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You Sat Across From Me

Back Then (2010):

Although I occasionally go through covetous moments of Android and iPhone envy, I think it’s safe to say that I’m a Blackberry person. The thought of having to use a touch screen to text is incredibly off-putting for me. That said, I’m a big fan of the iPhone camera. I’ve always hoped Apple would do the right thing by us non-iPhone users and stick that awesome camera into the iPod. When they finally got around to it, we got stuck with the piece of crap that was stuffed (inexplicably) into the Nano the year before.

Luckily, I happen to have a friend who is an iPhone user. She was upgrading to the iPhone 4 and was willing to simply give away her old iPhone 3G. In exchange for lunch, I got what has become a glorified iPod Touch. No 3G. No service unless there’s WiFi, but damn it, there is a camera and Hipstamatic is installed. I named him Sexy Beast.

The iPhone camera has allowed me to do something that I’ve always found a bit daunting – photograph strangers without them knowing I’m doing so. I started a set on Flickr back when I first got the phone, and have been slowly adding to it.

Recently, I thought it might be nice to create a little Tumblog out of the idea, so I spent some time last night throwing it all together and now I’d love to share it:

You Sat Across From Me: A Subway Series

And Now (2017):

I’ve sinced moved to the iPhone platform. I’ve also migrated You Sat Across From Me over to Instagram, where I continue to cultivate this photograph series. I still maintain the Tumblog, though not as frequently anymore. You can find all of the original photos on Instagram. I make all new posts to Instagram, as well.

It’s been an interesting study to look back on, and continues to be a fun exercise.

On Times Square

Times Square vs. New Yorkers

I had the unfortunate experience of passing through Times Square this evening on my way home. As I shoved my way through the never-ending crowd of slowly wandering tourists, I thought about why I often will go around my ass to get to my elbow (so to speak) to avoid having to walk through Times Square.

A note to tourists and NYC visitors who’ve never been to the city’s most infamous square: If you are considering stopping by — don’t.

Okay, okay, I realize you’ll probably do it anyway, so here’s some advice: Don’t.

All right, for real:

Yes, it is one of those things you’ll have to see if you visit New York city. Most New Yorkers that you find in Times Square don’t actually want to be there — we go only when we absolutely have to. If we work there, need something from Toys R Us (God help us), or randomly want to spend $30 on a burger from TGI Fridays. We also go when a friend from out of town comes to visit and says: OMG I have to go to Times Square!!!

Dear out of town visitors,

Please know that as soon as you said those words, the heart of the poor New Yorker you’re visiting sunk through the floor. Yes, that’s right. Up until that very moment, your host thought they might escape it. That just maybe, you were one of the few people who’d have a blast seeing all of the non-tourist trap spots in NYC. Instead, you’ve killed a tiny bit of their soul and for every second you spend in Times Square, a little more of their soul will die.

New Yorkers do not like Times Square. Why? Because tourists LOVE it. It is dirty and overcrowded with people who don’t know where or how to walk in Manhattan. It is impossible to navigate without being knocked around or stalled by 30 people stopping to take a photo of (for some reason) the American Eagle digital billboard.

So you’re planning on going anyway, right? And you want to know when might be a good time to go in order to avoid this mess? Well, I have an answer for you!

Never.

This is the constant reality of Times Square. It is never a crowd-free, pleasant place to take a stroll. If you’re going with a camera, be prepared for the other 29 people who’ll be taking the same photo as you at the same time. Know that you will be in at least 10 other photos as you pass through. You’ll also, most definitely, be constantly jostled around. If you’re carrying bags, this will be even worse. Your bags will undoubtedly get caught on the bags of other people and there will be a nasty quest to untangle yourself without getting pulled into the throng.

If none of this deterred you, do yourself a favor — avoid Fridays and Saturdays. Avoid them like the plagues that they are on this area. There’s no point in going, because there is no place to stand. You will be taken by the masses and dragged away into an oblivion of cameras, shopping bags, and people.

If you must go, then be sure to adopt a strong ‘elbows out’ walk. Plow through, hope for the best.

One other bit of advice — do not eat in Times Square! You’ll pay triple what you’d pay if you looked for a place a few avenues over and a few streets up or down. Olive Garden, Friday’s, Bubba Gump, and Hard Rock Cafe are all chains. That means you can find them all over the place. A burger at Friday’s in Times Square is the same burger you get at Friday’s at home. If you want to pay a ridiculous price for a burger, I hear Minetta Tavern has a good one*. See more of the city! Restaurant row is on 8th Avenue in the Theater District — much better food and much more variety. You could also hop the subway (or taxi) down to Little Italy and Chinatown or the East Village. Trust me, you’ll eat better.

*Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Minetta Tavern, I’ve just always heard that have a really amazing burger.