Buddy & Johnny: A Historic Photo Shoot

Last week I posted this photo on the Vintage Workingmen Beefcake Facebook page and people lost their minds: Over 2,200 likes and 200 comments from members young and old, tripping over their tongues… and not a negative post in the bunch, if you can believe that. “Who is he?” many wanted to know.

It’s hard to place the date just by looking at the photo – the hirsute young man looks modern – this could be taken today and filtered in sepia tone. And while many a vintage photo of presumably heterosexual men are co-opted by gay men who like to spin fictional tales speculating the circumstances surrounding an image, there are a few clues here that give the subject away: The artwork – on the wall and nightstand – seem to corroborate that this guy is very well aware of who he is and why you are looking at him.

The model is Robert X. (Buddy) McCarthy – a WWII veteran described by author David Leddick as “a former gymnast from Boston with a sharp Irish wit.” The photo dates 1952 and was taken by George Platt Lynes in the boudoir of his own NYC apartment. The painting on the wall behind Buddy is Conversation Piece by Paul Cadmus (1940) and depicts Platt Lynes with museum curator Monroe Wheeler and writer Glenway Wescott, a couple with whom he was romantically involved. In the background is Stone-Blossom, the New Jersey farm the three of them shared for over a decade.

In his letters, Platt Lynes referred to McCarthy affectionately as “The Baby Blacksmith.” He writes to friend Bernard Perlin; “(He) does me the honor of declared infatuation. And I purr like a tiger puss.”

While it is McCarthy’s body hair that garners immediate attention in this and a couple of other studio photos taken by Platt Lynes, the photographer apparently was not happy with the results.

He wrote in November, 1952: “Months ago I took nudes of Buddy… told him at the time that all that hair, though fun to play around with, wasn’t photogenic and under it he (probably) had a beautiful body.

George Platt Lynes Robert (Buddy) X McCarthy 1952b

“We made a vague date to remove some and to re-photograph… I meant, of course, to strip him except for the armpits and pubic bush. IMAGINE MY HORROR when he turned up on Friday evening with his pubes shaved clean like a baby’s. It wasn’t pretty…. It took two hours to get all (the rest of) that fuzz off him… contrary to expectation, it was neither a pleasant or erotic occupation.

“Halfway through the job Johnny phoned… I asked Buddy if he’d be willing to pose with him. A little to my surprise he said yes.”

Portrait of John Leapheart by George Platt Lynes

“Johnny” was John Leapheart, an African-American model who was equally familiar with Platt Lynes’ bed and photography studio. The resulting photos of Buddy and John are now some of the most popular of Platt Lynes’ work, although they were not published until decades after his death. David Leddick’s Pioneering Male Nudes notes “Their black and white bodies, interwoven, create strong abstract shapes. The photographs were particularly daring because they broke nudity, homosexual and racist taboos of the time.”

George Platt Lynes recounted the photo session in a letter:

“I photographed them together in all sorts of close-contact suggestive sentimental sensuous poses—-but no (what Dr. K. [Kinsey] would call) action pictures. (Leaphart) would have been willing, but I thought (Buddy) wouldn’t…But then we all went back to (the apartment) where everything did happen…and the sight of that big black boy screwing that super-naked little white bundle of brawn was one of the finest I’ve ever seen”

I was unable to find additional information about John Leapheart (sometimes spelled Leaphart), aside from his professional and personal involvement with Platt Lynes, where he is always described in the most flattering terms.

Buddy 1997

Buddy McCarthy is easier to trace, as there is a current (1997) photo in Pioneering Male Nudes along with an update on his life after his association with Platt Lynes, who died of lung cancer at age 48 in 1955.

In 1966, Buddy and his partner Ned Kell opened Treasures and Trifles, an antique shop on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, where they stayed in business for 44 years. The website Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York covered their retirement in 2010.

