Not Being Mauled by a Dog -or- How I Learned to Hate Driving in New York

Location: Pennsylvania, Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street

Subjects: ruins, living people, dead people, protests, waaaay too many words, other jazz

Thanks to Mark, Bruce, Charlie, and Toby for putting up with me for a week, and to Joann, for the wonderful home cooking and the lovely carved wooden toys she made for me to use in my studio.  

For the third time in about a year I found myself in Scranton, PA. I worked during the week but had, as my only necessary photography target to get at some point, this building:

This is the outside of the Scranton Lace Company’s factory, in operation for over 100 years. They closed down in 2002, abandoning the factory and leaving the place as a living museum. I was salivating over the opportunity to photograph the interior, but alas, it was recently acquired for redevelopment and is no longer abandoned. I tried contacting someone with the new company but apparently I wasn’t important enough for a return phone call. Oh well.

In any event, there are now a lot of perimeter cameras and shiny, new looking “Beware of dog” signs at various places on the exterior. While I have no problem walking into an abandoned structure, I generally don’t trespass, especially when there’s a threat of being some dog’s chew toy.  I left Scranton a very sad panda.

For some beautiful photography of the site, I highly recommend a taking a glance at Tom Bejgrowicz’s work from a few years ago. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, plus a cool video.

I had all of Saturday and part of Sunday to myself, so I decided to drive into Manhattan and visit Occupy Wall Street to see what was going on. Some quick observations:

  • I was surprised at how relatively small the park was.
  • I was surprised at how many people, both protesters and visitors, were at the site (walking inside the park meant being crushed basically).
  • I’ve never seen so many police officers in one place before. The protesters didn’t seem to be causing any trouble, so mostly the cops were just hanging around and talking to each other.
  • I’ve never seen so many people with cameras, and I’ve been to the Academy Awards. I have a thought about this, including why #OWS made me angry, but I’ll save that for the end of the post so that you don’t get bored.
Here’s a general shot from one side of the park.  Tents and people were everywhere.  I didn’t take many photos of the people themselves, as most of the ones I could have easily photographed I largely found annoying and not worth photographing.  Instead, I tried to find personal touches on the living spaces, some of which are shown below.

 

 

I had tickets (required) to see the 9/11 memorial, so after visiting OWS I headed over. I should thank the protesters for occupying a park so close to the memorial, as it really allowed me to maximize my time.  So…Thanks!

The memorial itself is quite pretty, although it didn’t feel particularly sacred yet. The amount of security you have to go through to get in coupled with the huge amount of construction surrounding the site made it hard to lose yourself.  That will change as things come to completion.

Here’s one of the pools situated where a tower previously stood.

I saw this sign just outside the fence at an adjacent construction site. I think it’s funny when signs are written in the first person, as they remind me of the old–and often silly–propaganda posters from World War II.

I’m a very tactile person and like to touch things. I’ve been known to walk through Barnes and Noble just to feel the embossed book covers. I made it a point to walk portions of the memorial without looking at them, and instead let my hand simply feel the names. It’s a different way to appreciate the sad fact that all we have left of these people are carved letters.

I came to a name and was puzzled by how long the unbroken string of letters was. Looking down I saw this reference to a lost pregnant woman and her child. All of the names are tragic, but the addition of a child made me think about the process of life, and how easily it’s interrupted. This woman probably had a baby shower planned in the not too distant future.

I think i saw 3 flowers on different names at the memorial. Lots of people stopped to photograph them, realizing what a powerful shot it would make. I wanted to take the photo too, but I didn’t want to be part of a parade of tourists taking bad photos of a very intimate display. I walked around and felt the names for a little while longer and thought about the photo I wanted. I decided that reverence was the proper approach, and took the photo whilst on my knees.

I tried to get myself onto a helicopter to shoot the area from above, but didn’t have luck. I hoofed it over to the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset and took a series of mostly bad photos. I have the uncanny luck of having nice weather when shooting bridges; why can’t I ever get clouds?

I went back to OWS for a bit, which seemed to come to life as the evening got going. I then discovered the special hell that is driving out of lower Manhattan. 2-lane streets become 3-4ish, lights don’t work in unison, the Holland tunnel converts something like 12 lanes into 2, and if you’re really lucky like I was, there’s significant construction on the other side of the tunnel.  It took me over an hour to go about 1/2 mile.

I, Jake Reinig, 5th Duke of Holland, do solemnly swear never to drive in Manhattan again unless my life depends on it. I’ll think about it in the event that yours depends on it.

I stayed in Pennsylvania Sunday and pursued some targets my friends Mark and Bruce proposed. I got up super early one more time to try and get over my worries about entering the lace factory but decided not to. Wuss. :)

Here’s a shot of an old building and bridge from the late 1800s on Lake Scranton.

I haven’t looked it up, but I think Lake Scranton might be part of a water control district, as there were important looking buildings spread around the outside. I came to this gate and couldn’t help but laugh. What’s the point of putting barbed wire on the gate if you can just walk around it?

For some reason, I got an image of a British buddy/burglar comedy while looking at this scene. Imagine the two bungling guards from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film.

Russel, whispering: “‘Ey Willie. Why are you usin’ a ladder to climb o’er the fence? We can just walk around it right ‘ere!”

Willie: delicately working his way over the barbed wire: “If we wasn’t meant to climb o’er the fence, why wouldst they ‘ave put barbed wire at the top?”

