Friday, December 29, 2006

The Windows at Lord & Taylor

When I started this series of pictures of the department stores' Christmas windows, I promised to show them all: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Saks, Lord & Taylor, and Bergdorf Goodman. What I didn't know was that Bergdorf Goodman, the ritziest of all these stores, doesn't do Christmas windows. They have winter scenes promoting their merchandise, but no holiday themes. Apparently they are too cool to play that game. No wonder I never go into Bergdorf's. Also because I couldn't afford to buy a paper clip in that store.

So here are the windows of Lord & Taylor. As I did last week at Saks, I showed up at 4 AM and this time had 5th Avenue between 38th and 39th Streets, where the store is located, all to myself.

They took a fifty-year period of time in the 1800s in New York City as their theme.

So that wraps up the Christmas windows.

And now, to wrap up the year, I'd like to thank everyone who's been reading this blog and offer to you this New Year's wish from a taxi driver:

May your best days be yet unseen,

And may all your lights be green.

Monday, December 25, 2006

He Reads Lips

I was heading down 2nd Avenue a few nights ago around midnight when I picked up a young guy at 31st Street. He told me he was heading for 19th between 5th and 6th and then said something that really caught my attention. He told me he was deaf and if I wanted him to understand anything I wanted to say I should move my mirror down so he could see my lips.

I started driving down the avenue and it took me a few moments to process this information. The first thing that occurred to me was that my passenger, although he said he was deaf, spoke in a normal-sounding voice. I haven't had a lot of experience with the deaf, but it seemed to me that they most likely either don't speak at all because they use sign language or they would have a noticeable speech impediment. So this was odd. I decided to give it a test.

I looked at him in the rear-view mirror. He was looking out his window to his right. "SO HOW'S YOUR NIGHT GOING?" I asked in a loud voice, leaving the mirror in its normal position and keeping my head facing forward. He didn't respond in any way. So I knew that he was, if fact, quite deaf because there was no way he wouldn't have heard me.

The next thing that occurred to me was that in all my 29 years of taxi-driving, having transported countless thousands and thousands of people around New York, this was the first time anyone had ever told me that he could read lips. In fact, I've never met anyone in my life who has this ability. (Have you?) I wanted to know more, so I started a conversation by continuously turning my face toward him so he could see me. Here's what I found out.

His name is Nino and he's twenty-four years old. Nino was not born deaf. He's only been losing his hearing gradually over the last few years, which is why he can speak in a normal voice. He comes from a family of sixteen brothers and sisters (!), none of whom have any hearing problems. So the condition is not genetic. In fact, the doctors don't have a definite explanation for it. What they do know is that damage to a nerve is causing him to lose his hearing. Nino said it may have been from a sports injury or from exposure to loud music, but no one knows for sure.

Amazingly, he has never been taught how to read lips. It's just a skill he picked up out of necessity. He doesn't know sign language, but says it's something he will probably have to learn. Even so, he has no trouble communicating with anyone as long as he can see their lips. I, for one, never would have guessed that he was deaf if he hadn't told me.

I would have said he was just another good-looking guy heading out to a club on a Saturday night.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Windows At Saks

The Saks Fifth Avenue department store is located exactly in the middle of New York City at 5th Avenue and 50th Street, directly across the street from Rockefeller Center. This area is so crowded during the day and evening that it can be difficult to walk on the sidewalk. So I stopped by at four in the morning to take these shots.

It was kind of cool to have the whole street to myself, actually.

The motif they chose this year was the snowflake. You can see that the windows themselves are in the shapes of snowflakes.

The "story" in the displays is the journey of an ice crystal that joins with other ice crystals to finally form a snowflake.

Next up: Lord & Taylor.

But first click here for Pictures From A Taxi

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The Race For The Nipple

Taxicabs in New York City are allowed by law to carry a maximum of four passengers (five if there's a child). So when a group of five, six, seven, or eight people are traveling together, they will need to take two cabs. And therein lies the possibility for a race.

It happened to me last Saturday night.

Four twenty-somethings jumped in at a red light at West 4th Street and 6th Avenue in Greenwich Village at 2 AM. A guy up front with me and two girls and another guy in the back seat. Three friends of theirs got into a second cab just to my left. The destination for all of us was 36th Street and 3rd Avenue in Murray Hill.

Of course they were all somewhat plastered. And the fellow to my right, since he was the guy sitting next to the cab driver, felt an inner need to entertain his friends at my expense. A moment after telling me where we were going and pointing out that the cab next to us was filled with his friends, he had a brilliant idea.

"Hey, we've gotta beat them there!" he blurted out, loud enough for everyone to hear. I gave him a shrug of my shoulders and a look on my face that indicated I didn't have much interest in racing with another cab. He noticed.

"Come on, man, I know you're the man! I know you can beat that other cabbie! I know you can do it!" His friends in the back seat were all for it, chiming in with words of encouragement.

I sensed a business oportunity opening up. "Oh, yeah?" I asked with a smile. "So what's in it for me?"

He thought about it for a moment and then made what was kind of a grand pronouncement. "You will get kissed by those two beautiful girls back there!" he proclaimed. I looked in the mirror. The girls were smiling, but I wasn't motivated.

