Sighting: Jim Power, the Mosaic Man

For me, this was probably the coolest, East Villageyist thing that could have possibly happened to me.  I was walking down 1st avenue today with my boyfriend in the blistering heat (weather.gov claims it was around 84 degrees, but that’s clearly crap) and he pointed at an elderly gentleman, whispering to me, “Look!”  IT WAS THE MOSAIC MAN.  The man who adorns our neighborhood with found glass, ceramics, and mirrors.  The man who created the iconic Tompkins Square Park mosaic at the green oasis’s West side.

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The man who I paid $109 of my hard-earned money to make my dad a mosaic belt buckle.

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There he was!  I am only slightly ashamed to admit, I was seriously freaking out.  I mean if you see a movie star, that’s one thing.  They’re shockingly good looking in person and/or might be talented if you’re lucky.  But this guy is an artist and a major part of East Village history.  He single-handedly changed the look of our neighborhood.  A number of stores in the East Village will use mosaic decor because the East Village is known for its mosaics–because of Jim Power!  He’s a treasure.  I took one shot of him from kinda far away out of instinct.

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You can see him working there on the street signal post at St Marks.  But I felt like a creeper taking a picture of him without asking, and like I would hate myself forever if I didn’t approach him.  So I walked up to him and just said, “Hi!”  Give me a break, I don’t know what to say… anyway, he said, “Well, hello!” in a very friendly tone.  I said I just wanted to thank him for his work, which I think is beautiful and wonderful.  He thanked me very kindly.  And then I asked if he would mind if I took a few pictures of him, which he consented to with seemingly no reservations, much to my delight.  In the spirit of not ruining his “zen” or “being in the zone” or what have you while he was doing his work, I only took three additional pictures and then let him be.  But here he is closer up, doing his work.  And one deep in thought (though Matt thinks he looking like he’s picking his nose–how DARE you, he’s an ARTIST!  He’s deep in thought, damn it!).  As you can see, he’s working on some kind of portrait with the word “GANGSTER” spelled out to the left side, which is a bit more organized and stylized than his typical work.  It is pretty impressive and I’ll come back here in the next few days to see how it progresses.

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Jim Power, deep in thought.  Friend to cute dogs.  Not picking his nose.  Refusing to let the nasty heatwaves of present times deter him from his artist endeavors.  Hero to this East Villager.

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East Village’s Very Own Green Tongue Lady

A phenomenal view on the South side of East 10th Street between 3rd and 4th avenues.  This is the kind of thing I live to see here in the East Village.  I tried my best to capture the image in the same perspective as I saw it while walking by the wall so you can get the real impact of it.

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Where in Middle Earth is William Puck, or, What is PUCKWORKS?

Some kind of phenomenon is happening.  Something–TRANSIT related.

I don’t know why (not that there needs to be a reason), but someone has decided to periodically tape Tolkien-related paraphernalia redressed as common MTA subway notifications in subways across our mighty land. 

Let’s take a Gandalf, I mean gander, at one, shall we? (insert horribly embarrassed chuckle and groan here).  When you’re walking up to this one, it looks like a business-as-usual shitty service change announcement…

ImageBut, you know, just before you really start to panic and wonder what fresh new hell the MTA is serving up on a crusty, petrified turd platter THIS weekend, when you really look at it, you kinda start to notice that Gollum is perched on the top left of the notice there.  And then you remember, hey, the MTA might hire people that look like Gollum but surely they wouldn’t recruit the real deal.  Seeing as we live in the unfortunate world where Gollum is a fictional character and all.  This line of (not)reasoning led me to take a closer look (sorry about the picture quality):

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Everything about this is magic.  Right about now I should mention that one of the first books my father ever read to me was The Hobbit.  I searched for the website listed on the above notice (puckworks.blogspot.com) for “travel info, travel tools, widgets, app and more…” and discovered a blog featuring many similarly constructed bits of delicious nerditude.  The perpetrator’s name is listed as William Puck.  I have no idea who he is, I’ve never heard of him.  A bit of research led me to his profession (“artist”) and place of employment (“self”).  Okay, color me interested, pal.

The completely humorless MTA took the Underground Lake announcement down within one day, unfortunately, but I am going to keep my eyes peeled and document any new notices I find.  I hope he decides to hit the Astor Place station again!

Can anyone draw a circle around the carcinogens?

On Wednesday, I went to Astor Place to take the 6 as usual, and saw a really bizarre collection of circles drawn on the ground around one of the station entrances.

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It didn’t take a whole lot of effort to figure out that someone went around and drew circles around cigarette butts on the ground… sometimes they were around individual cigarettes.

ImageAnd other times the circle was drawn around a large collection of cigarettes.

