up a disgusting fish soup he had in a British town on his live tour. The beautiful children of Liverpool and the plastic smile of Betty.

We looked through the mirror and saw no clean brush strokes or a slight distortion and artistic escape from reality. With my growing weight, I looked as ugly and as real as I could be. It was a nice short, evening visit to the National Portrait Gallery...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mark was looking down...

Mark was sitting awkwardly on his usual spot. Today he had a bit of a crumble on his fair hair. He was looking down more often than he usually does. He seemed uneasy to look up to the eyes of people passing by. He did not even say "hi', nor did he give the comforting feeling of "I'll look after your bike, don't worry". He was indifferent. It was fair. People were usually indifferent to Mark.

The Afr0-Caribbean guy walked in through the door as I was trying to pick up the mozzarella I had dropped on the floor. Hunger was getting to me and I was a bit dizzy by then. By the time I was at the mushrooms basket on the veggie shelves, the Afro-Caribbean went back on the street to collect some more rubbish. He did not look quite happy neither. Was it the weather?

It was a warm spring's night. Overcast as usual but warm, not as good as it was on the weekend. Possibly the strong headwind had them bow their heads? The guys in the local shop were on verbal abuse towards a drunken or a natural-born-tipsy lady. They were usually accommodating towards Mark and the Afro-Caribbean, though. Mark had a shelter under the tree from which he watched the knee-level cruelty.

I don't know the real name of Mark. I just made it up. I probably call him Mark now, because he clearly marks the spot where you can pass by him everyday. He does not ask for much, he is usually taken care of in one way or another. If anything, Mark has his place in this world. I didn't want to call the Afro-Caribbean guy anything, this has got nothing to do with any racial prejudice. He was a ruthless wanderer. Him and Mark were only a couple from the ruthless face of London, and of the warm ruthlesness that mixed so well with the warm spring breeze that touched my legs as Mark looked down once more. At knee-level.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A Londoner moment

I have repeatedly been claiming that London is not one of the cities I feel myself completely attached to, like I do with Istanbul, Berlin or New York even, recently. However, today, I felt once again that I have somewhat become a Londoner in the last 2 years. It was not an instant of someone asking me directions and I could say it right away, no, I've been having them quite often. It was a much unexpected situation.

I was riding my bicycle from the LSE, where I work, towards Bermondsey, to attend the screening of the docu-drama "The Age of Stupid" held on a boat near a wharf, one of these converted agglomerations by the beautiful Thames riverside, where used to stand large warehouses and shipping facilities. D. had invited me to this event, held by the new ecomonics foundation. I am hoping to write on another entry about my complicated feelings and thoughts over the whole 'green' issue as well as issues of reformation and revolution... However, let me go back to my mini-story here.

I decided to cycle from the north side of the river and take the atmospheric Tower Bridge to cross over the river. It is always a joy to walk over Tower Bridge, but cycling on it is another experience. Thanks to the nice weather and long summer days, I was to have a really nice view passing over it, too. Only a few minutes before I would turn into the bridge 2 cabs almost crashed into each other in front of me, making one maneuver right in front of me, causing me a full stop, followed by a huge truck that could not anticipate my stop and passed my unprotected vehicle and self right at my ear level. After recovering from the shock, I noticed the huge queue of cars before the bridge.

As I switftly rode past the cars, I realised that the bridge was open to allow possibly for a ship to pass and people, cars, and bicycles alike have all stacked on each side of the open bridge. Just by when I got to the bridge the platform closed, the barrier between them lifted and cyclists, in front of all the cars, started pedalling through the bridge. The cars, ever impatient, started taking over some cycles, pedestrians walking on and running away from all vehicles, and tourists taking picture of all of this mess.... And there I was, in the middle of it, cycling through it as this happens every day. I saw so many tourists being so excited about this. Polish tourists (or residents alike) who never dreamt of setting a foot in London years and years ago, Italian kids as they pop up from everywhere, an Indian descent or a south American wanderer. Everyone was taking pictures of what looked like a Tour de France, or a mayhem of cars-cycles, or a mass protest, rolling down Tower Bridge, whilst the sun was setting in the west, over London Bridge, and dying beams of it reflected through the skyscrapers of Canary Wharf in the east.

