The Empire State Building

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Clouds may gather, dusk may approach, people may whisper – the Empire stays true to its name.

For Day 4 of my B/W Photo Challenge, I show you the 360-degree views from the observation deck of the Empire State Building.

Seeking happiness among the concrete?

South view: downtown Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Hudson River, New Jersey. The Freedom Tower stands tall.IMG_3046

North view: midtown, uptown, Central Park (oasis among the concrete).IMG_3078

East view: East River, Queens, Brooklyn.IMG_3148

West view: New Jersey, the Hudson River (a beautiful river separating Manhattan from New Jersey).IMG_3066

A panoramic view encompassing East River, downtown Manhattan, the Hudson River, New Jersey, and a slice of the observation deck itself.IMG_3051

I link Sabiscuit for this challenge. Sabiscuit is an impressive blog.

The Yacht Man

For Day 3 of my B/W Photo Challenge, I present to you the Yacht man. I captured these moments one evening from the living room of our apartment.

He was up on the mast, repairing the halyard. When I was clicking him I wondered: what he’d eaten for lunch, if he’d fought with his family that morning, and weirdly, if he’d added coke or soda to his vodka.

I don’t think he’s checking his phone here. He may want to — the altitude might give him a good reception.DSCN1555

Here, he’s trying to pull a tool out of his repair kit; he’ll have to find it first.DSCN1564

Work has begun, and he’s peering in the direction of Brooklyn.DSCN1553

Is someone calling him from below, or is he gauging the altitude? “Will I survive if I fall, and if I survive, what’ll be left of me?”DSCN1554

He has a good view of downtown Manhattan, and with dusk approaching, the Hudson River traffic will peak.DSCN1562

The full view of the yacht and the man. Way ‘up’ to go.DSCN1545

A wider view.DSCN1559

The widest view the camera could get. Spot the yacht man?DSCN1561

The most zoomed-out click. He looks tired.DSCN1565

I figured by the end of it all that I had forgotten to eat lunch, fought with family in the morning and that, I would’ve added soda to my vodka.

I link Blewbird for this challenge. This blog has several breathtaking pictures.

Love/Hate Snow 2

For Day 2 of my B/W Photo Challenge, let the snow assault continue. But I promise I’ll kindle you with warmth from Day 3 onward.

Tried sitting on them? If they are flurries the first five seconds may feel cushy. Then: sit at your own risk.IMG_0359

Workers shoveling snow was a good sight. The sun shone bright; their shadows were big.11053084_10153219093570625_6815545349298158174_n

Insignificant when we don’t have to answer nature’s call? But when we do, this has top significance. There are some who want cleaner options even in the times of crisis.IMG_0329

What tires could do to snow: it becomes muddy, slushy, and lose what, the white.11025163_10153219094380625_8579846165506570706_n

All of us have a long, lone journey. We come and go, alone. The only truth.IMG_0371

I link Maniparna for this challenge. Her posts and photos are interesting.

Love/Hate Snow

This is my B/W post for Day 1 of the 5 Day photo challenge. The wonderful Prior linked me for this challenge.

We all know what happened in Massachusetts when it topped 100 inches of snow in a record breaking winter. Contrary to what the weathermen had predicted, New York, New Jersey, and the other states in the East Coast were spared the assault.

Though it’s been snowing in NY and NJ intermittently, the snow that fell for two consecutive days last week showed aggression:

This gull’s perched on a snow-assaulted railing. When you look into its eyes, you see purpose and no purpose. Contradictory? Well, gulls live a purposeless life, I believe, but are purposeful enough to be purposeless. They’re the spiritual heads of the birds’ fraternity.DSCN1816

Bicycle told snow: “Spare me. Jam Mercedes’ tires instead.” DSCN1838

These are not my footsteps — could’ve been mine. I followed them, some followed mine.DSCN1867

Gravity-defying stunt

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Whose car is it? Mine. What next? What next!IMG_0379

I link the great Kim Gosselin for this challenge. She’s a lovely photographer, too.