ImageThat’s in front of the Mudtruck… the full circle is implied, of course.  We can’t expect our fearless chalker to move a truck.  Anyway, what could this be about?  An art project?  Or just a schizophrenic homeless person off his meds who found a piece of chalk and became convinced that if he used it to circle cigarette butts on the ground they wouldn’t come alive and try to dance the waltz on his face and subsequently burn him.  Or whatever horrible nightmares schizophrenic people’s brains conjure.  It fascinated the hell out of me, I’ll tell you that much.  I guess what intrigued me most was how everyone else around me just went about their business.  Nope, nothing weird happening here.

Just some regular, everyday East Village shenanigans.

Anti-masturbatory restaurant?

You know, St. Mark’s–especially between 1st and 3rd avenues–really exemplifies the height of East Village class.  I spotted this yesterday in front of a restaurant:

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(Sigh)  I don’t know if I should be ashamed for finding this hilarious.  Those boxing gloves must really chafe.  Hm… I like the placement of the ellipsis, also.

The Echoes of Hurricane-Turned-Tropical-Storm Andrea

The Umbrella Graveyards.  Piles of broken umbrellas, twisted cheap metal and torn fabric, strewn angrily into (and around) public garbage cans.  I adore seeing umbrella corpses in my neighborhood during and after storms… I don’t know why.  Maybe dead umbrellas make me feel connected to other people.  “Arg, f$%king umbrella, f$%king storm,” people say.  “I HATE LIFE,” they add.  That’s what I imagine whenever I see a dead soldier.

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I’m not what you’d call a cheery person.  I try to be optimistic or at least not pessimistic… the best I can shoot for is occasionally hopeful.  But no matter what I do, hypothesizing about another person’s minor misery, getting completely soaked in a downpour because their piece of shit umbrella manufactured in fill-in-the-blank-poor-country-outsourced-sweatshop-most-likely-in-the-far-East turned inside-out, fills me with glee.  I think to myself, HEY I hate the world today, also!  We’re all connected!

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It’s as if for just one day, a disproportionate number of people know what kind of irritation I carry around on a daily basis.

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A few days from now when the raining ceases, the masses will smile up towards the clear sky and shining sun while I will cling to my crotchety nature.  Oh Tefnut, Egyptian god of all things having to do with rain and moisture (thanks Wikipedia), I implore thee, vanquish Ra so that I might remember again what it is to connect with my fellow man.  Until then I revert back to my true nature.

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……IT’S a METAPHOR, get it?  😉  (sigh)

Tompkins Square Mosaic

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This is one of my favorite Mosaic Man pieces, affixed to a traffic light post on the East side of Avenue A and 9th, I believe.  It marks our infamous Tompkins Square Park.  But 30 years ago a den for heroin users and an encampment area for the homeless, it is now a site for a weekly farmer’s market and clothing drive.  My how things have become sanitized!  As with many changes in our urban landscape I think this disinfection adds to the sense of security to those of us living here while chipping away at the foundation of the area’s personality.

What the what?

As I innocently tried to get to work on time one day, I saw something pink lurking in the bushes on 10th between 2nd and 3rd avenues.

ImageSo I moved closer and no matter how close I got to this object, I couldn’t understand either what it was, or why it was there.  And what is it holding?  A HEART?  What kind of animal is this?!

ImageIt’s like someone in some faraway land thought, “HEY, I know what will sell!  Let’s miniaturize a shaved, albino alien monkey monster who rips hearts out of the weak and infirm and turn it into a keychain sort of device.  GOLD, I TELL YOU, GOLD!”  Thanks to who I can only imagine must have been some kid wandering around at 3 a.m. on salvia, we can all look at this monstrosity in the bushes and wonder…

East Village Shops. II: Casey Rubber Stamps

Once upon a time I was walking up East 11th, accompanying my father to a parking garage, when I saw Casey Rubber Stamps.  I’ll never forget that moment.  What a weird store.  It is devoted exclusively to rubber stamps, and they make them all in the back of the shop.  The only other thing they sell are ink pads in a rather wide variety of colors and sizes.  It’s a very small space so you may need to wait to enter if there are more than 3 or 4 people in the store.  Teeny tiny.

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Only in New York City, right?  Coolest store ever.  Since the owner makes custom items and resides in the East Village, there are some REALLY freaky stamps available.  Such as body parts, insects and other types of animals (there is an entire page in his catalog comprised exclusively of different fishes), forms of transportation, religious symbols, patterns, stylized letters… here’s a random page in the catalog (page 63):

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Freakin’.  Awesome.  I strongly recommend checking out this store even if you can’t think of any reason to use a stamp ever in your lifetime.  It’s just a cool place to visit.  Plus, I like that when you begin to approach the shop, you can smell the rubber.

The owner is pretty open to answering questions but he’s scatterbrained so you have to wait until he’s not too busy and be patient.  Oh, and if you don’t live in the East Village, you can check out the majority of his catalog on his website: http://caseyrubberstamps.com/index.php.  But if you do…

Casey Rubber Stamps, 322 E. 11th St., between 1st and 2nd avenues.