Along the old railroad tracks & among the new plants of the High Line | New York, USA

Note: the pictures above can be viewed in a slideshow. Just click on an image to look through them separately.

Each and every day of the week I got to spend in New York was an absolute joy – whether it was while attending my dear friend’s wedding, getting to witness another two friends’ wedding dress and tux fittings, waiting for 2+ hours in the rain to see an exhibition consisting of rain at the MOMA, getting drinks, eating lunches and dinners and hanging out with old friends, visiting my erstwhile haunts (including our former apartment on East 11th Street), roaming around and discovering new places in Manhattan and Brooklyn, even simply riding the subway – I loved every minute of it.

But one of my favorite days (and the only day it didn’t rain) was spent walking along the High Line with my friend Maria. The High Line is New York City’s newest park, which stretches along the former railroad tracks that used to carry the freight trains supplying Manhattan’s largest industrial district until 1980. The structure, elevated 30 feet (about 9 meters) above street level, was redesigned and turned into a public park, whose first stretch opened to the public in 2009. It is an exceptional place – not just because of the extraordinary way in which the structure was transformed while many of its original features were kept (such as the actual railroad tracks, as well as many of the species that originally grew on the rail bed) and incorporated into the park’s landscape, but also because walking along it makes for a kind of green “escape” from the city while never having to take your eyes off of it. And that is my favorite kind of escape from New York.

P.S. I wrote a little story [in Bulgarian] about the High Line, complete with more pictures – you can see it here.

I ♥ NYC

I – FINALLY (yaaaay!) – got to go back to New York and spend several days there this past June, after some significant pining, initially induced by ending up on a New York City street film set on the outskirts of Sofia, followed by photos of actual New York City grounds, sent in by my fortunate friends Silvia and Slavka, who went there in the past year and a general, pretty consistent desire to go there.

In the whirlwind of those precious and way too few and short days (and nights) I spent there, which were packed with running around, hanging out with friends and the festivities around one of the loveliest weddings I’ve ever been to (and the pleasure of seeing a very dear and old friend of mine tie the knot), I – not surprisingly – didn’t have time to go to any of the spots I had on my on-going “places to see and photograph next time I’m in New York” list – like this, this, this and this. So, these are four places that I unfortunately didn’t get to.

But fret not, as other cool grounds were stepped on (and skies were marveled at) and documented. I’m finally getting around to posting them and, as I do, you’ll find links to them below (because of my uptight tendencies, the posts will be dated to the actual time I was there and will therefore disappear in the archives).

In the meantime, here are just a few photos to tide you over.

I just realized that the photos – whether as words or images, are quite illustrative and descriptive of New York as a whole: electric, crossing all kinds of lines, profane, and dreamy. That, of course, is totally intentional, because I’m thoughtful like that. As is having a leaf in three out of the four pictures – just to nicely tie things together, you know.

Anyways, here are the other posts and photos from New York, as they are published, with the latest on top. Enjoy!

Canyon of Heroes

Subway map floating on a NYC sidewalk

Things were different back in 1626

Folly on Foley Square

What’s in a name

Canyon of Heroes | New York, USA

Even though I keep an on-going lists of grounds I want to see, photograph and write about, I am rarely so organized when it comes to carrying out those plans. More frequently, what tends to happen is this: I simply stumble upon grounds that look interesting, take photos of them, even though I have no idea what it is that I’m standing on (unless it is self-explanatory) and only later, as I sit down to write about it and do some research, do I find out its meaning and significance and, usually, kick myself for not knowing about it beforehand, as to have taken better and more informed photos.

That is what happened as I waited to meet my friend Maria on the corner of Fulton and Broadway in the Financial District. As I leaned against the fence of the Saint Paul Chapel, I noticed some black granite strips with inscriptions along the sidewalk. Since I didn’t have time to look at them carefully and didn’t want to stray too far from our meeting spot, I just quickly snapped some photos of the ones around me and could not, for the life of me, figure out what those dates and names meant.

It turns out that there are more than 200 of those inscriptions along the Canyon of Heroes – the section of lower Broadway, where the city’s ticker-tape parades traditionally proceed, in which shredded paper (originally actual ticker tape, but now mostly confetti) is thrown from nearby office buildings onto the parade route, creating a snowstorm-like flurry.

