Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Elegy for a city....

                                                        Hudson Street at Lark

Albany, NY continues to exist, albeit in a much diminished state, no thanks to the benign and at times malicious neglect of politicians from Rockefeller to Corning to Jennings who have all conspired to bring our poor city to its knees.   The poor stewardship of our city's historical legacy, its buildings, has been a disgrace, marked by a criminal neglect that has led to the decay, implosion and ultimately the demolition of the few important historical structures left standing, most recently Trinity Church, built in the 1830's by hard working Irish immigrants and later, abandoned by the diocese and left to rot, implode, and die.  Entire blocks of homes and business buildings that were the fabric of the dynamic bee hive of inter-related interests that defined our city for much of the earlier part of the last few centuries were left to rot and over the past few years have been bulldozed wholesale, leaving block after block of empty lots, carrying on a tradition that has marked the destruction of our 400 year old city over the past 50 years or so.  Our mayor has been aided and abetted by his mournful, hand wringing partner in crime, the director of our "historical society", Susan Holland  who has conspired to perpetuate this physical and moral decay to justify her existence and paycheck.  She lacks passion but not pathos.  She is the mourner in chief of our not so fair city to whom this elegy is dedicated...


                                  I know I should be thankful
                                  for the small shreds and tantalizing tastes
                                  of old Albany they've left behind,
                                  reminding us of what we once were
                                  before they sold our souls and
                                  left us a shadow of our former selves
                                  gaping, gap toothed rows of derelict homes
                                  yet to be burned and bulldozed,
                                  a city cut off at the knees,
                                  dying, one building at a time
                                  wretched from the waters who gave birth
                                  and nurtured this withered old woman
                                  gasping for life and grasping at dreams.

                                  As I sit here on this warm winter
                                  Hudson Street afternoon,
                                  looking, thinking, filling my eyes
                                  with the miracle of this unbroken row of homes,
                                  I know I should be thankful,
                                  but it is hard.

Whenever I visit Portland Maine, a small city like ours, that slopes gently in an almost poetic and unbroken manner down to the water, unimpeded by a highway that obliterated half of our city and cut us off from the water, I am painfully reminded what we might have been were it not for the political embodiments of evil that literally sold us down the river.

                                              Pablo

                                                    

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lady Gaga and me....

I'm not particularly interested in celebrity photography.  For one thing I don't care all that much about them, and living here in Albany, NY, there's little if any opportunity.  But circumstance did allow for a chance encounter with Lady Gaga a few weeks ago when I wandered into the last, and I do mean last, retail "record store" in Albany by the name of FYE.  I'm pretty sure my niece, Leslie, worked there during high school.  Its the last store of its kind around here because downloaders don't seem to need them anymore, and there was a depressing feeling of morbidity in the place.  There was a dark somewhat gloomy feel in the air, one of neglect, resignation, and irrelevance that gave the place the appearance of a dusty flea market for music, DVDs and whatever else.  Everything seemed old and used.  The staff looked like they were in a daze, wandering, and wondering what they were doing there, and the smell of death was in the air.  It was no longer a pleasure in browsing through the sparse, depleted racks of CDs, and even I felt like a relic in doing so.




I saw this display and was sure that Lady Gaga was screaming loudly the despair I felt inside,  looking around at an institution I grew up with and knowing it would soon be dead.  I was sure Lady Gaga felt my pain.

                                                                     Pablo

Sunday, March 4, 2012

C'est Moi

       
                                                                         
                                                                       
So many people have told me they've been on the blog and were disappointed when they went onto the profile section and found nothing.  I have tried to rectify this by putting in a picture and a few words of explanation about myself, but the image was quite small, and they only allow you space for one.  How can they expect a photographer to explain himself within such limiting constraints.




So this is me, on the road.  During this time, Jackie  (who took the two above pictures and the bottom one) and I were working our way along a section of Route 66 around the area of Oatman, Arizona, not too far from Needles, on the California border,  close to the beginning of the Mojave desert we were soon to enter.





As I have said before, the Interstate Highway system is a wonderful innovation.  It allows you to travel throughout the United States and never get to see America.  We almost always take the back roads, and these days the quintessential back road through the USA has to be Route 66.  The end of a good day of taking pictures, and I am dry, dusty, and ready for a beer or three.




So that's what I like to think I look like. 

But who am I.  

My grandmother had three sisters, the youngest one, and sadly, the first to die was Mildred, wife of Uncle Artie and mother of Martin and Martha, paragons of virtue and good behavior, not to mention academic excellence against whom I was often measured.  They were the bane of my existence with my mother often musing aloud about why her ADD son couldn't be more like them.  As it turns out, its just as well that I didn't, but that's another story for another time.

My Aunt Mildred was a school teacher in the NYC school system, and in addition to passing along hand me down underwear and things from Martin, she gave us old school books, mostly elementary school reading books for English class.  The books mostly dated from the 1930's and 40's and by the 50's, they were antiquated and were being retired and disposed of.  Not being much of a reader, I thumbed through the books, amused by the old fashioned pictures, but little else.

But what did catch my eye and excite my imagination were the stamped imprints on the back of the front cover of the books, where the annual recipient would write the date, Sept. 1938, their name, James Dolan, and their classroom.  I found myself mesmerized by the names and dates and penmanship and wondering who those kids were and what happened to them.  I would return over and over to the lists of names  and dates, trying to conjure up an image and context for these early inhabitants of dingy Manhattan apartments, inhabiting stoops and sidewalks, playing stickball and hopscotch, running wild in the back streets of my imagination.  I still search them out in abandoned buildings, in the smells of old apartment houses and among the old overcoats huddled on park benches in forgotten parks along 11th avenue. But they are becoming harder to find.

This was not what Aunt Mildred had in mind when she passed the books along, but all was not lost.  My first foray into the world of urban archeology that later became a passion I continue to pursue, collecting data and artifacts with my camera.  So begins a profile...
                                               
                                           There is a balding fag I know
                                           with nothing but a bulging
                                           paper  shopping bag between him
                                           and a life of undistinguished
                                           dereliction...

                                           Sometimes I stop
                                           and look through that
                                           sack of memories I carry
                                           and remember the distain
                                           I once felt
                                           for the schmattta ladies who
                                           blossomed like potted plants
                                           along Fifth Avenue.
                                                                    Pablo 
Addendum 7/10/15:
Bought a good scanner a few weeks ago and have started going through the archives and scanning this and that and some old photos of me here and there and this seems to be as good a place as any to put them.  The first two seem to be from my earlier hobo days when I was still riding the rails.




Boxcar Pablo somewhere near Stowe, Vermont.  After all there years, I can still remember this photo being taken.



Me and Nora racing for the train from Ottawa to Moncton N.B. where we would make our way to Cape Tormentine to catch the ferry to PEI.




Me, taken by Jackie somewhere in New Mexico during my Edward Weston/Signs of Life in Death Valley and the American Southwest phase, and yes, that is a light meter hanging around my neck.  Don't really know why, since I never use one.

                                                                     Pablo