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

Archive for July, 2013

Photo of the day: NEW YORK’S TRASH HAS MAD MEN STYLE

East Village, New York, summer 2013

East Village, New York, summer 2013

Photo of the day: NEW YORK’S TRASH GOT MAD MEN STYLE – In New York City our people certainly have style, our pets have style, our apartments have style, our restaurants have style, our clubs have style, our paper coffee cups have style, some of our subways have style, our graffiti has style, our billboards have style, The New York Times has style, our stores have plenty of style, our yellow cabs have style, our theaters have style, our street people have a certain style and even our trash . . . has Mad Men style!

Photo of the day: ONLY IN NEW YORK – Grocery shopping by cab!

TAXI GROCERY SHOPPING

Photo of the day: ONLY IN NEW YORK – do you see a woman going to the upscale trendy Trader Joe’s supermarket on Sixth Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood to do her grocery shopping, then only to hail a cab to take her groceries home, therefore doubling  her bill.  In Queens and Brooklyn the ladies have shopping carts, in Manhattan – they have cabs…only in New York   


Mondays on Memory Lane: THE STORY OF THE MIRACULOUS TRAVELING CHAIRS !

1961, my 6th Birthday party

1961, my 6th Birthday party

Mondays on Memory Lane: THE STORY OF THE MIRACULOUS TRAVELING CHAIRS
How we found our missing chairs after 20 years!
New Years Eve 1992 with grandmother aka "Oma"

New Years Eve 1992 with grandmother aka “Oma”

In the summer of 1960 my family, consisting of my mother Ursula, her mother Amalie and me, had moved across the street from a furnished walk up apartment to a brand new sprawling modern apartment building on Woodhaven Blvd named The Imperial. The lobby of the building looked like George Jetson’s living room, furnished in very high 1960’s modern style, it was wonderful, but there was more furniture in the lobby than there was in our apartment! Having come from a furnished apartment, we didn’t have much to move in with. Mom was a single parent secretary with impeccable skills who supported her family all by herself. Coming from a proper German family she had been taught you only buy what you can afford. Now that mom had arrived in America, her co-workers convinced Ursula that buying things “on time” was the all American way!
Bloomingdales 1959 American Design Foundation furniture ad

Bloomingdales 1959 American Design Foundation furniture ad

With that in mind, since we needed a dining room set first, mom would look in the stores after work. Ursula’s finer taste led her to Bloomingdale’s, which in those days had an elaborate furniture department. There on the upper floor were the latest of modern designs, and this being 1960, the style was of course Danish Modern. Mom tells me it was “love at first sight” when she was instantly drawn to a display island in the middle of the floor, roped off by velvet ropes, showing a complete dining set designed in 1959 by Kipp Stewart and Stewart MacDougal for the American Design Foundation for the Winchendon Furniture Company.
Six chairs, dinning table with extender leaves, end table and china cabinet. Solid cherry wood with black leather upholstery. “It was exactly my taste!” mom tells me. Although she does not recall the price, she does recall it was “terribly expensive” but fate had intervened – it was on sale! Even with this good fortune, it was still out of her budget range. “Why not buy it on time?” familiarly chimed the sales clerk. Sold! It was delivered soon afterwards.
 QUEENS CHAIR collage
For 53 years our family history has revolved around that set. It has been photographed for every special occasion, every birthday, every holiday, it has truly been the center of our lives. But, lives change. Situations change. So, in 1993 we left New York for Tucson, Arizona believing in the theory that ’the grass is always greener on the other side.’ We hired Mayflower movers who specializes in cross-country moves. We were one of about four families on board the huge, huge truck having their things moved out west. Ursula supervised the movers with an eagle eye, especially her beloved dining room chairs. Since the chairs are so light, it was decided they would be placed at the very, very top of our piled section so as not to dent or crush them. Once we got to Arizona we stayed in a furnished motel first, till we could find the house of our dreams. When the Mayflower movers finally arrived a week after our arrival, our furniture was placed in storage. We first settled on a rental house with option to buy (which we didn’t) and had our furniture packed up again and delivered to our new ‘temporary’ home. As the truck arrived, we watched as the doors opened. There perched at the top were their  treasured chairs. One, two, three, four came off the truck. “Where are the other two?” mom asked with great concern. “Don’t worry lady, they’re there,” the movers assured her. They were not.
Tucson Thanksgiving 1994