The note in their shop window at 409 Bleecker Street read:

After 44 years in the village, East & West, and 26 Years at this location, we’ve decided to fold our tent and move-on to the next phase of our lives.

It’s not because of a vindictive, greedy landlord, nor because of a Shylock Attorney. On the contrary, our landlady is every storeowner’s dream come true! An honest, caring landlady, a true Villager -born and raised in the Village.

It’s too bad that this generation never experienced the Village of yore. Bleecker Street was world-renowned for its variety of antique shops, visited by the likes of Jackie & Ari, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler, etc. Bette Midler lived up to her name: “Divine!”.

We’re saddened at leaving our friends and neighbors such as Leo Design’s Kimo, John, Ed & Kyle, and Barry & Arlington. They all helped us, shoveling snow and lifting the gates.

Adieu, Ned & Buddy

Ned Kell died 2 years later. Buddy McCarthy passed away at the age of 91 on 11/19/2017. They are buried together in Peabody, Massachusetts.

More Toilet Papers Of The World

Last month I posted my ongoing tribute to toilet papers from foreign lands that have washed up on our shores. Six months into the pandemic, the U.S. supply chain continues its struggle to catch up with the pooping demands of a terrified nation. Exotic papiers de toilette have found their way onto the shelves of our local supermarkets, bodegas and pharmacies. In honor of these quirky lifesavers of dubious quality, I posted an 8-part video series here. Today I present to you three more entries honoring Toilet Papers Of The World!

Domino – Dominican Republic

Más suave! From the Dominican Republic, here’s Domino, with an acento agudo over the “O” that I can’t get my keyboard to duplicate. Joining the parade of furry TP mascots like the shitting Charmin bears, Bulgaria’s Emeka pooping panda and Poland’s crapping Camilla Almusso cub, Domino brings you their BM bunny. Welcome!

Stratus – China

I’ll be honest – I did not buy this one. Things are not so bad that I have to resort to bamboo toilet paper, although it is a nice metaphor for 2020.

Sufy – Turkey

The word on the street in Ankara: Sufy is super ëmici with extra yumuşak! Who am I to disagree?

Newsday article, November 16, 2020 – Besides the photo of Regio (video #7), Vogue (video #4) was also mentioned. (Thanks for sending this, Mike Turner!)

That’s all for now. If you come across any exotic TP’s that you would like to share, please do!

Never Forget This:

Remember when the New York Times ran “Portraits of Grief” – a series of profiles of those lost on 9/11? They didn’t cover every single person who perished, but these were published daily for months and later compiled in a book – 1,800 individual stories. It was hard to grasp the number of lives lost.

We are now losing a 9/11’s worth of lives every 2-3 days. Over 190,000 people in this country have died. If the New York Times were to profile one person each day, it would take – are you ready? – over 520 years. And that’s if COVID “magically went away” and didn’t claim another life after today.

Where are these people being honored other than @facesofcovid? At the very least, why aren’t U.S. flags flown at half-staff? Is it because they die in solitude and not on a clear day, live on television?

To those who aggressively wave their flags and yell “Never forget” as an angry cry for revenge – still calling for the blood of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks even though we got them long ago – let us never forget this:

Trump dismantled the Pandemic Response Team that was already in place.

He threw out the Pandemic Action Plan given to him by the previous administration.

He purposely downplayed the virus and lied to the American people.

He continues to put concern for the economy over the safety of the public.

He continues to put us all in danger by ridiculing those taking precautions for their own lives.

Other things to never forget:

Remember that he invited Taliban leaders to the White House while simultaneously withdrawing our troops from Iraq.

Remember that he still has not condemned Putin’s bounty on the heads of U.S. soldiers.

Remember that he refers to service people as “suckers and losers.”

These are just the highlights.

Never forget what this traitor has done – and continues to do – to us and to the country.

