Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Charlie And His Little Shop Of Miniatures Closed

Another and more recent victim of the gentrification process was Charlie Elkiam. For the last 18 years Charlie had a small shop which sold miniatures at 234 Mulberry Street and as of May, 2005, he announced that he was running a 50% off sale and was closing. It was there that Alison, my daughter, bought her first ceramic dogs imported all the way from England and other European countries. He had an enormous number of glass animals and cast metal soldiers and whole casts of opera characters, all in miniature. He and his wife sold earrings which they made on the premises. It was a pitiful sight to see old Charlie and his wife pack up their small cartons because the store was their life. In the window a sign read, “ Fixtures for Sale.” Charlie and his wife had been around Manhattan for about 45 years. Charlie was very bitter when he had to close because of the rising rents. The store was his whole life and just like that it was over. I bought a miniature Bette Boop figure from him, photographed it and made it into a photo grid and an 8” X 10” print. Not a day after Charlie closed, another tenant was having the place rehabbed. It is now another cute boutique.

George The Ex Marine Is Still Going Strong

Another local character is an ex- World War ll marine captain named George. George and I have taken to sitting on a bench on the corner of Prince and Mulberry Streets to watch the passing scene. One day George was asked to pose nude for a senior deck of cards for gay men. He turned them down. More recently George was asked again to pose nude for a fee of $300.00. He turned them down again. In 2007 George celebrated his 86th or 87th birthday and he is still quite the ladies man. Young women in their twenties and thirties hover around him. Just the other day one of his young girlfriends called him up and told him that she had just emerged from the shower and if he rushed right over they could fool around for a few hours. I’m sure all of his girls want a sugar daddy, but they are also crazy about him. For example, on June 16th of 2006 I was standing on our fire escape and I saw George escorting a gorgeous young woman in a revealing red dress into a waiting taxi. Whatever it is, George has still got “It”. In September of 2006 George went into the hospital for an operation on his colon which gave him an opening for a million stories when he came home. One of them is very funny. Upon leaving, one of the women doctors wished him well but told him in no uncertain terms that because of his condition he would no longer be able to get a hard on. Well, George spread that one all over the neighborhood. I guess all of his many girlfriends will now go into mourning. But with or without a hard on George is still going strong.

Well, that nurse was wrong. I heard from sources that I cannot reveal that as late as February of 2008 George can still get it up. About a year ago one of his more beautiful young girl friends ( she was about thirty ) came around looking for George when he was not home. So we both talked about George. She explained to me that George was not like your typical old man. George was still manly, she said, and had no trouble in the sack. In fact he was better than a lot of men half his age she said. She then said George was funny too and he made her laugh. Having gotten the low down on George’s sexual prowess, she felt she had revealed enough about their torrid relationship.

Shakira, or Key, the beautiful 25- year- old singer who ran the Debra Rodman dress shop at 49 Prince Street right near the corner of Mulberry Street, agreed with me. She told me George had “It.” She figured that to make it in the big apple she needed some of “It,” but did not know how to get it. I told her I could use some of “It” myself but did not know how to get it either. We both agreed that “It” is something you probably have to be born with. Maybe not. It appears that a bit of George’s “It” has rubbed off on Key. On June 9th, 2006, she appeared at a local television station to make a tape for them. This could have been her big break but it was not. She already had one album out but needed more exposure and promotion. She has a group of friends who all keep her company at the store, so a lot of George has certainly been passed on to Key.

George also likes to play cards. A few times a week he goes down the block to a gambling joint and plays poker. George often wins as much as $ 3000.00 in a single sitting. Once he even hit the jackpot for $40,000.00. In late October of 2006 the place was raided and everyone was arrested but George was not there at the time. He’s a very astute player and is thinking about going out to Vegas to play in a tournament. George is a war hero with a box of medals but he never talks about his exploits. You name an island in the Pacific where the marines fought and George was there. He was badly wounded in one battle. George told me that they found 40 pieces of shrapnel around his heart. At Iwo Jima he received a lot of shrapnel in his face. In April of 2006 he had to have an operation on his jaw to remove some shrapnel which had been causing an infection. By May even more shrapnel was bothering him and he still had an infection. George is one tough dude.

He wants to take me to one of the card games down the street but I am such a lousy poker player and gambler in general that I am afraid I would lose my shirt. A few years ago I lost about $80.00 in about one minute in a shell game on Broadway. I was sure I knew where the little ball was, but the hand was faster than the eye. George’s hand is not faster than the eye. Sometime in late April of 2006 George was horsing around with our new puppy, Magic and he got bitten and his hand required seven stitches. I got a shot of his bandaged hand.