Tucson Thanksgiving 1994

We filed claims with Mayflower movers, they gave us the run around with excuses as to where they could be. The stop before us in the mid west, the stop after us in California, somewhere. Surely we thought, surely someone would be decent enough to say, ‘hey, we have two chairs that don’t belong to us.’ No one ever did. We believe that since the partition dividing each families furniture was not completely from floor to ceiling on the truck, the chairs must have toppled over into another families things and were never reported, too much of an inconvenience to some one else.
 FLORIDA DINING SET collage
In time, Ursula finally found the house of her dreams on East Hawk Place at the foot of Mount Lemon. Once again the movers were called. By the year 1999 I realized I was the quintessential New Yorker, miserable in Tucson, and in January 2000 moved back to NYC. One year later my mother to move ‘closer’ to me decided to move to Ft. Meyers Beach, Florida. So the movers (not Mayflower!) were called yet again. Mom’s first  house kept getting flooded by the hurricanes so she  moved yet again to one final house in Ft. Meyers Beach, until three hurricanes descended onto the Florida Gulf within three months. The one thing mom was determined to save each time was her beloved dining room set and she perched it up onto other furniture, thereby saving it from all the floods. Three hurricanes being too much, mom finally moved back to NYC!  For each and every one of the seven moves Ursula’s beloved dining room set has survived – except for the two chairs. Now in 2013 she is firmly ensconced around the corner from me in Sunnyside, Queens. But in all the years since 1993, whenever we have a special occasion at the dinner table, it is only a matter of time till mom will say, “you know, we had six of these chairs!”
On July 18 this year, in the midst of New York’s scorching 100F degree heat wave, I volunteered to go to mom’s holistic pet shop, located on 9th Street in the east village section of Manhattan. Now fate begins to intervene. I have gone to this shop many times before. The subway stop is 8th Street. Oddly enough, I automatically got off at 14th Street. So by foot I headed south. Instead of turning onto East 9th Street, for some unknown reason I turned onto East 12th Street. As I headed down the street, I was drawn into the wonderful The Cure Thrift Shop where proceeds go to the diabetes foundation. The lure of cool air and wonderful things pulled me in. I kept walking as if pulled to the back of the store. Then, when just about 6 feet from the back, my eyes saw – our dining room chairs, exactly two of them! !  It was an absolute surreal moment. Was I seeing right? This couldn’t be. In my days, I have been to every last thrift shop, antique store, garage sale, estate sale, street fair and flea market in New York, upstate, New England, Arizona and Florida – I have never ever seen any part of our dining room set – and here they were…the two of them, as if hey were waiting for me. I was almost afraid to touch them to only then discover the mirage wasn’t real – they were real, priced at $500 for the pair. “Do you know anything about these chairs” I carefully asked?
Stewart-MacDougal Chair in CURE Thrift Shop

Stewart-MacDougal Chair in CURE Thrift Shop

CURE Thrift Shop 111 East 12th Street

CURE Thrift Shop 111 East 12th Street

Chair in the #4 subway

Chair in the #4 subway

Hans' private seating

Hans’ private seating

I was told by a very delightful girl named Ali that they were donated by a woman who had had them for “many years.” My hand started going for my cell phone as I tried to walk calmly out of the store. I rushed across the street and speed dialed mom, “You’re not going to believe this, but I found your chairs!” Mom insisted I was clouded with romantic notions and that it just could not be. Maybe the back is different, different legs, different wood or seat, it just couldn’t be, not after 20 years!  “No mom…it’s them!“ We agreed that fate had intervened and that despite the fact this was certainly not planned for in our budget, if these were truly, truly the chairs, I had to buy them! I recognized the nicks and dents we had accidentally put in them over the years – these were undeniably OUR chairs! Unbelievable! I offered Ali $400 which she warmly accepted. I told Ali the entire story as we both got the Twilight Zone chills and teared up and hugged. I rushed home to show mom the photos I had taken of ‘her’ chairs. “It’s them” she exclaimed, as she just kept staring at the photo in the camera.

