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

Archive for January, 2014



Photo of the day: EVERYBODY WAS HOME SATURDAY NIGHT – Living in New York City many of us have an Alfred Hitchcock-like “Rear Window” view. Mine happens to be out the front of the building onto 46th Street, one of the nicer streets in Sunnyside and Sunnyside Gardens.

A few weeks ago New York City was visited by a chilling Arctic Vortex, but lately it had warmed back up to 50F (10C) degrees and I was keeping my window open a bit nights. But last night the cold temperatures came back and I went to my window at 8:00pm to close it for the night. As I looked out my window, I noticed a warmer glow than usual coming from my street. There was more than just the warm glow of the street light, but also the entire building across the street seemed to glow like a miniature toy model. It was then that I noticed that something very unusual was occurring in the apartment building across the street – every single apartment, on all six floors, every window had lights on, everybody was home! That rarely ever occurs! This is New York, someone is usually out on an all night job, at a party, with a date, shopping, vacationing or what not. But on January 18th at 8:00pm, on one of those cold January nights…all these diverse neighbors at 41-29 46th Street had all decided to be snug as a bug and snuggle up to their big flat screen TVs, computers, cat, dog or loved one. As diverse as they are, for this night they were “one”.

(And no, I didn’t get out my Jimmy Stewart binoculars to look in the windows, I just enjoyed the warm glow of the city life.)



Photo of the day: ONLY IN MANHATTAN DO HOMELESS PEOPLE HAVE THEIR DRY CLEANING DELIVERED TO THEIR CORNER – OR DO THEY? – This past spring I was walking in the west 40’s of Manhattan when I came across this site. A homeless man with freshly dry cleaned dress shirts hanging from his ‘home’ which happens to be a laundry cart. Stunned, with the ‘what is wrong with this picture’ moment, I was torn whether to be amused or impressed.

So, let’s analyze this set up: the laundry cart is obviously stolen. Since it is not of the old cloth kind but of the new sturdy hard black polypropylene, I deduce it was stolen from one the better hotels in town. It is lined with well sorted commercial garbage bags that contain his collected recyclable soda cans, water and beer bottles – but note – the garbage bags are brand spanking new, now the well worn ones you see most street people use over and over again until they fall apart. Hanging from a shovel’s handle is a corporate American Express ID badge from the US Open Tennis Championships here in Queens. Dangling from the same handle is a cat toy, also in relatively unused condition. Tied to the handle is a pair of scissors.

His ‘home’ is lined with a nice light blue and a new black yoga mat. A can of Coke awaits. But the most eye catching of all…is the six newly dry cleaned expensive looking dress shirts hanging from a mop handle affixed to the laundry cart!

Now I ask you – kleptomaniac or down and out Wall Street executive?? You decide.

Photo of the day: CHOOSING MEAT (my first 2010 photo)

September 26, 2010.

September 26, 2010.

Photo of the day: CHOOSING MEAT – This was my first ‘photo of the day’ (called ‘Unique New York’ then), posted on Facebook on September 26, 2010. She was dressed just right in her Perdue yellow outfit as she went scrutinizing the yellow Perdue chicken department at the now defunct Sunnyside supermarket. In a way, she was what started it all. I had just gotten a new Nikon camera and felt like I could capture the world. It was so easy – open your eyes and…click 🙂



Photo of the day: THE DIVINE AUDACITY ~ CATHEDRAL IN NEW YORK CITY TO START CHARGING ADMISSION – Over the weekend New York City’s gothic treasure, St. John the Divine had the ‘divine’ audacity/necessity to send a memorandum out to the tour guide industry advising us that as of February 1st of this year tour groups will be charged admission. Brace yourselves – $5.00 (4€ euros) – to enter a church! The 9/11 memorial charges a cover charge of $2.00.

For the many, many of you that I have taken there on my tours, you well know it is one of the mostly undiscovered treasures of the city. They are fascinated to see the unfinished towers and dome. They love the story of the center doors only opening three times a year for Easter, the blessing of the bicycles and the blessing of the animals. To see the World Trade Center Towers on the columns in front begins to fascinate the wonderful mixing of old and new history inside.