On November 14, 2005, George and I were sitting on a storefront bench near the corner of Prince and Mulberry Streets and got kicked off it. The owner said that we were undesirables. Undesirables? We were from the neighborhood and she was not. In fact she was so repulsive that to call her undesirable would be an insult to undesirable people all over the world. In any event, we were told that the bench was for was for customers only. That seems unfair, lots of people sit on the bench during the day. George told the nasty owner, Debra Rodman, just where she could shove her bench. After all, a while ago, when Debra was in a slightly better mood, she put the bench there for George to sit on. These neighborhood dramas would not have taken place in the old days. Back then everyone knew everyone else and many of the shopkeepers lived around here. With gentrification the shopkeepers now live elsewhere and don’t seem to care that much about the locals. Now only the tourist trade counts. She now wants the bench to be used exclusively by husbands and boyfriends while their wives and girlfriends shop inside. Even more recently she has decided to remove the bench. She still thinks we are scaring her customers away. We think it is her second rate and unimaginative merchandise. She closed her shop in February of 2007, and that was that. But before she left she told George that she knew he was carrying on with a number of her now former salesgirls and she did not like it one bit. I think she was jealous because George did not like her and did not make a pass at her. George told me that he found her unattractive. But worst of all she showed her true colors by stiffing Key, the salesgirl, her last paycheck. Talk about repulsive.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Church Is Really Important Around Here

Then there is Monsignor Marinacchi who is retired and is, as of October , 2007 97 years old. He knows everybody in the neighborhood. He used to go to Jo-Anne’s for an espresso and also frequented Buffa’s Deli before it closed. When I sometimes found him at Buffa’s we would sit together and tell jokes. He read my daughter Kate’s scholarly book on St. Mary Magdalene with great interest and asked for a copy of his own. I got a paperback edition for him. He even read the citations in Medieval church Latin. Now he wants to meet Kate the next time she is in New York.

He knows I am not Catholic and said that I was going to burn in hell because I was not converted. On the other hand before I went in for my second triple by-pass he blessed me, and after I came out of the hospital he blessed me again. I asked him why he bothered since I was going to burn in hell and he said well, maybe with the blessings where they put me it won’t be so hot.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Roberta Used To Live On Spring Street But Is No Longer Around

Gwen met Roberta more than twenty years ago. She lived on Spring Street near Prince and often carried an old twin lens Rollei with her. One day Gwen asked her if she were a photographer. She said no, but she was documenting all the movie houses in the city. That day she was off to Queens and hoping to get some good shots. Roberta said that she had a lot of undeveloped film but had not processed any because she did not have a darkroom. Gwen said she could use her darkroom, but Roberta turned down the offer. Gwen was puzzled. All she could get out of Roberta was the comment that she would be heartbroken if some of the shots did not come out. It was then that Gwen began to suspect that she probably did not have any film in her camera. The camera was probably being used as a passport to roam the city and look at all of her beloved movie theatres. Roberta was very vague about her background but Gwen did learn that she was a film buff. Then Gwen lost track of her.

A few years ago Roberta’s image popped up in a film Gwen rented called Cinemania. It was about a small group of New York film buffs. Roberta and her pals spent all their time going to films and film festivals. To them it was not just a hobby or a job, it was a vocation. One thing Roberta and all her friends had in common was their unkempt looks and their shopping bags filled with brochures, reviews, schedules and other literature. Whatever the theatres were giving away they wanted. Included in Roberta’s collection were soda cups with film advertising on them. She had a complete set of plastic dinosaur cups from a Stephen Spielberg movie and was very proud of them.

Watching Cinemania made it clear that none of the film buffs who were featured had any lives at all outside of going to films. One of them admitted that he had inherited a small legacy from a relative and that if he were careful with the money he could do nothing but go to movies full time for the rest of his life. In one way or another, all of them agreed that what the rest of us call reality was boring and of no interest to them. In the course of the film one of them said, “ What’s left after seeing a great film but a trip home? ” From looking at their lives via the documentary, I had to agree with them that films were infinitely superior to the real world that they had thus far experienced.

What would Plato have made of such people? The philosopher claimed that what we see all around us is an illusion and we are like people chained in a cave watching shadows flickering before us on a wall and thinking that they are real. Feature films, for all their fascination, are merely copies of copies. And yet here are people who revel in the fact that they are utterly enchanted by these flickering illusions and who have no desire to free themselves from their mania because they find the world outside the cinema dull, uninspiring and utterly without interest.