"How about some money? Let's name a dollar amount," I said, thinking of something that would actually make me want to race.

He was a shrewd negotiator, however, realizing that if he agreed to this it could hit him where it hurts. Instead, he made a counter-offer.

"Okay," he said, "here's the deal: if we get to 36th Street first, my girlfriend will show you her nipple." I looked again in the mirror. Both girls were still smiling. I looked at my passenger. He looked at me.

"Deal!" I said. Here was something worth racing for. I wanted that nipple.

And we were off.

The light turned green and I headed uptown on 6th Avenue. My first order of business was to figure out my route. No problem, it was obvious - straight up 6th to 23rd Street, right turn, straight across to 3rd Avenue with the great flow of green lights that 23rd Street has, and then a left up to 36th Street. I was hoping the other driver would choose another route, but he was an experienced cabbie and went the same way I did. He knew it was the best way to go.

6th Avenue, like all the one-way avenues in Manhattan, has the lights synchronized in a "wave". If you go about 27 miles per hour with no other cars in the way, the lights will turn green as you approach them and you will never hit a red. So this other cab and myself were traveling neck and neck up to 23rd Street, not stopping for a single light. My passengers, particularly the guys, became my cheering section.

When we finally did catch a red on 23rd Street at 5th Avenue, it was break time. Unfortunately, the guy in the back seat got on his cell phone and informed his friends in the other cab that we were in a race to see who would get to 36th Street first. This notched the excitement level up to a new level. Now there was not only a nipple at stake, there was pride.

The light turned green on 5th Avenue, and the race continued. Both myself and the other cabbie knew we would get greens at Madison, Park, and Lexington Avenues and then we'd have a red at 3rd. So it was a matter of jockeying for position so that one of us would be in front of the other at that 3rd Avenue red light. I was in the lead the whole way, and then the moment of truth arrived: just as we approached 3rd Avenue, he tried to cut in front of me. I held my ground and sped up enough to close the small gap between my cab and the car in front of me, and he was forced to pull in behind me. It was the critical move of the race.

When the light turned green at 3rd Avenue, we both made left turns and went one block to a new red light on 24th Street. Other vehicles were already at the "line" except for one open spot on the left which I grabbed. This meant that when the light turned green I would have no one in front of me and could zip all the way up 3rd Avenue. My competition would be stuck behind other cars.

And that's exactly what happened. I coasted up 3rd Avenue to victory at 36th Street, bringing the cab to a halt on the far right corner of the intersection. And now it was time for my reward.

I turned to look back at the girls in the rear. Both doors had been opened and one girl and the guy were already outside and the other girl was moving toward the exit.

I looked at the guy sitting on my right. "So... where's that nipple?" I asked. A man has a right to collect what is owed to him.

With what might be called a shit-eating smile on his face, he called out to his girlfriend - "Hey, Jess..."

But Jess was already out the door.

"I'm not that drunk!" was her reply.

I looked again at the guy. He shrugged his shoulders and had an expression on his face as if to say he wished he could help but was powerless to do so under the circumstances.

"Some pimp you turned out to be!" I said in mock distress.

The fare was $8.60. He gave me $11, a bit more than the usual $10 for that ride. But I wasn't placated.

I wanted that damned nipple.

"Pictures From A Taxi" - click here

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Windows at Bloomingdale's

Bloomingdale's is located right where Midtown meets the Upper East Side. It takes up a full city block between 59th and 60th Streets and Lexington and Third Avenues.

Here's a shot from the 3rd Avenue side...

And here are a couple from Lex...

I think I'll slip in a little Bloomingdale's story here: whenever I have someone in my cab from the U.K. - which is often, probably once or twice a night on the average - I like to ask them if they've ever seen the queen in person. (I find it runs at about 50 per cent.) Once I asked an English woman that question and she replied, "Why, yes, one time! I saw Her Majesty going into Bloomingdale's!" Apparently Queen Elizabeth had been in New York and an event was held inside the store in her honor. (After hours, of course.) I always thought it was funny that the only time a British subject had seen her own queen was entering this store.

Anyway, here's the next installment of the Christmas windows. These are all on the Lexington Avenue side (3rd Avenue has Christmas fashions). The theme here is "The World Celebrates". It's a Christmas scene from various countries in the world.

Next up: Saks Fifth Avenue.

Miss New York? Click here - this will make it worse!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Windows at Macy's

My long-time cyber buddy in London, Jackie, has requested that I wander out of my taxi into the crisp December air and shoot pictures of all the major department store windows in NYC. Great idea - so here we go...

There are five huge department stores in New York: Macy's, Saks, Bloomingdale's, Bergdorf Goodman, and Lord & Taylor. In the next few weeks, I'll post pictures of all of them. I have the advantage of being up all night and so I can get shots without any people blocking the view. During the day - faggeddabowdit. These windows are major attractions. Sometimes you have to wait in line just to walk by.

Let's start off with the biggest display of all - Macy's.

Next up... Bloomingdale's. Stay tuned.

Pssst... hey, buddy, wanna see some post cards? Click here!