I’m Completely Humbled… or How Billy Got His Groove Back… Part Deux

Okay where was I?…

Ah yes… So I decided to come to New York. Coming to Manhattan I guess can be an intimidating experience for some. I know the first time I arrived to work on a project almost 15 years ago, I thought I was flying on the same plane with an art director and a producer who I knew. So I didn’t really have all the details of my arrival in my head because I thought I was going to be with people who knew what we were doing. In actual fact, they had arrived in New York the day before, and I was traveling alone.

So we landed and I made my way to the airport taxi stand around midnight, still wondering if my colleagues had simply missed the flight. I knew I was staying at the Plaza Hotel, but I didn’t know anything more than that. So when the cabbie asked me where The Plaza was, I was confused that he would not know where one of the most famous hotels in the world was. I knew it was on Fifth Avenue and told him so and maybe he could see how green I was, and was looking to take advantage of my ignorance, and it did throw me a little. But I made it fine and felt at home in pretty short order. I guess The Plaza will do that for you.

So now every time I arrive here, it’s funny to think back on how I flew to New York alone, with a few dollars and not quite enough information to really be useful. These days, since I really only am here for work, I usually hit the ground running and this was no exception. I landed at a little after 1 in the afternoon last Thursday and went straight to the post house where I would be editing the television commercial.

Oh yeah. I guess I never did say what exactly I was doing here. Lois Greenfield and I have been collaborating on her television commercials and other projects for about ten years now. It’s really quite a rewarding working relationship that grew into a wonderful strong friendship as well, so as I said before, even though I couldn’t really spare the time to come here and help out, I couldn’t really pass it up either.

We’re working on a 30 second TV spot for a new Broadway show based on the music of Earth Wind and Fire called Hot Feet. I took a little phone picture of the theater marquee on 42nd Street on the way home tonight.

Since the deadline was so fast we worked long and hard and over the weekend and came up with some really good cuts. Of course, some of my residual stupid mistakes from over-tiredness apparently stowed away in my suitcase, because at one point on Friday night as I was working on another version of the commercial, I managed to erase my favorite of all the cuts.

Now anyone who knows me, knows that I rarely lose anything computer related. I’m quite the master at recovering data from broken hard drives and computer accidents. But this time, all my skills and super powers could not bring that cut back. I was sick to my stomach. No one had seen that version of the commercial but me since I was working alone and the auto backups were not usable because it was almost two hours before I had realized what I had done. It was a rookie mistake because I’ve just been so exhausted these days. Not enough sleep and too many projects going on for the last three months. It just keeps catching up to me.

So I tried in vain to remember what I had done. Now it may seem easy to go back and remember this scene came first, then this scene, then this scene… but it really is so much more complicated than that. In this particular commercial, there were about 35 edits. Basically more than one per second. A rapid fire of dancers jumping and spinning and flying. That would have been hard to reconstruct when I was well rested, which I certainly was not. I did my best and Lois called. I told her what happened and she wisely talked me into stopping and coming out with her for a late dinner at a beautiful French restaurant down the street called Fleur de Sel. I let off a little steam over a beautiful meal and I felt much better by the time we jumped in a cab to head home.


I should mention that while I’m here, I’m staying with two amazing friends of mine, Mark and Cheree, film editors who I met before they moved on to New York. They live up on the upper west side of Manhattan in a neighborhood called Hamilton Heights around 150th and so it gave me a chance to learn yet another part of the island of Manhattan that I was unfamiliar with. Mark, you may remember, surprised me by showing up unexpectedly at my Echo Gallery photography exhibition opening last month. I’ve really missed him since he moved here and it’s been great getting a chance to catch up with the two of them when our collective schedules allow us to grab a quick bite to eat or whatever.

On Friday morning, Mark pointed me in the right direction and, armed with maps of the NYC Subway on my video iPod and my NFT book, it was quick to get my bearings once again and head to work every morning with the masses.

So yes there has been a lot of working since I’ve arrived. But as usual, I do manage to squeeze a little more out of the hours of the day than most, so there has been a bit of play as well. And really… how many paragraphs into this entry are we?… it’s how Billy Got His Groove Back.

