Solo in The City – A Photo Tour

Saturday morning the trade show didn’t start until 11 am, so I got up at 5 and hoofed it down to the south end of the island for a little sunrise photo shoot. It was far from ordinary. Here’s some of what I found.

The ride on the subway from Times Square to South Ferry was bizarre. I was in a train car completely alone for most of the ride. My car was stopped in a dark tunnel when the back door opened. A guy walked through to the front door and kept going. I was absorbed in the clatter and hiss of the exposed tracks until the door slammed shut. There was no one in the car behind me and one guy in the car in front of me. In a city of over eight million, I am the only bloody person on the #1 to Downtown. It was eerie to say the least. I sat in the empty car at the long stop, in the dark tunnel, and wondered if I should be more afraid than I was. Funny how when you hike a trail in the middle of nowhere, it’s unnerving when you run across another soul, but when you are sitting on a train in Manhattan, you are unnerved to not run across one.

But I made it and surfaced at Trinity Church on Wall and Broadway. There are still tombstones in Manhattan. I wouldn’t have guessed, but Trinity has some. Had it not been 15 degrees I would’ve wandered among them looking at dates. You’re wondering why I opened the south side tour with tombstones. Or maybe you aren’t. It was a bit of foreshadowing for what came next.

(I love the green lamps on the subway station on an otherwise almost gray photo.)

I walked eight blocks through the financial district without seeing a soul. They say the city never sleeps, but the bars close at 4 and if you want to get around without crowds, I’d suggest Saturday at 6 am. It was eerie and slightly uncomfortable. With a little imagination, it could be post apocalypse or something. No zombies, but I spotted a police car parked here and there and they were always manned. I found a tiny corner store that promised New York coffee, so I went in. (NY coffee is the 7-Eleven variety – brewed thick in a glass pot with a small assortment of creams and flavors to mix in yourself at the counter. Caffeine sans frouf.) The clerk was still the only person I had seen since surfacing from the subway. I walked on.
I wondered when they had put The Bull in a cage and if they’ll let him out someday. 
I read history of the country, written in strips along the sidewalks.

Then I rounded a corner and found what I was looking for. 

It was pretty difficult to stand between the new World Trade Center building and this mural all alone. In the previous block I had passed the Brooks Brothers building (One Liberty Plaza) and noticed the black siding was damaged, singed from fire, paint peeling and such. It’s the building that was used as a morgue in the days following. The new World Trade building is very close to complete, but not quite. It is surrounded with construction fencing and things which block the view of the ground inside the perimeter. “May we never forget” is inscribed in this long mural. I left with tears in my eyes and headed toward Battery Park where I got a decent photo of the beautiful new building, not quite finished (tiles missing in the upper right).

The winter skies and leafless trees added to the feelings of the morning, but soon the sun fell across Lady Liberty. I began to warm up in the sun while enjoyed finding these images at the park.

Still no one here. This image feels lonely and distant to me. I like that.
Amber waves of grain in the foreground, industry in the distance.
Sun on sleeping trees and cold blue glass.

I’ve always been enamored with military names on walls. When I was 14, I did a painting of the Vietnam Vets Memorial in DC from a photo I’d seen in National Geo. I never finished it but I still have it…

All the memorials around me sparked the memory of that unfinished painting. Anyway, I found these Navy memorial walls and loved the way the morning light fell across them, casting shadows of the lamp posts and dead trees.

Couldn’t decide which one I liked better, but the lower one has Liberty in it. The top one has all three lamp posts on the three walls.

Then the light grew and people started to stir. Runners through the park, dog walkers, ferry-bound folks. So I walked toward Brooklyn to see a bridge.
My friend Leslie and her husband Tim walked home from Manhattan, across the Brooklyn Bridge the day the towers fell in 2001 and for a long time after that I imagined walking across this bridge. But it wasn’t in me today.

On my way back I passed a Vietnam Memorial and a dead bird. There was also a pigeon breastbone on the steps leading to the boardwalk. I couldn’t tell if a cat or a human had got a hold of it, but neither of the dead birds seemed inconsequential. 
I walked back past the Staten Island ferry terminal and went inside to get this last photo before catching the train to Midtown for the open of the trade show. It was not a solo ride.