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.

Photo of the day: PEEK-A-BOO


Show a little more,
Show a little less,
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks,
I’m very versatile.
Add a little smoke…
And if you’re real good,
I’ll make you feel good,
I want your spirit to climb,
Welcome to Burlesque!
Everything you dream of,
But never can possess.
So let me entertain you,
We’ll have a real good time,
Yes sir!
Outside it is winter. But in here it’s so hot.
Every night we have to battle with the girls
to keep them from taking off all their clothings.
So don’t go away. Who knows?
Tonight we may lose the battle!
Nothing’s what it seems . . .
Welcome to Burlesque!
Can you determine how many cabarets these lyrics are from?

Photo of the day: RARE RED REFLECTIONS


RARE RED REFLECTIONS: In the icy cold winter sunsets you sometimes get a rare colorful surprise. I was heading up 42nd Street and noticed a rather unusual sight – the Chrysler Building had color, red color! At first I though it must be a new seasonal lighting, but then I noticed they were just streaks of red, the dramatic effect of a winter’s sunset causing rare red reflections. . .



CELEBRATING THE THREE KINGS: While the ornaments may have vanished from store windows on December 26th, Christians will finish their celebration of Christmas on Sunday, January 6th with the feast of the Epiphany, the twelfth and final day of the Christmas. Many people confuse when the Twelve days of Christmas actually take place. A Lot of people think it’s the 12 days leading up to Christmas, and that it’s counting down to Christmas. As soon as the day is over, the 12 days of Christmas start, but a lot of people take down their decorations the day after.

The Twelve Days of Christmas grows out of European tradition that links the feasts of The Nativity and The Epiphany. In many traditions early on, there was not a whole lot of emphasis on Christmas as a holiday; more of the focus was on Easter and the resurrection.

During the season of Advent, the approximately month-long period prior to Christmas, Christians are encouraged to focus on readying themselves for Jesus’ birth,  these preparations are not made with presents, but with Scripture readings and charitable work so that the hearts and minds of Christians will be in the spirit to celebrate the birth of Christ.

There are seasons of feasting and seasons of preparation. But in our culture, we want feasting all the time, all lights and decorations. The commercial world is going on and on about the singing of the Christmas carols, which is a little premature…unless you know what you’re celebrating and that’s what Advent does.

Mom and I do not put up all of our decorations until December 22nd. Those decorations then remain in place until after the Twelve Days of Christmas have ended.

The real religious significance is that on the twelfth day it is believed to be the day three wise men journeyed to Jesus’ birthplace and paid their respects to him by offering presents. An Epiphany Festival means “manifestation of the light.” And so, mom and I will light the candles on our tree one last time tonight.

See my post of December 26th about our traditional German candle lit tree!

“We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar.
Field and fountain, moor and mountain,
Following yonder star.

O star of wonder, star of night,
Star with royal beauty bright,
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect Light.”

Photo of the day: WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS . . .


. . . Stays in Vegas!
(Reflection caught in policeman’s motorcycle rear view mirror in Times Square.)

Photo of the day: DON’T WISH FOR IT, WORK FOR IT


DON’T WISH FOR IT, WORK FOR IT: I was rushing through Times Square when subliminally my mind caught this chair out of the corner of my eye. It belongs to one of the street vendors. I love the positive reinforcement, even when they are sitting down! It’s a great way to start the new year 🙂

Photo of the day: BAOTU – THE FACE OF HARD WORK


BAOTU – THE FACE OF HARD WORK: Her name is Baotu, , in Chinese it means ‘New Spring’. She works at The New Empire Szechuan Garden Chinese restaurant at 43-42 46th Street, my street, in Sunnyside, Queens. She works long, long hours in the back, over the hot griddles and frying oils, always smiling, always saying hello, ever cheerful. You will see Baotu working Christmas eve, Easter Sunday, New Years eve, never visibly complaining, always rushing about, always greeting you with that smile on her face.
In the July 2006  mass blackout due to the extreme July heat wave, she was filling orders in the scorching heat that reached over 110F degrees in their restaurant. I will never, never forget it, Baotu was a whirl of activity as she juggled the orders, sweat pouring from her face. In the blackout there were no stores open, no places to buy food, but there she was with her co-workers, with no fans, working harder than anyone would in that heat. Several dogs died on my block of heat exhaustion, many people had to be hospitalized as the heat reached 100+ degrees for three days straight and the blackout lasted ten days in our neighborhood of Sunnyside. People slept on their fire escapes, mom slept sitting upright at an open window. We did what we could, but everyday as we passed the little Chinese restaurant, there they were, working so, so hard from morning to night.
This New Years Eve I decided to celebrate at home with mom, the sane thing to do. Past midnight I had to walk Noel our dog, as I passed by the Empire Szechuan Garden…there at 12:45 am, was Baotu, greeting me with a “happy new year” as I passed by and then she quickly returned to her griddle. This dear sweet woman always reminds me not to complain too much, I just think of Baotu, the humble smiling face of hard work.

Photo of the day: THE PARTY’S OVER

“The Party’s Over, it’s time to call it a day.
They’ve burst your pretty balloon and taken the moon away.
It’s time to wind up the masquerade.
Just make your mind up the piper must be paid.
The Party’s Over.The candles flicker and dim.
You danced and dreamed through the night,
it seemed to be right just being with him.
Now you must wake up, all dreams must end.
Take off your make up, The Party’s Over.
It’s all over, my friend.”
Words by Betty Comden and Adolph Green and Music by Jule Styne -introduced by Judy Holliday in her last film “Bells Are Ringing” (1956), also starring -Dean Martin and Jean Stapleton
-charted by Doris Day at # 63 in 1957

Photo of the day: HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Fremder, L’Etranger, Stranger!
Glücklich zu sehen, Je suis enchanté,
Happy to see you,
Bleibe, reste, stay.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Im 2013, Au 2013, To 2013!
Meine Damen und Herren-
Mes dames et Messieurs-
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comment ça va? Do you feel good?
Ich bin euer Conférencier! I am your host! Und sage.
Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
Leave your troubles outside.
So life is disappointing, forget it!
In New York life is beautiful.
Just get yourself a saw, a bow,
and a sparkly top hat and voilà,
you have a New Year’s party!