"What are you most looking forward to in 2019?"
"I'm off from school so I've been relaxing, spending time with family and friends. Now that I have free time, I've been able to go out and discover some stuff in the city."
"Thai Select. I had the chicken pad thai, it's just really good."
"I'm here for a few months, helping the owner. In Pakistan, I am a phone repairman, I have my own business. But I like to travel, and I like to eat."
"Where do you live in Pakistan?"
"In Islamabad. It is very, very beautiful in northern Pakistan. There are mountains and waterfalls. We go to the country, my whole family, like 70 cousins, and have barbecues."
“Always happy to help a fellow artist.”
"I've worked at Japan Village for one month. But I was at a Sunrise Mart in Midtown before that."
"Are you originally from Japan?"
"Yes, in Tottori Prefecture."
"What's it like there?"
"It has mountains and the ocean. There is a mountain there that looks like Mt. Fuji, and people will go there and take pictures of it instead of Mt. Fuji because it's easy to get to."
"I haven't really been riding it enough to justify the expense, it's a bit of a luxury at this point ... but there's something about the independence that I really like."
"That's important, though!”
"Earlier today I was riding around Manhattan for fun. I know that sounds a little weird, but there's something special about the views when you're going over the bridges, when you kind of own the streets a little."
"I'm bringing some stuff to my girlfriend's place in Windsor Terrace, and then moving up to The Bronx later tonight."
"It's already 5:30, that sounds like a lot."
"I'm also looking for a second job because my teaching gig doesn't cover it. And I'm looking at grad school."
"Holy moly. School for what?"
"Well, I was getting a Phd in theater, but decided I cared more about helping people, so I want to get into systems-involved mental health counseling. Foster care, or to help people who are in and out of detention. I want to create spaces where people—girls, especially—can feel honored."
"Wow. Do you get to relax at all?"
"Tonight we're going to meet up with friends to watch The Bachelor. I've never seen it, but I hear that's what people do."
"I started shooting photos about a year ago because I was playing too many video games, and it's something else to do. On my days off, I come here or go into the city, shoot, and meet people. Today we're probably going to SoHo."
"And did it work? Are you still playing video games?"
"Only when my friends come over.”
"I'm hopefully signing a lease on my first apartment today. My roommate is coming here to see 'If Beale Street Could Talk’, and then we'll talk. We're approved, but we're trying to negotiate an earlier move-in."
“When you came to New York, did you know you'd be moving here?"
"No. I came to New York from Texas for a 10-week program at the Met, and then I fell in love with all of the people I've met through work, through friends ... and just started to build a life here in a way that I didn't expect."
"It's hard to say, there are so many different types of photographers. But for documentary, maybe Gordon Parks and Dorothea Lange."
"What do I do for a living? Oh, maybe four or five things. Artist, professor, etc. Then there are the less interesting jobs."
"Oh, I don't know. Prop stylist."
"That's actually interesting, sorry."
"Well, assistant prop stylist."
Santa Ines is in Puebla." (When asked about the name of her store/restaurant offering "Gran Variedad de Productos Mexicanos" around the corner from my house.)
"You're from there, yes? How long have you been here?"
"Are all the cooks here from Puebla? The food is delicious."
"What's something I should eat that is special to Puebla?"
"I just want you to set it up so I can come by and spin some records."
Cynthia, aka Delilah
"I just came out of the house looking every type of which way—I didn't know I was going to have my picture taken!"
"Well, you look great."
"Thank you! I look forward to seeing your face again!"
"Only one of use needs to bring her to daycare, but she goes to bed early and I come home later, so it's good to spend some time together."
“I'm from Nepal. I've been here for two years."
"Do you like working the night shift?"
"It's ok... you get more hours this way."
"Do you get strange customers at night?"
"Not really, this isn't a bad neighborhood. We get a lot of cab drivers and young people.”
"After this I have to go do some base painting—painting whole walls a solid color. It's ok, but this kind of stuff is fun."
"And it must be nice to be inside on a day like this."
"I like to take pictures, too, but I'm not a 'photographer.'"
"What do you like to take pictures of?"
"Scenery, views, beaches..."
"Do you go to beaches around here? Which ones?"
"Far Rockaway. But I also go there because I'm learning how to surf."
Janet (with Alma)
"This is just the perfect age, isn't it?"
"Before I move on to the next thing I've actually been thinking about taking some lessons or something, so I can move beyond what I've been playing a thousand times. I picked up the guitar the other day and the same old stuff was coming out. I also know that I don't want to be the guy booking the rehearsal space, hoping everyone else will get into it.”
It was very moving. I especially liked when Tarana Burke talked about the start of the Me Too movement. I was also moved by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’”
“Did you cry? I may have shed a few tears.”
