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Big Apple Unpeeled 8th October - 8th November 2010

Friday, 28 January 2011

Who needs friends when you've got New York City

I'm not sure if I heard this some where but I had this thought a lot whilst I was in New York.

In a city vibrating with so much energy, it felt like that was company enough at times. I thrived on that energy.

I'm often asked about what I love about the city.

I love the pride New Yorkers have in their town.

Big Apple Unpeeled blog New York City by Karen Strunks

I love the IN YOUR FACE, no holds barred, here I am attitude.

Hanging out with Ricky aka @dynamicimage

I love the diversity of it's residents

Disgraceland Family, Halloween, NYC by Karen Strunks

I love it's choices

Big Apple Unpeeled blog New York City by Karen Strunks

I love it's industriousness

Street Photography New York City by Karen Strunks

I love it's size and the feeling of anonymity

Big Apple Unpeeled blog New York City by Karen Strunks

I love that it's easy to make friends

New York Graffiti Artists in Queens, NYC

I love the feeling that you really can do and be anything you want to be!

Naked Cowboy, Times Square, NYC by Karen Strunks

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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Time Lapse Video of Sunset in Central Park, NYC

The day after arriving in Manhattan, I ventured to Central Park which was only a 30 minute walk away.

Before I left for NYC I'd been scouring the internet and had seen some amazing videos of sunset over the city and I set myself a mini project of capturing the sunset over Central Park.

The sun set at around 6.30 and I got there an hour earlier and set up my cameras.

I was over looking Sheep Meadow, on the south end of the park. I set my cameras rolling and people watched for the next hour. The office workers taking time to enjoy the park after a long day in the office, the kids playing, dog walkers and those just strolling and taking in the evening. I stayed there until the sun had set and a park warden came along, he walked into Sheep Meadow and shouted out that the gates were closing and everyone had to leave. I had secured my cameras to the actual gate that need to be locked so it was time to move on.

I stayed in the park a little longer and took a seat nearby two New York old timers and eavesdropped on the conversation. They were talking about how times have changed, old friends, their failing health, and good times too. Thank you to those two gentleman who let a tourist have an insight into their lives.

I hope you enjoy the video!

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Sunday, 2 January 2011

My first New York friend

Just hours after arriving in Manhattan I made my first friend. A true New Yorker to boot!

After arriving at my apartment and checking it out, pretty much the next thing I did, before I even unpacked, was to get myself hooked up online. I'll write more about staying online in New York later.

Everything in New York just seems so convenient. There doesn't seem to be much you can't get without having to travel too far at any time. The store for my mifi device was about 5 blocks away.

This was my first time stepping out onto the streets and meeting my neighbourhood. It was later afternoon, the sun was shining and despite a long journey I was fully of energy!

I picked up my device and started to wander back to my apartment and a small shop front caught my eye. It looked a bit new age-y, and I thought I might pick up a few incense sticks (I'm not sure why I took this notion as I never used them at home).

It was small inside and heavily scented with many candles burning and lots of curiosities housed on shelves. The guy behind the counter was speaking with a woman in Spanish. I continued my nose around and selected some incense and waited to be served.

The woman left the shop and the guy said "Hi. How are you doing?"

"I'm great! I've just arrived in New York!!" I was in NEW YORK! I was having my first proper conversation!! This was exciting!!

He introduced himself at Ezo, and we continued our chat. I told him about my plans for my stay and he told me about his art and his love of graffiti.

"Let's meet up for a drink later."

"Hmm, I'll think about it", I replied. A new girl in a new town. I was a little hesitant and said I would think about it and meet him back at the shop around 9pm if I wanted to go for a drink.

Now, believe me, I really don't make a habit of going out for a drink with any man that asks me. And I know appearances can be deceptive, but Ezo seemed like a genuinely nice guy, and I WAS IN NEW YORK! Let's celebrate that with a drink with a new friend.