Unfortunately I do not have any pictures, as I was being taken pictures of. But at that moment, in the middle of all this excitement, I was milly enjoying being observed, keeping my cool and perfect timing of getting on the bridge and trying to make it to my desired place on time. I was like a proper Londoner for that instance, and I have to admit, I liked it.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Find the 7 bombs in the pictures

New York, New York... I cannot be any humble on this, as at last, after years of anticipation I got to spend 9 beautiful days with my friends in this amazing city. Not even the bad weather, a mix of crazy humidity, a lot of rain and freak thunderstorms could ruin it. All in all, I could easily say I felt at ease most times with the New Yorkers and had a smooth time with the officials alike. However, there is one incident, maybe the only negative story I'll share in here among many good ones, that I'd like to scribble down before I do the honours later with other blog posts.

On Saturday, 9 May, I woke up to a beautiful morning around Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Before heading to some parks in DUMBO and walking over into Manhattan through Brooklyn Bridge, we were having brunch with D., J. and C. talking about the fine lines between use of public and private spaces and issues of infiltrating into people's private realms through photography. Only 2 days before, on 7 May, I remember taking a picture of a large housing block, of which there was only one window open where a veiled lady was looking down onto the W 57th Street. As I took her picture (or rather the picture of the building) she drew back immediately. At the brunch table on Saturday, C. and J. were saying that you can make a picture of someone at their window and it is their responsibility to draw the curtains to avoid being exposed to the voyeurist's lens. The discussion went further on with gaining access to shooting films and photography on sets and getting the consent of locals, and etc...

In the afternoon, I decided to pay a visit to the Grand Central Station on my own. I've always been fascinated with train stations, as a railroad-commute-lover and the useles wandering arounds, or running into catching trains, or stopping by to catch some breath in train stations have always been part of my interests. For that matter, Sirkeci Train Station in Istanbul also holds an important place in my heart.

As I walked into the Grand Central for the first time and got easily fascinated by the overwhelming non-human scale of the whole "thing" I started to taking pictures of the interiors and the peope alike. I made may way into the train platforms, hoping to catch some more movement. A few poor shots and I walked back into the main concourse. I bought a bunch of cupcakes and made my way into the balconies with the fancy restaurants to have a final elevated view of the space...

At that moment I was approached from behind by a couple of cops with whom we have exchanged the following bizarre conversation:

"Sir, could you please stop?"
I stop.

"There have been complaints from staff that you were taking pictures of the train platforms, can we have a look at the pictures"?
I show them some of the pictures I took as I don't feel the need to end up an interrogation room for losing my calm for nonsense discussion.

"Why have you taken these pictures of the walls and lights, but not the main area or people? These are not pictures that normal tourists would take. Can I please see your ID? Where are you staying, what are you here for, how long are you going to be in New York"...

The rest was the similar treatment that I have gotten experienced to at the 2 stop and search incidents I had in London (2nd of which was accusation of stealing my own bicycle). The sheer differences were that in New York when they wrote down some of my ID details, they did it on a random piece of paper and did not tell me what they would to with them, whereas in London it was on a standard print-paper, a receipt of which I was handed afterwards, clearly stating all my rights (I keep one pink slip of that).

In general, in the States it has felt as if they have more experience in being suspicious but also handling situations. I would rather not mess with the American cops, as in Europe and especially in the UK, there is much greater sense of regulation. However I also have to admit that I despise the hypocritical royal attitude of the officials in the UK, whereby they take every step to make life miserable to people that are not from certain backgrounds (ethnically, or citizenship-wise (eg non-EU, non-US)).

So, after having had this small interrogation, I remembered the morning discussion over public space and asked the cops the following:
"Is there any regulation of taking pictures in here? This is a public space, right?"

I learn that the issue with the train platforms are different, that they are grey zones, that the lawas that once helped shelter the homeless are much tighter now and that they followed me because of taking pictures in the platforms. Well, one of the remarkable quotes they've used in this conversation was:
"The world has changed since the 1980's, right?"

What can I say? I was astonished by the retrospective. What a valid, self-reflective, intellectual criticism of the 1980's neo-liberal led conservative policies. Wish all cops had this edge!

In the meanwhile, can you spot the 7 hidden Usames in the following pictures I took at the station?!