Motorcyclists Without Motorcycles

Yes, you, with the bumble bee perforated leather DUCATI jacket at the 2nd Avenue F train station: why aren’t you above ground and on your Scrambler? Perhaps you rode your GSXR to the St. George Ferry Terminal, but that D-30 back protector can not make the waist hugging, shoulder puffing SUZUKI one piece any more comfortable nor any less stylish. Similarly, while period-correct behind the bars of Honda Hawk GT650, I know the perforation from shoulder to wrist on that seemingly custom stoney white, asymmetrically pinstriped jacket isn’t doing you any temperate favors on the Downtown N train.

It is not my paid profession or my earned place to make consultant style trend judgements in the world of Fashion. I am not ​Chris Black​! Telling people what they can and cannot wear is not a qualification I-or really anyone-fit. But, from the standpoint of comfortability, the weight of a multi-millimeter thick leather jacket isn’t a wearable workout,but rather a stocky, squeaking, and unruly molded animal skin. The spine fracture preventative padding digs into your skin and unflatteringly stretches the exterior of the jacket, creating what would be otherwise concerning lumps, and, even if you remove the figure misconstruing protection, the mesh inner lining strangles your pores into a perspiration-steeped mess. I can confidently say that the lightning bolt patterned black and grey leather Harley Davidson jacket is uncomfortable in line at the Williamsburg Whole Foods. Form over function it is.

For the most devout riders, however, the necessity of function over form isn’t so much as a semi-conscious stacking of the statistical odds but a creed to live by. I’m not here to preach the hymn of all-the-gear-all-the time or to dictate what precautions individuals who ride should take. While I, having been properly influenced by my employment at Union Garage, am a subscriber to an amended version of All-The-Gear-All-The-Time—simply add ‘Almost’ before ‘all’—and numerous ​studies ​verify safety gear’s protective vitality, it is truly upon the rider to make a choice with their survival at the center. In addition to the parable of ATGATT, the vocabulary of a road weathered motorcyclist will dutifully include “dress for the slide, not the ride.” To keep your nervous system intact and your skeleton properly aligned in said slide(it’s not a matter of if you crash but when you crash)a DOT or SNELL approved full-face helmet(to keep your brain synapses communicating), a leather or textile jacket with CE rated armor(skin grafting and casts are expensive and painful), riding specific jeans with kevlar sewn into the “crash areas”(see skin grafting again), boots with a stiff toe and bolstered ankle(Dr. Martens will burn, slip, and still let your ankle shatter), and knuckle reinforced gloves should suffice. For a group so supposedly steeped in thrilling adventure and a nonchalant coolness, the potential for catastrophe seems to cycle through the devoted rider’s psyche almost too frequently.

Let it be known; the proliferation of Harley Davidson apparel is not personally offensive- I have no particular affinity, an ambiguity really, towards the brand-and is not surprising, seeing as the fervent domestic patriotism of Harley’s hit-the-open-road marketing has been part of what keeps them in business. And that is exactly why sleeveless, belly button adjacent Harley Davidson t-shirts have become a staple in the closet of metropolis bound tweens, teens, and twenty-somes: the shirt, or really the brand behind the shirt, represents the lingering impossibility of carrying out their “Easy Rider” fantasties. In the case of these altered and revived garments, the wearer is no longer the AARP eligible man with the $23,199 custom colored Street Glide but, more often than not, a young, unapologetic woman. Instead of being relegated to their backs pressed against the sissy bar, they are the ones behind the handlebars twisting the throttle.

Those who claim “It’s like wearing a jersey or another brand,” have fixated on the visual imagery of a significant team over the tangible function a competition-weight rawhide jacket provides. A brand or a sports team is a cultural unifier, an image to rally behind and often in collective form, a motorcycle is solely something to be ridden on and operated. The barely ridden but deeply invested motorcyclist in me wants to wax poetically that a motorcycle is a machine requiring respect, a learning curve, and taming: an assertion that implies anyone without the experience of being on a motorcycle is in the outgroup. Anyone who has dumped a motorcycle(I have, sorry Gabe!) will assuredly agree that what I waxed on is true: your mortality is never more present behind the bars of your crotch-propelling machine. And perhaps this is why motorcyclists are so vehemently attached to their preferred method of transportation, and why they willingly out anyone without first hand experience, especially those who feign having felt that coccyx pulling acceleration.