Traditionally advancing northward from Bowling Green to City Hall Park, ticker-tape parades have been taking place in New York City since the 1880’s, in celebration of all kinds of events and in honor of the personalities behind them.The inscriptions on the black granite strips list honorees – mostly people and sometime events, of past ticker-tape parades and their dates – from war and sports victories, through national and foreign dignitaries’ visits, to sea rescues, a flight over the North Pole and various other landmark flights, to space missions and expeditions to Antarctica. The first (impromptu) ticker-tape parade took place on October 28, 1886 to commemorate the dedication of the Statue of Liberty, while the most recent one (very much planned, I imagine) took place on February 7, 2012, in celebration of the New York Giants’ win of the Super Bowl XLVI.

The full list represents a kind of compact and skewed modern history of the world and sheds light into the ever-changing tastes of New Yorkers, when it comes to what and whom to celebrate. Looking at it, I see many that I wish had known about and taken pictures of:

  • June 18, 1910: Theodore Roosevelt, following return from his African safari;
  • April/May ??, 1921: Albert Einstein (the only scientist to ever receive a ticker tape parade tribute);
  • August 27, 1926: Gertrude Ederle, first woman to swim the English Channel and September 10, 1926: Amelia Gade Corson, first mother and second woman to swim the English Channel;
  • October 18, 1926: Queen Marie of Romania;
  • After 1936 Berlin Olympics, Jesse Owens following winning four gold medals in Nazi Germany;
  • November 18, 1947: U.S.-to-Europe “Friendship Train” bearing gifts and supplies;
  • September 17, 1949: Forty-eight European journalists on “American discovery” flight around United States;
  • November 13, 1951: Women of the armed forces;
  • May 20, 1958: Van Cliburn, winner of the Moscow International Tchaikovsky Competition (the only musician to ever receive a ticker tape parade tribute);
  • January 10, 1969: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, and William A. Anders, following the Apollo 8 mission to the Moon and August 13, 1969: Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins, following Apollo 11 mission to the Moon;
  • October 3, 1979: Pope John Paul II;
  • January 30, 1981: American hostages released from Iran;
  • June 20, 1990: Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

What’s in a name | New York, USA

I saw this KATSU stencil when I was walking around SoHo with my friend Rino, who’s Japanese, which was very convenient, as – since I decided the word was surely Japanese, she could tell me what it meant. Even though (or maybe because) she said it has something to do with a pork dish, I promptly decided that Katsu will from now on be my Japanese name.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:

Katsu may refer to:

  • Katsu (Zen): a type of shout used in Chán and Zen Buddhism, as well as in the martial arts
  • Katsu: a band from Central Pennsylvania
  • KATSU!: manga by Mitsuru Adachi
  • Tonkatsu: a Japanese pork dish
  • Katsudon: a bowl of rice with tonkatsu
  • Kappo: a resuscitation techniques also known as katsu

People named Katsu include:

  • KATSU (angela): Japanese musician, member of pop band angela
  • Katsu Kaishu (Awa Katsu) (1823-1899): Japanese statesman and naval officer
  • Shintaro Katsu (1931-1997): Japanese actor
  • Katsu Aki (born 1961): manga artist
  • Katsu (active ca. 1800-1810): Courtesan in Edo, Achieved the ranking Oiran, premier class prostitute. Katsu was a woman of letters and associated with the intellectual elite (bunjin) of her days

Isn’t that crazy? From my quick google search, it would also appear that Katsu is a somewhat well-know stencil/tag/street artist in New York.

Anyways, to go back to the original story, after spotting what I thought was this unique stencil and taking the above photo, in what must be a simplified case of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon, we continued to walk around and I started noticing it literally everywhere: on sidewalks, walls of buildings, trash cans…. at that point, I had been in the city for a few days, so I’m sure I had simply glossed over dozens and dozens of these stencils until I saw that one and just could not stop seeing them.

If that story doesn’t blow your mind, here is another, also Baader-Meinhof-ish one in the loosest sense of the term: Rino and I ended up buying the same shoes (they are actually in the paper bag that’s also in the picture) and we agreed that – when she goes back to Japan and I go back to Bulgaria, we’ll each take a photo of our feet while wearing them on some typical Tokyo and, respectively, Sofia grounds and I’ll do a post about it here. Now that I uploaded the image, I realized that I also own (and currently wearing as I type) an identical pair of those black Havaianas flip-flops that Rino has on in the photo. Ok, they’re probably among the most common summer footwear there is (which is likely why it didn’t even register with me at the time), but still a nice little coincidence.