Faces And Hearts

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I see faces, aching

for acceptance, hearts

prepping for penance.

Acceptance and penance, use them

They’re available, mean them.

 

An old, homeless man wobbled,

waiting for red to turn green

When a taxi hit a puddle,

his soaked shirt stuck to his skin.

 

The car shrieked to a stop, the driver,

his teeth glistened, he laughed

The man’s eyes lowered, the poorer,

he stood there as the car moved.

 

The breeze was cold and wet

The man walked, then paused

He had no cash or check

He walked and stopped.

 

Night glowed, stars assembled

He on a bench slipped into dreaming

Someone patted him and whispered

I’m the driver, he said, you were forgiving.

 

Both ate the sandwich the driver brought

He scanned the man, a deja vu from before

The man had stood, the driver remembered, between him and a gun

Look at the scar, the man quickly said, from the bullet of ’84.

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The driver’s eyes welled with tears,

the man’s with pride – and both hugged,

then smiled and sighed

Who said acceptance and penance have died.

 

But, I see faces aching

for acceptance, hearts

prepping for penance.

Acceptance and penance, use them

They’re available, mean them.

Spiritual Dessert At Santo Domingo And Amsterdam

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A calming, bluish dusk at Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Labeling a quiet place as serene is interesting, but the one who’s labeling it might be miles away from serenity. The moment we’re out of a serene location, which certainly pumped us up, our psychological dominance if you will, might crush under the weight of life’s routine chaos.

It’s a given that all of us cannot visit serene locations all the time; at best, once a year. We should, therefore, enjoy find-serenity-wherever-you-are spiritual dessert.

This dessert might taste bitter. Our tasks would be uphill. Clock’s ticking.

Hence, we must either develop the will to bludgeon the issues or, seek peace while issues bludgeon us. Playing a victim is weakness and dumb, given life will come at us hard, every time.

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As time approached sunset, Vondel Park in Amsterdam was quieter

 

Breathing Halloween Skeletons

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We met this bunch of suave guitar-holding skeletons at a Halloween party for children, which our toddler son thoroughly enjoyed.

My first reaction looking at them was that although they were barren, their presence was paramount; shrouding the rest of us in the hall. They gave vibes of joy, and were unlike other blood-curdling, spine-tingling skeletons.

Their smile was endearing, but their eyes cautioned that they’d long been dead. Stare at the eyes and you’ll know.

How different are we from them? Are we too dead and insensitive? In flesh and blood we certainly are breathing, but we are worse shadows.

The Spirit House At Royal Ontario

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I captured this image of the Spirit House, which was a hall of intrigue with myriad story possibilities, at Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto.

Daniel Libeskind, the architect of the Freedom Tower in New York City, designed Lee-Chin Crystal; also designing some of the chairs in the Spirit House.

The stainless steel chairs synced well with the crystalline surrounding. From the center of the house, one could see in the arch above an interwoven pattern of concrete, which linked exhibit spaces with elevators, speaking of conflicts in stories.

In The Present At Central Park

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In a Central Park pond, three male mallard ducks circled a female mallard. The reflections of the wispy aquatic plants were hues of green and straw in the quiet pond, which a gentle wind often ruffled to create ripples.

Ripples decimated the trails the moving ducks left, but when breeze stopped and ducks paused, stillness prevailed. That’s when nature offered me a moment to reflect, and I felt my presence.

Kailash Satyarthi, The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Is My Ex-Boss: A Brief Tribute

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I first met him in the fall of 1996 when he, in an ironed kurta-pajama, passed by me, and whooshed the door open to his small office. I was lazing at my desk, waiting for the Director, who I’d been hired to assist. The morning was overcast and light barely filtered through the window at the entrance, but the pure white of his cotton made the day appear brighter. I was young, and it was my first job.

