Sunday, August 24, 2008


On the other hand, the pound is falling....

I Heart NY

Today we rode our bikes from Brooklyn to Central Park and back again, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's latest trick, Summer Streets. Today from 7am to 1pm, Park Avenue was closed to cars, and packed with all manner of wheels. There were pedestrians too, but I think the freedom of riding up the avenue got the best of biker courtesy. NYC is a pedestrian's town everyday, but for a few hours on only three Saturdays, it was ours.

sir, can we have some more?

Maybe just one north/south avenue, all the time? OKay, I know that's asking a lot, but the cars get every road, every day. If we can't have a whole avenue, how about more lanes like the new one on Ninth Avenue?

We saw so much city. I finally saw the Bethesda Fountain. We rode bikes in Central Park. We rode down the West Side highway (which James does every time he takes film to Aporia, but it was my first). We stopped for a few minutes in front of James's old office on 32nd street, from the first year we lived here, and while there, ran into an acquaintance we haven't seen in a year.

The best part, by far, was riding straight up the face of the Grand Central Station, and then around the back, on the taxi route.

My usual bike commute has one tricky part, on Centre Street from the Brooklyn Bridge to below Spring street. The whole route was car free, and took half as much time, zero stress, and much joy.

My friend/academic adviser/bike mentor Bryan Waterman calls the experience "that gentle post-apocalyptic feeling." It was a trip.

Bryan and Cyrus R. K. Patell have invited me to contribute to the History of New York blog. I've written my first entry today, on Woody Allen. I taught the Writing New York course with them at New York University these past two spring semesters, and loved every minute (not spent grading). Now that I'm not teaching, I'm thrilled to have a new outlet for my New York crush. Check it out.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008


I'm starting to notice a pattern in our posts. I talk about food a lot.

We don't eat a lot while we're still working cause both of us get food coma sugar crash 45 minutes later and have to be mightily persuaded to go running after a shot. So it's a light lunch and coffees at four.

But dinner is another story: I love sitting down to dinner with James at the end of the day, to talk about all the people we met, and what we're going to shoot the next day, and all the crazy things that happened on location or on the road. Like that time the poor woman's suitcase started vibrating at baggage check--that really happened--or the time that rental car agent in Pula locked up his office and came with us to have a beer while we signed contracts and talked about global warming and the disappearance of the bees.

It's relaxing and makes sense, since there are two of us and we need to take some time out to confirm what we got, and what we don't got for the story at hand.

And then after dinner James takes me out looking for night shots. Romantic, right?

So I've got this rolling roladex in my head: where to eat in.... I get most of this information from magazines we shoot for, their shootlists, and I search the websites of budget travel (great printouts!) , travel + leisure, the new york times before we go, and I check chowhound on my phone if I'm really stuck on where to eat in say, Tulsa. I also keep a journal, so I know where to go next time, or if I happen to be in court (don't ask) and the guy sitting next to me waiting for his turn at the bench once lived in Budapest, and he's got tips for me. So ask me if you need a recommendation, or have one for me. I want to eat local everywhere we go, not because it's better for the planet (since, let's be honest, after the 12 flights we took last month, there's an an endangered ice shelf with our name on it) but because if you don't eat the food, you're not really there.

PS: here's what to eat if you find yourself in Istria --
Bottle of Malvazija
Grilled Squid to start
Bronzini, traditionally served with swiss chard and potatoes
Pasta with truffles
local sheep cheese plate

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Domino Loves Chicago (and so do we)

Tearsheets time: we've followed Domino's columnists to Chicago to check out the shopping and wine scenes. In last month's issue, we fought ice, snow and thieves (that subtitle: "Rita Konig suggests a GPS" is a little inside joke: hers was stolen from our car while we were shooting one of these locations. Avis rental car theft insurance does not pay for a stolen GPS, btw.) For this month's issue: we went back to Chicago a month later, and had another one of those lovely sandwiches at Lovely, and another cannoli at Pasticceria Natalina in Andersonville, oh, and shot a story on wine with Cynthia Kling. One page two: the photogenic staff of Domino!

One of the best perks of this gig was that we got got to sit in on Don Sritong 60-minute wine class too: "The best wine for you is the wine you like best!" I wish that were true (I have expensive tastes), but I learned to grow beyond my old method: to buy wines from places you've been only works so well. Case in point: Croatian Malvazija is absolutely delicious. But, they sell only one bottle at Astor Place Wines. So you are a little limited on choice there. Guess I have to go back.

Or figure out where the Croatians of New York hide the good stuff.