New York Is Still (Kind Of) A Ghost Town

After nearly 5 months of working remotely from my home office in the lovely borough of Queens, I was summoned back into Manhattan on August 10th. This was the first time I had been there since March 18th, when everything was shutting down and downtown NYC was eerily quiet. I posted the photos I took in March here.

Upon my return, I quickly figured out that everyone else didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to come back – both in and out of the office. The quiet took me by surprise, but was not unwelcome. My fear of being trapped in some close quarters subway rush hour (so far) has not been the reality.

There will never be another time quite like this, so I am taking pictures once again. These were all taken at what would normally be high traffic times of day:  weekday rush hour or lunch hour.  And while I do notice an uptick in the amount of people over the last 3 weeks, I still find myself, at 8:50am, walking in a long stretch of the Fulton Street subway station… and I am the only person there. At rush hour. On a weekday. So, no. New York is not a total ghost town, but it’s still pretty close. Here are some photos from the past couple of weeks.

LIRR Arriving at Penn Station – August 17th, Mon. 8am

Before and after the protests: City Hall Park – March 18th and August 12th.

Brooklyn Bridge on-ramp looking NorthAug. 12, Wed. Noon

Park Row – August 20th, Thurs. 1:30pm

Spruce St. fine dining on a slope, under scaffolding, next to the parking garage.Aug. 11, Tues. 3:00pm

Benton Cafe @ 134 William St. – Aug. 20 ,Thurs. 2:00pm

I have not yet had to face the corner in a shared elevator.

Centre St. – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2pm

NYC Supreme Court, 60 Centre St. – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2pm
100 Centre St. – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2pm

Chinatown: Canal St. @ Mercer St. – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2:15pm

Broadway @ Bowling Green –  Aug. 31, Mon. 11:20am

The Canyon of Heroes: Broadway looking north from Wall St. – Aug. 31, Mon. 11:30am

Federal Hall, Wall St. – Aug. 31, Mon. 11:30am

Maiden Lane @ Nassau St – Aug. 31, Mon. 11:35am

Classes are in session. Can you tell? Aug. 31, Mon. 11:45am

Uptown A Train / Canal St. Station – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2:20

34th St. A Train Platform – Candy seller with no customers – Aug. 13 Thurs. 2:30pm
Construction worker removes his mask for a moment on a hot day, uptown A Train – Aug. 13, Thurs. 2:30pm

Uptown A Train @ Chambers St. – Aug. 24, Mon. 5:30pm

Penn StationAug 20, Thurs. 5pm

Penn Station – Aug. 17, Mon. 5pm

34th St. A Train Platform – Aug. 10, Mon. 8am

Penn Station Pigeon – Wed. Aug. 19, 5pm

Fax You & The Horse You Rode In On

I just got back to the office after 5 months of working from home. Naturally there’s a pile of spam faxes that has wasted half a ream of paper. I take the time to unsubscribe from these because, in previous experiences, it actually seemed to work.

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Most spam faxes have an “unsubscribe” phone number to call, but this particular one only had a website listed in tiny print. So I went to it….
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The website has a vintage GeoCities feel with a stock office photo containing a finely mixed interracial group of 10 imaginary co-workers here to assist you with your fax removal. Let’s not pretend that the reality isn’t some half-dressed schlub in a basement home office clouded with cigarette smoke.

Please note the repeated instruction to make sure that you are AUTHORIZED to unsubscribe from this fax list… because that’s a thing that happens, right? Unauthorized fax unsubscriptions are rampant and millions of co-workers nationwide are missing out on valued fax opportunities because of it.

Think of all those leaky roofs.

 

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I enter our fax number and pause over the button verifying that I have Proper Authorization to Unsubscribe Our Fax Number. Yes, I am authorized. But they had to ask again because… really… they got nothin’ else.

I am also reassured that there is No problem if I turn back now.

Should I be thinking harder about this decision?

