The meaning of Aloha

Now if you are a proper haole or white person, which clearly I am, you might think that aloha is simply the Hawaiian word for hello, but you would be wrong.  What I learned on a dock in Honolulu is that Aloha is the spirit of kindness and generosity toward all people that for some reason is overflowing in Hawaii.  After spending a couple of hours shooting in the commercial fish auction I walked out on the dock and met Kenton and his crew who had just pulled up with a boat full of fish.  After spending a good long time shooting the shit about the fishing industry, surface diving, kids and our youthful indiscretions, my girl asks innocently enough, “Where do you go for sushi in Honolulu?”  Kenton looks at her and says, “Well, I don’t but I got a boat-full of Ahi.  You want some?”  When someone offers you Ahi that’s been out of the ocean for 18 hours, there is only one answer.  So Kenton pulls out a knife, gloves and a sizable whole fish and proceeds to skin it and hack off about 10 lbs. of the freshest fish I think I’ve ever seen.  Then out comes a 5 gallon bucket full of ice, ziplock bags and back to the hotel we went.  When I called my Hawaiian friend to invite him over for a massive sashimi feast and told him the story he said only one word;  ALOHAAAAAA!  And that’s when I got it.

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Terrible Tourist

It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this, but having spent more than 10 years on the road for work, I have become a terrible tourist.  I’m in Hawaii, staying in a very fancy hotel, complete with an infinity pool, refrigerated sunblock  and all the Mai Tai’s you can drink, but my idea of fun on a Thursday is getting up at 4 AM to check out the commercial fish auction.  Unlike the Fulton fish market in New York, if you were fortunate enough to enjoy the hostile atmosphere there back in the day, the people were actually friendly and I was welcome to shoot all day.  And yes I did manage to go home with about 10 lbs. of Ahi but that’s a story for another time.

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A local spot

I love my neighborhood.  I’ve lived on the Lower East Side since 1989 and haven’t wavered in my love affair with it for a moment in spite of gentrification and the destination bars that have regrettably put the neighborhood on the front pages of tabloids on a regular basis.  So when Keith McNally, a restranteur I love for having opened the Odeon in the 1980’s, opened yet another restaurant called Schiller’s a block from my late 19th century, tenement apartment, I was incensed.  I saw it as the beginning of the end and the ultimate expression of bourgoise imperialism.  I refused to set foot in the place until one fateful night when I left the house with my girl during a biblical rainstorm.  She was wearing a tiny skirt and impossibly high heels which necissitated that I put her on my hip and walk her over the small lakes that were forming on every corner.  When we hit the corner of Rivington and Norfolk, I nodded at Schiller’s and we went in.  The impossibly charming Henry Hargraves was tending bar, we stayed for hours, ate, drank, fell in love with the room, but much more so with the people pictured here.


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Sputnik the band, not the dog

Sputnik the band, not the dog

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Gosia primping

Gosia primping

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The South West Continued

Now since I’m on the subject of the south west, I figured there would be no better time to resurrect the volumes of images I have shot there.  I’m about as non-mysical as they come but I can’t deny the spirituality you experience when you are there.  Some people go for the clean air, some are on the lamb or in the witness protection program.  Some people think they can find something that Georgia O’Keefe missed.  Generally I find a lot of disenfranchised people who just always had problems playing with the other children and when you hit the urban centers like Canyon Road in Santa Fe, you find a lot of landscape artists from New York who either couldn’t cut it, or wisely decided not to give  a shit.  But when you get away from the people, there is something there that brings peace and sometimes, answers to your problems, but you have to listen very carefully as the spirits speak very softly.  (Thank you Gill Scott Heron)  Dante’s peak in Death Valley always does it for me, but the last time I was there I found 2 German tourists who got there before me at 4:45 AM.

My favorite state

The last time I read the statistics, New Mexico and West Virginia were running neck and neck for the honor of being the most depressed state in the country.  I’ve been to every state at least once, and most of them too many times.  Hawaii is beautiful and I love hanging out with my friend Dewey and his horses and 650 head of cattle in South Dakota and I turn every miserable trip to Vegas into an excuse to go to California to Death Valley.  For some reason I just love New Mexico.  It’s not something that I think about often but I was having drinks with a friend who is planning a trip there and realized that I had to scan and post images of the VLA (Very Large Array)  in order to convince her to go way out of the way to see it.  I couldn’t articulate it at the time but the beauty of that part of the world lies in what you catch in the corner of your eye as you are balling the jack down the highway just before you spin around to find out what it was.  And yes, that is a dead cow missing her head.

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