Inside there is always a sense of awe. I advise my guests to take a brochure and put a donation in the donation box at the entrance. You then pass wonderful hand carved 15th century German wooden choir stalls and enter this magnificent world of surprises. The fireman’s memorial, the American history stained glass window that has the prototype of the first television of 1926 in it as well as movie stars Jack Benny and Mary Livingston. Another stained glass window shows the sinking of the Titanic. I tell the touching story of how the cathedral cared for the AIDS patients of NYC when no one else dared to as we look at the AIDS memorial. I show them the plaque dedicated to the horrible bookstore fire that damaged the church in 2001, ruining the organ’s pipes for 10 years. I show them the ‘zipper’ of the church marking the finished and unfinished part of the cathedral. I show them such wonderful worldwide gifts as the 17th century Barberini tapestries, the golden chests donated by the King of Siam, the urns given by the emperor of Japan, the Keith Haring graffiti triptych in the Asian chapel donated by John Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono. I lead them through the 7 chapels dedicated to the main 7 languages spoken in NYC in 1892. I take them up near the altar for one of the most breathtaking views of the front stained glass window containing 10,000 pieces of glass, 40 feet in diameter. I show them menorahs on the altar as well, explaining the church welcomes all faiths.

Well – they welcome all faiths, but they now do not welcome groups unless you pay to get into the house of god. Never at no time in New York has there been a house of god that has had the need to charge admission into what I thought is the house of the people. St. John the Divine is desperate for money, last year having sold off precious adjacent land to the church and allowing god awful high rise apartments to be built, therefore obstructing the rays of sunlight into the north side of the church. Now they are obstructing the tourists of New York.

As a fellow tour guide Tom said: “What they really, really, need is help to grow their endowment. Presumably they have an endowment, like Universities and Museums. With a massive old building that must have massive maintenance costs, there is no longer a massive congregation as in the old days to keep up the place. That’s where smart and competent money-managers take hold of the finances of the institution and go on a major campaign to grow a big endowment, sufficient for maintenance. This is how Carnegie Hall was saved. The famed Koch Brothers have contributed literally hundreds of millions of dollars: $100,000,000 EACH to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to Lincoln Center and The American Museum of Natural History, total $300,000,000. So, who’s in charge of this program at The Cathedral?”

They are nickel and diming, almost literally, a huge problem. It will have the most unfortunate and unintended consequence of keeping some likely visitors O-U-T. The sudden sticker shock of $5.00 will leave many at the door. I can understand starting at $2.00 – but $5.00?! A full bus of 55 guests would cost $275!! The biggest losers here are the young visitors to New York, the student tour groups. My student tour groups from Virginia, Tennessee, the Carolinas and all along the coast. They are already on a tight budget, eating at McDonalds to save money on the big trip from their home town. They enter St. John the Divine starry-eyed and filled with wonderment at this magnificent gothic structure, the likes of which most will not get to see unless they are privileged enough to go to Europe. Sadly, it is simply adding itself to the list of those famous cathedrals of Europe all forced to do the same out of necessity. Notre Dame in Paris charges €3/$4.10 to see the treasury of riches. The Basilica in Rome charges 12€ euros/$16.00. The Cologne/Köln Dom in Germany charges 4€ Euros/$5.00. Seville cathedral in Spain charges 8€ euros/$10 dollars. St. Paul’s cathedral in London charges 16€ euros/$21.85. The wonderful art-filled little adobe churches in poor Tucson, Arizona do not charge at all. St. Patrick’s cathedral on the wealthy Fifth Avenue here in NYC does not need to charge. St. John the Divine in New York now wants to be added to the world wide list of those charging admission.

Perhaps St. John the Divine got the idea from the very recent surprising November 2013 decision of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. to charge $10/7 € euros admission and perhaps I should feel I am getting a bargain. (In comparison, The Museum of Natural History’s full price adult admission charge is $22/16€ euros). But is this the beginning of a possible disturbing and disheartening trend in the famed churches New York City? Where the declining parish necessitates charging at the door? Most of the churches in Harlem are only surviving on the Sunday gospel tour dollars. It is no longer ‘the fashion’ to go to church in most large cities, therefore the declining membership results in declining donations. These grand cathedrals were built for the masses – church going masses who today – are tourists. A sad trend.

I am only a New York City tour guide and have no idea how this cathedral functions. But, what is needed at St. John the Divine is a professional, knowledgeable, experienced, committed, well paid, position of fundraiser to grow a serious endowment. Considering their list of well connected parishioners, their current plan seems like nothing more than a high school-level accounting class solution…if that.