I click Submit. And… BAM! A pro-Trump page pops up on my screen:

 
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Why am I surprised? Of course it’s Trump spam… because your Fox News-lovin’ Dad made this webpage on Angelfire. I had the sound muted on my computer but this page was probably auto-playing a midi file of God Bless The U.S.A.

This unanticipated assault took me by surprise though. And yet I scroll down further…. because I am a glutton for punishment.

BAM! Here’s another finger in your eye, snowflake!

 
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Note the vintage counter on the bottom that clocks me as sucker #342 who actually landed on this page. Not a whole lot of other unsubscribers out there, I guess.

What is with the “Like & Share” nonsense – as if this was pulled from Facebook? Didn’t Dad have his readers on when he cut and pasted this? Or is the advanced internet lingo just beyond his comprehension?

Perhaps I expect too much from a site brought to you by the people who send fax spam for a living. And – if you think about it – it makes perfect sense that a person with a fax spam company would be pro-Trump. They are upset that you do not want their faxes – the world is leaving them in the dust in more ways than one. So they are angry dinosaurs.

I would be surprised if Trump didn’t have a pro-fax platform. Just like his stance on coal – its another dying industry that he would only try to prop up if he was fossil-fueled by financial backing from fax machine manufacturers.

Some other ‘Murican MAGA supporters:

The Pager industry
Teletype Readers
The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters
North American Photo-Engravers Union
Castor Oil companies

They are all sending me fax spam right now.

 
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Toilet Papers Of The World

International toilet papers from faraway places have come to rescue us! As the U.S. supply chain continues its struggle to catch up with the pooping demands of a terrified nation, exotic TPs of dubious quality have found their way onto the shelves of our local supermarkets, bodegas and pharmacies. In honor of these quirky lifesavers, I bring you an 8-part video series: Toilet Papers Of The World!

Milde – Bulgaria

We begin in Eastern Europe with the strong & soft Milde, makers of Emeka (see below). Both feature “elastic fibers” that are probably causing some plumbing issues that we will have to contend with in the near future.

Suavel – Mexico

Ricooooo….. Admit it – you thought Gerardo as well. Even if you couldn’t remember his name. Why is there a baby in a baseball cap on the label? Do you want your toilet paper to smell like a tropical paradise? Is this TP orange or pink? So many questions.

Emeka – Bulgaria

Who needs the shitting Charmin bears when you have the Emeka pooping panda? I don’t know if it’s “paradise” or not, but there isn’t a single part of a coconut that I want in my toilet paper.

Vogue – Mexico

Strike a pose… Mexico is en Vogue with this chamomile-scented beauty of a bathroom tissue. And beauty’s where you find it.  So let your body go with the flow – you know you can do it! (Surprisingly, most of the lyrics of Vogue easily take on a scatological context).

Camilla Almusso – Poland

Ok – so scratch the shitting Charmin bears… and the Emeka pooping panda. Who needs ’em when we have the crapping Camilla Almusso Cub! From Poland. And delicate!

Good Choice Trading – China

Good Choice: Quality. Confidence. And Wood Pulp. Primary Wood Pulp. None of that Secondary Wood Pulp for your tender tuchus.

Regio – Mexico

Regio = Royal. For when you sit on your throne. And the improved new texture yields maximum durability. Long may you reign.

Sweety – Argentina

Argentina’s Sweety features an extra blanco swan on the package. The video has a nod to the late great NYC actor & drag performer Daniel Booth, aka Sweetie. Gone but never forgotten. Also – the Pet Shop Boys. And Absolutely Fabulous. All in under 20 seconds.

Thanks to friends and family for their contributions to this collection. If any new ones pop up, I’ll be sure to add them!

UPDATE: Here’s Part II

Regio Me

12 (More) Forgotten Classics by Women-Led New Wave Bands

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Last week, the New York Times posted a piece by Doug Brod titled 12 Forgotten Classics by Women-Led New Wave Bands. Brod writes: “……for every Kate Bush, Blondie, Bow Wow Wow or Go-Go, there were lesser-known female artists who exuded both sharp, shoulder-padded glamour and beehived, boho cool, often mixed with quick wit and sass.”

