Nature Needs Nature

farb With 30 pounds hoisted over his shoulder, Nathan Farb, the Adirondack Park’s Greatest Photographer, darts around Lake George looking for a shot. He usually focuses on the deep woods, back bogs, alpine tundras and remote ponds but not today. Today, he’s all mine for a short news feature but I can barely keep up with his 70 yr. old energy. Finally, he rests his 8×10 Deardorff camera on a grassy hill overlooking Lake George. His camera is ancient, build in 1910, but it captures 50% more detail than a 35mm and his 7 best-selling picture books prove it. The “nature of nature” is how Farb describes what he takes. His work is truly stunning and beautiful and his philosophy on interdependency is even more revealing than his photos. He sums it up perfectly in the following passage: “There’s a persistent conception of nature as a test for the self. Surviving on one’s own in the wilderness for a few days proves one’s mettle or so the thinking goes. Like many young people, I approached nature this way as a teenager; it was a means of affirming my manhood. But today, I no longer look at nature in this light. Due to a car accident that left my daughter disabled and depending on people I changed my attachment to the idea of nature as a test. I began seeing nature as a means by which a person could measure one’s interdependence, the connectivity of things, especially in nature. Just as my daughter depends on others for her survival; so too, do species in the wild depend on each other for their own survival. There is an immeasurable and implicit beauty in this interdependence.”
I couldn’t agree more Mr. Farb and for those out there who think differently – your not living, your merely surviving.

What's all the hype about?

dylan An interview with 60 Minutes, a birthday celebration at Union College, a soldout concert at Wahconah Park, a best-selling memoir and a Nobel Peace Prize for song writing – Bob Dylan is saturating media headlines lately and being that I’m just a casual fan of his enigmatic music I wanted to understand what all the hype’s about. So I decided to Netflix the cinema vérité “Don’t Look Back” last night. It’s a 1965 documentary that follows his 4-week tour through England. Half way through I realized I was wasting precious time. Why the media dubs him the “American Bard” and fans flock to him like he’s a Messiah is beyond rationalizing. Almost immediately he portrays himself as an aloof, antagonistic, ego-inflated, selfish, and insecure lightweight in this film. Albeit clever at times his words are incomprehensible, caustic, and cruel. The star has little self-awareness or perception of reality and is completely indifferent during the Q&A with reporters . Did Pennebaker (Director and Crude Camera Op) intend to capture and exploit this terribly ugly side of a folk genius or is Dylan himself just playing up his insecurities because he’s not comfortable with all the attention? Who do I blame – the man, the media or myself for passing judgement because of a film shot 4o years ago? It might not seem fair that I have contempt for a man who, many argue, should be judged on his art rather than his personality but I don’t care. The wholesome grittiness of his voice, the beauty in his lyrics, and even the accolates of his success DO NOT transcend the jerk that he so obviously is. Grow up already.

Biking Bravely

brooklynbridgeTo finish up my weekend in the Big Apple, my SCUBA buddy offers an bike trip through Riverside Park and down the West Side Highway. What was suppose to be a relaxing jaunt down the West Side corridor turned into a 4 hour excursion through Battery Park, Southside Seaport, over the Brooklyn Bridge, back up the West Side, through Central Park and home again. Not that I’m complaining – even on 2 wheels I thrive behind anything in motion. Our journeys begin on a 6-mile footpath along the Hudson. It offers rollerbladers, walkers and runners a place to escape the busy city streets along with enough room for bikers. We break for H2o and befriend an old Italian fisherman on a beautifully restored pier using sharp-toothed bloodworms as bait. My SCUBA buddy is totally grossed out but I can’t stop taking pictures of his mammoth-size night crawlers. He carefully hooks his line and cast into the deep. He admits that he trusts the fish from the dirty Hudson but more often throws them back. We continue our journeys past the Intrepid Aircraft Carrier, Jacobs Javits Center, Chelsea Piers, and the World Trade Center holocaust grounds. Battery Park is jammed with sightseers waiting to board a ferry to the Statue of Liberty. At Robert F. Wagner Park is a pavilion and one of the cleanest public restrooms, by NY standards, I’ve ever seen. Onward we press, through Wallstreet’s tight narrow cobblestone streets, past fishy-smelling Southside Seaport, until we reach Brooklyn Bridge. This magnificent and grand edifice is the crowning jewel of this ride – bridges usually are for me. It spans the East river and has one of Rachael’s favorite icecream shops waiting on the other side. After 4 scoups, ominous sky’s overhead have us sprinting up to 57th to Angela’s favorite burger hangout. After chaining our bikes to scaffolding we discover our eatery is closed for a private party. Had we looked a little better we would have crashed it but instead we opt for white pizza across the street. Despite the saddle soars, the smell of exhaust, the close-calls with cabbies, and angela’s backtire spitting water up at my face, I’m loving every minute of this exhausting adventure. Next time it’s a 3-hour high-wire trapeze act and kayake adventure! Anybody like to join us?