In the same way that true motorcycle gear is uncomfortable as daily attire, garments designed with the intention of looking but not being rideable serve no more purpose than an interchangeable cotton Gildan hoodie or Asos pleather zip-up. Take Ducati’s collaboration with Tasmania born boot company Blundstone: with a splash of yellow elastic and an aptly placed shift collar, the admittedly rugged but slip-on leather boots are touted as the line between safety and style while upon a Ducati Scrambler. Moving at a respectable pace, but certainly not at a full clip with only 803ccs of inline twin power available, down the New England Thruway on a hazy and sweltering July day, the varyingly paved and undulating 180 degree entrance ramp to the Hutchinson River Parkway(after all, cutting across the Bronx and through Queens is the less congested way to Williamsburg) forces a refocusing of your eyes far ahead of where you instinctively look. As you apply pressure to your right hand(buzzword: countersteering)and initiate the lean angle needed to carry you through all 180 degrees, the descending change in paving type shifts weight forward, folding the sidewall of the front tire and forcing your body onto the ground, and into the air your slip-on Blundstones go. There are infinite numbers of anti-safety safety products, always at the wish of further aestheticization.

I’m left with the question of why, when the genuinely protective gear is cumbersome and the aestheticized versions lack any protection or cultural merit, do non-riders wear it at all? The answer is obvious, to some extent, that the symbolism of speed and intentional risk taking projects as cool. And because it is purely about the symbolism of motorcycling, the motorcycle itself becomes antithetical to the look.The wearer of motorcycle gear, in its clasping leather or zipping waxed cotton forms, seeks to invoke the idea that they ride, or that they could. The fabled rush of wind through one’s hair(the wind actually pummels your chest and kneecaps)is the desired aesthetic output by the look. With that look, naturally, comes the voluntary operation of the machine itself, but the weight of a two fingered clutch pull or the metallic snick accompanied by a precise upshift are not the actions romanticized. In all likelihood, the actual operation of the bike itself isn’t of interest to the imposter motorcyclist.

And that’s ok. For the metropolis-bound private art school educated sculptor and the City College of New York graduated civil engineer alike, any means of privatized, motorized, rapid transit is a far fetched aspiration. Relegated to the positively efficient but shoulder to shoulder experience of public transportation, these working people’s transportation fantasies and realities diverge at the payment point of their daily multi-dollar fare. In cities large enough and with appropriately distributed subsidies to enjoy a generally well functioning public transit system, the motorcycle becomes for many a fantasy of self indulgent pleasure, and an induction into a socially rejected but tightly interlinked out-group. Who am I to deny them the dream, especially when I share it?

Return to the Subway

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The longer you commute, the better your Subway eyes get. Having spent hours of each day in and out of 20th-century tunnels, the indiscernible but impending darkness(which sounds like a Raymond Carver characterization)becomes individual pieces of rail, graffiti tags from 164th Street, and an occasional vested MTA worker.  My Subway eyes are dilated at the moment.

The system feels sad. The Subway has always been a sad place, from overworked nurses to the shelterless, but riding now lacks even the excitement at the end of every ride: a  positive destination. With a wink and a doors-closing chime, the G train conductor holds hope.

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“Mindless Flavorless Objects” by Emmet White

One of my many indulgences, blogged and in the open.

Sitting on-top of L.L. Bean flannel covers, the Andrea Arnold directed season of Big Little Lies playing, the crumbs from a sleeve of unsalted Premium saltines rest in between my comforter and mattress. I am not alone, as they say, in this uncomfortability or this indulgence. And there is, of course, a market for this indulgence. 

Lundberg rice cakes, the pinnacle of this food group, are followed by the likes of unsalted Premium Saltines, Original flavored Goldfish, Kim’s Magic Pop, Cheerios, water crackers, and any other (essentially) flavorless square, circle, or triangle shaped carb. General Mills, Nabisco, and Pepperidge Farm produce iterations of these desired snacks, typically artificially flavored and well salted, in undesirable varieties. With no flavor, airy textures, and of varying geometric and non-geometric shapes, this food group bears no nutritional value or palatable appeal. While, in all likelihood, these healthier versions were created for dieting, the methodology…

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“Welcome to Staten Island.” A Community Facing the Changes of Rezoning and Concerns of Gentrification

The culmination of my two week exploration of Staten Island’s North Shore-late night ferry rides and White Clam Pizza included.

This New York

By Emmet White

As the ferry bobbles back and forth through the converging New Jersey and New York Upper Bay waters, an off duty, monochromatically dressed firefighter’s radio crackles on and off and a young mother rocks her stroller back and forth. The rest murmur, barely audible. Like a sedated mob on and pedestrian Olympic sprinters off, Staten Island only moves fast for the ferry.