According to an employee of MOMA Roberta became such a pest that she was eventually banned from the museum’s film openings after she had tried to choke a ticket taker for tearing her ticket in half. It turned out that Roberta had kept all her ticket stubs intact from the time she began going to movies and accused the ticket taker at MOMA of trying to ruin her life. Then Roberta took to wearing disguises and tried to sneak into MOMA showings but she was always spotted and escorted out. When I was renting Cinemania the woman at the video store on Elizabeth Street said she knew Roberta from various film festivals and she was the most obnoxious person on the face of the planet. Everyone who goes to see films on a regular basis knows Roberta and has stories about her. For example, when I told Peter Koper about her he said that when he went to see an obscure foreign film with John Waters, there was Roberta taking copious notes. Her comment was that the film was not commercial.

One of the other film buffs said he sometimes longed for a real date but his fantasy girl was Rita Hayworth who satisfied him completely because she was flat and was mostly in black and white. The real flesh and blood Rita, were she still alive and in her prime, would have held little or no interest for him. Poor Rita. She used to say that she had the same trouble with men in her real life. She could never live up to her celluloid image in their eyes. What a fate.

In the course of the film Roberta confessed that she absolutely adored the last scene of A Farewell To Arms starring Helen Hayes and Gary Cooper. In it Helen Hayes dies in the arms of Cooper and just before the fade out we see what looks like hundreds of white doves flying towards Heaven. You could see that Roberta was deeply moved by what she had just seen. She looked as if she were holding back tears when she blurted out that it was obvious that Helen Hayes had to die because Gary Cooper loved her more than he loved God. God, being very jealous, had to kill off Helen Hayes according to Roberta.

Perhaps one of Roberta’s dreams will come true and, through the magic of films, she will be absorbed and transported into the very matrix of cinema where her youth will be restored so that she can play out the rest of her life on the Silver Screen. She just might be lucky enough to be cast in the role of Helen Hayes in A Farewell To Arms and be able to expire in the strong and loving arms of Gary Cooper, and then her immortal soul would be escorted to Heaven by hundreds of white doves. A lady could do a lot worse.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Vinny Vella Is The Uncrowned King Of Elizabeth Street

Vinny Vella is another neighborhood character. He was born in Greenwich Village and has lived on Elizebeth Street for many years.Vinny made a career for himself as an actor in commercials, televesion shows and movies as the archetypal wise- guy from Elizabeth Street. You don't want to know what Vinnie did before he became an actor.He can be seen in the films, " Casino", " Ghost Dogs" and many others. He can also be seen as Jimmy Petrille on " The Sopranos". In addition there is also a short film about Vinnie and his life. Vinny has lots of great stories. One of them involves, of all things, the ring of King Tut. Somehow Vinny got hold of the ring of King Tut and was wearing it around town. How could such an improbable thing happen? Well, all I can say is that it probably fell off the back of a truck. You heard it right, Vinny had the ring of King Tut. But Vinny, being one of the good guys, decided to give it back so he made some calls and arranged for a drop. When he arrived at the designated spot Vinny claims that it was filled with cops and even the F.B.I. Everybody had a gun and they were all pointed at Vinnie's head. Vinny was bewildered. What did they think, that he went into the museum and when nobody was looking removed the ring from the mummy? He never did such a thing. Vinny said that a street vendor sold it to him. Who was it? How would Vinny know? He was just a guy. " Hey", Vinny said " I'm the good guy, I'm giving the ring back ." All I can say is that somehow the case was resolved and now it has become one of Vinny's best stories.

Vinny has even made a audio tour cd which you can buy and listen to him tell you all about the old neighborhood. The audioguide or soundwalk covers Little Italy and a color photograph of Vinny with a big fat cigar sticking out of his mouth is on the cover. Toni Rosa of Buffa's is featured on the tape along with Momo the butcher. There is also a picture of Buffa's on the inside jacket of the cd. The latest news is that Vinnie has opened a pizza joint in Brooklyn.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Elisha Shot Kam The Alien Six Times But Not with A Camera

Elisha tried to get even with Kam the Alien for killing Bocvana and then turning her into a Replicant so he got out his.357 Magnum and loaded it with six hollow point lead tipped bullets. That should take her out big time he thought. Then he waited for her to appear. He knew she would.