Here is the memo: 

To: Professional Guides, Tour Operators, and Guest Lecturers
From: The Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Department of Public Education and Visitor Services
Please note the following updates in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine’s visiting group policy, effective February 1, 2014.
• Self-guided groups are encouraged to schedule their visit at least two weeks in advance. Groups are defined as ten or more visitors. Scheduling requests can be made through a web site request form, or through the Public Education Office by phone or email below. The group will receive confirmation of a one-hour time period to visit the Cathedral.
• Group arrivals are permitted between 9am and 5pm daily.
• Groups should enter through the Cathedral’s southern door at Amsterdam Avenue. The group leader or guide must check in at the Visitor Center upon arrival.
• Payment of the discounted group admission of $5 per person must be made upon arrival. One group leader or guide receives complimentary admission.
• Groups that do not pay group admission may only enter the Cathedral as individual visitors.
• The Cathedral accepts cash, checks, and Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express. Checks should be made payable to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine.
• Tour companies are encouraged to join the Cathedral’s voucher program to obviate admission payment on arrival in exchange for discounts and quarterly billing. To join the voucher program or receive more information please contact the Public Education Office.
• Scheduled groups will be given access to the entire Cathedral, including restrooms, as well as brochures for their participants. Confirmed groups will be alerted of changes to access as soon as possible. Groups that schedule to arrive during times of limited access will be notified in their confirmation.
• Late or early group arrivals will be accommodated as best as possible, however we do not
guarantee access to all parts of the Cathedral.


The family that drops trow together, stays together.

The family that drops trow together, stays together.

Photo of the day: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON – THE NO PANTS SUBWAY RIDE CONTINUES . . . – Keeping in the glorious 13 year tradition of dropping your pants in the public subway system while pretending nothing is wrong continues. Here dad and mom see to it that there little one is indoctrinated at an early age at Union Square.
        What started out as a prank by 6 college buddies, is now a international flash mob event taking place in for it’s twelfth annual No Pants Subway Ride, over 4,000 people participated in New York with tens of thousands more participating in 60 cities all over the world, including debut rides in Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Photo of the day: BETWEEN TWO KISSES


Photo of the day: BETWEEN TWO KISSES – Street art collides with pedestrian as seen in midtown Manhattan.


GRAY'S PAPAYA 6-27-2011 collage

Photo of the day: MOURNING THE GAY PRIDE DAY’S GRAY’S PAPAYA ~ What on earth will Gay Pride be without the wonderfully bright yellow Gray’s Papaya on the corner of 6th Avenue and 8th Street, the epicenter of the Gay Pride day parade?!?!

For anyone that has ever followed the maddening crowd of the parade on the sidewalk as a spectacular spectator, knows the tightest bottleneck of the parade is when you come to the main intersection of 8th/6th. It is where the large Fifth Avenue sized fabulous parade has been squeezed onto narrow 8th Street and now pours onto the big 6th Avenue intersection again leading it to the ceremonial entrance to gay history’s Christopher Street. The police have therefore cordoned off any chance of you crossing the street within blocks of this big intersection. It does give the parade marchers the space to twirl and show-off before shashaying onto Christopher Street – it’s a divine madhouse! But the one chance you had to make it around the corner as a spectator was to cut through Gray’s Papaya’s open walk-through corner, and by the thousands we did.

It was a quick mini party stop for you to grab that desperately needed cold juice and those wonderfully tasty hot dogs and $1.00 slices of pizza, it was party on the go! The (sadly now) iconic paper fold out fruit decorations hanging from the ceiling made it feel like you were stopping by a madhouse Carmen Miranda fruit stand! With the perfect flow through traffic pattern open corner set-up, it was the absolute ideal guaranteed chance at grabbing that badly needed drink and some nourishment as you tried to make it further along the parade route. That super staff never missed a Latin beat, those dogs and slices were dished out as fast as we ordered them, those Papayans were one of the true martyrs of the parade! I always admired how they kept there cool while others were like “ay caramba!”. Nicholas Gray, the proprietor could not afford to have his monthly rent increased outrageously from $30,000 to $50,000 a month, therefore he was forced to close.

Yes there is Nathan’s in Coney Island and it has wonderful history, but most New Yawkers are not willing to pack a suitcase to travel to the outer reaches of Brooklyn for a dawg. So, Gay Pride and the largest Halloween Parade in the world and especially late night party goers all are going to miss you terribly, a very strategically placed Gray’s Papaya. Adios mis amigos, adios 😦 . . .


The Shannon Pot, 14 years at 45-16 Davis Street/Jackson Avenue

The Shannon Pot, 14 years at 45-16 Davis Street/Jackson Avenue

Photo of the day: SHANNON POT AT 5 POINTZ SERVES IT’S LAST FROZEN DRINK – Friday January 3rd, 2014, was yet another nail in the coffin of what was a vibrant neighborhood block. After the destructive whitewashing of the art work at 5 Pointz by greedy owner Gerry Wolkoff, it was also the final night of the neighborhood hangout bar The Shannon Pot.