It took a few months before the Director recommended that I work for Kailash Satyarthi – the Chairperson of Bachpan Bachao Andolan/Save The Childhood Movement (BBA) – whom we fondly call “Bhaisahab.”

His costume though it was bright, had an air of intimidation, because we’d witnessed all our lives in India, the white-adorned politicians who would often vanish after they’d won the elections, not delivering on their promises. Though I knew Mr. Satyarthi wasn’t a politician, I’d still braved through, with raised brows and wet palms, the jitteriness of my first formal meeting with him. When a 6-foot man, bespectacled, with black beard and hair neatly parted and slicked to the side, breezed into the room and glanced at me, I stood up, holding out my hand when he did his, to shake, and poor man, he had to wipe his hand with a kerchief, as he advised, “You don’t have to worry at all.”

The softness of his voice belied his domineering posture, and the nicety of his demeanor made it easy for me to want to work with him for next several years. He was a presence of immense hope. If we look at his graph – until the moment he won the Nobel Peace Prize – he had given thousands of voiceless children a smile, touching their hearts and enlightening them with his never-say-die attitude.

In my 9 year stint with him, being responsible for his schedule and travel as well, I’d spent most of my time in the office than at home with my family. And the only reason I could pull that off was that I worked for a man, who I rarely saw in a state of exhaustion. He traveled domestic and international, extensively, with the mission of eliminating child labor; and the success of Global March Against Child Labor, under his leadership, proved that, with partnerships and collaborations, groups and teams, we were cruising along to end the menace.

Way to go. His travel continued for days on end, and yet, one fine morning only a couple of hours after he’d arrived from a trip to the US, he was in the office – fighting jet lag – to meet with a local organization, which had come to him for guidance. He’d welcomed them, and stressed how if everyone involved in the movement displayed the passion the mission demanded, the endeavors would yield results. And he’d also warned that the path to mission’s success faced stiff opposition from more quarters than we could imagine — but so long as we didn’t devalue the power of our collective conscience for the sake of the cause, we were right on course. His philosophy and pragmatism kindled each other in the design of his thoughts, where children became the only focus.

He was running high fever one day, but still wanted to lead a team to raid a factory in North Delhi, where some details earlier had suggested that the brick kiln owner was employing forced child labor. All of us had requested he let somebody else lead the raid so he could recover, but his stubbornness was nonpareil, and he wished to go. I remember I’d handed him some pills of paracetamol for fever. A day later, when he’d returned with his team in a foggy evening, he looked fresh, with dozens of rescued children following him into the conference hall — where he stood in a corner, unattached, smiling at the children, who cheered and celebrated their new-found freedom. His detachment, I thought, was a moment during which he pondered upon the day gone by, when he and his team had conducted another riskier raid, converting its success into the laughter that reverberated in the building. His fever pills were intact, and his fever only worse, and he tossed the first one into his mouth, and informed us that he’d better get rest, and stepped out, into his car and disappeared in the fog.

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I remember he had a couple of meetings in Germany and an important one in London, but his UK visa had expired, and he had to leave within two days. We were not scheduling anything in the UK because we knew we had to renew the visa. I remembered a get-together that BBA had, the previous week, and a senior visa official from the British High Commission had been in attendance, and I remember how he’d admired Mr. Satyarthi and the organization, and had left his visiting card. I called him around 3 pm to check if renewal of the visa was possible at such short notice, and he asked me to meet him in the embassy with Mr. Satyarthi’s passport, and by late evening the same day, his visa was renewed. The next day, I’d written to BBC HARDtalk, a popular show where global leaders are grilled, sending them Mr. Satyarthi and organization’s profile, asking if he could be interviewed – since he had a day to spare in London – and by next morning, I received their confirmation that they’d be pleased to have him.

Later, when I updated Mr. Satyarthi about these two developments, he patted on my back and said that he was proud of me – to which I said that I hadn’t done much, and that he was a known figure fighting for a just cause, and somebody only had to contact the right person at the right time.