It’s an admirable dozen, evenly weighted with some of my favorites (The Waitresses, Josie Cotton, Rachel Sweet, Pearl Harbor & the Explosions, The Passions, Holly & The Italians) and tracks I had forgotten or never heard before (The Cosmopolitans, Nervus Rex, Spider, Robin Lane & The Chartbusters, Pulsallama, Suzanne Fellini).

Kenneth Walsh of KennethInThe212 blog posted a link to the article noting “I guess every writer finds himself saying, ‘How did I not write this’ at some point or another…..Seriously, how did I NOT write this?”

(Update: Kenneth has posted his list HERE)

I thought I would take the bait and compile my own list. And here we are:

12 (More) Forgotten Classics by Women-Led New Wave Bands

Of course, “forgotten” is subjective. Is The Flirts’ Don’t Put Another Dime In The Jukebox forgotten just because nobody can remember the band name or mis-identifies them as the Bangles? If I say “I might like you better if we slept together” to the most casual fan of new wave music and they get the reference but can’t place the band, does that make Romeo Void forgotten? Can a song be considered forgotten when it is on the soundtrack of one of the most popular video games of all time? (I’m looking at you, Passions. With a side-eye towards Romeo Void as well).

Both of these lists assume that you are already familiar with prominent post-punk / new wave acts like The Raincoats, Marine Girls, Slits, Go-Go’s, Blondie, Berlin, Eurythmics, Motels, Altered Images, Bananarama, Divinyls, Missing Persons, Pretenders,  Kim Wilde, Siouxsie, Yaz, Nena, Lena, Nina… the list goes on.

So – now that I have set the playing field, here are my picks – chosen by a middle-aged New Yorker who still loves the music of the 80’s but with little nostalgia for the decade. The music was great, but it was the pits to live through. Don’t kid yourself.

The Shirts – Laugh and Walk Away (1979)

 

The Shirts were the CBGB’s band that got away. Rubbing shoulders with the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads did not lead to worldwide success, although they garnered a few hits in Europe. Laugh and Walk Away was a single from their second LP Streetlight Shine.

Post-1981 breakup, lead singer Annie Golden’s Hang Up The Phone was a highlight of the Sixteen Candles soundtrack. Her eclectic career is now in its 5th decade, spanning film (Hair), Broadway (Leader of the Pack), and television (Orange Is The New Black).  By all accounts she’s also one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. And The Shirts do get back together from time to time.

Hilary – Drop Your Pants (1983)

 

Hilary Blake released one EP – the Stephen Hague-produced Kinetic. Both the title tune and Drop Your Pants were voted “Screamer of the Week” – the coveted top-voted song by listeners to New York’s influential WLIR alternative radio station. Drop Your Pants – with a repetitive pulsating chorus of “Drop you pants around your ankles / You make me shiver when you deliver” was a commentary how ridiculous the fear of sex in United States was.

Hilary and Hague were married for many years but had divorced before she died of cancer in 2007.

Jane Aire and the Belvederes – Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache (1979)

 

Jane Aire, aka Jane Ashley was one of several acts (The Waitresses and Rachel Sweet among them) featured on Liam Sternberg’s Akron compilation LP. Like Chrissie Hynde before her, Ashley left the wilds of Ohio to record in London, where her Belvederes were the UK band also known as The Edge: Lu Edmonds, Gavin Povey, Glyn Havard and Jon Moss (later of Culture Club).

Following a couple of Stiff singles, an LP was released on Virgin with background vocals provided by Ms. Sweet and Kirsty MacColl .  The album features several choice covers: Pearl Harbour & The Explosions’ Driving, The Supremes’ Come See About Me, and this Northern Soul classic by Johnny Johnson & His Bandwagon which was also later recorded by Dexy’s Midnight Runners.