“Yes, I did.”
"I've been going nonstop since well before this festival. It's like, 'Sleep? What's that?'”
"I came to New York from Guinea one year ago."
"What do you do when you're not washing cars?"
"I'm going to school, studying English."
"It must be a hard language to learn."
"Eh, It's better to know than French, because it's the international language."
“I don't know if I was totally ready to come back. I probably could have lived there for another six months. After a year, I had made real friends who I'm going to miss. Like, a good friend is opening a restaurant—I would have liked to be there for that.”
“Somehow my life’s most hilarious moments have all revolved around potato chips.”
“What about today’s most hilarious moment?”
“That my Grammy dress is in my backpack? Maybe that should be the title of my next book.”
"Tips up, gentlemen!"
"Sometimes we like to talk about it, playing out multiple scenarios for what our lives could be like elsewhere, outside of the city. Last weekend we talked a lot about moving to a 'Tier 2' city, something smaller. But then by Monday, that was it. She woke up and was like, 'I don't want to leave.'"
"I actually got in an accident this morning; probably sprained my finger."
"Fed Ex guy stepped out of the truck into the bike lane right as I was going by. I ended up on the ground."
"Our school doesn't have a JV basketball team, so even though I'm a sophomore, I'm trying out for the varsity team. I'm trying out late, though, because I got injured."
"I was playing on concrete too much. It's bad for your body. So now I'm only practicing on hardwood."
(Somehow we established that he works with a very good friend of mine at The New Yorker and that he had just picked his kid up from school, but I didn't get a real quote from Troy. Of course—the one guy I'd want to impress with my quote-gettin' skills! What can I say, we had a snow squall, y'all, and I was late for pickup myself.)
“If you take one of those DNA testing kits, you can find out all kinds of stuff. Like, you might learn a bit about why your eye isn't healing perfectly. Some ethnic groups are more susceptible to keloid scarring."
"My Chinese New Year horoscope says that I'm supposed to have a very awesome year filled with opportunity—and that I should put back-burner projects to the front. Which means I might just become a superstar pottery maker/rock climber."
"How much do you believe in your horoscope?"
"I definitely take it with a grain of salt, but because this one is so positive, I'll believe it."
"I told my son before we opened, 'Can we deal with being around each other all day? I don't want to become your enemy.' We had some rough patches, but we got through it."
"How'd you deal with it?"
"By talking about it, and bringing on some help."
"I stopped dancing 20 years ago, when I left Mexico. But I started doing it again one week ago. I'm practicing. One day, I'd like to teach Mexican dancing in a small school somewhere."
"I'm fixing it up a little—it's looking like there's a chance I may retire here."
"So you think you'll stick around? You've lived on this block a long time."
"Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of family here, across the street and down the block. I know the neighbors, a lot of them have been here awhile, too. If I moved to Jersey or something, if I heard a gate slam at three in the morning, I'd worry about who it is. Here, I don't have to worry about it, I know everybody."
"They called one of the birds Robin, but they looked like penguins."
"I'm on my way to a run-through rehearsal of 'Pepperland' at Mark Morris. I'm looking forward to it- the full band will be there. They have a theremin!"
"Are you into dance?"
"I used to be a dancer, until my knees gave out. I've known Mark for a long time, I was in many of his productions. I just really enjoy how he can evoke a feeling through movement. Like in music, how a certain chord can make you feel melancholy, or joyful—good dance can do that through movement. There's something really special about that."
"I'm from the Dominican Republic—I've been working here for six years."
"You guys just started selling this very fancy beer. Do you think it's crazy that I pay 20 dollars for four cans?"
"No, they must be putting something very good in it, it sells very well!"
"What kind of beer do you like?"
"It doesn't matter, as long as it makes me happy!"
"I've been selling them since 2010, but only started doing it full time in October, when I got laid off from my bar back job in the East Village."
"How's business?" "I've only been shut out once. The other day when it was pouring rain I only sold one, but yesterday I sold 10 or 12. To tell you the truth, this neighborhood's been good to me."
"What's the most popular title?"
"I sell a Spider-Man almost every day."
"I'm in my second year studying political science at City College. I want to change things. I want to make sure there aren't walls. A wall would take us in a negative direction and would segregate people, when we should be uniting them."
"Where are you from?"
"Brooklyn. My parents are from Bangladesh."
“It’s my 82nd birthday. Let’s not talk about politics.”
"I was in film production, and then one day I looked at all the actors and thought, 'Hey, I'd rather be doing that!' Now I go to school for acting two days a week at William Esper—when I'm not here at daycare."
“I've been working here for two years."