Years passed, and his hair and beard turned grey and he began to look weary. One weekend, the entire office went to Bal Ashram, a rehabilitation center for rescued child laborers in Jaipur, to spend time with the children. And I remember we were playing volleyball, during a recreational period, and Mr. Satyarthi looked washed-out, but when somebody lifted the ball for him to smash, his strike had so much power that I had to duck my head on the other side. He has always been too mentally strong to allow fatigue to weaken him, and I know that his commitment for child rights will stay alive till his last breath.

Behind the glitter and glamour of the Nobel Prize are his incredible patience in handling complexities, live-in-the-present motto, taking risks to life, seeking truth, and delivering on the promises – the qualities he was born with, and which made his actions for the children languishing in slavery, be counted.

I left the organization in 2004, but I followed its activities online, and I’m so thrilled that 10 years later, Mr. Satyarthi won the prize after being in the running for it for several years, as per the Nobel Committee. But for me he had won it much earlier, when I’d realized that his passion and mission were noble enough.

Imperfect Shadows At White River State Park

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Isn’t this shadow a sign that all is well? At White River State Park in Indianapolis.

Sad folks may not like their shadows though some might seek perspective in them. Happy folks, however, may brag about their shadows, and some may take pictures.

If a shadow, which is immune to being judged, looks imperfect, it’s normal. What is not normal is when imperfection in some makes the rest think they are bigger or stronger than they really are.

Drama At Balzac’s

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This nighttime picture of Balzac’s, which is a sought-after coffeehouse in the Distillery District in Toronto, shows faded brick walls, a stylish chandelier, high ceilings, and a lit window. But what transpires below on the first level among a crowd of people, who’re chin-wagging and tittle-tattling while sipping the in-house roasted coffee, may be hard like the brick, classy like the chandelier, empty like the ceiling, and bright like the window.

You, a bitter reflection of your past acts, now realize how your egotism scared your friends away; how you were unsurprisingly certain that one day, you’d sit here to sip alone with no one to talk to. The lonely you glances up, hoping that someday things might change.

Endurance On The Venice Beach

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He strummed tune after tune on the Venice beach boardwalk in Los Angeles.

His shabby attire belied the soulful melodies of his performance. He endured, plucking the strings, reaching the broken hearts with “Careless Whispers” and the confused minds with “Make me Pure.”

I saw a liplocked couple standing by a restroom, never wanting to unlock; and a marijuana addict who smoked another joint with teary eyes.

The performer was a homeless marijuana addict himself and he, after hours of non-stop plucking, hollered, “I haven’t eaten for days,” and went back to strumming.

 

Humanity Outside The Museum Of Royal Houses

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Outside the Museum of Royal Houses in Santo Domingo, though this ice cream vendor was eating his lunch, he was ready to sell his cones and bars as he stood up at the sight of the oncoming steps. He was taking another bite when he heard the click of my camera snapping this photo. He scanned my body language hoping that my steps would lead to him, which they did. I bought a vanilla cone.

Since his food depended on those sales, I asked him if he’d ever eaten his meals in peace. He said, “Sales give peace. One cone, more? please.”

The National Pantheon Contrasts

This shot was captured from the inside of the National Pantheon of the Dominican Republic. The National Pantheon was originally a church; today it serves as the final resting place for the nation’s honored citizens.

The guards and the flags were in the resting place; colors dim, painfully quiet. The heat of the summer outside painted the walls white; it was loud.

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The Caribbean Sea Conundrum

In the fading twilight, as the Caribbean Sea lends quietude to a noisy park in Malecon, these musicians showcase their skills; their objective is to earn some Dominican Peso so they buy dinner for their family in this poverty-stricken Caribbean nation.

Three ladies, a gentleman, and a child appear to be a family. Though the ladies may love some music, spending pesos is hard given their expenses and there’s a child, too. So the gentleman on the left initiates a look-elsewhere strategy triggering a look-elsewhere response from the rest.