The very next day I planned to take the chairs to mom’s apartment, one by one on the subway. Liz the manager greeted me only to reveal that she herself had been the past owner of the infamous chairs for just a few years, before that they had been found in a second hand furniture store. Liz herself reupholstered the seats in white vinyl and insisted the original seats are still underneath, which they are. I thanked her profusely and gingerly carried the first chair to go home to mom.
Ursula and her chairs - 20 years later!

Ursula and her chairs – 20 years later!

Now in New York City, you see all characters carry all sorts of odd things on the subway. The subway doors opened, I placed my chair in the corner and sat down. I got all the required bemused looks. “You Won’t believe the story behind this chair!” I exclaimed, I just couldn’t hold my excitement back as I told a young surprised design student the story. My stop arrived, I rushed to her apartment building and got into the elevator as quickly as possible. Ursula was waiting at the door, “Oh my god, it really IS the chair”, mom just looked at me and then the chair and then me, then the chair…We went into the living room and I placed the first of the missing two chairs, next to it’s mates. After twenty long years they were together again! But wait – I had to go back to the city and do the whole trip over again with chair number two! I headed out the door, heady with excitement and rushed to get missing chair #2. After several hours on July 19, twenty years later, I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but our historic beloved chairs were together again, the dining room set was just as it was on that day in Bloomingdales when that sales person said to Ursula: “Why don’t you just buy them on time?” !
AMERICAN FURNITURE FOUNDATION MEDALLION

AMERICAN FURNITURE FOUNDATION MEDALLION

AMERICAN DESIGN FOUNDATION 1959 STEWART-MacDOUGAL DINING SET TODAY

AMERICAN DESIGN FOUNDATION 1959 STEWART-MacDOUGAL DINING SET TODAY

WINCHENDON FURNITURE COMPANY CHINA CABINET

WINCHENDON FURNITURE COMPANY CHINA CABINET

STEWART-MacDOUGAL WINCHENDON DINING CHAIRS

STEWART-MacDOUGAL WINCHENDON DINING CHAIRS

THE CURE THRIFT SHOP benefiting The Diabetes Foundation
111 East 12th Street, open daily 11:00 – 8:00
212-505-SHOP
PS: Bizarrely enough, a few days later, TCM (Ted Turner Movie) channel showed the 1970 Mel Brooks comedy film “The Twelve Chairs” for the very first time on their channel.
Sunday July 28th, I actually found the original Bloomingdale’s ad for the chairs on the internet. Life is surreal.

Photo of the day: TWIN TOWERS 2013

High rise and Verbascum Thapsus (Great or Common Mullein).

High rise and Verbascum Thapsus (Great or Common Mullein).

Photo of the day: TWIN TOWERS 2013 – The iconic twin towers of The World Trade Center are gone. But today in this era of overbuilding in New York City, if you look closely and use your imagination, there are still some ‘twin towers’ to be seen . . . some more beautiful than others.

Photo of the day: STYLISH BAD ASS BIKER GRANNY

BIKER GRANNY

Photo of the day: STYLISH BAD ASS BIKER GRANNY – I don’t which caught my eye first? The overalls? Wearing sandals on a motorcycle? The ‘big’ bag? The ultra cool vintage colored Vespa bike? The matte black bubble helmet? Being in the middle of treacherous NYC taxi traffic? The determined look? Or the fact that she is probably somebody’s really cool grandmother! God I love New York! GO GIRL !

Photo of the day: WALKING THE WILD UNTAMED HIGH LINE

HIGHLINE

Photo of the day: WALKING THE WILD UNTAMED HIGH LINE – One of the most sold out tickets in New York City are the limited “art walks” offered by The High Line on the undeveloped portion. The landscaped and preserved portion of The High Line is the worlds only elevated park situated on an old rail line built in 1934, the developed portion many of my guests have walked with me from Gansevoort Street to West 28th Street. The undeveloped portion stretching to 34th Street’s Hudson rail yards has an art installation on it by sculptor Carol Bove. Frankly most of the ‘art’ is utter nonsense on the level of ‘the emperor is wearing no clothes’, but – – you get to walk on the untouched rusty overgrown part of the rail line and see a view that will not last. Unfortunately is was very overcast and threatening to rain but the experience was absolutely breathtaking! Here is a sneak peek. More to follow!

Photo of the day: TRASH AND VAUDEVILLE STILL HAVEN’T GONE OUT OF STYLE !