So, how about it, Rino? Send me your photo from Tokyo?

Subway map floating on a NYC sidewalk | New York, USA

For a short description of what this is, click and zoom in on the photo.

A longer, and quite interesting explanation, is published here. A short excerpt from that text reads:

The origin of the “human rights in the subways” project was [Françoise Schein’s] first urban map entitled Subway Map Floating on a NY Sidewalk completed in 1985. The relationship between underground trains and the rights of man is explained on the INSCRIRE website: “For her [Schein], the subway appeared to be the most democratic place into which engrave philosophical concepts to address to the people”. Subway Map was awarded the New York City Design Commission’s Award for Excellence in Design, although the project is rather ungraciously listed under street furniture on the Commission’s website.

Folly on Foley Square | New York, USA

Foley Square in Lower Manhattan has quite a rich history, part of which is explained in this bronze medallion – one of five such pieces installed in the sidewalks on and around the square. But I won’t go into it all here, as this collage took me way too long to make and almost drove me mad with folly (har har har).

If you’re curious, though, you can click and zoom in on the imagine and read about the square’s history and architecture. If you’re too lazy, but still thirsting for knowledge, go here.

Things were different back in 1626 | New York, USA

And the fact that the East River covered what are now several square miles of streets, sidewalks and buildings in Lower Manhattan back then was the least impressive.

In 1626, the Dutch – who had been using the southern tip of Manhattan as a fur trading post, purchased the entire island from the Lenape, a Native American tribe, for 60 guilders (whose value was estimated at about $1000 in 2006) and called it New Amsterdam.

About four decades later, in 1664, the Dutch surrendered New Amsterdam to the English, who promptly renamed it New York, in exchange for Dutch control over Run, which was deemed to be a much more valuable asset at the time.

The fact that I just had to look up what Run is (a 3-by-1 km island which is now part of Indonesia, if you’re curious) just goes to show the Dutch lack of foresight, although it is anybody’s guess if New York would have become what it is today had it remained under control of the Netherlands. Somehow, “If I can make it there / I’ll make it anywhere / It’s up to you / New Amsterdam, New Amsterdam” doesn’t have the same ring to it, but who knows, it might be just a prejudice on my part.

Slavka**: Pink traces | New York City, US of A

Yellow and pink confetti litter the streets on January 1, following New Year Eve's celebrations. By Monday, they would all be gone, restoring the pavement to its habitual greyness.

End-the-Fed stencil, following last fall's Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan's Financial District. The pink paint is a reminder of the road works and construction undergone by the neighborhood last summer. Both will be gone before too long.

**This is part of a week-long series of photographs sent in by friends standing on, over or above exciting places and grounds around the world**

Silvia and Alexander**: Walking on water | New York City, US of A

Silveto and Alexander walking on the Brooklyn Bridge over the East River

Even when they are on the other side of the Atlantic, they can't seem to stay away from the Black Sea

**This is part of a week-long series of photographs sent in by friends standing on, over or above exciting places around the world**


New York, I Love You | Sofia, Bulgaria

How strange, almost creepy, it was to walk around some New York City streets, among things that were so recognizably of New York – underneath fire escapes and awnings, by traffic lights, street signs and lamp posts, past parking meters, a subway entrance, blue postal boxes and yellow newspaper dispensers, in front of delis and bistros…. It all felt almost real, apart from the ghostly quietness of the streets…. and the fact that they were actually located on a film studio lot on the outskirts of Sofia.

The detail with which the New York City streets at the Nu Boyana Film Studios were replicated was stunning (Yes, real NYC sewers are also made in India. I checked.), which made simple oversights even more blatant (avenue numbers in Manhattan barely reach double digits, so I wonder where that 73 AV sign came from… then again, it was knocked down on the ground).

Even more bizarre was walking through a film set which replicated a real place, and not just any place, but one that I have a soft spot for. It was unlike the completely made-up Küstendorf, built without a real-life original, or Warsaw’s rebuilt old town, which only looks like a film set, but is in fact a real-life part of the city. You see, I love, love, love being in New York – not least of all for the rush I get when walking around its streets. So, it was exceptionally odd to be on what so closely resembled those streets without getting even a trace of that rush and without hearing any of the sounds or smelling any of the smells that, I now realize, constitute so much of what makes New York feel like, you know, New York.