So I met him later and we went to a bar at a bar at the end of my street. It was a warm evening and we sat outside, the heavy Manhattan traffic just feet away. Music was blaring from bars and cars, impatient drivers were sounding their horns, I was looking up at some of the biggest buildings I've ever seen and surrounded by New York accents from pedestrians walking buy. I couldn't take it all in fast enough.

And I had a friend! We chatted over our drinks and talked about NY. Ezo loves his city and really appreciates it too.

He offered to sketch me. Sure! So I struck a pose and stayed as still as I could for 10 minutes or so, making sure I could still see everything that was going on around me and thinking to myself, "I'm in New York, I'm in New York, how did this happen? You did it! You are here!".

Ezo had finished my sketch. I loved it! He wasn't so keen, saying he didn't get my eyes or chin right, but it looked pretty good to me. What do you think?

It was getting a bit late and my long day and all the excitement was finally catching up with me, so I bid Ezo goodnight, and we said we would keep in touch. And we did. I spent a day with Ezo in Queens with his graffiti friends and we went to the Halloween parade together. I'll write about those events later.

I made quite a few friends during my stay in NYC. I found it really easy. Maybe that was partly due to me not working and being out and about everyday. Maybe because I was more open to conversations with people. Maybe people are more forward in NY and will just strike up a conversation with strangers. As the days went on, I certainly noticed I was more forward and less hesitant in saying hello to people. I guess my English reserve didn't hang about for too long in Manhattan! :)

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Monday, 27 December 2010

Visiting the 911 Memorial Preview Site

Coincidentally, on the morning I decided to visit the 9/11 site it was in the local news that a generous benefactor had made a big cash donation to the Memorial Preview Site.

I caught a bus down town, taking in all the streets scenes that passed me by, and got off at the World Financial Centre. This distracted me somewhat from my route to the 911 site and I decided to explore the area a little.

There were lots of business-type people and office workers and stepping inside I was greeted by an array of restaurants. I walked through the lobby and out the other side which brought me to an open area which over looks the North Cove Marina.

View from the World Financial Centre Plaza, Manhattan, NYC by Karen Strunks

It seemed like a tourist free area, apart from myself, and the tourist helicopter passing by periodically, which broke the peace and quiet.

I gathered my bearings on my map and back tracked out of the World Financial Centre, took a right and walked over a bridge that led the the 9/11 building site. I stopped at a gateway of the construction site and got chatting to a construction worker. He told me he had his own business, but had put that on hold to work on the new site. He seemed genuinely happy to be working there and excited about the plans. Telling me that the new tower he was working on was going up at the rate of one floor a week (at least), he compared the building work to a jigsaw puzzle; once you have the initial pieces in place, it's easy to just slot in the rest.

There was some police presence around the site, but having said that, Manhattan seems to be pretty well policed all over. There had recently been some furore about the 'Ground Zero Mosque' and community centre, with opposers creating quite an ugly scene about it. I'm with Mayor Bloomberg on this one.

I made my way to the 9/11 Memorial Preview Site, and made a (rather emotional) video of that experience.

You can view photos from the book I refer to, Here Is New York, on their website.

I'll leave you with some of the images from my time at Ground Zero.

Building work at the former World Trade Centre, NYC by Karen Strunks

American Flag flying over the 911 site by Karen Strunks

Defy This World Deny Yourself, NYC by Karen Strunks

From the 911 Memorial Centre, NYC by Karen Strunks

Model of the new buildings planned for the September 11 site, New York, by Karen Strunks

Helmet Mickey Kross of Engine 16, FDNY

Here is New York Book 911 Photographs, NYC by Karen Strunksrs

Grieving at 911 Memorial Centre, NYC

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Friday, 17 December 2010

The Grand Central Terminal Experience

Continuing my walk along 42nd Street, my next stop was Grand Central Terminal.

If you haven't been there in person, you will certainly have caught glimpses of it in movies such as Carlito's Way, North By Northwest, The Taking Of Pelham 123 to name just a few.

It was early evening by the time I reached Grand Central and peak rush hour.