Then, as he was sitting at his desk, she appeared looking like a million bucks. She had morphed into the gorgeous figure of Kathleen the Mannequin and she had animated her. Kathleen was wearing an alluring see through blouse and did she ever have beautiful breasts. She was clearly looking for some action. But before she had a chance to speak Elisha said that he wanted to make some demands of his own. First off he wanted $50 million dollars deposited in a Trust Account in his name and that it had to be backdated. She looked at him and laughted. That's impossible she said.

OK, Kam, Elisha said, he would show her exactly what was possible and what was impossible. Then Elisha pulled out the .357 and pumped five bullets into her soft belly. She fell to the floor and started to bleed. Elisha went over to her inert body and felt for a pulse. There was none. For good measure he pumped the last shot into her head and he saw pieces of her skull and brain fly out in all directions. It was a mess. Blood and gore were spalatted all over the place. She was dead all right. Elisha hoped that the clean up would not be too difficult.

But luck was not running with Elisha that day. No sooner had he determined that Kam was really dead than he was amazed to see that the bloody wounds were healing themselves before his eyes. In a few moments she was alive and kicking again and she was not even upset. She said that she had gotten quite a thrill out of being shot and that it was almost as good as sex. Now how kinky can you get? She added that I could not kill her and that being shot turned her on. So with that she took Elisha off to some fleabag hotel on 25th Street and they fucked out brains out for hours. Elisha thought all the while about the puzzling connection between sex and death. Elisha had lost another round to Kam , but the sex was out of this world, literally. Elisha had to formulate a new plan if he was ever going to get rid of Kam.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's A Long Way From Zanzibar To Spring Street

It is hard to imagine a real life love story unfolding itself on the walls of 11 Spring Street in December of 2006, but it did and what you are about to read is true.

Unfortunately the story does not have a happy ending. As many people in the neighborhood know , 11 Spring Street had become a a legendary street art shrine and as of June 2007 the exterior was still covered with some some works of art, but the process of removing them had already begun.

During the fall and winter and well into 2007 I was busy photographing the ever changing site. It was there in December of 2006 that I discovered a small handwritten love note taped to the wall. It was evident from the content of the note that a woman named Ida had fallen in love with one of the street artists whose work was on display outside the building. I met Ida at 11 Spring Street several days before I found and photographed her love note. When I first saw her she was photographing the Elizabeth Street side of the building. We got to talking and I found out that she was a street art fan from England who came to New York twice a year to look at the street art in Manhattan and Brooklyn. On one of her trips she saw the work of an artist using the tag of Faile and had fallen in love with him. At that time she did not know that Faile was a crew and she did not even know if he was a male. She found out all of that a little later when both of us were talking to a graffiti artist who used the name of Rambo. He told us about the Faile crew and said that one of them was a woman. Ida asked how she could get in touch with them and he made a few calls on his cell phone and came up with nothing. Much later I found out that two members of the crew are named Patrick.

After failing to find out more about the Faile crew we walked around lower Manhattan looking at the street art. Both of us were intent on photographing whatever was out there. Then she was off to Williamsburg in Brooklyn and we said goodby after exchanging email addresses. She wanted to be alerted if I met any of the Faile crew in my daily walks around lower Manhattan. At that time I did not know that she was going to leave a love note taped to the wall at 11 Spring Street.

After she left for Williamsburg and then went back to England I put Ida out of my mind. A few days later I went back to 11 Spring Street to see if anything new had gone up and I saw a small group of people looking at something on the Elizabeth side of the building. I went up to the crowd and asked if I could have a look. They cleared a path for me and it was then that I saw, read and photographed Ida's love note. I posted the photo on my Flickr web site because it had become a part of the story of 11 Spring Street. I also thought that perhaps a member of the Faile crew would see it. The latter turned out to be a false hope.

Soon after uploading the photo I got a frantic email from Ida in England. She was in a tizzy because I had photographed her love note and had posted it on my Flickr site. She said that people who saw it would think that she was crazy. I wrote back and pointed out to her that she had left her note in a public place and in fact when I photographed it a group of people were busy reading it and none of them thought she was crazy. I told her that most of the people thought that the note was sweet. That calmed her down a bit. She said in a subsequent email that in thinking it over the posting of the note on my Flickr site was probably not a bad thing. In fact, it might turn out to be a good thing. She reasoned that the Faile crew might see the note and get in touch with me or her.

It was at that point that she enlisted my help as her personal cupid and asked me what she should do next. I advised her to play it cool and wait and see if any of them got in touch with her or with me. None of them did. The situation now looked bleak. Time was passing and nothing was happening for Ida.