Mari Wilson – Just What I Always Wanted (1982)

 

Mari Wilson was the epitome of the “beehive boho cool” that Brod writes about in the New York Times piece. And the foot-high beehive was her real hair. Do other people consider this song forgotten? It’s a default earworm in my head, so my perception may be off. But I am happy to introduce it to anyone who doesn’t know it.

Just What I Always Wanted was Wilson’s biggest hit – reaching the UK top 10 accompanied by a video which gave glimpses of the dynamic stage show Mari and her Wilsations were famous for. As it turned out, being a pop star wasn’t just what she always wanted, and she moved on to successful forays in jazz and stage musicals. Wilson may not have garnered more pop hits, but her catalogue is considerable and definitely worth checking out.

Face To Face – 10-9-8 (1984)

 

Laurie Sargent fronted the Boston-based quintet Face To Face. In the 1984 movie Streets of Fire, the fictional band Ellen Aim and The Attackers were played onscreen by Diane Lane and the male members of Face to Face, with Lane lip-synching Laurie‘s lead vocals on several tracks. 10-9-8 was Face To Face’s debut single on Epic records and also their biggest hit – peaking at #38 on the US Billboard Top 100.

Book Of Love – Boy (1985)

Boy was the debut single by Book of Love, a New York by way of Philadelphia synthpop band fronted by Susan Ottaviano. Signed by Seymour Stein to his Sire records, the band gained exposure opening for Depeche Mode on their 1985 & 1986 tours.

Although Boy was popular enough in NY to become a WLIR “Screamer of the Week” in February 1985, the song did not chart nationally until 2001, when a Peter Rauhofer remix topped the U.S. Dance Charts. In a 2016 Village Voice interview, keyboardist/songwriter Ted Ottaviano revealed that the song was written about the gay East Village night spot Boy Bar.

Burns Sisters Band – I Wonder Who’s Out Tonight (1986)

 

Nowadays, Ithaca New York’s Burns Sisters are a well regarded folk duo with 10 albums under their belt. Back in the mid-80’s, The Burns Sisters Band launched as a quintet of siblings giving the Bangles a run for their money. Marie, Annie, Jeannie, Sheila and Terry had the WLIR “Screamer of the Week” with this single in July of 1986 – perfect listening while takin’ the time to do your hair / puttin’ on something HOT to wear.

The Tourists – So Good To Be Back Home Again (1980)

 

The Tourists’ output included three LPs and a handful of hit singles in their native UK. A peppy cover of Dusty Springfield’s I Only Wanna Be With You scraped the US charts as well. Keyboardist Ann Lennox shared lead vocal duties with guitarist Pete Coombs. There was also a guy named David Stewart in the band. After The Tourists split in 1980, David and Ann went on to do some other stuff you may have heard of, but their Tourists output is seldom mentioned and definitely worth a revisit, starting with this track – a top 10 hit in the UK and Ireland.

Put Your Back To It – November Group  (1983)

I actually ventured into the comments section of the NYT article (I know – the comments section can be a scary place. But for the most part, this time it wasn’t.) There were quite a few mentions of this alt band from the Boston new wave scene. November Group formed in the early 1980s with Ann Prim and Kearney Kirby, both previously of Wunderkind. Put Your Back To It was a single from their second LP- Persistent Memories.

Suburban Lawns – Janitor (1981)

 

“What do you do?”

Su Tissue was trying to have a conversation in a noisy room. She misheard the response “I’m a janitor” as “Oh, my genitals.” And a song chorus was born.

Suburban Lawns was formed in Long Beach, California in 1978 by CalArts students William “Vex Billingsgate” Ranson and Sue “Su Tissue” McLane. Their first single Gidget Goes To Hell may be more likely to turn up on new wave compilations, but Janitor – the lead single from their self-titled IRS LP – is an overlooked gem.