Pictures of us in Istria

I know what you really want to see: more pictures of us. Well here you go. Please vote in the comments section for your favorite contributors photo, just in case. At the base of the church above Piran, Slovenia:

Here's Jessie in Groznjan, a gorgeous artist and musicians village in the mountains. When the town was deserted in the 70s, the government gave it to the artists to use, for free. Now, a tourist destination. Ah, communism.

This one I took of James just after he came down from the tower of St. Euphemia church in Rovinj. The tower had just well-worn two by fours that wrapped all the way up. Thankfully, our next location was a lovely little restaurant.

Here's James again, at an ice cream parlor on the main square (an oval really) in Piran right after we wrapped the last roll.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

New Orleans

We're back, and we've just finished our laundry! And the captioning/editing should be all done by tomorrow. I wanted to keep you all updated from the road, but we decided that since the writers, especially the lovely Eleni Gage, had done such a good job researching and living these locations, to talk too much about them here would be an injustice, and of course, show up my miserable lack of editorial skills.

When we got back from Greece at Newark we stopped by home, dropped off our film, spent the night with our cats and turned right around and went to New Orleans for a cover shoot with Budget Travel. We had a great time comparing sweat patterns with the Amys while scouting, shooting, and eating eating eating. Our old friend Celeste helped out on set, we got to see Kat on her 35th birthday, and saw my brother as he left his home there for a new one in Belgium. Andy said with a big grin when he joined us at lunch at Cochon that I was "there in New Orleans when he got there and there when he left," "I've just been keeping it warm for you," he said, awhhhh (he's been doing a good job: it's got to be 100 degrees there).

It was funny being back in New Orleans again. It's been since New Year's 2007 since we've been back, and well, it's home only in the nostalgic, genealogical, and expositional tenses. To know us you have to know we're from there, but after eight years, I'm from New York too. I've almost lost the accent and become accustomed to the speed of life here in the Big City, but not enough far gone not to sigh and admire the easy place we're from.

We ran into people too: old bosses, classmates (shout out to Dick and Jenny's now run by Leigh Peters from photojournalism school and is just so fantastic), and got to hang with Leslie Parr and Ralph Adamo, our photo-mentor and favorite poet.

Notes on Greece

Speaking of Andy, while we were in Epiros, photographing a 14th Century monastery that perilously overhangs an endless gorge, I sent him a message, because as a backpacker I knew he'd dig the place. I sent him detailed coordinates of the hiking trail so he'd be able to look it up in google earth. No need. He was there with my dad a few years ago. They hiked the Vikos Gorge, stood just where we stood over the precipitous gap in the earth, and never told me about it. My dad was stationed in Albania at the time, so it's not a stretch geographically, but you gotta know that feeling when you look on a corner of the earth with awe, is a feeling too exotic for seconds.

James just made us an at home version of something we drank in Greece nearly continuously: the cafe freddo (which is Italian), but the locals drink a cafe frappe, made with nescafe and espresso, I think, blended like a milkshake with ice. Why don't we have these in New York!? The pitiful ice coffees from our local place just don't have that kick, or the cute straw. If anyone knows where I can get one here, let me know! James made a spinach pie that was good too, but it didn't have those 11 other herbs and greens from Epiros that makes a real pita. Thank goodness all our stores here carry Greek yogurt, or I might have missed my flight home.

In a meeting a few months ago I told a photo editor who asked us where we'd like to go, off the top of my head I said that we'd love to shoot a story on Greek food. The universe conspires... We keep a map of the world in my office, and a few years ago we started to put pins in the places we'd like to see next. We got five pins each. Out of those original ten places, we've already been to half. We moved 5 pins to new locations, and yesterday, we got to move the Greece pin to...Costa Rica. FYI: there's pins still in Buenos Aires, Mont St. Michel, Antigua, the Azores, New Zealand...

We learned a valuable lesson in Greece: another use for Polaroids. When there's a language barrier, we memorize the phrase: May we take your picture? (in greek, phonetically: Moo eh-pee-TREH-peh-teh na sass PA-ro fo-to-ghraf-EE-ah?) Everyone says yes, but it is a concession, a gift these subjects give us that allows us to do our job. We began taking an extra polaroid of the shot and giving it to them, the only thing we have to give as a gift to them in return. Never in my life as has something so simple been met with such joy! Giggles, smiles, profuse handshakes. It's fun to watch them pour over the shot with their friends, put it away carefully to take home. Medium format polaroid is gorgeous as most of you know, and not to brag, but the people we photograph seem pretty excited about how good they look. The beauty and generosity of these strangers who let us take their picture! It was a powerful daily reminder of the sheer power of the medium we have chosen to communicate through.