Here today, gone tomorrow

All gifs/videos by Wells Baum

Standing in Grand Central Station reminds us of the temporariness of life, that what’s here now can be gone in a flash.

We should be dubious of ephemerality, especially in the internet world where things get consumed and promptly forgotten. Good feelings are equally fleeting; they ascend and descend like a sine wave.

Instead, the overall wager should be on long-term serotonin rather than one-off surges of dopamine.

Here now, gone in an instant

Better to find our feet in the urban wilderness rather than orbit around a flock of sheep. In the hierarchy of happiness, stillness plays the long game by persisting through noisy places.

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Welcome to Los Angeles

All photos by Wells Baum

As someone who’s lived and worked in both New York and Los Angeles — this article sounds strangely familiar.

“Once, I walked nine miles through the streets of Los Angeles, tiptoed through the hobo village under a 101 overpass, got briefly trapped on a crosswalk-less median, and then stood on line behind waiting cars to enter the Warner Bros. lot. Because I’m not a Hollywood wuss. I’m from New York. I don’t drive. I don’t know how to drive. I don’t know how to do something that teen-agers can do, and I’m proud of it. That’s how much of a New Yorker I am.”

In LA, we wait to tell each other stories in order to impress while New Yorkers tell you how it is right then and there. There is no real outside in LA; there is only real inside a cold New York. Both cities thrive in their own eclectic touch, ridden with signals, smoke and mirrors.

Read No, I’m from New York

Chaos and order in NYC

Photo by Wells Baum

Below is an excerpt from my book Train of Thought which you can read online for free. If you want to support my work, please snag a copy on Amazon.

Paul tried to make every one of eighty-plus daily phone pickups count. The more he shot, the more photos he had to play with. The only challenge in photographing New York was the bombardment of sensory stimulation; stories oozed with opportunity in every open corner and alleyway, yet nothing, not even Broadway, felt staged. The city thrived off chaos, and it worked like a pre-programmed video game. Those who ignored the beauty of its complexity were the most aloof rats in the cage. The City struck all the right neurological notes, but you had to learn how to see to catch the profound silence in between the disorder. 

From Train of Thought: Reflections on the Coast Starlight

Why parking sucks 

no parking
GIF via abch

Parking signs are intentionally confusing, especially in the cities. Take a close look at the rules and exceptions on the parking signs, and you’ll see things like:

  • Zone 2 permit holders only
  • Express pick-up: 15 minutes only
  • Monday-Friday: 2:30PM – 4PM & 6:30PM – 10PM
    Etc.

First, you have to squint and read the sign and check for the exceptions; then you have to interpret the day and the time. Sometimes signs on top of signs: one for the 3-hour parking, one for 2-hour parking, and one for all day parking. Sometimes signs are fifty feet down the block, and you miss it. Holy shit. So you ultimately take your chances and risk getting towed.

In New York, parking is a tax. On top of that, the signs are ubiquitous and ambiguous, so people fear to park at all. Residents and visitors walk and take public transportation instead.

Cities don’t want people driving. Thankfully, self-driving cars are on the way to eliminate the self-doubt. Once cars start talking to other cars and pay machines, the madness will go away. But for now, parking sucks. And on top of that, some cities don’t want you there in the first place.

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Fran Lebowitz on Facebook, TV, and Trump 

Author and acclaimed New Yorker Fran Lebowitz can’t sleep, can’t write, can’t stand watching television, nor does she like social media, yet she’s still on top of them all or at least, well-informed in her sardonic complaints about them. Below are some highlights from her interview with W Magazine

On sleeping and watching television

Zero. I never sleep, I probably haven’t slept since you were born — I don’t know how old you are, but you’re not so old that I could have slept since you were born. So, years ago, I decided reading in bed is too stimulating. Watch TV. It’s boring. You’ll fall asleep.

On listening to music

Questlove did an album of it that he gave to me, and I’ve listened to that. I will say this: It’s not that I don’t like music, I just never think to listen to it. I am an endless seeker of silence.

On a potential Trump presidency

Everyone I know is very worried about it. I am very worried, but not about that, and no one would accuse me of being a cockeyed optimist. And I know there are a lot of morons in this country, I just don’t think there are enough.

On Facebook

I don’t think I’ve ever even seen a Facebook page — it really sounds an awful lot like the junior high school you never get out of. It sounds awful to me. And of course there are at any given time millions of people in junior high school, so it’s bad enough they have to be in junior high school before this even existed.

Milton Glaser on his iconic “I ♥️ NY” logo, the joy of working, and on the future of the Big Apple

New York City was suffering from a negative image in the mid to late 1970s due to rampant crime and violence. The NYPD even created a “Welcome to Fear City” campaign to scare off tourists.

In 1977, New York state hired Milton Glaser to create a design to promote NYC tourism. Glaser drew the iconic “I ♥️ New York” logo on a napkin in the back of a taxi cab. Today, that original napkin can be seen at MOMA, and the logo generates more than $1 million a year in licensing fees for the state.



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In this New York Times piece, Glaser talks about the logo, his work, and his love for modern New York, despite its insane wealth gap.

On his craft…

“I do it because it is so pleasurable for me. I derive this deep, deep satisfaction that nothing else, including sex, has ever given me. It’s the reason I’m here, is to do the work. And I’m so happy that I can still do it well.”

…when NYC was affordable:

“I had a friend who had an apartment for $7 a month. Of course, he had no heat. But everybody was there. It was so active and so lively and so transgressive. Everybody felt they were a part of something special, and they were.”

Moreover, his never-ending love for NYC

“I never separated the city from myself. I think I am the city. I am what the city is. This is my city, my life, my vision.”

However, nothing in New York ever stays the same. It is in a perpetual state of change. If he had to redraw the logo today in a city of $50 million apartments, it would translate into more fairness.

“Everything’s a transitional period. There’s no such thing as a nontransitional period. I certainly wonder what’s next. Because one thing you know is it can’t go on this way.”