Good food and good friends.

To me, there is nothing better than sitting across the table from someone you care about and having a nice loooong conversation. Mark took me out for to a local Mexican joint my first night and we had a chance to find out what we’ve both been up to since the gallery reception was happily too busy to spend any quality time talking.

Of course on Friday, Lois took me out to that wonderful dinner. Her photography was such an inspiration to me even before I met her. I’ve been wanting to hear about this show called Held that she created with the Australian Dance Theater Company that has been performing all over the world. It premiered in Australia and then had a great run in New York and then two sold out weeks in Paris at the Theatre De La Ville last fall. She’s set to go on another leg of her world tour with it again next fall. It was great hearing her talk about how she’s spent the last few years reinventing herself and reaching new heights with her amazing work. She is still such an inspiration to me and it’s always so much fun to collaborate with her.

Of course my wonderful friend Jillian Ann lives here, but I’ve never gotten the chance to spend time with her on her turf. It seems like our schedules never seem to converge for any time to get together when I’m here, but we were determined. So Sunday night I got a text from her about 11pm saying she was free if I was and so I hopped in a cab and headed down to the other side of Manhattan to pick her up and we ended up in the East Village at Yaffa Cafe. We ate healthy fruit and had many cups of chamomile tea and talked about life and relationships and how I’m worried about my fading memory and how it’s probably because I’m at places like Yaffa Cafe until 3am. I got back home about 3:30, only to be up again at 7am to head back downtown to do more editing.

Lois and I finished up on the spots about 8pm that night and I called Mark to see if he was still editing because both he and I wanted me to meet the director he cuts for, Jeff Madoff up on 52nd. Jeff has been making amazing images for years and works regularly with Ralph Lauren and Victoria’s Secret. I guess Mark had shown him some of my photography, so he was interested in getting together as well. I’ve been carrying around sample books from my Chicago show with me because people have been asking me about my photography pretty much everywhere I go these days and I gave him one to look at.

The humbling part…

Now Jeff is a guy who really is a lover of great imagery. I was really flattered and humbled by the way he looked through my entire book, not just flipping through it, but stopping and commenting on many of the images he liked. As he started looking through it for the second time, I told him I really wanted him to have it to add to his incredible collection of art books. He told me only if I would sign it, and so I did.

We continued to talk about how I had made the images and about ideas for images he was hoping to create in the near future and we walked into his office and he began pulling these incredible photo and art books off the shelves. Really rare editions and it was like buried treasure. These books were so amazingly crafted. Some small, some as big as small tables. I couldn’t believe he was sharing these with me. They were so beautiful and so moving and after an hour or so we agreed I would come back another time with wine and we would get take out and stay up all night going through these amazing images. Jeff is really a generous person. Meeting him is certainly one of the highlights of my time here. He really values Mark’s talent as an editor and I’m so glad they are working together. I walked out of their studio just speechless at what I had seen and heard. What an inspiring night. And another person who I admire here who has found something that moves them in my photography as well. It felt so good.

On Sunday afternoon Mark and Cheree and I managed to find a few hours to head out to Roosevelt Island which is a little strip of an island in between Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens in the East River. We took the F out there and then noticed the signs that the F line was not running back to Manhattan that day, so we quickly looked up to see if the tram was running overhead and it was, so at least we were not stranded on Roosevelt Island! I’d heard about the old smallpox hospital on the island and Cheree mentioned that most of the time you couldn’t get anywhere near it because the southern tip of the island is usually fenced off and closed to the public, but as luck would have it, the gate was open and we excitedly walked up the path towards the spooky old crumbling building. Even in the middle of the afternoon it just felt haunted. Over the better part of the 1800s and into the 1900s the island was home to insane asylums and pretty much anything else that no one wanted in the more populated parts of New York. You could just feel the historical misery as we walked along.

Well there’s more to tell, but it’s 2am and I have to be up in five hours so it will have to wait a bit. But things are good. I’m busy and tired, but also inspired and hopeful.

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3 thoughts

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