Even the 2:30pm Manhattan departing Ferry creates a frenzy upon arrival at St. George Terminal. Photograph by Emmet White.

But the island’s pace is about to change. Fenced off, empty lots to shining motorcycle dealers to fast food chains with faded signage, the corridor of Bay St. destined for rezoning remains industrial in a postindustrial world. Initially zoned for manufacturing purposes in 1961, traverse down Bay Street today and you will find Americana eateries and a newly installed, clean windowed Urbys Housing development across…

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Summertime

The spewing fire hydrants and Mr. Softee trucks have departed, replaced by bright bubble coats and coffee jug laden shopping carts driven by tightly bundled women. Subway cars remain a place of refuge-now stuffy and beginning the back dripping perspiration instead of chilling and sweat retracting. With the first snow fallen but not stuck, Uptown’s numerous stair cases iced over, and Rockefeller Center barricaded off, the arbitrary and atmospheric markings of winter signals the entire disappearance of summertime looseness.

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Summer in the City drags on, the days lengthy and seemingly purposeless, but not without the silent admiration of those present. The trains will never be this vacant, beach towel space never shared so generously, the pace of life dialed back from rapid to merely quick: a moment of reprieve reserved for those decidedly embedded in the city, whether by choice or not. And so, I wouldn’t alter one day of my solitudinous, glowing, permeated by empty anticipation summer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Days in Sunset Park

A scattering of photos from two very different days in Sunset Park, Brooklyn: a slightly damp but sun peaking morning in the dead of winter and a clear, lukewarm late spring afternoon. 13200017531100075311002113200015132000165311001113200018531100275311002253110006

NYC Subway 2019: Christopher Morris Inspired

 

Inspired by Christopher Morris’ 1981 Subway Photo expose, I decided to start shooting photos whenever I rode the subway. Shot over the course of February and March of 2019, I used Fuji Superia 400 film with two of the rolls being pushed from their original ISO of 400 to 800 and 1600.

A Morning in Brighton Beach

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Emerging from the N-Train just before 10:30am, Coney Island, icon of New York, and arguably American, entertainment, appeared as a ghost town. The subway car’s occupants had slowly withered away as the N-Train, running express, raced farther South, though there was still enough riders to be taking up most of the bench seats. A sparse group of middle aged joggers, and one woman delicately, almost lovingly, feeding the seagulls, were the only indications that I was not completely alone on this bitterly cold, swift winded Friday morning. Coney Island is, on the surface, a “cheesy” but nonetheless greatly captivating place on its own. However, this is not what I had taken the subway to its last stop to do on this day.

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As someone who hates swimming, would always pick the mountains over the beach, and has been shit on by a seagull, I seem to have conjured a strange affinity for coastal enclaves on frigid days. Brighton Beach sits on the Southernmost tip of Brooklyn and not quite to the full eastern tip of the shorefront peninsula, only beaten by Manhattan Beach. The area has long been known for its heavily immigrant based population, currently being the highest density area of Russian immigrants in the Western Hemisphere according to a report done by City University of New York. This fact being exemplified by the Russian lettered notices standing next to the English notices on the inky boardwalk sign. I am greeted by a row of perfectly aligned, various colored brick walk ups and a cafe named “Volna”. Though I am tempted by these beachside cafes, and my hands are freezing, I trust my gut(literally), which pleads me not to eat boardwalk food.

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Lined down the block by delivery trucks, Cafe La Brioche sits at the corner of Brighton Beach Avenue, the main avenue slicing through the retail drag, and Brighton Beach 12th Street. I hold open the door for an elderly Russian woman, who thanks me in English, and I step in, immediately taken back by the enormity of traditional, delectable looking Russian pastries inside the messily laid out “cafe”. Undoubtedly a family run establishment, the, who I presume to be, father is aggravatedly arguing with his daughter while his son mans the register. After many moments of difficult deliberation, I purchase an eclair, an almond cookie, and two cream puffs for $2 total. After I quickly eat one of the cream puffs, I go buy two more.

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While I am immediately labeled as an outsider in Brighton Beach, this immigrant dense neighborhood still very much feels like a part of New York City, and a thriving one at that. The rapport among residents is like that of a family: a shop owner playfully ruffling the hair of their young, less experienced employee, the shop labelled hat and apron wearing employee only eliciting a glimmer of annoyance. A matte grey wrapped Mercedes Benz AMG G-63 SUV takes off down West End Avenue with a suit and scarf wearing operator at the wheel. The vibrant, methodologically working Brighton Beach Ave gives way to extra-residential streets, one to two story brick homes engulfing each block, and mothers pushing strollers to the surprisingly numerous playgrounds in the area. Although I have been noted as clearly not Russian, this doesn’t stop most of my fellow pedestrians from quickly flashing a smile in passing from behind their, fully bundled, parka and hat wearing faces. Maybe they just feel bad for me, because I am painfully underdressed for the 30 degree day and am obviously cold. I seek refugee in a restaurant.

