Sunday, December 13, 2009

I Love New York

By Baad Lamb

I love New York.

Everyone who knows me knows that.

I love New York and I never hesitate to say so. Even when The City is maddening, disappointing, difficult, selfish or unreasonably demanding, it remains easy to declare how much I love it. I love it despite its crazy contradictions, perhaps even because of them. Examples? A list of things I profess to dislike is nearly identical to a list of what makes New York New York. I find shopping for almost anything distasteful. I loathe crass commercialism and relentless consumerism, loud talkers in cramped spaces, waiting in unmoving lines, rude people, traffic jams, obscene wealth, political corruption, haphazard development, and lowest common denominator pop culture.

See what I mean? You would think I’d have ended up in a cabin in Montana, not a tiny studio apartment in one of the wealthiest zip codes in the city. But then, I love the cyclical layer upon layer of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it development and destruction, the architecture and art, the triple parked social schedules, and the fractal-like splintering of groups into sub-groups into ever smaller sub-groups, with every participant constantly on the move, uptown, downtown, across town, underground, performing for the judges, expecting to “win their category” in the absolutely unmatched continuous diversity parade that is every day in New York.

Two thoughts:

It is often stated that you can’t appreciate beauty without knowing what ugly is.

Elevating annoyance to the superlative transforms it into fascination.

In New York, the stimulation is constant. Beauty and filth, color and chaos, serenity and sensationalism, insight and impact, dark corners and bright lights. Attention must be paid, demands the urban landscape, in Helvetica Extra Bold and underlined.

I love the electricity buzzing through the sidewalks, the buildings shedding their skin, falling down, and sprouting up like weeds, sometimes even exploding, all quite literally.
You could easily spend a lifetime - maybe two, attempting to categorize, quantify, critique, or just contain what New York presents, and to many it would be more than enough.

But then there are the details - the cracks and crevasses, the blotches and blobs, pipes, conduits, rust and remnants that decorate the city. An architectural patina of man-made and organic entropy catching the eye of the contrary (those looking down when everyone else is pointing up), or the explorer on the fringe, hoping to find, in that totally forgotten back alley, architectural ruin or industrial wasteland, a decaying mechanical device of unrecognizable purpose or a concrete Ozymandias, silently guarding the secrets of one or many generations of laborers and immigrants, those who began the palimpsest we call New York.
Then, since this is New York, I look up and see a crowd surrounding me, digital cameras ready, looking for exactly the same thing.

Guess I found my sub-group (or they found me).

Here, for your enjoyment, is an iMovie/Garage Band video I made from some of those pictures. (This is my first attempt at original music.) There are some architectural details large enough to be recognizable, but mostly an obvious obsession with rusty metal, storm drains and other industrial design remnants. See anything you recognize?


  1. Very impressive. Great post, video, and the music too!

  2. Your music and image rhythm set a pace that demands attention be paid. So much input: vivid color, complex textures, strong light, shapes* that demand a second and third viewing, and sound that is telling me something different than what I see; I can’t keep up. For one brief second I thought I recognized a reticulated metal archway, but for the life of me I don’t know where it is—and then it flashed away. This is a rich experience. I highly recommend it on full screen.

    *What is it about curves that imbue an organic quality to the inanimate?

  3. Maybe because I was just reading about Jung's *Red Book*, I was struck by how many of your images were mandalas. The video is gorgeous, both sound and image, and a good reminder that love usually inspires close observation. I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the images I did recognize, since my time in New York City is often characterized by ignoring the chaos around me as much as possible.