"When I walked in, you were shoveling out front, and you were really nice and welcoming, greeting me on the way in. Are you always like that when you're working?"
"Yeah, I am, but when it's snowing like this, it's slower, and being extra nice keeps it from being boring."
"Technology doesn't have to make us feel like we're falling behind. It can help to bring us to our present and our future. We get stuck in our own narratives sometimes, and tech can show us that new things can happen, and then we're in the moment. The question for me is: How do we capture that idea not only on an individual level, but cooperatively?"
"After two degrees and four and a half years working as a costume designer for film and TV, I'm looking to do something else. I don't know what, though. I stopped in December when my last show ended, and now I want to figure out what the goal is."
"That's kind of scary but also exciting, right?"
"I haven't regretted it yet."
“There are a lot of new faces, and it’s great to see some familiar ones. It smells the same, though."
"I always find it to be very surreal, visiting the place you worked for as long as you did."
"I actually dreamed about coming back last night."
"How is it, living in another city?"
"I like it, but I realized that I think I'm a New Yorker at heart, and I don't know if that'll ever change."
“Knowledge is power and it doesn’t cost anything to give away.”
"I'm originally from Brooklyn. I went into the military—did artillery in an infantry combat unit. Then I became a federal officer, in Homeland Security. TSA. After that, I went to college in Miami, and now I'm studying acting at Stella Adler. My military pension covers most needs, but I'm a single person living in New York, which can get expensive, so I work here."
"Do you think that maybe you're the world's most qualified person to be a security officer at the Museum of the Moving Image?"
"I'd have to say the most OVERqualified, but yeah, probably."
"I've known all about plants since I was 10. My father owned a store."
"Do you have a lot of plants in your home?"
"Oh yeah, it's packed in there, they're all you see. I wish I had more space."
"What's the secret to taking care of them?"
"Patience. A lot of patience."
"I got back to New York from LA this morning. I was visiting family, right in Venice Beach, and didn't want to leave. It was chill, now it's back to reality. I even had school this morning."
"I work with people who have a history of substance abuse, and help them find less violent ways of communicating. I advocate for finding a higher power, or finding the arts. Abuse is a symptom of spiritual bankruptcy. To paraphrase Watts, if you think the purpose of life is to be happy, you're f-ed."
"And what is the purpose?"
"To find meaning, which is individualized."
"And what is the meaning, for you?"
"To transform consciousness, or develop— oh, sorry, this is my stop, I have to go!"
"I’m on my way to a career development class, from my side hustle: teaching at Brooklyn Music School."
"What's your main hustle?"
"I'm a singer."
"Usually it's the other way around... singing is the side hustle."
"It’s my main one, but I have many side hustles. I'm a singer at a church, a nanny, I write music, I curate a show, I have a monthly residency at Soco..."
"And yet you're going to a career development class!"
"Hey, it's what you do."
Country and Justus
"We're going on a ski trip. But we're not skiing."
"We've been going on this ski trip for years, but we haven’t skied once. We party in the hotel all weekend."
"I've been here for four years. I work with my uncle."
"What do you think of New York?"
"The money's better here. There's no work in Ecuador."
"Do you send money home?"
"Yes. In two years we might go back."
"I've been interested in digital media since I was a little kid. My parents are biotech people, and weren't interested in the artistic side, but I went to some digital arts museums in San Francisco when I was in middle school, and I was, like, 'Wow.' Now, I'm really into the storytelling that can go behind it, especially with animation and VR."
"I owned a restaurant in Chelsea, but sold my share to my partner, and started as the night manager here four months ago. I have four-year-old twins, and I live two blocks away, so this is more convenient."
"Did running a restaurant prepare you to be the night manager of a 24-hour market serving customers from all over the world?"
"It's all hospitality. I know how to talk to people and make them feel welcome. Also, I've lived in this neighborhood for 11 years, so I know the people."
"We're reading Notes on 'Camp' by Susan Sontag for the book club I run. I've read it out loud to four different people already."
"It fucks with you. It's Sontag. It's a love letter to the gays, and she's subtweeting someone she hates half the time."
Erika and Rawska
"We're going to the park to shoot his music video."
"What's your song about?"
"What does it have to say about separation?"
"That if you want to be with me, there's a price you have to pay."
"Tattooing found me. I was into punk rock, skateboarding, hip-hop, anything off the beaten path. Anything counterculture. I was drawing a lot by 15, and when I was 17, a friend introduced me to a tattoo artist, and that was it. It was the summer of '93, and when they asked me if I wanted to start doing tattoos, I was like, 'Fuck yeah,' and I've been doing it ever since."