TRASH

Photo of the day: TRASH AND VAUDEVILLE STILL HAVEN’T GONE OUT OF STYLE ! – I have been going to Greenwich Village since the early 1960’s. I remember the evolution from beatniks, to modsters, to hippies, to gay culture invasion, to 70’s disco babes, to the Rocky Horror scene, to punk rockers – pins and needles everywhere and then….it all died off with the gentrification of the area after the AIDS crisis. The east  and west village have become, for the most part soul-less. The funky shops, store fronts, building, and people are mostly gone. The west village centered around Christopher Street has lost it’s soul long ago, it’s just a tourist curiosity abounding with Polo, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors and damned GAP stores every few blocks.  The east village was home to the thriving punk rock scene has become a sterile college campus for the universities. CBGB’s punk rock club’s closing in 2005 was one of the major  nails in the coffin. Since Mayor Bloomberg’s greedy empire has taken over with the zealous assistance of council’woman’ Christine Quinn, there is not much left. One of the remaining treasures is a little stretch of East 8th Street between Third and Second Avenues where some of the old time stores are still hanging on. The whole street, for the most part, still has that funky, grungy feel with wonderful stores like the comic book store and of course TRASH AND VAUDEVILLE. They have been there since 1975 and is still going strong!
Long time employee Jimmy (left) with fellow  employee

Long time employee Jimmy (left) with fellow employee

The photo avbove of Ray Goodman shows the old ‘St. Marks Hotel’ mural behind him, that used to be the notorious gay baths (originally Turkish steam baths) ‘The St.Marks Baths’ which was closed down by the city in December of 1985. T+V was making ‘kinky boots’ long before the film or Broadway musical even existed. Here is their history from their own web site: “Born out of the 1970’s rock and punk scene on St. Marks Place in New York City, Trash and Vaudeville has always provided a wide variety of alternative fashion for Rockers, Mods, Punks, Goths, Rockabillies, and everyday working class heroes who just wanted to walk and dress on the wild side.
Trash and Vaudeville was founded by Ray Goodman in June of 1975. Ray discovered St. Marks Place at the age of 13, and never left. He was immediately attracted to the incredible energy that surged throughout the block. Whatever the scene was – Beatniks – Hippies – Glam – Punk – it was all going down on St. Marks Place.
Ray spent most of his free time on St. Marks Place. There was the Electric Circus, the Fillmore East, and CBGBs, all within a few blocks of the area. Some of the greatest Rock n’ Roll Meccas all right there. Ray’s love for Rock music inspired him to open a clothing store that would be entirely influenced by Rock n’ Roll.
Right away Trash and Vaudeville attracted musicians and bands looking to dress in a style that embraced their individuality and creativity. St. Marks Place has always been a gathering place for the ‘cool’, with an energy that still flows today.
The store has been in its original location since opening. The list of artists, musicians, actors, street dwellers, teenage rebels, and people from all over who have shopped at the store goes on and on.”

Photo of the day: AN UNEXPECTED DAY AT CONEY ISLAND FOR CHARLIE

MOTHER CHILD ALONE ON BEACH

Photo of the day: AN UNEXPECTED DAY AT THE BEACH FOR CHARLIE – Weather forecasters predicted rainy downpours for Tuesday, hardly a day to go to the beach. But Charlie insisted mom take him anyway since by 11am it still had not rained the and sun was peering through the clouds. “Can we just go on the boardwalk, they’ll be no wet sand there?!” Mom gave in and they headed off to the Coney Island. By the time they got there by noon the sun was high in the sky with no sign of rain and the warm sand was beckoning Charlie – ‘come play with me…’
Coney Island boardwalk

Coney Island boardwalk

There is a magic to going to Coney on a day when everyone else didn’t think it was the day to go – you have it alllllll to yourself. You can see waaay down the boardwalk with no crowds to obstruct your view of the end.
Nathans

Nathans

Hans Von Rittern (me) taking a bite out of Coney !

Hans Von Rittern (me) taking a bite out of Coney !