The burst pipes added the final touch

The New Years Eve balloons were still hung...

The New Years Eve balloons were still hung…

The bar

The bar

♫♪ "Who's Zat Girl?" ♫♪

♫♪ “Who’s Zat Girl?” ♫♪

The extremely cold 10°F degree weather added to the morbid feeling in the air. Only a few of the die hard regulars showed up including Meres One and Marie Flageul to join co-owners Maureen and Salah for a final round of drinks. To my surprise, as I arrived I was greeted by water dripping down from the ceiling. The frigid temperatures had burst the pipes and was flooding the bar. The water had been shut off but it was still ‘raining’ inside the bar. The water from above had damaged the juke box with Meres’ disco favorites causing the sound to go from high to low every few seconds only adding to the eerie feel of the night.

Gin Sin shot $2.00

Gin Sin shot $2.00

Final shots

Final shots

So there we were, with our coats and jackets on in the cold bar and no water except for what was coming from the ceiling, which made for slippery dangerous last dance. Instead of dancing the walls were tagged, good times and future times were discussed as 14 years of Maureen’s and Salah’s ‘home’ were coming to an end. How to remove the wonderful old hand carved wood bar and all it’s contents were strategized. “They don’t do woodwork like this anymore” said Salah proudly. I looked behind the bar itself and at the ancient wall paper on the wall which seems to be of impressed plaster work painted gold. No one knows just the exact history of the bar but if these walls could talk, we would have 100 years of Long Island City history to tell. All the 5 Pointz events the had been held here, the celebrations of hip hop and street art add so much more history to this little Irish style pub. (My awesome surprise birthday was just celebrated here a few weeks ago.) Another beloved place gone in the era of mass destruction of New York’s past.
The loyal group

The loyal group

Maureen, Salah and friends

Maureen, Salah and friends

A final Shannon kiss

A final Shannon kiss

During the evening Marie stepped out for her usual cigarette, as she stood in front of the bar she observed a pigeon flying towards the building to seek refuge form the cold, and seconds before it could reach the building, it simply fell out of the sky succumbing to hypothermia. Marie’s mission was to rescue the bird. We got a box, lined it with tissue paper and gently placed it in the box. It did not even resist. We placed it in the back hoping it would warm up. (It was in desperate need of sleep as well.) Every so often we would check to see if Marie’s pigeon was reviving, it barely was, but towards the end of the night was fluffing itself up, a hopeful sign. As a final act of kindness, Meres and Marie took the pigeon to their garage to let it warm up and revive. Two days later it flew off to join the world again.

The last round

The last round

Giving Gerry the finger

Giving Gerry the finger

A bitter cold ending . . .

A bitter cold ending . . .

Keep on burnin'

Keep on burnin’

The man with a mission

The man with a mission

Meres and Marie and all the fantastic 5 Pointz crew are greatly symbolized by our little pigeon – we may be down, but with a little help from our friends – we are not out. Maureen and Salah will reopen at a new nearby location at 21-59 44th Drive, off of 21st Street soon. 5 Pointz will rise again like a phoenix (or our pigeon) and with the creative force of the artists and minds behind Meres and Marie, look out for a brighter and bolder future for Pointz! !

Final exit - (with the pigeon).

Final exit – (with the pigeon).




Photo of the night: “THE MIDNIGHT SUN” Freezing nightmares care of ‘The Twilight Zone’

Twilight Zone "The Midnight Sun" painting

Twilight Zone “The Midnight Sun” painting

Photo of the night: DREAMS OF A “MIDNIGHT SUN”, Twilight Zone episode

Original air date: November 17, 1961. Starring Lois Nettleton and Betty Garde.

As the United States is experiencing an unusual ‘Artic Vortex’, the Twilight Zone TV series has thought of this already – sweet warm dreams?

The Earth has begun moving away from its usual orbit and is gradually rotating towards the sun. A prolific artist, Norma, and her landlady, Mrs. Bronson, are the last people in their apartment building. Everyone else has either moved north where it is cooler or perished from the extremely high temperatures. Norma and Mrs. Bronson try to keep each other company as they see life as they know it erode. They watch in terror as their water supply is turned on for merely an hour a day and their electricity is considerably reduced. Food and water are scarce. As mentioned by a radio reporter, all citizens are to remain indoors and be prepared for a looter rampage. The radio reporter also states that you can “fry eggs on your sidewalk and heat up soup in the oceans”.