After waiting for what must have seemed an eternity for her, Ida had a bit of luck. It turned out that the Faile crew were going to have big gallery show in England and Ida had read about it. Now she would have a chance to meet them at the opening, but once again her hopes were dashed. It turned out that because of some confusion Ida did not get to the opening, but she did manage to get to the show and inquired about buying one of their works. So she made arrangements to come to New York to pick out the piece she wanted. That is the reason we met in New York in April of 2007.

Prior to her visit to their studio and while still in England Ida told me all about her plans and asked how she should handle herself at the forthcoming meeting. I told her to act cool and act like an art buyer. This is the part of the story when her earlier visit to Zanzibar becomes important. When Ida was about 20 she had gone to Zanzibar for a vacation and spent most of her time smoking pot and sunbathing on the beach. She was having a wonderful time when it occurred to her that she ought to do some sightseeing. It would just not do to go home and have to tell people that she had done nothing but loll around on the beach smoking pot. So she booked passage on a boat to take her to a small island which was a part of Zanzibar but where few outsiders ever go because there was not much to see there. At least she could say that she went somewhere and did something. When she arrived at the port, or when she was on the boat , she met a witchdoctor from Oman who was on a buying trip to the small island. There, he said, he could get magic potions and other things to take back with him. So they struck up a friendship and Ida asked if she could come along with him on his buying trip to the interior. Now that was something all her friends back home would be interested in. After all, who gets to travel through the jungle with a witchdoctor from Oman on a buying trip? The witchdoctor agreed to take her along and they both set out into the jungle on foot for their meeting. When they finally arrived at the designated spot they found themselves in a mud hut filled with magical potions and a variety of other things. The witchdoctor from Oman transacted his business and then the local witchdoctor asked Ida if she would like some protection for her subsequent voyage home. It was at that moment that she thought that she might be in big trouble. She thought that she might very well be raped or killed or God knows what and nobody would ever know a thing. What was she going to do? After all, there she was, all alone, in the middle of the jungle with two male witchdoctors.

Luckily she made the right decision and said that of course she wanted some protection. The ritual involved some bloodletting and then the local witchdoctor told her that nothing bad would happen to her for about six months. The spell he had cast using her blood was that powerful. Apparently he had taken a shine to Ida and as a parting gift he gave her a very small stick which he said would make any man fall in love with her if she put it in her mouth when she met and talked with him.

After she had fallen in love with the Faile crew, or at least one of them, she dug out that old stick and sent me an urgent email from London. She wanted to know if she should use it when she picked out her work of art in New York or was she just being silly? By that time she had found out that one of the men in the group was single. She was also afraid that she might become so nervous that she would possibly choke on the small stick if she put it into her mouth. I told her that that was unlikely and that she should use it. I further remarked that she had nothing to lose and everything gain if it worked. I also told her that if she was nervous she just had to be very careful and tuck the stick between her gum and her cheek so she could still talk, but in a place where she would not choke on it by mistake.

To make a long story short she met with the group and was so nervous that she forgot to put the magic stick she got from the witchdoctor from Zanzibar into her mouth. Hence the spell could not work. But Ida did manage to make her purchase and even met the unmarried member of the group. Things were looking up.

She called me from their studio and we agreed to meet at 55 Prince Street where she could calm her nerves and meet my family. After meeting Gwen and the kids she said she needed some coffee so we went to a nearby cafe where we could talk. She wanted to tell me all the details of her meeting and ask what she should do next. She was leaving for England the next say so if there was going to be any romance it was going to have to commence with an exchange of emails.

It was then that I sprang into action. As her personal cupid I felt I had an obligation to encourage her romance. That is what cupids are supposed to do. I told her that she had missed the boat as far as using her magic stick was concerned but I had something else which might do the trick. I told her that about a year before I had found a voodoo doll outside our loft and had taken it in because I felt that it might come in handy someday. This was the day. I said that it was a fertility doll and that it could obviously stimulate a romance. The doll was handmade of cloth and twigs and represented a mother carrying a small baby doll. Between the body of the baby and the mother there was a small pouch into which fingernail clippings, hair, dried blood and other types of dried bodily fluids could be placed as well as well as any part of an object the man to be bewitched had touched. Ida was dubious. She said how did I know that it was a real voodoo doll? I said that I had made a study of wax figures, mannequins and dolls and had seen a similar figurein one of my reference books. The one illustrated in the book was almost identical to the one I found and it was from Haiti. I urged her to take the doll back to England with her. She agreed but then told me that she did not have any fingernail clippings, hair or dried blood from the man handy, much less any dried bodily fluids. It was not that kind of meeting she said. This presented a problem.

