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Tag: New York City

I Walked Out of my Childhood Home for the Last Time

I grew up in an apartment on the Upper East Side of New York City. It’s where my father and I posed for this fun picture that my mother took decades ago. This place held so many memories…

This past week, I closed down my father’s apartment, the same place where I grew up. When I shut his front door for very last time, the lock clicked with a painful finality. I will never walk in again.

He’s been gone for almost two months now, and I’ve been spending all of my spare time going through his belongings and clearing out his apartment.

I powered down his Verizon Internet modem and cancelled his phone number that was in place for almost six decades. It originally began with an ‘R’ and an ‘E’ (reflecting the word, ‘Regency’) instead of the corresponding numbers ‘7’ and ‘3.’ I can still remember how he used to proudly repeat the classic version of the numerical sequence, “My number is Regency 7…”

Last week, the movers came, and his furniture vanished. And then I finally walked into the moment I had been dreading for weeks. His place was entirely empty.

And then I had to shut the door.

Yes, it’s been a punishing few weeks.

Saving Memories
My father’s apartment was his castle. He filled it with objects and things that he loved. It was his own little museum.
My father seemingly drew energy from his home. I was influenced by that growing up. How could I not be?

In some ways, I approached clearing out his apartment like a type of evacuation. I searched urgently to uncover the most meaningful objects and photos to save.

But I think I wasn’t rescuing his belongings as much as trying to save my own memories.

It feels complicated.

A Child of the Building
Plus, I can’t help but accept the reality that I’ve also been struggling with the emotional loss of this Upper East Side Manhattan apartment that I grew up in and returned to across my entire life.

The 21-story apartment building and I were effectively born at the same time. My parents and baby Barrett were among the first to move in. And my dad was the last original resident.

I feel a type of cosmic connection to this place. I’m not talking only about the 15th floor apartment. I mean the entire building.

We grew up together. As a child on Halloween, I roamed its hallways each year with a small band of kids. I was there when the building was dark for 25 hours during the New York City blackout of 1977.
I have walked through its lobby with my father across the decades and two redesigns.

I am a forever child of the building.

And now, I am cast out.

I’m just beginning to deal with the loss of my father. Saying goodbye to his apartment is another blow.

I moved out decades ago, but I never really left.

My Mom’s Kitchen Pot
During the apartment clean out, I also ran across a number of my mother’s belongings, not to mention everything of hers still in the kitchen, which was her domain for over 40 years.

She’s been gone since 2006, and much of the kitchen froze in time from that point forward.

Recently, back home in Norwalk, my wife was cooking chickpeas and accidentally burned them, and the pot was ruined.

The next day, I found myself standing in my mom’s kitchen, and the perfect replacement pot appeared right in front of me.

It looked almost new, and it was, of course, spotless. Even with a light coating of dust, my mother’s pot still sparkled. And it called it me. So I stashed it away in the black transport bag I had.

After all of these years, my mom was seemingly still looking out for me. Still anticipating my every need. (Yes, she was always an over-protective Jewish mother.)

But I really appreciated this imagined effort…that somehow she was able to reach out across space and time with this loving gesture.

And as today is my birthday, I think I’ll extend out my psychological projection a little further.

Thank you, Mom for your birthday present. It’s perfect.

Yes, both my parents are now gone. And I’ve walked out of their apartment and the original center of my universe for the last time.

I’ve saved some meaningful items, a few pieces of furniture that my family and I will repurpose and lots of photos that need to be digitized.

If there’s any kind of silver lining to this grueling experience, it’s this: Perhaps I don’t have to entirely say goodbye to my childhood home. The memories of my life there continue to live inside of me.
And the photos I’ve retrieved will hopefully help to maintain the memories for generations to come.

Time to Move Forward
So now what? I’ve done a lot of doing. My back is sore, and I’m tired.

All of the physical work is finally done. I’ve returned home. I am present again.

It’s time to start some emotional healing.

I think that’s the best birthday gift I can give myself.

How to Improve your Street Photography by Ignoring the Details

Usually there’s not enough time to focus on setup when capturing a photographic moment. So don’t. Here’s what to do instead.

When you walk about in the city, do you sometimes see moments that would make for a perfect photo, if only you had a camera in your hand? Yes, me too. In fact… all of the time.

Sure, my iPhone is always right there in my pocket as I move throughout New York City, and I often grab for it to capture a fleeting image right in front of me. It’s all about how fast you can get off a couple shots before the scene shifts and the opportunity evaporates. I can’t tell you how many photos I’ve missed over the years that were taken just a few seconds too late.

Use a Camera Strap to Speed Up your Response
Wearing your camera around your neck can trim away critical seconds, as you don’t have pull out your camera.