"It's easier. So many things are just easier. We can get in the car and go to Whole Foods in five minutes. The kids can run around. We have a friend who stayed with us last night who lived her whole life in New York and recently moved to Berlin, and she was saying how you don't realize, at the time, that there are other ways to live; that there are places where it's not such a struggle and making a living isn't the only thing that's important."
"I'm an elementary school science teacher at the Mary McDowell Friends School. I was an art teacher but started teaching science a year ago. I'm not really sure how that happened."
“How does it compare?"
"It's not actually that different—you're kind of doing the same things, at least at the elementary school level. Building things, experimenting, and figuring out why."
"We've been here for 54 years. When slot cars first came—from England—it was crude. We did it in basements and living rooms. At the time, I worked with my father, selling barbershop equipment and furniture. Then The Beatles came to the US, and 1200 barbershops closed—men weren't getting haircuts. Slot cars had just become commercialized, and he said 'this thing you're doing—it's an all cash business.' I was 28 or 30 at the time."
"I moved to Brooklyn from Florida six months ago. It's a big place; everything's here. I model, I started a clothing label, and I make music."
"Is there anything you want to say to your future fans?"
"Keep an open mind. Most people have a closed mind, they want to stay in their box—but we're supposed to venture out and experience new things."
"I'm a cook around the corner."
"Do you like it?"
"It's lucrative. The time goes by quickly. What time is it?"
"See? I started at 12, and it feels like I just got here."
"I've been sketching and painting since I was five. It's meditative, my creativity is sparked, it's healthy, and I feel good when I'm done, because I really like getting feedback. It's how I can grow as an artist."
"I was trained as a visual artist, but I had a juvenile approach to it it. Learning about theory was cool, so I got into writing. I'm probably better at writing, but words aren't truth. I know I sound like a 16 year old or something, but—I want to make them reflect what's actually real. I just don't know what that is yet."
"I'm not really afraid of the change, and I'm happy for us. What I'm afraid of is when he's traveling. I'll be at home, after giving up a good job and a life in a neighborhood that I liked, wondering what the fuck I'm supposed to be doing. So I'll probably spend a lot of time in the city."
"I'm constantly moving, always going somewhere, doing something. I go to a few shows a week. It takes a lot for me to hit that wall. It helps that she's more of an introvert, and I like spending time with her at home even more than I like going out. We balance each other. I just have to try not to wake her too often when I come home late with a bodega sandwich."
"It’s my hope that everyone can discover the magic and love their body has to offer. Expressing ourselves through our bodies and through movement is joyful, healing, and connects us to our power. What my clients begin to realize is that when you love your body, it loves you back."
"Racing season starts in two weeks for me, with the first CRCA Club Series race in Central Park."
"Think you're ready?"
"I almost made it to Whole Foods!"
"And then I stopped you. Do you live around here?"
"Actually I'm here for one week. I live in London for now, but I'm here placing in a modeling agency."
"Of course! You're a model! How did I do?"
"You gave good instructions... you were easy to work with... you have a good energy..."
"... and I'm fishing for compliments, obviously."
"I spent about four months hitchhiking."
"Why'd you stop?"
"The only thing that turned me off was getting caught in the rain. But the main idea was to touch the Pacific and come back, and if anything caught my attention along the way, I'd stay there. I was looking for a music scene, but I also I felt like I had some unfinished business here. It's been three or four years since then. I'll always have that wanderlust, though.. Luckily I've been able to travel—I was backpacking in Peru for a little bit."
"I'm from Bangladesh. I came here one month ago."
"One month! Welcome to New York!"
"You just came out of the mosque now, yes? I'm curious, did they talk about what happened in New Zealand in there?"
"I heard about it this morning. No, they didn't talk about it. But it is very sad."
"My fingers are getting cold, so I don't know how much longer I'll be able to play today."
"When did you start playing playing the recorder?"
"When I got into paganism—wiccanism—around 1970. I was listening to Margot Adler on BAI a lot. She's not around anymore. I was a graduate student for awhile at NYU, studying philosophy."
"As you're a pagan philosopher, I have to ask if you can tell me one of the more important things you've learned."
"I guess it's: Stay alert. Don't take anything for granted."
"I make mosaics and I teach physical computing."
"Quite a difference there..."
"Ancient art and future tech. They balance each other out."
Cici and Madonna
"We've known each other for 15 years. We're always together."
"Except I moved to Queens."
"And I moved to Jersey for a bit, but moved back to Brooklyn."
"So we'll get together here. I pretty much go to Queens just to sleep."
"I moved from this block to East Flatbush two years ago, but my cousins still live here. We used to play out on this street all the time; then we all got older and now we have less time."
"How do you spend your time now?"
"I just graduated from Hunter. I majored in biochemistry... and now I'm taking a year to figure out what I'm going to do next."