Fishy Pell-Mell

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I noticed the aquariums in the window and had a few minutes to kill, so I stopped to shoot some photos. This fish came right up to the corner of the tank where I was shooting. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at me or was attracted by something else, but I have to say I started to feel a bit guilty snapping away with my camera while he was stuck in a small tank with three other big fish.(Hee Win Lai Restaurant, 28 Pell St, Manhattan)

Real is the New Fake is the New Real

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I’ve always prided myself on having a pretty good eye for spotting new things that are pretending to be old — Bennigan’s is an easy one, Balthazar is way harder, the East Staircase at Grand Central is impossible — but these days my Fake Filter is starting to register false positives. Blame it on the Culture of Deception. I shot this collage because I really liked the way the letters of the old sign were still “visible” even though most of them had fallen off. As I was walking away, however, I began to wonder how such an old and esoteric (read: non yuppie-serving) business could survive in the white-hot real estate frenzy of Tribeca. Then I began to think that perhaps what I’d seen was not an actual old rubber supply company storefront, but part of a movie or TV set. (Isn’t there a now Law & Order series that’s entirely about malfeasance in the plumbing industry?)Thanks to Google, I discovered that this so-real-it’s-almost-fake store was, in fact, a genuinely old business that had relocated to Long Island some time ago. (No doubt this move was a result of the white-hot real estate frenzy of Tribeca, but I repeat myself.)Though I’ve never set foot in a rubber supply store in my life, it saddens me to know that United Rubber undoubtedly be replaced with something a lot less interesting, a lot more fancy, a lot less real. My hope is that the new tenant will be a Design Within Reach store, so I can pick up some of those cool new old Eames rockers.(United Rubber Supply, 54 Warren St, Manhattan)

Spin City

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The right way to do something you feel self-conscious about — like being the only adult unaccompanied by a child on the Times Square Toys “R” Us ferris wheel — is to just do it and enjoy it and ignore the puzzled and fearful stares of the other riders. The wrong way to do it is to act like a child yourself, yelling and screaming while on the ride, crying uncontrollably when it’s over, and soiling your pants in the Lego section. Really, just trust me on this one.(Toys “R” Us Times Square, Manhattan)

Looking Out, Looking In

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Someone once said that New York is just like anywhere else, only more intense. It makes a lot of sense to me — with so many people in so relatively small an area, everyday life here has an intensity that’s sometimes thrillingly joyous, sometimes excruciatingly painful. Living here means seeing the best and worst things that humans are capable of, sometimes in the very same moments. You see happiness, hope, hatred, affection, disappointment, despair. This is the human condition: in your face, 24/7. To protect yourself from being swallowed up by it all (and by your fellow inhabitants), you put on an attitude of indifference, an air of toughness. But there’s always the risk that you’ll go from looking indifferent to being indifferent.I was riding the 4 train to Brooklyn on my lunch hour. I was in a good mood, heading to Sahadi’s to buy some falafel and hummus for a party later that night. I sat down and noticed this identically-dressed mother and daughter. They were silent and the woman looked heartbroken. I wanted to know why and to offer some reassurance, but you don’t do that with a stranger on the subway. It bothered me to be helpless. All I could think to do was quietly take a photo of the moment.(4 train to Brooklyn)

Street Signs

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I’m a fan of the vaguely-retro street signs the Downtown Alliance installed several years ago all over Downtown as part of a plan to improve wayfinding. The white type on black is classy and clean, the photos provide a visual link to familiar landmarks, and the address numbers are a big help. It’d be nice to see these signs in other parts of the city.I found this collection of signs at a garage on Washington St that the Alliance uses for their shuttle buses.(Battery Parking Garage, Manhattan)

Fay-Da Window

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If you’re wandering around Manhattan on your own, Chinatown offers a ton of great places where you can sit quietly, enjoy some tasty & cheap food, and get in some great people watching. At this branch of the Fay-Da chain, you can have a coconut bun, a hot tea, and perfect view of Mott Street for just $1.20.

(Fay-Da Bakery, 83 Mott St, Manhattan)

To Sir With Love

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Sir Norman Foster‘s Hearst Tower is going to be one heck of a cool place when it’s done. Built on top of a 1928 art deco building by Joseph Urban, the tower features an unconventional diagonal grid framework and is the first “green” office building in New York City.It’s too bad most of us will never get a chance to see the inside when it’s completed next year. Any Hearst employees wanna invite me up for a visit when you move in?(57 St & 8 Av, Manhattan)