I knew enough about ritual magic to understand that certain objects needed to be activated before they could be made to work and that she needed something from the man himself. The voodoo doll and the object from the man needed to be activated. I told her that for a start she had to rub the voodoo doll up against the work of art she had just acquired and that would transfer the the necessary energy from him to the doll. Then the doll itself needed to be activated. Ida saw the logic of it. Ida would have to find a voodoo priestess in London to activate the doll. My only real concern was that even if the doll was activated it had to cast a spell across the Atlantic ocean. That is quite a distance for any spell to work.

Ida wrote to me from England that she was looking for a voodoo priestess. She also said that her potential lover had sent her an email saying how much he had enjoyed her visit. That was a very good sign. I was confident that armed with her magic stick and her soon to be activated voodoo doll Ida would prevail . Alas, although the handwriting was on the wall the romance fizzled.

Ida has been unable to further her long distance and one sided romance. The love affair, such as it was, had fallen flat and I had proved to be an impotent cupid. Most surprisingly the voodoo doll, although clearly magical, did not have any effect , probably because it had not been correctly activated. Looking back on all of these events with the advantage of hindsight, I see now that the beginning of the end probably occurred when Ida forgot to put the magic stick into her mouth when she met the member of the Faile crew. That was her big chance and she blew it. Proximity is everything in matters of love. Ida must now begin her quest for true love again.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Treasures And Trash on Prince and Spring Streets

When I first had the idea to write some neighborhood stories I also began photographing what I saw on the streets before it was all swept away by gentrification. The first thing I saw was all the graffiti, street art and old storefront signs which were starting to disappear. I also saw a lot of old refuse, junk and trash on the streets which would be rapidly collected as the neighborhood filled up with tourists with money to spend. Some of it was quite beautiful. I was reminded of the paper collages of Kurt Schwitters and the use of newspapers, oilcloth and real rope in some of the paintings og Picasso. And of course there was the aesthetic bombshell of the Readymades of Marcel Duchamp which changed everything. These were found objects of no aesthetic merit which gained prestige as soon as they were shown in an art context. Later there were the real objects affixed to the paintings of Robert Rauschenberg. Even torn movie posters were taken down , framed and became works of art by virtue of being shown in art galleries by Mimmo Rotella. In the 20th century trash, rubbish, junk and found objects were slowly making their way up the aesthetic ladder and finally found themselves in the museums and auction galleries with some very eyebrow raising price tags on them if they bore the correct signatures. More and more modern artists climbed on the bandwagon and were finding their new materials in garbage dumps, on the streets or in junk shops. At one point junk sculpture became all the rage.

On a more mundane level, before the old Salvation Army Store on Spring Street between Lafayette and Crosby closed and a boutique opened, you could find good used leather coats and jackets there for $25.00 and up. The first Ralph Lauren store which was on Mulberry Street between Prince and Houston Streets had similar old black jackets with the Lauren label in them going for about $900.00 and up. What they are selling for now at the new Double Ralph Lauren store on the corner of Prince and Mott Street is anybody's guess.

Treasures or trash? You be the judge. What are material objects really worth? Do they have any objective value? Apparently not when they are linked to the art world or the fashion industry. Meanwhile I had been picking up pieces of paper trash that had been left to rot on the street and had been photographing them. After I had taken the picture I threw the originals away. By March of 2008 I realized that I had been making a terrible mistake. Here is how it happened.

I was pricing some photos for a group show at the Artbreak Gallery in Williamsburg and told the Director that my work usually sold for anywhere between $400.00 and $8,000.00 depending on the size, the edition and where it was being sold. I told the Director that he could sell the two small framed pieces for $200.00 each considering that it was a new gallery. The Director replied that he did not want anyone to to think that he was selling trash and promptly put a price of $1,000.00 on each of the two pieces.

If one small photograph, which was only a copy of an original object in the real world, was valued at $1000.00 , what, for example, would a real piece of trash be worth? After all, the latter was not only a unique original but it had the added virtue of not being a reproduction, a replica, a copy or a duplicate. It was not a photograph but the thing in itself. It was the real McCoy. From that point on I decided to keep the trash I had been photographing and put them in frames and price them at $10,000.00 each. I had found discarded and unrecognized treasures right here on Prince Street.