Grand Central Terminal, NYC, NY by Karen Strunks

I stood on 42nd Street just observing and trying to get my bearings and figuring out the way in. That bit was easy, I just had to follow the crowds.

Surprisingly to the entrance had swing doors that needed to be pushed or pulled, which although kept with the traditional features of the building, didn't do much to ease congestion at this busy time of the day. I made a note to try not to get in anyone's way; keep moving, don't stop suddenly or a commuter might run into me, step to one side if I have to stop and look around before taking up a position to take photos.

Without much of a plan or knowing the layout I stepped from the street into the terminal and paused.... Walking past some shops (there are 68 retails stores inside) and following the crowd I found myself in the entrance tunnel lit by beautiful chandeliers.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York

This led to the food hall which hosts food outlets that can satisfy any taste bud, from Chinese, to salads, to bagels and pretzels to Mexican and everything in between.

Feeling a little peckish I decided to stop and re-fuel and take in the atmosphere. I grabbed a bite to eat and a drink and wandered around with my tray looking for a spare seat, which I found underneath a stone archway.

People watching, I noticed the couple holding hands across a coffee cup strewn table, perhaps an illicit encounter I imagined. Parents trying to calm two unruly and overtired children. The homeless guy rummaging through the bin, looking inside discarded food containers for tonight's dinner.

To my left were a couple of business gents in their smart suits. One was particularly vocal, his voice resonating around the stone archway; sales figures, the big deal, overseas contracts, the team. He went on and on. "I'm a big wig" his talked seemed to want to tell everyone within earshot. I exchanged looks with his quiet partner who was fiddling with his empty coffee cup; Me: Poor you, he does go on doesn't he? Him: Yep! I wish he'd shut up about himself so I can get home and salvage what's left of the evening!

Finishing my diet coke and gathering my bags, someone was already waiting in the wings to take my seat.

I can't quite remember how now, but I managed to make my way to the upper level of Grand Central, the main concourse.

It's huge, it's beautiful, it's splendid. It echoes with the sound of rushed foot steps and the murmur of hundreds of voices in unison, occasionally interrupted by announcements on the tannoy.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

I took my place upon the steps that lead up to Charlie Parlmer's Metrazor restaurant (strictly no sitting on the steps!). With my view raised above the concourse I soaked it all in.

Grand Central Train Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

It was a regret that I didn't bring a tripod that day, but having since read more on Grand Central's terminal it's seems you need to give a weeks notice if you have the intention of photographing or filming with a trip. The sun was getting low and I had lost the light of the day, so my photo capturing had to be done with a steady hand, as fast a shutter speed I could manage, and with the occasional help of a ledge to rest my camera on.

I thought it would be a good chance to experiment with some time lapse video. Again, forgive the camera shakes, I will get better!

As with my visit to the New York Public Library earlier in the day, I wondered about the history and all the people that have journeyed through the terminal. The station would have seen many happy reunions and sad goodbye's.

I intrepidly stepped through the arch of track 25, not sure if I was allowed there without a ticket. No one seemed to notice. The tracks were darker, the walls covered in a build up of grime and pollution, but yet that gave it another appeal to me. It's funny how New York dirt adds to the character of the place, but in the UK it's just grime!

Train on Platform 24 at Grand Central Terminal

Empty train track at Grand Central Station, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

Taking another turn I noticed an entrance into long neon lit pedestrian tunnel. Hmm...was this for the station's staff? Should I go in? Ah, someone will trow me out if I'm not meant to be there!

Public Payphones at Grand Central Terminal, NYC, New York by Karen Strunks

A few seconds later I was walking against a stream of commuters rushing to catch their trains. Walking against the tide of people I shot from the hip.

New York Commuters Running for trains at Grand Central Station

Then I noticed some doorways onto some train tracks and I secreted myself just inside and clicked away unseen.

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

New York Commuters Running for train at Grand Central Station by Karen Strunks

I walked the length of the long corridor, which, if I remember correctly, took me out at around 45th Street. It was dark now and getting cooler, but not cool enough to put me off walking back to my apartment and soak in some more of the beautiful city of New York.