I recently bought a strap made by Peak Design (Slide Lite) for my Panasonic Lumix LX10. I got it for my family’s trip to Grand Canyon and the famous mule ride we took along the rim.

The strap was originally a one-use purchase. Why would I ever want to ruin the small form factor of my compact camera by attaching a bulky strap to it? But then I tried an experiment and wore the camera during one of my trips into New York City. And I quickly realized that strap was my ticket to better street photography.

Be Ready for the Photo
Discarding the concern that I would look like a tourist, I’ve now worn my camera several times walking uptown from Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan to visit my father. And let me tell you, having my camera right there near my hand is a game changer.

If you wonder why you may see any number of people walking about the city with cameras in their hands or about their necks, I think they’re all waiting for the next photo to appear. And they intend to be ready!

Point and Press
In my ongoing exploration of street photography, I’ve also been trying out an alternate shooting strategy. It’s simply to proactively point my camera at a potential scene as I walk by. Before I actually see anything worth capturing, I press the shutter a few times, move on and hope for the best. It’s all about playing the odds that the camera captured an image I didn’t have time to spot and process.

It’s about meeting a moment and reviewing it later to see if there’s actually any visual interest in it.

Happily, this technique has yielded unexpected success.

Photo Finish at the Track
My father likes to tell a story from the 1970’s when he practiced his own amateur photography with his old SLR camera. He was at Yonkers Raceway and had a seat up close near the finish line. As the horses crossed by in a flash, he simply squeezed his shutter button to burst through his 36-photo film roll.

Later, when he picked up his developed pictures from the photo store, he quickly sifted through the group. He saw a bunch of useless mushy blurs… all except for the last photo. It was perfect. It was like a shot you’d see on the sports page of the New York Post.
My father met the moment, pointed in the right direction, and his camera did the rest.

Your Speed Factor
Whether you see a moment or anticipate one, snapping your photo as quickly as possible is the key factor to better street photography. Plus, it really doesn’t matter what you see. It’s what your camera captures.

So, you might want to ignore more of the details and focus most of your attention on getting your camera going and its general position. Keep it simple. There’s often not more time for much else. You probably won’t know if you got ‘the shot’ until you review it later.

I’m still very much a student of this art form. That said, here are a few examples from my recent walks in Manhattan.

My Childhood Diner is Gone

Nothing is forever. Especially not restaurants. Last week, I lost the diner I grew up with. Here’s my homage to the end of this 91-year-old institution.

For my entire life, the Green Kitchen was the local diner down the street from where I grew up in New York City. It was a fixture on the corner of 77th and First Avenue in Manhattan. The decades passed, and it went through ownership changes. But it always remained.

I remember it when I was a young child, and my parents took me out for dinner there. That was always so much fun. And until last month, I would order take-out from the Green Kitchen to have lunch at home with my 89-year-old father.

Even during the years when the upstart 3-Star Diner across the street competed for customers (and yes, we ate there often), the Green Kitchen’s sign always glowed strong.

Then, right before the pandemic, the 3-Star Diner closed. (Talk about timing.) But the Green Kitchen stuck it out, and eventually reopened. There was nothing stopping it. Year after year. Decades meant nothing.

My Final Visit to the Green Kitchen
Last week, I called and ordered lunch for take-out when I was visiting my father. I went downstairs and around the corner. I walked up and pulled the diner’s door like I must have done hundreds of times. It didn’t open.

I looked up and read the sign on the door stating that the Green Kitchen had closed forever.

What?! It took a moment to register. I felt like I had slipped into an alternate universe. I had just called and ordered the sandwiches. I know I had spoken to someone! (Was he a ghost?)

Then, reality snapped back into place. I remembered that the Green Kitchen had a sister location on 84th and 2nd Avenue. My call had obviously been routed there.

So, I schlepped over to pick up our lunch, and as I walked the extra distance, I pondered this shakeup in my world order.

It’s not like restaurants don’t close all the time. But this place had been around my entire life. And the 84th Street location wasn’t going to be close enough to really replace the loss.

Sharing the News with My Father
When I finally got back to my father’s apartment, I told him the bad news. I was a bit worried how he would take it. It’s been a constant for him as well.

But he brushed it off like I was giving him a mediocre weather report.

My dad has always been about appearances. So perhaps he wasn’t revealing his true feelings. Or maybe it just hadn’t sunk in yet. And just perhaps, he’d gone through enough shake-ups in his life that this one really wasn’t that significant. (If so, it’s nice to see that my father can still teach me a thing or two.)

The good news is New York City is filled with restaurants and diners. So I think it’s just a matter of choosing a new one. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

Thanks for the Memories
Yes, I’m feeling nostalgic. Another fixture from my childhood is gone. I know it’s just a place. But it held a lot of happy memories.

Thank you, Green Kitchen.

Now, it’s time to move on.

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