No long impatient waiting on line for mom to buy you that hot dog and soft fries at Nathans – just walk right up and smell that griddle!  The amusement park is open just for you alone. All the rides are calling ‘ride me first!’ The thrill of running around the rides trying to decide ‘which one first?’ Then hoping on and having the flying elephants and rockets all to yourself to command. Yippee !
Coney Island flying elephants

Coney Island flying elephants

Coney Island rockets

Coney Island rockets

But the sand, that wonderful stretch of sand, beckoned Charlie, “please can I play in the sand?!”  Reluctant to sit in the hot sand because of Charlie’s fair skin, mom remembered she had brought her blue rain umbrella ‘just in case.’ Mom smiled approvingly. Charlie pulled his mom to that special spot he had picked out. It was just them and no one else! There was that special feeling the beach was his and no one else’s. Charlie had brought his favorite dump truck to play with and settled in. Mom opened the ‘just in case rain umbrella’ and let Charlie conquer the beach.
Alone with dad at Coney Island's Wonder Wheel

Alone with dad at Coney Island’s Wonder Wheel


Photo of the day: IT’S A BOY !

Hans in London 1974

Hans in London 1974

Photo of the day: IT’S A BOY !

Mondays on Memory Lane: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN, REMEMBERING 1970’S SHOE STORES

SHOE collage

Mondays on Memory Lane: EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN, REMEMBERING 1970’s SHOE STORES – Just as the young women of today are teetering on their nine inch platforms, the exact same shoes were the rage in the early to mid 1970’s. In the disco era it wasn’t only women teetering about, it was men also. I was about six inches taller in those disco days.
There were many “cool” in vogue streets to buy your shoes in those days. One was, believe it or not, today’s staid East 59th Street between Third and Second Avenues, right behind Bloomingdale’s. Right around the corner on 58th Street and Lexington Avenue was Arrowsmith Shoes (advertised in the above 1975 ad). The other of course was West Eighth Street – shoe mecca.
The coolest pair I ever bought, which I am missing and lamenting to this day that I didn’t keep, were bought at  227 East 59th Street in a store called “Jumping Jack Flash” they specialized in ‘Galm Wear’ glitter suits, outrageous platform shoes and accessories.  I afforded myself one $75 (or about $100) pair there – they were navy blue with wooden platform and heel. On each toe was a silver leather star and on the outer side of each shoe was a silver shooting star. I wore those shoes to every “in” event till the shoes finally fell apart. I also had 3″ high buffalo sandals, rubber wedgies, black velvet Herman Munster-like ‘evening’ shoes I would wear to formal events to the consternation of my mother.
1974 Off to London wearing my Jumping Jacket Flash shoes (covered by the bell bottoms.)

1974 Off to London wearing my Jumping Jacket Flash shoes (covered by the bell bottoms.)

West Eighth Street in Greenwich Village was shoe mecca. Literally one shoe store after another, 3 blocks of wedgies, heels and platforms, not to forget outrageous boots. It was a common thing to spend your night in “shoe alley.” You got dressed as funky as you could and would start at Sixth Avenue and walk up one side of the street, in and out of every single shoe store, upstairs and downstairs, admiring the hip disco funky clothes, jewelry and wide belts. Passing legendary Electric Lady Recording Studios, the head shops and the 8th Street Playhouse, then a revival movie house soon to become famous for showing “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” You stayed the longest in the stores which had the best disco music blaring. The shoes were made of every material possible: wet look vinyl, leather, plastic, wood, cloth – you name it. Then when you reached Broadway you would cross the street and peruse every single store on your way back down the street, finishing with grabbing a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya at Sixth Avenue and then head onto Christopher Street to join the evenings ‘parade’. God I miss those days! It’s all gone now. The shoe styles have returned but the fun of the era is but a memory. Both streets have lost their flavor and soul. East 59th Street is now mainly cabinet shops and furniture stores. On West Eighth Street, one third of the stores are empty due to Mayor Bloomberg/Councilwoman Quinn and landlord greed.
Empty West 8th Street 2013, Greenwich Village

Empty West 8th Street 2013, Greenwich Village

But – I have one outrageous pair left! (See top left main photo). They were even a bit too outrageous for the times then, so I didn’t wear them as much, and so they have survived. Aqua marine perforated leather, with orange leather lace-up, brown heel and toe and clunky wooden platform and heel. My treasured memento of dancing a little happier, knowing how to balance myself as I walked and being always at least three inches taller.