Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Archive for January, 2013



THE RUM HOUSE: It’s been a long day. The train was late, Bergdorf’s was too crowded and the help was slow, the dress was no longer on sale, the family never called – perhaps it was yesterday’s argument over tea. Getting a cab was impossible. Must keep an eye on the watch, the cat at home will want dinner soon. Maybe there’s interesting mail today – maybe not.  Maybe brunch with the girls tomorrow – maybe not. Here’s to the ladies who lunch. Does anyone still wear a hat? I’ll drink to that.

Photo of the day: BIG MAC SIDE EFFECTS


Today January 17th, 2013  is McDonald’s “Customer Appreciation Day”! (
Buy a Big Mac or Quarter Pounder with Cheese get a 2nd one for a penny!) I don’t know what was in his ‘happy meal’, but I think there was a little too much ‘happy’!

But if it’s not the extra ‘happy’ and you wake up in Times Square from a McDonald’s food haze, painted in gold and your items painted in gold…you should have laid off that fourth 12-pack of Chicken McNuggets, large big mac, two side order of fries and the 16oz big gulp. People have long debated over the ingredients in their food, this seems to be one of the bad side effects.

Photo of the day: psssssst…THE MARTIANS ARE HERE!


pssssst…THE MARTIANS ARE HERE!…: …and they’re watching you, ever so closely, all the time. Where you go, when you go there and with whom. They know your routine, your taste in clothes. One coffee – two sugars in the mornings, Monday’s it’s sushi for lunch, Friday’s it’s Mexican. They’re watching, hidden in plain sight on West 49th Street in Manhattan.
???? Look up – up there! Many stories above you head, there they are, just like the Martians in the 1958 Bugs Bunny cartoon “Hare-way to the Stars”. They’re curiously looking and watching.
What are they? New York City street lights, an odd kind unique to West 49th Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, opposite Rockefeller Center . These lights have ‘antenna’ atop their ‘heads’. I have studied them closely as they have me, and haven’t quite figured out what those ‘antennae’ are for. They’re not fiber optic lights for affect. I conclude they are either cameras or some sort of air measuring devices. If not…they’re a very 1960’s Calder-esque whimsical unique design, that none of us…have ever noticed before. They’re heeeere.



Interview of the day: THE FRIENDLIEST MOTORMAN ON THE #7 LINE ~ One of the friendliest motormen on the 7 line! A long time veteran of the rails, married with 2 children. He asked to remain unnamed and just be recognized for his bright smiling …face, so let’s just call him ‘Smith’. To familiarize you with the MTA lingo, the person in the front is the ‘motorman’, the person in the center of the train operating the doors is your conductor. There isn’t actually very much communication between the two. Most of the communication is between the motorman and headquarters.
He clocks 5 trips a day (the maximum allowed by the MTA.) I asked him what was the most memorable trip, Smith replied: “Yikes! They had me ride right into a tornado in April of 2010. My reaction was like that you see in a cartoon, your eyes pop out of your head, you can’t believe what you are seeing and you react just like a Warner Brothers cartoon…and then you pull yourself together and say to yourself ‘Keep the train steady and moving, you can do this’.”…and he did! His annoyances: “The people at headquarters giving us instructions aren’t here, they don’t know what we are facing or many times are up to.” Also the signals, he pointed out if any one of them is out or wrong it can cause the train to come to a halt and even cause damage, we stopped for a moment and he pointed one of them out and said: “Do you realize how old they are?” So what are his joys? His daily joy is approaching the 103rd Street/Corona Plaza stop. Smith said: “There’s a little bodega down there I can see from my booth and there are moms out front with their little kids. The kids see the train come to a halt and see me looking down at them, so I give ’em a big smile and toot the horn to see their eyes light up, it never gets old.”
His best story: Smith a long time ago met a young man along the line. Not very well dressed, struggling with school and finances. Smith gave him a pep talk and encouraged to keep in school and hang in there. He saw him routinely on his way to school, always in shabby clothes. A few years passed and he saw him dress a little better and ride at different times of the day. It turns out he was job hunting. A few more years passed and Smith pulls into a station one early morning and there at the very front of the platform was someone he thought he recognized. But this man was so well dressed. It was the same young man! He had gotten a decent job and was finally making a bit of money. Smith had watched this young man go through his and our daily struggle and watched him become a success. That makes Smith feel good to this day. As for me, I had a big smile, Smith had put a face and a warm smile behind the person we all take for granted daily. If you see him – give Smith a big smile – you’ll get one right back!