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As I sit, hands thankfully thawing out and regaining full feeling, in Cafe Kashkar, a self proclaimed Uzbek Halal restaurant, waiting for my “Lagman Soup”, a recommendation of Edward Lee of Buttermilk Graffiti, the aforementioned family rapport of the tightly packed area becomes painstakingly clear. It is too much of a generalization to assert that this family rapport is due to many of the same family lineages continuing to run through the beach. Certainly, families have come to Brighton and their legacies have been lengthened in the same neighborhood. Rather, the familial emotions of this place are likely because of the reason that the community even exists on the Southern Peninsula of Brooklyn. Prevalent Anti-Semitism, tightening border policies, and the idea of a better future drove these, primarily Jewish, Russian immigrants to the United States, intrinsically linking them together in a community struggle. Through the continual shift of Soviet laws and religious persecution across a 40 year period of time, Russian immigrants flooded into the United States, many of them landing in Brighton Beach,  in three waves: the late 1940s/early 1950s, the 1970s, and the 1990s. As more and more Russian immigrants began to settle alongside the beach in Brooklyn, the sense of community and the prosperity within the locale grew immensely. Eating what may be one of the best bowls of soup I have ever consumed, a rich lamb broth, mint, and fat rice noodles filling my gut, I can’t help but admire the strength of those who initially made the journey here and of those who have kept it such a sacred place. Finishing my bowl of body warming soup and wondering how far their delivery people go(not to the East Village unfortunately), I simultaneously feel satisfied and grippingly curious with my adventure to one end of Brooklyn. As I board the Q-Train heading back to Manhattan, I relish, a little too romantically, the peacefulness of an early morning Coney Island and my anxiety free walk around Brighton Beach.

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A-Train to The Rockaways

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The Rockaways just ooze an ever present melancholy. Blocks shift from newly constructed, cookie-cutter “beach-town” apartment complexes to tattered remnants of Hurricane Sandy. The A-Train in between the Aqueduct Horse Track and Broad Channel stops, skirting on an anorexic piece of platform, shows a brief glimpse into the blow that Hurricane Sandy dealt to this far south strip of Queens.

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Family owned storefronts recede while the likes of Dunkin Donuts and Subway slide in with perfected franchises. Like the 7 train(and numerous other trains including the J,M,Z, etc), the A line elucidates the character of this South Eastern section of Queens by rising above ground at the 80th Street station. Single or double story homes firmly planted in marshy byways are flanked by John F. Kennedy International Airport.

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A Korean Air 747 ascending from JFK with 1 World Trade Center barely visible serves as the only reminder that I am still in the globalized, economic powerhouse of a city that is New York. However, to not recognize that this slice of New York is just as much a part of the city would be to miss the point entirely. Despite the hardships the Rockaway Peninsula has faced since Hurricane Sandy, there is an air of positive resilience to the place. The area is exceedingly tranquil while still showing of its feisty personality. On the sharp, 40 degree(fahrenheit that is) day that I visited, the waves were crashing against the rocky Averne by the Sea shore harshly and yet there was no wind, leaving the only discernible thing to be the sound of the waves. Drivers didn’t honk at each others, or at least as much as in the city.  Everything seemed slower, including the MTA bus service.

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As I devoured my Pollo Guisado from Brisas Del Mar on 99th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard, an Anthony Bourdain recommendation, a slew of middle school children bustled in laughing and screaming, smiles wide across their giddy faces.  I emerged from the homey, family owned restaurant and was bombarded by another gaggle of kids, acting with the kind of youthful arrogance and lack of spatial awareness that is unique to, and partially endearing of, middle schoolers. As the “Not In Service” MTA bus full of elementary and middle school students, and one NYPD officer, pulled away, a girl, who couldn’t have been much older than 9 or 10, pushed her head out of the bus window and yelled “fuck yo’ shit!”381300303813003138130028

Despite its desolate appearances, the Rockaways seem to be making a comeback and a hopeful one at that. I mean, there were herds of those Lime Bike Beach Cruisers strewn about, so something must be going well. Or horribly wrong. On a more serious note, if you are interested in learning about how the Rockaways have fared since Hurricane Sandy, check out the following link to the New York state report on the revitalization of the beach-town community: https://www.osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt13-2018.pdf .