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Sunday, 28 November 2010

Exporing New York Public Library on 42nd Street

It was a bright and sunny Tuesday, when I decided to take a walk down the infamous 42nd Street. Having consulted the map I figured I could fit in the New York Public Library, Empire State Building and Grand Central Terminal.

I took a right out of my apartment, a right onto 9th Avenue and walked the seven blocks south to 42nd Street, the whole while I had the 42nd Street song from the musical playing in my head. I sang along (to myself!), but could only remember the lyrics, "Come and meet those dancing feet, on the avenue I'm taking you too, forty second street", but that was enough to keep me happy as I headed into and passed Times Square.

I took a little detour into Bryant Park and stopped to take some photographs of some very speedy chess players, who were deep in concentration.

Now, New York Public Library actually consists of lots of different branches, which consist of 87 libraries altogether! They serve the New York boroughs of Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island.

The main library that was my destination that morning, was built between 1902 and 1910, and has 75 MILES of shelves!

New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC

Upon entering the library and a security guard giving a cursory glance into my bag, the first thing I noticed was an unattended empty cloak room. I love old buildings and began to imagine the people who must have handed in their coats to the attendant over the years; the academics and the students. Perhaps grand events were held there and society ladies would undrape their furs and hand them in to the cloak room in return for a ticket.

Cloak Room in New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Not knowing the layout or having any particular plan, I just followed my nose along a corridor and found myself in what I think would be called a reference room. One side of the room was filled with metal shelves of heavy reference books, the other side hosted tables with lamps and studious looking people with their noses in books.

Reference Room in New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC

I started to take some photos with my DSLR which makes a clicking sound as the shutter opens and closes. This noise managed to raise a few heads from books and I was given some annoyed glances. Hmmm...

....I switched over to my Canon G9, my more compact, and quieter camera.

Now I must reveal my ignorance! When all the immigrants from other countries arrived in Ne York, I had no idea their details were so meticulously recorded! But here was the evidence, before my eyes.

Record of Famine Immigrants - New York Public Library 1846

Germans to America list of passengers arriving in USA ports

I was more or less just looking at these records randomly, though with hindsight I wish I had spent more time in this section of the library.

New York Times Obituaries 1858-1968 New York Public Library

With Strunks being such an unusual name, I though I would see if I could find some possible ancestors.

But with no luck! I'm sure if I had of delved into a few more books, particularly the German immigrant books, I would have found a Strunks or two.

Moving on, and up a flight of stairs I found this sun drenched area.

Artwork in hallway of the New York Public Library rs

And looking up, this hand painted ceiling.

Ceiling artwork inside New York Public Library, 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Further exploration made me stumble across a photography gallery. I imagine this space is always reserved for photography. Near the couple standing to the right of the photo is a water fountain. There seemed to be a few of these dotted about the corridors.

Photography gallery in corridor of New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

I was trying to find the reading room, but didn't want to ask for directions. There is a certain pleasure to be gained from getting lost from time to time!

Eventually heading in the right direction, I stopped to capture this message engraved above the door that lead towards to the reading room.

New York Public Library, NYC

"A good Booke is the pretious life blood of a mafter fpirit, imbalm'd and treafur'd up on purpofe to a life beyond life"

Actually, there are two reading rooms, though one is marked 'no photography'. Perhaps the reading room that does allow photography attracts a less shy library user!

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

Although the room is lined with reference books, the main thing that people were looking at were their laptop and computer screens.

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

As you can see, the room is lit my some beautiful chandeliers, as well as the light that streams in from the window. Floor to ceiling it measure 52ft!

The reading room inside New York Public Library (NYPL), 42nd Street, NYC by Karen Strunks

I tried a little time lapse photography.

Click to view video on youtube.

And I put the photos to music, if you like that sort of thing!

It was certainly worth a visit, I just wish I had allowed myself a little more time there to explore all the books!

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