Cristina – Is That All There Is? (1980)

 

This slashing cover of the Peggy Lee classic was produced with broken glass and cuckoo clocks by August Darnell, a.k.a. Kid Creole. When the single was originally released in 1980, songwriters Lieber and Stoller successfully sued to have it withdrawn, objecting to the lyric changes embracing drugs, physical abuse and the club scene. They later changed their mind.

Cristina, aka New York socialite Cristina Monet-Palaci Zilkha recorded two highly regarded but commercially unsuccessful albums for ZE records before turning her attention elsewhere.  She succumbed to coronavirus at the age of 64 on March 31, 2020.

And as sure as I’m standing here talking at you, I was not ready for that kind of a come down.

Strawberry Switchblade – Let Her Go (1985)

Strawberry Switchblade – Jill Bryson and Rose McDowall – were a Glasgow duo formed in 1981. They released one album and had a top 5 UK hit with Since Yesterday. Follow-up single Let Her Go and a synth-pop cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene also charted – especially in Japan – before the duo split in 1986. Both continued to make music but were unable to recreate their Switchblade success.

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Scenes From A Pandemic: March/April 2020

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3/21: Hall table wi/ masks & New York Magazine, Forest Hills

“We are living in interesting times…” That is an understatement. For better or worse, I thought it should be documented here, as a continuation of my previous two posts. The following photos and videos were taken by me as well as my sister Jennifer, an ER nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, Long Island. Additional photos by my partner Chris Hovanec and my stepdad Mike Turner.

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3/27: St. Joseph’s Emergency Room converted for COVID Triage

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4/1: Jen wearing a donated face guard at work.

Cards and notes of gratitude on the doors of the staff lounge at St. Joseph’s:

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4/2: Before masks were mandatory – a surprise visit to my bedroom window from Mom & Mike.

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4/2: Before masks were mandatory – a surprise visit from Jen.

 

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4/5 Burns / Clyde St. Alley, Forest Hills

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4/8: Jen in a floral mask made by Mom

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4/10: Burns St. Pharmacy, Forest Hills

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4/12 Pandemic Chic: Chris with Samus @ Forest Hills Stadium

 

Snacks and treats of gratitude for the staff at St. Josephs:

 

Every evening at 7pm, New York says thank you to first responders, health care professionals and all the essential people working to keep us safe. This is from local television:

4/17: The 7pm cheer at Parker Towers Apartment Complex in Forest Hills, with a flag bearer and saxophonist playing the Star Spangled Banner:

 

 

 

 

 

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4/15: Participants of the 7pm cheer, Parker Towers, Forest Hills

4/15: The 7pm cheer filmed by Jen outside St. Joseph’s Hospital:

 

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4/17: On her day off, Jen goes to the 7pm cheer with my nephew to support her coworkers.

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4/20: Line for Trader Joe’s, Rego Park

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4/20: Line for Trader Joe’s Pt.2, Rego Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4/21: Baron Von Munchausen, (aka Munch) on a chalk rainbow, Burns St., Forest Hills

Thursday At The Racetrack

I arrive at the Aquaduct Racetrack parking lot where the digital traffic sign announces COVID TESTING. I drive up to the first checkpoint. It’s all military here: everyone covered in fatigues and masks. Multiple signs direct me to keep my windows rolled up.

They yell at me through N95s and my closed car windows. I know they aren’t angry but it sure gives that impression. I am a possible contagion under glass. DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT? Yes. WHAT TIME? 1:30. SHOW ME YOUR ID#. PUT IT ON THE DASHBOARD WITH YOUR LICENSE AND LEAVE IT THERE. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS.

Next check point. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. My dashboard info is examined and additional paperwork is placed under my windshield wiper. I am really starting to sweat now. It’s a warm day and I have turned off the air conditioning so I can hear what they are saying. I assume someone will take my temperature at some point and I’m going to say that they should really grade that on a curve. Thankfully, nobody ever takes my temperature.

