Summer Streets, pt 2
I missed last week’s Summer Streets because I decided to sleep in late with a cold. But missing the first Saturday reminded me of last year, and how I had enjoyed the event far more than I had expected. So this time around, I set my clock early, took Bumpy the dog for a quick walk around the block, and headed over to Lafayette Street shortly before 10 am.
I’d forgotten it’s possible to get to Summer Streets too early.
Summer Streets is three Saturdays in August where the City’s Department of Transportation closes nearly seven miles of roadway along Manhattan’s east side, from the Brooklyn Bridge to Central Park. Throughfares Center Street, Lafayette Streets, Fourth Avenue, Park Avenue South, Park Avenue, the Grand Central Viaduct are transformed into promenades for pedestrans, skaters and cyclists.
That’s all well and good for people who enjoy wandering the City’s deserted streets early in the am. But New York isn’t really a city of morning people – least not when we can help it – so most don’t arrive till 11 am for what is fast becoming a truly New York experience. Then as the clock strikes 1 pm the police roll up the banners and the promenades are returned to their usual pumpkin state.
So after pootleing down to the Brooklyn Bridge, nearly getting drafted for a bicycle safety class in Foley Square, and bypassing the on-location portrait-with-your-bike in front of some painted Amsterdam seamless, I decided to head up to Eighth Street to see if anything was going on there.
I was photographing little girls on decorated scooters and bikes passing by the Times Up stand, in Astor Place, when an older woman carrying an American flag stepped into my frame. I kept shooting and noticed she said something to me but I couldn’t understand her over the Times-Up hula-hooping music.
Suddenly she began to hit me in the arm with her American flag and demanded I give her my camera; that is my Nikon D300 , with the 20mm f 2.8 D attached to it, and a 4gb Lexar CompactFlash card inside. Dream on!
So she continued hitting me with the stick until it broke. Passersby told her to stop but she continued to demand my camera, claiming that getting photographed is against her religion.
I wonder what religion this might be that entitles it’s followers to other people’s cameras.
When that ploy didn’t work she quickly switch to plan B threatening to call police and press charges against me. Two traffic cops came over to see what all the ruckus was about so she freely admitted that she had hit me with her flag because I wouldn’t give her my camera. They tried to explain to her that I was entitled to take photos – after all, the City is running an official photo contest – and that she was the one who had assaulted me.
Then she began to complain she was getting dizzy and couldn’t breathe. Could she be feining a heart attack? Heat stroke? Yeah I can just imagine the cops trying to figure out who might get stuck taking her into custody.
I suggested she sit down, out of the sun, and took the remains of her flag stick, which by now looked more like a shiv, away before she could hurt herself or anyone else.
But despite the efforts of one particular… ehr… witch, this year’s version of Summer Streets seemed less crowded, less intense, than last year, which is probably the way it should be. I also thought things seemed to go a bit smoother and more organized – like the City is beginning to get the routine down. The streets were easily divided for bikes and peds, and the cops actually kept the streets open a bit longer for people to get back downtown. None of that “all bikes on the sidewalk” nonsense like we had last year five minutes before the streets were due to open to traffic.