New York City

Equanimity at Work (1,000 Feet above Lower Manhattan)

Credit: Damon Winter/The New York Times

‘‘You need to have a very unique trait inside, to go running out on the iron,’’ says Kevin Sabbagh, 24, a fifth-generation ironworker known as Woogie. ‘‘You have to be able to block out how high up in the air you are. ...My partner and I, we look down every once in a while. We look, we chuckle and say, ‘Wow,’ and we go back to work.’’

See also:

Teach Yourself to Listen

From "A Restorative Racket," by Charles McGrath, The New York Times, June 30, 2011:

You wouldn't want to listen to that racket all the time, but every now and then an ear-shattering, teeth-jarring blast, so loud you can’t hear yourself think, is sort of restorative. For a moment you have to shut down and reboot whatever was on your mind.

To hear the subtler music of the city, though, you have to teach yourself to listen. Next time you take the subway, turn off your iPod and try some unrecorded avant-garde stuff. I recommend the Times Square station, where incoming trains rumble under your feet, coming to rest with a squeak and a hiss of air brakes that could have been scored by John Cage. If you’re lucky, the guy with the musical saw will be on duty, making his eerie, keening arpeggios, or maybe the Ebony Hillbillies will be playing bluegrass tunes to the accompaniment of indecipherable loudspeaker announcements about delays on the No. 2 uptown. Your feet will start to twitch a little.

Or take a walk along 42nd Street, say, and down Fifth Avenue. After a while you’ll discover that the great ground note of New York — the basso continuo — is traffic noise, which is more tire whoosh than engine sound, punctuated every now and then by the clank of a car passing over a manhole cover. Above that, like a flatted organ chord, is the heavy breathing of idle bus engines, rising up a humming octave or so when the light changes, and the bus accelerates.

And now, if you wave an imaginary baton, here comes some honking, which — unless some bozo is really leaning on the horn — is much more cheerful-sounding than you think you remember — almost like bird song.

There is also foot noise: the clacking of high heels and, at this time of year, the occasional pop of a delayed flip-flop snapping up against the wearer’s heel. And a soft, hard-to-place chittering sound that if you pay close attention turns out to be hundreds of human conversations weaving in and out of one another in a great collective murmuration.

See also:

Sketchy Subway Artist

Excerpt from “An iPhone Artist Haunts the Subways,” by Emily B. Hager, New York Times, October 22, 2010:

R train. 10/21/10 (Eric Molinsky) Click here to watch video. Eric Molinsky does not like to get caught. One recent afternoon on a Manhattan-bound R train, Mr. Molinsky, a freelance radio producer and inveterate people-watcher, slid into position. He scanned the not-yet-packed car. At one end, two aging New York dames laughed. Mr. Molinsky, 39, set his sights on the blonde.

He is not a stalker. He is an artist who secretly draws fellow subway riders on his iPhone, and has collected scores of New York characters on his blog. “Usually if my cover is blown,” Mr. Molinsky explained, “it’s kind of a slippery slope to the drawing just not really happening in the end.” Using his index finger and the application Sketchbook, he quickly drew a crude black-and-white outline of the woman’s face and then began to add layers of color. A base of skin tone, yellow for her dyed hair, green spectacles.

The woman looked up. “It doesn’t really affect my drawing if they know I’m drawing them,” Mr. Molinsky said. “But it does make me a little bit more self-conscious about it and makes me wonder if they’re going to come over and take a look and maybe say, ‘Hey I don’t look anything like that.’ ”

Read the entire City Room post…

See also: The Subway Issue, “the first-ever themed issue of The Times’s Sunday Metropolitan section.”

On a Beautiful September Day

Making Sense of Life,” from September 11: Portraits of Grief:

Gates to the Bronx Zoo The Friday before the World Trade Center attack, John Patrick Gallagher, an electricity trader at Cantor Fitzgerald, played hooky from work so he could treat his wife, Francine, and 2- month-old son, James Jordan, to a day at the Bronx Zoo.

