June 27, 2017 - Jackie, New York City
I’m in New York for a few weeks, thanks to the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of two dear friends that live here.
I'm writing this while sitting in the main reading room of the New York Public library. It is a sanctuary of gilded beauty. It has ornate, detailed carving which covers the vaulted ceiling. Fluffy pink, renaissance-like clouds adorn the centre panels. Glorious streams of sunshine pour in through giant arched windows.
The large, concert-hall sized room, is surrounded by reference books, with a small, wrought iron balcony adding more books to the room. There are dozens of long tables, with intricately carved bases. Four brass lamps adorn each table. The air-conditioning is a life saver! There are a few hundred people in here, and yet, the silence is sublime.
It’s my fourth time being in the city, and I admit it, I LOVE New York! There is an energy here unlike any other city I’ve been to.
Three weeks is the longest I’ve spent in New York. There’s a certain luxury in that duration in so far as, I’m able to be more leisurely about doing things. There is no rush.
"Intentional meandering" I call it - it's something I'm working on; more about that another time.
I even spent most of yesterday hanging out at my friend's place, and not going anywhere, or doing anything, for most of the day. After an intense, action packed first five days, it was grand to spend the day at (their) home and relax.
A couple of things I’d like to boast about at this point. I must look like a New Yorker. Once again, while out for a walk on my own last night, I was stopped by someone and asked for directions. It’s happened twice before on previous trips here.
Each time, I’m proud to say I knew the answer, and happily pointed out directions to get ‘tourists’ to their destination.
Another thing I noticed just today. There are of course, copious amounts of people working in the tourism industry here. On any given street corner, people are handing out flyers for bus tours, restaurants, sight-seeing trips, ride-to-the-roof-of-this-building excursions, add infinity.
Almost none of them stop me. I either look like a local, or a completely unapproachable ass. Either one works for me!
This weekend was the 48th annual New York Pride March. I had the incredibly good fortune to participate in the march, riding on a float with my friend’s employer.
Truly, a stand alone life event, that I will never forget.
37,000 people in the march, and another TWO MILLION spectators.
An energy like I’ve not experienced before.
I was here in New York during Pride in 2012, two days after equal marriage came into law, throughout NY State!
Another stand alone moment in time.
On Sunday, there was an even more powerful sense of connection with spectators, as we travelled along. Some spectators stood ten deep at points.
There was a palpable sense of jubilant camaraderie and celebration. Defiance. Definitely resistance and persistance. I've been marching for over 35 years. The love was everywhere. Strangers waving, singing, dancing and blowing kisses.
Certain intersections had pairs of large dump trucks blocking them off.
Some streets were barricaded with pairs of garbage trucks.
Everything is impacted by the current political climate.
I didn’t take any of that for granted. Nor will I - I shall march as long as I can, and hope one day, we won’t have to. Alas, there is still much work to be done.
I had thought about perhaps utilizing some of my ‘luxury’ time, to go out and meet a stranger. I hadn’t really planned on it happening today, and in meeting Jackie, it just seemed natural.
Strolling down Fifth Avenue, I was first drawn to Jackie's vintage film camera. I’m a hobby photographer and have, over the years had the distinct pleasure of using some quality older cameras.
A friend once had a Hasselblad camera. It's a large format camera that makes the most delicious clunk-click sound with each shutter release. My first real sense of geekdom. Clunk-click. Ahhh.
Jackie was filming outside a specific 'tower' on Fifth Avenue. Onethat I wouldn’t have wanted to stop in front of, let alone photograph. Okay, I did take one or two shots, which I intend to alter.
But her camera made me want to ask questions, even though I know very little about the technical aspects.
If you’ve been following this project for any time, you’ll know I speak of self-imposed rules. You'll also know, on occasion, I liberate myself from my own constraints.
I break the rules because I can.
Today, I gave myself permission to not be so intent on getting a full life story. It was about connecting with a stranger.
While I didn’t go into the whole backstory of The Stranger Project - est. 2014, I explained the idea. I asked Jackie if it would be alright to ask a few questions, and to take Jackie’s photo, which I would post here. She readily agreed, while continuing to work.
“I’m an only child,” Jackie told me. Of all my ice-breaker, conversation starting questions, this is one of my personal favourites. I'm fascinated by the difference between people who grew up as an only child, compared to those who had siblings.
“No, I don’t feel that I missed out on anything as an only child. However, ironically, I have a nine-year-old son, and he desperately wants to have siblings,” she said.
“I guess it’s because he sees his friends with brothers and sisters. Alas, that ship has sailed.” We both chuckled at that.
As a film maker, Jackie is still using old school film. Each canister of film lasts two and a half minutes, and costs around $25USD to develop, when she’s working with colour film.
Just thinking of the gamble and cost would be prohibitive to me. In our 'new-age' need for instant gratification, the wait and uncertainty would be an exercise in patience and willingness. To wait, and then discover the work isn't what one hoped for. This could be a grand discovery, or a resolute sense of failure. I’m projecting my own perspectives here.
It was no surprise to me when I asked Jackie what she does.
“I teach this,” she says, pointing to her camera.
“I teach film-making,” she said. Jackie is from New Hampshire, in the north-eastern United States.
I found out that Jackie is a professor of film and electronic arts.
A faculty member at Bard College, founded in 1860, a college of the liberal arts and sciences. Of course, she teaches film making.
I asked if I would know of her work. “The one piece I’m most proud of,” she said, “is a film I made called ‘The Observers’.
It's about one of the world’s last staffed weather observatories, at Mount Washington, in New Hampshire.”
Currently, Jackie is working on a film about the 45th US President’s vast property holdings. I loved that throughout the conversation, not once did we use ‘that' name.
While chatting, as I mentioned, Jackie continued to work, and as happens, I managed to throw her off, or so I felt at least.
She had opened the camera to remove the reel she had been filming when I approached her. The camera needed a new film reel. Dropping the box out of her hand into her bag amongst other film boxes, which all looked the same to me. She placed a new film in the camera and wound it into it's sprocket.
“I don’t know which film canister I just used. Hmmm. I think it was this one. Or was it this one?” she asked of herself. I knew it was time to let her get back to focusing on her task at hand. Filming people coming in and out of the large tower we were chatting in front of.
“It was nice chatting. Thanks so very much, for letting me ask questions and take your photo. I hope you’ll look for the story,” I said as we shook hands.
“It was fun,” she said. “And now you’ve met a stranger in New York!” #notastranger
*I’m thrilled to share the link to enjoy the film ‘The Observers’ for free, online! vimeo.com/75149038