As the temperature grows hotter the two women increasingly perspire. Mrs. Bronson’s mind cannot manage the psychological pressures any longer and she beseeches Norma to paint a picture other than hot topics such as a burning city, screaming deliriously, “Don’t paint the sun anymore!”. Footsteps are heard from outside the apartment door. Norma asks her landlady if she locked the doors of the apartment complex. Mrs. Bronson is uncertain if she did. They hear a knock on the door, and Mrs. Bronson starts to answer it as Norma screams for her to not open the door under any circumstances. Norma threatens the mysterious man with a gun and after a few seconds he says he will leave. Unfortunately, despite Norma’s warning to the contrary, Mrs. Bronson opens the door and the stranger forces his way into the apartment and drinks their supply of water. After several moments, he begs for their forgiveness and claims that he is an honest man and would never hurt them, and that he was driven to looting due to the heat. He goes on to describe the recent death of his wife due to complications of childbirth, as well of the death of their newborn child.

Feeling that her latest painting might cheer her friend, Norma displays a beautiful oil of a waterfall cascading over a lush pond, implied to be that of Taughannock Falls near Ithaca, New York (specifically inUlysses). Mrs. Bronson, unable to cope with the unbearable conditions of the raging sun, deliriously claims that she can feel the coolness and delightfully splashes in the imaginary water before she collapses to the floor and dies. The thermometer surges past 120 °F (49 °C), and eventually shatters. As her oil paintings melt, Norma screams and also collapses.

Lois Nettleton's nightmare -  burning/freezing to death...

Lois Nettleton’s nightmare – burning/freezing to death…

The scene cuts to the apartment at night with snow outside the window. The same thermometer reads −10 °F (−23 °C). Norma is bedridden with a high fever and is accompanied by Mrs. Bronson and a doctor. She was only dreaming that the Earth was moving closer to the sun. In reality, the Earth is moving away from the sun and will eventually freeze. Norma tells Mrs. Bronson about her nightmare, adding, “Isn’t it wonderful to have darkness, and coolness?” Mrs. Bronson replies with a sense of dread in her voice, “Yes, my dear, it’s… wonderful.”

Photo of the day: THE ‘BITTER’ COLD

February 11, 2011 homeless man left to freeze to death under mayor Bloomberg's watch

February 11, 2011 homeless man left to freeze to death under mayor Bloomberg’s watch

Photo of the day: THE ‘BITTER’ COLD – This is a re-post of a story I wrote on February 11, 2011 and again on November 30, 2012. Today when it was 3°F (-16°C) this morning with windchills at -15°F (-26°C!), let’s hope this story does not repeat itself yet again. Previous mayor Bloomberg said we have no homeless problem in NYC, meanwhile emperor Bloomberg failed to acknowledge homelessness increased by 65% under his heartless watch! Let’s hope with our new mayor Bill DeBlasio, there will be a more humane approach to the fragile lives of this city, he is already proving to be more humane during this frigid ‘artic vortex’ and creating easier access/entry to all who seek shelter, god bless.
Nov. 30, 2012: “On today’s front page of many papers is a picture of police officer, Larry DePrimo in the bitter cold,  buying a homeless man a pair of shoes. The photo was taken on cell phone by a passing Arizona tourist and has gone viral world wide. While it is  a beautiful and touching story – I have a contrasting one I posted over a year ago here on Facebook.
On Tuesday February 11, 2011 that night it was 22 degrees freezing with wind chills below zero, this man seemed frozen over his cart. He did not have gloves and his hands had turned brown from frostbite. He did not move. No one helped him. Notice his left hand, his fingers are straight together, it is an unnatural way for your hand to be if you are ‘sleeping’. His hand was frozen. I stepped near the grate, the so called ‘warm air’ was at best minimal. I have been told to freeze to death is somewhat merciful, you numb and fall asleep. Whether he survived the night I don’t know. I am conflicted to hope he survived or if the merciful wish was for him to ‘fall asleep.’ It took me a long time to  flag a police car, they said he is on top of a grate and therefor “warm and fine”. I called 911 & 311 repeatedly, because supposedly the NYC law is that if it goes below freezing it is manadatory for the homeless to be brought to a shelter –  but  no one came. The traffic cop on the corner said there is nothing he could do. I went home with tears in my eyes and could not sleep that night.
It truly is a ‘bitter’ cold.”