"He was so proud of his big boy," recalled Mrs. Gallagher. Later that evening, at dinner with his brother and friends, he told them about the jaunt. "Isn't that what dads are supposed to do with their families on a beautiful September day?" he asked.

Mr. Gallagher, 31, stood 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighed around 270 pounds, but he had an extraordinary grace about him, his wife said. He never took anything for granted, perhaps because he lost his mother when he was 1 and his father six years later. He was born in the Bronx but he and his wife loved to travel. In 1999, Mr. Gallagher asked his future wife to marry him on a trip to Ireland. "He made my life make sense," Mrs. Gallagher said. "It's hard to make sense of things now that he's gone."

Practicing What We Preach


Excerpts from Mayor Bloomberg’s remarks at the Annual Ramadan Iftar Dinner at Gracie Mansion, August 24, 2010:

“If we say that a mosque or a community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site, we would compromise our commitment to fighting terror with freedom. We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam."

“The members of our military are men and women at arms, battling for hearts and minds. And their greatest weapon in that fight is the strength of our American values which have already inspired people around the world. But if we don’t practice those values here at home, if we don’t practice what we preach abroad, if we don’t lead by example, we undermine our soldiers. We undermine our foreign policy objectives. And we undermine our national security.”

“While some of [Feisal Abdul Rauf]’s a lot of attention, I want to read to you something that he said that you may not have heard.

At an interfaith memorial service for the martyred journalist Daniel Pearl, Imam Rauf said, ‘If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind, and sou, Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad - Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, but I have always been one.’ He then continued to say, ‘If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all my heart, mind, and soul, and to love for my fellow human beings what I love for myself, then I am not only a Christian, but I have always been one.’”

“In that spirit, let me declare that we in New York are Jews, and Christians, and Muslims, and we always have been. And above all of that, we are Americans. Each with an equal right to worship and pray where we choose. There is nowhere in the five boroughs of New York City that is off-limit to any religion. And by affirming that basic idea, we will honor America’s values and we will keep New York the most open, diverse, tolerant, and free city in the world.”

A Shining Screen

Radio City Music Hall, New York, 1978, by Hiroshi Sugimoto

“I'm a habitual self-interlocutor. Around the time I started photographing at the Natural  History Museum, one evening I had a near-hallucinatory vision. The question-and-answer session that led up to this vision went something like this: Suppose you shoot a whole movie in a single frame? And the answer: You get a shining screen. Immediately I sprang into action, experimenting toward realizing this vision. Dressed up as a tourist, I walked into a cheap cinema in the East Village with a large format camera. As soon as the movie started, I fixed the shutter at a wide-open aperture, and two hours later when  the movie finished, I clicked the shutter closed. That evening, I developed the film, and the vision exploded behind my eyes.”

~ Hiroshi Sugimoto

Tri-City Drive In, San Bernardino, 1993

Hiroshi Sugimoto’s Tri-City Drive In is featured in Haunted: Contemporary Photography/Video/Performance, an exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, on view through September 6, 2010.

No Pants Subway Ride

A group in called Improv Everywhere staged its sixth annual No Pants Subway Ride on January 13th in New York City. Participants are not supposed to reveal their secret mission - to give people a fun New York experience to laugh about - when asked by the fully dressed passengers "Where are your pants?" Instead they shrugged their shoulders, shook their heads and claimed to be having one of those days where you just know you're forgetting something but don't figure it out until it's too late.

One guy acted surprised by his apparel deficit when he pretended to wake up from a pantless subway nap. He was able to buy a pair of pants from another participant who was along for the ride in the role of trouser salesman.



During last year's event, eight people were arrested and handcuffed. The charges were dropped due to the lack of laws forbidding the wearing of underwear in public.




Check out some of the photos and stories from this year's mission as well as the group's other missions.