Next check point. I am approaching the testing tent. The windshield wiper paperwork is now held up to the outside of the driver’s side window for me to examine and verify.

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I am instructed to pull up and wait. There are two cars ahead of me. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOW UNTIL YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO. PUT YOU HEAD BACK ON THE HEADREST. A COTTON SWAB WILL BE INSERTED IN YOUR NOSE TO COLLECT A SAMPLE FROM THE BACK OF YOUR THROAT.

I know. I know. I have been waiting for this appointment for quite some time. I am a week past my 17 days of fevers and fatigue but I thought I should get tested anyway, because who the hell knows what is going on with this virus?

Now it’s my turn. Pull up. Put it in park. Roll the window down. A medical person and his assistant in scrubs and masks approach. The previous information is repeated, just not as loud. I lower my mask. Put my head back. The swab is inserted. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

“Are you a music teacher?” He’s asking me a question while this thing is twisting in my nose.

“Am I a… huh?” I’m trying to figure out what prompted this inquiry. And then I remember: my mask. Black with white musical notes and clefs on it.

I want to say “Oh – my mask? Well… for my birthday back in 2002, my mother used this fabric to make me a wall tapestry depicting the pre-9/11 New York City skyline and now she used the leftovers to sew masks for my partner and I. Can you believe this world we are living in?”

 
But instead I just say, “No.” The test swab is still grinding against the back of my throat.

 
“Was I close?” he asks.

I know what he’s doing. He’s being nice. He’s trying to keep me calm. But it’s like when you are in the dentist’s chair with a mouth full of gauze and suction and instruments and he asks a question that requires more response than a head shake or a nod. How in-depth can I get in the midst of this procedure?

Was he close? My resume spins like a rolodex in my head. I am overthinking this. I finally manage to say; “I was an actor.” Does that sufficiently answer his question? It is the simplest answer. And I still have a stick in my nose.

No other questions are forthcoming. I think about what I said. I was an actor. Past-tense. Before all this. Before we got here. Are we done?

He slowly slides the swab out and I am momentarily reminded of some stunt we used to pull as kids: snorting a spaghetti noodle up our noses and pulling it out of our mouths. Kids.

Once the swab has been extricated, I let out a little whoop that could be interpreted a lot of ways. Pain? Excitement? Relief? The assistant looks a little startled so I assume it is not the normal reaction.

We are done. I can go online in 2 to 3 days to get my results. I smile and thank them and wish them a good day and roll up my window. I put the car in drive and pull out of the tent, following a line of cones directing me back to Rockaway Boulevard.

The sun streams in through the closed skylight window. And I burst into tears.

———————–

Sunday: My results were posted today and I am all clear.

 

4_12_20

New York Is A Ghost Town

As some of you may know, I have ramped up the blog posts in the last few months. Here’s a little backstory on why:
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I was abruptly let go from a humanitarian organization back on October 1st as my position was relocated to the London office. I spent the next 5 months at home, searching for a new job… and also devoting more time to this blog and other creative endeavors. I am lucky to have a partner and his nephew at home with full time jobs to help get through that period.
I was recently hired into the president’s office of a university downtown – my first day was March 9th. The following day, all classes were switched to online… and you can imagine how it has progressed from there.  By the end of the week, my partner and his nephew – a chef and a theatre manager – were laid off from their jobs.
At work, the number of people on campus dwindled, but we kept working in the president’s offices. I started taking pictures as the normally packed downtown/WTC/Brooklyn Bridge area started to empty out.
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The first picture above was included in an NBC news story about empty New York City.
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The above photos were taken at 1pm on Friday 3/13 – I wish I had retaken these angles today because it would have been much more stark, as you can see from the other photos I have taken since then.
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When I got the office today, I was told that we could now work from home, so I won’t be going back for a while. I’m grateful that I still have a job.