The performer wearing the brim hat looks elsewhere too; he’s begun to understand the futility of their collective tune.

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Sinterklaas In Amsterdam

We were out in the evening and I saw people swarm a corner circling a god-like figure. The figure had white hair and beard, wore a red chasuble and a red miter.

He was Sinterklaas. This was in Amsterdam more than a decade ago.

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Though Sinterklaas looks like Santa Claus, he’s Saint Nicholas: a Dutch character. Legend has it that Sinterklaas originally hailed from Turkey and was a well respected and loved man. The feast of Sinterklaas is on December 6, but the evening of December 5 is when loved ones get their gifts.

 

Twists In MIT

It’s odd if there’s no oddity from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): a producer of great minds.

The Intellectuals’ Circle. 16 people can sit here. Half facing in, half facing out. Whose brains will seal the first deal?  

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Pivoting Garden Bench. Who will pivot here? Someone with nothing better to do? Then don’t wait. Image

Backless bench. For minds and spines. No old professors, with due respect. Image

 

The Honor To See, 24/7, The Tallest Building In The Western Hemisphere

I’ve had quite a journey with the World Trade Center in New York City.

When the dastardly act of 9/11 happened, I was on vacation in a remote village in South India. When the news spread in the US, it was evening in India, and since we’d been out all day and were exhausted, I’d retired to bed without watching television. Next morning, my grandfather woke me up to tell me the news, and I’d spent the rest of the day in front of the television. It was hard to believe.

In late 2002, I had an opportunity to visit Washington, DC and New York City, but couldn’t travel due to personal reasons. In 2008, my wife and I moved to the US, renting an apartment that gave us the downtown Manhattan view.

Of the four towers being built in downtown today, the Freedom Tower is almost complete and will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere and fourth tallest in the world. We’ve been witnessing its growth from our apartment; the incredible progression from infancy to adulthood has been a stupendous feat; the skills, the workmanship, the will, and the conviction to regain what was lost.

Never taking the apartment view for granted, we’ve been awestruck – mornings and evenings, days and nights, weeks and months – by its evolution, majestic presence, and symbolism of hope and freedom.

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This is how it looks now from the living room.
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2008: When we moved to the US and into this apartment, there was no Freedom Tower in view, and though construction had begun, the project was taking longer due to disputes among business leaders, real estate lobby, and civic organizations. We loved the moon in the picture.
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2009: Here, we spotted the building for the first time; cranes promising speedy work.
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2010: It appeared the tower announced its arrival: start noticing me.
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2011: The structure looked tall, standing out in the twilight. Seventy floors up.
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2012: The Tribute in Light gave us hope, year after year, in the autumn. Here, the Freedom Tower is making its presence felt. Ninety floors up.
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2013: The day after the 408-foot spire was installed on top of the structure, giving the tower its 1776 feet, and 104 floors. Apparently, 1776 was when the US got its independence.
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2014: With the winter leaving us, the dawn gave this view a golden hue. Yachts were back.
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The night view

Sister Oracle At Quincy Market

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She became a work of art herself standing there hours on end, which required a lot of strength and resoluteness. This was in the summer of 2011 in Boston.

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She moved only when she had to give chits.

Place a dollar in the column and receive a fortune. Though we didn’t place the bill, the ones who did were given chits. She kept her expression intact as she picked the chit from her funnel bag, her movement graceful.

She’s Sister Oracle. Oracles are like the portals of heaven through which gods communicate directly with people.

 

Nudity

Anyone who reads this may blush or giggle, get excited or even scandalized.

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Never been a fan of public nudity but I still visited Gunnison Beach, Sandy Hook, New Jersey. How humans looked strange!

Gunnison Beach is legal and attracts huge crowds in summer. There’s a group called Friends of Gunnison where hundreds of its members are friends in real life. Meaning: they live their city lives and meet socially fully-clothed; and when they hit the beach they’ll sit across from each other – discuss life, family and politics – without a shred of clothing on them.