FLASH MOB – 12TH ANNUAL NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE!: The No Pants Subway Ride is an annual event staged by Improv Everywhere each January in New York City. It gives the true meaning to ‘flash mob’ 🙂 . The mission started as a small prank with seven guys and has grown into an international celebration of silliness, with dozens of cities around the world participating each year. The idea behind No Pants is simple: Random passengers board a subway car at separate stops in the middle of winter without pants. The participants do not behave as if they know each other, and they all wear winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves. The only unusual thing is their lack of pants.
The event drew over 5,000  partici(no)PANTS  in New York City alone, secretly meeting at 6 different meeting point throughout the city. The event has grown to international status and takes place in 28 countries around the world and 60 cities! All aboard!!
“I see London, I see France, I see you in your underpants!”



TRASH TREASURE, PROPELLER PLEASURE: I found this fantastic vintage mint 1950’s propeller blade fan in the trash! Complete with a thick coating of dust and dust balls! Friday is trash day here, the best day to walk your dog. I have found some of the best things on the street that are now my treasures.  As they say: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”
I love the combination of the 1950’s mint green color, the commercial grade design, the heavy cast iron textured base, the old fashioned cord and the sleek art deco design. I can’t wait to polish it up! This early 1950’s Eskimo brand fan was designed before safety was a consideration. The very powerful motor spins the commercial outboard metal blades fast enough to cut your fingers off. The cage has no design thought to prevent fingers from going inside – ahhh the 50’s! It’ll blow anything out of it’s way! Gotta love the retro 50’s, gotta love trash day!
What are some of your trash treasure finds?



A GARBAGE MAN WHO HAS (CREATIVE) BALLS: As I walked my dog last night I saw a local resident here in Sunnyside, Queens had thrown out their Christmas tree replete with all the plastic ornaments. As I walked by this morning . . . I noticed the garbage and the tree had been picked up, but not quite all the ornaments. Our garbage man got a little  creative and decorated our tree on the street! Merry Januarymas!

Photo of the day: SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR $10. BILL!

Hamilton_Grange 2012

SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR $10. BILL! – Take a look at an American $10. bill and you will have Alexander Hamilton staring right back you! So what would you give your dad on his 258th birthday? For Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, it will be a couple of open house celebrations in upper Manhattan.

Born on January 11, 1755, on the Caribbean island of Nevis, Alexander Hamilton, ascended from humble beginnings to become one of the most influential figures in United States’ history. He was a protégé of the country’s first president, George Washington. But in his own right, Hamilton was a distinguished statesman, soldier, economist, newspaper founder, lawyer and the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, therefore his place of honor on our $10 bills. A scandalous extra-marital affair clouded his reputation; a political rivalry led to his violent death in a deadly dual with our third vice president Aaron Burr, sound just like politics in 2013! He is buried in the cemetery at the oldest Episcopal church in New York City the Trinity Church located at the entrance to Wall Street.

On Saturday, January 12, Alexander Hamilton’s birthday looms over two great uptown houses. As one would guess, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial (seen above, his summer home) will toast its original owner on West 141st Street between Convent and St. Nicholas Avenues. But a concurrent tribute will take place at the Morris-Jumel Mansion, at West 160th Street between St. Nicholas and Edgecombe Avenues as well. It is there that both men planned their defeat of the British. So happy 258th birthday Mr. Hamilton, you don’t look a day over 40!

(Did you know you can’t xerox/photocopy money, newer copy machines have some sort of block built into them.)

Photo of the day: ART WITH ABANDON by Damon Ginandes


ART WITH ABANDON: Actually…art with an abandoned building; as seen in one of the side streets along the commercial piers waterfront in Brooklyn. It is a wonderful surprise as you walk through this dingy area. Note the brilliant artist’s Damon Ginandes’ clever use of color. The yellows match the yellow door of the building on the right and the blues match the color of the abandoned building.
See a beautiful video of his work: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHkCZlygCqg



STOP NORMALIZING RACISM AND VIOLENCE: This is Mazeda Uddin,  the National Women’s Coordinator for the Alliance of South Asian Americans. She and I attended a vigil in Jackson Heights to address incidents of racial violence, anti-Muslim, anti-gay sentiment and other forms of hatred in our neighborhoods. In light of the recent tragic death of Sunando Sen, an India immigrant, who was pushed in front of the 7 Train in Sunnyside for being “one of them”. Attending yesterday afternoon were Council Members Danny Dromm and Jimmy Bramer, members of Desis Rising Up & Moving, Council on American Islamic Relations and other community leaders and clergy to put an end to these heinous crimes.
We are a city of immigrants. Immigration is what built New York, to turn on each other for our perceived differences is inexcusable.   
See my original  post of December 29, 2012 to read the sadly horrible story of Mr. Sunando Sen.