Spring Rites in the Lower East Side

masks After a wonderful rooftop brunch with my bohemian artist friend Jennifer, we make a pilgrimage to Manhatten’s Lower East Side for the 15th annual Earth Celebrations Spring Procession (a not-for-profit organization). This tribute to Mother Earth in an urban world is also a way of preserving 35 East Side gardens from becoming parking lots and highrises. It’s a day long fiesta of art, ritual, performance, music, dance and poetry for over 10,000 spectators. We arrive just in time for the visually-decadent parade of costume-wearing garden characters. People dressed as Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, etc. weave in and out of city blocks spreading ecological understanding of the importance and fragility of gardens. In a city with over 1.5 million (not counting the boroughs) this small collection of artists and gardeners is also spreading a sense of pride and activism in their community. I revel in this stuff! My favorite is the cacophony of sounds marching in step – Brazilian, African, and Dominican music drown out a lonely butterfly singing a charming tune on her accordian by the sidewalk. It’s really a sight to behold. Finally, a mythical drama is enacted in the Green Oasis Garden, ending with a beautifully adorned paper-mache butterfly angel flying from the 6th Street Apartment Building by wire to the middle of the Avenue B Garden. Supposedly the butterfly symbolizes a message of hope and renewal being brought to the city, but, unfortunately, half-way down, a tree branch stops it dead in it’s tracks. With a roar of applause and laughter from below we all stare at the sight of this man-made pinata-looking insect stuck in a tree. It’s just so typical of the craziness and silliness that keeps me coming back to NYC again and again and again.

S&M in the Big Apple

backoff Between saddle soars, foot blisters and threading eyebrows, my weekend in the Big Apple has S&M written all over it. First up, the 3rd Annual Burlesque Show at the Hiro Ballroom, Maritime Hotel on the lower West Side. This crazy event draws acts from all around the world, including my adorable little curly-haired juggler from Dallas, Texas. His balancing strip tease act is a scream – while dressed in drag, he balances a glass of wine on his forehead and peels away. It’s absolutely wonderful! My SCUBA buddy, the gorgeous Miss Angela Jensen, fixes me up ala Goth Motif – chunky black boots, blood red lips and a whimsical girlie braid for that twenty-something look. Angela revels in her “back-off-bitch” look, donning fish-neck stockings, an army-camo skirt, and a jean jacket. The winds start to howl and suddenly there’s a torrent of rain outside. Not to despair the subway is only a block away and we don’t look any different than what’s riding on it. The line to the Hiro Ballroom stretches down the street, a sold-out event. Even Sarah Ferguson Windsor, or as she’s more popularly known, party girl Fergie — Duchess of York is spotted entering. There’s 50 acts total and my juggler doesn’t go on until after 1am. During a distraction, Angie and I snake past the VIP guards into Fergi territory. We don’t see her and neither do we find any seats. The show begins; extreme titillation, transvestites, cross dressers, transexuals, smutty humor, French music – no, I’m definitely not in Kansas, err, I mean Albany, anymore. After watching my 15th strip tease (where the hell are the straight men at?) my feet are throbbing and burning. It’s as if I’m walking over hot coals sans meditation to ease the pain. “I want my Fila’s back!” I scream from inside. We shamefully bail early, hey, feet before flesh and… To be continued…..

Survival of the Fittest

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission” says my favorite coworker, Videographer Jim Felitte. He couldn’t be more right. I think about all the ways we push the envelope to get CBS stories covered, from breaking the rules of the road to having nerves of steel confronting hostile situations. Repeatedly, I’m befriending security, police, politicians, and PR people to get what I need for the story. It sounds unethical, even immoral, definitely cunning or crafty, though I conclude it’s more survival of the fittest than anything disengenious. We all say and do things that has us walking a fine line of honesty and dishonesty. It’s usually just a matter of semantics, personality, and patience that keep me from shooting nothing to shooting an exclusive. It’s terribly conflicting compromising your beliefs (ie. all those little white lies) to get the job done but you do what you need to. In an increasingly “big-brother-is-watching” kind of world you really need to keep close perspective on your own principles, scruples, and standards. Big Brother (ie. media management in my case) breathes without a conscious and can and will, at any time, dismiss your experience and talent for cheaper labor. It’s all about money. It’s not a conspiracy, just read the papers, it’s happening everywhere – in the cut-throat working world of employees and management, the artist and liberal intelligentsia world and the tertiary world of higher education. No place is safe. Unlike love (oh sweet love!) nothing is forever, everything is changing and not always for the better.