Went to Red Hook last night to see the presentation of “New Town Future Film,” a video by my buddy, the photographer/videographer Ana Bilankov. We met in 2006 at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, one of my favorite places on the planet. Ana is from Zagreb, lives and works now in Berlin, and has been to NYC on artist’s residencies three times in the last few years. Among other things she’s been working on is this film, which is twenty minutes of the most stunning, noirish, dreamlike images you’ll ever see. I have no images from the film, or any of her works, to post, but when you go to her website you’ll see them, and here I offer you this shot of Ana introducing the work. It’s kind of Bilankovian in feel, itself.
These were lost, but now they're found.
Whitecaps race downstream.
Strong wind blows across current.
Tea goes cold quickly.
Sharp-edged, fast-moving water,
Bright light in slices.
Fast flash against gray:
On ferry terminal roof,
Ridges have caught sun.
Blue-and-white striped tug,
Black tires nailed to painted hull,
Frothy wake behind.
Tide out, river calm.
Dots of seagulls, rolling waves,
Cormorant pops up,
Looks left, right, nothing to see,
Arcs and dives again.
For your holiday gift-giving pleasure. You don’t have to deal with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday (though it’s true I’m a Very Small Business), Cyber Monday, or Happy, Sleepy, Doc, or Bashful, either. Just order your Travel Calendar, your Flowers Calendar, or your Five Snouts of Mongolia, Plus Calendar (and where else are you gonna get THAT?) for a year of photos like these.
From 2016 Five Snouts of Mongolia, Plus
From 2016 Flowers
From 2016 Travel
Lots of fog in the past few days, much of it beautifully low-hanging enough to dissolve the tops of the towers on both sides of the river. Cormorants huddling on the pilings, gulls swooping, and a red-tail who seems to be making the neighborhood his home. Fingers of gold leaves from the locust trees lying in criss-crosses on dark wet stone. This morning, sudden silver bursts of fish jumping from the water right in front of my bench. I watched for a while hoping they were being chased by a seal who’d eventually surface. Seals from New England do winter in Jamaica Bay, but they don’t often come this far up the Hudson. I’ve only seen one here, about four years ago. Did not see one this morning. In the end I had to admit the predator was probably just a bigger fish.
Because I know you want to see it. Houdini was a Hungarian Jew, the son of a rabbi. Born Erich Weisz, he later spelled his last name Weiss because it was easier to explain. When he became a professional magician he called himself Harry after Harry Kellar, and Houdini after Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, two magicians he admired (though he later went on to expose Robert-Houdin as a liar, if not exactly a fraud).
Houdini’s buried in Queens, in what’s called the “cemetery belt” on the Terminal Moraine. (Really.) This is not the world’s best photo of his grave, but I had to take it from outside the fence, because when we went to see it, the cemetery gate was locked. That kept us out, though of course there’s no reason to think it’s keeping him in…
Flaw in heavy clouds.
Sun pours through, hits long ridge top.
Buildings all light up.
River flat and calm.
Fallen yellow leaves drift past
Two ducks breakfasting.
Cormorant takes off,
Flaps low over water's glass
To fresh fishing ground.
Two tween boys walking down the street pass a newly installed holiday display. One grabs the other’s arm, points, and in mock horror says, “Oh my god, WHERE is that bear TOUCHING him?” They both crack up and walk on.
I love New York.
Hidden inside cannon's mouth
Sparrow peeks from nest.
Splashes into blue-tiled pool
Darkening pale stone.
Green leaves yellowing.
Tiny lights wrapping brown bark.
Wind is soft, but cold.
Chinggis Khan would roll over in his grave if he heard me say that, except chances are he was never put in the ground. In his day people of importance often received “sky burials” — their bodies were taken to a high mountain and left for the birds to devour. It was an honor.
Chinggis is everywhere in Mongolia. The best vodka is named for him, and the best beer. Whatever it is, if it’s best, it’s called Chinggis. Outside Ulaan Baatar they’ve built a giant, by which I mean giant, statue of Chinggis on his horse, ready for battle. Stainless steel, with actually quite a good museum in the underground base. (Click on any of these to see more on Flickr.) You can go on up in it, like in the Statue of Liberty. How big is this thing? Back in the day they used to cut the horse’s manes short so they’d bristle. The bristles in the mane of Chinggis’s horse here are people.
The man himself.
Royal hand with scepter and distant gers.
He’s got his eye on you.
There is one problem, however. The place where you emerge from the statue into the light is perhaps not as well thought out as it might have been. Here’s me, emerging.