Weekly Photo Challenge

Corning Museum Of Glass In New York

Founded in 1951, Corning Museum of Glass is the world’s largest glass museum in Corning, New York. We visited the museum on our way to Niagara Falls.

If you’re keen to learn the art, science and history of glass, this is the place to be. It has on display 35 centuries of glass artistry, from the Roman and Islamic periods up to modern art glass; has live demonstrations for glassblowing, glass breaking, lamp working; has exhibits showing commercial uses of glass like fiber optics, telescope lens; has thousands of glass artworks by renowned artists.

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Bronze Threshold In Battery Park

We know that the immigrants built this country, suffering years and years of toil and struggle. This bronze sculpture in Battery Park celebrates the diversity of New York City.

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The figures with their dramatic poses include a freed African slave, a worker, a priest and an Eastern European Jew. Indeed this was a threshold before the freedom beckoned guaranteeing our rights and responsibilities.

 

 

The Breakers At Rhode Island

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We visited The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, more than a year ago. We were two of the 300,000 visitors that year, which is roughly the number of visitors every year.

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The Breakers – a Vanderbilt mansion, a national historic landmark, the most luxuriant house in a summer resort, the top Gilded Age gem, considered the social capital of America – was constructed in 1895.

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Since interior photography wasn’t allowed we couldn’t take pictures, but from what we saw and learned: Italian and African marbles, and mosaics and rare woods from several countries were used to design the interior. Interestingly, the gold room in the mansion was constructed in France before disassembling and shipping the parts in airtight cases to Newport, Rhode Island, where it was re-assembled.

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View from the mansion – oasis of green and blue.

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Steel trusses were used to make the structure fireproof.

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Manneken Pis In Brussels

Though not a great picture, my rendezvous with the legend of Manneken Pis – a 61 cm tall bronze statue – happened a decade ago in Brussels, Belgium. Since the visit to Brussels was around Christmas, you could see him in a Santa Claus costume, peeing into fountain’s basin.

Among the several stories about Manneken Pis, my favorite is, When a fire awoke a young boy, he put out the fire with his urine and therefore could stop the king’s castle from burning down.

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Street Life Inequality

The first thing that comes to mind when I think about street is crowd, and how people in the crowd are either active or inactive. Other things that become part of street may lie in the periphery, adding layers and colors.

People in these pictures are impersonators from two different locations: one, from posh-yet-punishing Los Angeles in the US, and the other, buzzing-yet-backward Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic.

Los Angeles punishes strugglers. Legend has it that Brad Pitt was once an impersonator before he became what he became. Here in the picture, an impersonator has become Robert Pattinson, who looked fit and might not be a hungry man. People were paying him for a picture.313056_10150380572860625_4919311_n

Santo Domingo has a lot of hungry people. The impersonator in the picture, who looked stoned, stood in that position for a long time; the street was empty. But he performed ‘Dangerous’ moves later in the evening as people swarmed the El Conde Street. Michael Jackson later told me that he’d moonwalk all day to eat one meal at night. When I offered him Presidente beer he drank it with his meal, following which he asked me if I wanted to smoke weed.1071355_10151822514175625_2008872921_o

 

 

Character Buildings In New York City

In continuing the series on New York City, this is my third post (firstsecond).

This will take you to the clusters of glass, steel and concrete. The tall buildings of NYC. Capturing them on camera was easy.

Brilliant architecture and lovely designs have infused life into these buildings, giving them character.

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Some magnificent structuresIMG_3728

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From atop the Empire State: the downtown viewIMG_3046

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Bergdorf Goodman 52769_10151316772390625_508349399_o

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Gorgeous skyscrapers172755_10151289584115625_2029968795_o

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The National Museum of the American Indian 461815_10151193686415625_910738829_o

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Downtown Manhattan skyline (view from the apartment)IMG_6004

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