Russel, scratching his head: “Good point ol’ chap. That’s usin’ the ol’ bonce!”

I got lost in Wilkes-Barre and happened to pull over into a random, secluded parking lot. This awesome and quite large sculpture greeted me.

As it turns out, I was nearly across the street from where I wanted to be, which was an old train station turned abandoned multi-car train restaurant turned stray cat hotel. I’ve always thought that if I knew a real person with a silly name like “Banana Joe” that I probably wouldn’t like them very much. Apparently, no one else liked Banana Joe and his Island Party either. In the reflection is another of the cars, now left to the cats.

I took a number of photos of the train station and other cars, but they turned out just sort of…blah.

 

While driving I came across two neighboring cemeteries in Wilkes-Barre. Both were beautiful and both had some very old graves. One of them looked abandoned and in pretty bad shape. Large parts of it were overgrown and graves were knocked over and worn.  Near the river behind the older one was a large ruined building that I wanted to photograph. As I approached it I saw smoke, which I’m pretty sure was coming from a homeless person’s lunch. I decided to leave them be and to come back another day.

In addition to studying computer science and photography, I spent 6 years of my life studying history. Thus, I have a very strong affinity for cemeteries, leaving myself to wonder what life was like for these individuals. These particular cemeteries held people born in the 1700s and possibly earlier, which for some reason is just fascinating to me. Add the melancholy of abandonment and I’ve got the makings for a very personally interesting shoot.

I’ve not seen this elsewhere with this frequency, but throughout the parks were many headstones that only had single word titles on them. I’m not sure if this was from lack of money or lack of interest. Seeing a tombstone simply inscribed with “baby” on it made me sad, as that was probably a heavy loss to a rather poor family.

 

A hill in the abandoned cemetery.  As an aside, even in the abandoned cemetery someone still went around and put flags on veteran’s headstones. Despite many of the markers being so old that the inscriptions were completely gone, and despite many being overgrown or knocked over, this person or group still found them to provide a small tribute.

My last shared photo. How’s this for a nice place to spend eternity?

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More thoughts on Occupy Wall Street:

As I mentioned earlier, I found myself frustrated with the OWS crowd. Although the Arab Spring got the ball rolling, they’re on the vanguard of what is perhaps the most important spontaneous political movement of the last 50 years.  The Occupy movement has spread to something like 1,500 cities around the world. And yet, what I saw at the park was typical disjointed American protest. Lots of people hawking junk merchandise, trying to educate people about this environmental cause or that anti-government project, and just in general being out of touch hippies. I have no problem with these individuals holding these beliefs and being passionate about them. I generally agree with a lot of them and wish more people did too.

However: for whatever reason, the country and world has decided that the time is right to give these people a stage. They may never have a chance like this again, and they can’t agree on a single guiding principle or goal to trumpet.  They have literally thousands of tourists coming by each and everyday to see what’s going on. A marketer couldn’t ask for a better opportunity to drive home the key points.

If I had even the least bit of sway over the group, I would try to organize around one goal and then run with it. Talk to every tourist about it. Put it on all of our signs. Talk to the media about it. Get it into the evening news and make it sound legitimate so that regular Americans can agree. The vast majority of Americans are unhappy with the state of our nation, but they simply can’t relate to some college kid with dreadlocks talking about composting or legalizing marijuana.

I’ll admit that I laughed when I saw a sign that read “We’re here, we’re unclear, get used to it.” Funny stuff, but so very, very frustrating.

I’m not the first person to suggest this, and I think most of the protest groups sort of understand this, but the single biggest message should be about a constitutional amendment stripping businesses (and other non-human groups, like unions) of the ability to act as political individuals. That is to say, businesses should not have the ability to spend any money on politics whatsoever, and they should not have free speech rights in the way humans do.  The conscience of the nation’s people can’t compete with the power of our largest companies to buy politicians.

Everything else can be worked on once this has been accomplished, and this one is relatively easy. There’s no way this will get done by the Federal government, but it can be started at the state level.

Near the end of my visit to OWS a guy stood up at one corner and announced to the OWS crowd that there would be a teach-in on some random government installation doing chemical testing or something. In the time that speech would happen, hundreds or thousands of tourists would pass by. How much better would it be to turn around and educate tourists on a single talking point that they can take home and get angry about? Instead, this guy was going to preach to the choir. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

In their defense, I’m not camped out, so really, what room do I have to criticize? I just wish they would take this opportunity to unify and achieve, rather than be disorganized and just make noise.

Maybe I should get involved and get ish done. Vote Jake Reinig for President in 2016, would you?

2 Responses to Not Being Mauled by a Dog -or- How I Learned to Hate Driving in New York

  1. random November 11, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Reinig 2012! pair up with Cain… what a combo!

  2. Jo Ann November 14, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Jake, I love the pictures from Scranton and NYC. The pictures from the 9/11 memorial are superb. I recently read a book by Edie Lutnick (from Cantor/Fitzgerald) and she explains how she and so many families agonized over where and how to place the names of the victoms. She would be so honored by your photos. Your choice of names, especially the unborn child, made me cry. And then, on your knees….omg Jake, how sweet and respectful. I loved it!

    I will continue to keep watch as to how we can get you into the Scr. Lace Co. This is a small town and so we will find a connection somehow…..even if I have to take pictures myself. (Now, there is a creepy thought.)
    Keep up the good work.
    Jo Ann

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