Saturday, May 31, 2008
Compact digital camera. Some people react to it as if I’m walking around with an automatic weapon. Guns and cameras use two completely different modes of shooting. A camera is non-lethal.
Kinda lost and confused. My friend pulls his car into a parking lot on the decommissioned Plattsburgh Air Force Base. He’s trying to find a business in the area. I notice an old building with character. I ask him if he would wait a moment so that I could photograph the abandoned structure with its weatherworn exterior.
I get out, walk over, and start shooting. Another car pulls up next to me, some guy wearing sunglasses. Mr. Shades asks me what I’m doing. I explain that I’m just photographing the peeling paint.
MR. SHADES: “Do you have permission?”
I look at him. Since it was decommissioned, most areas on the base are open to the public.
ME: “I need permission?”
That statement catches him off guard. He explains that he’s a maintenance person who was wondering what I was doing. Since I only have a camera in my hand – no lock pick or crowbar on me – the answer should be obvious.
Mr. Shades drives off. Apparently I don’t need permission.
Now I wonder what’s inside that building. A crashed flying saucer holding Jimmy Hoffa’s skeleton and the answers to the next SAT exam?
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Recently a Press-Republican editorial mentioned that some homeowners in the vicinity of Wall Street in Plattsburgh were really upset. Used hairnets were ending up in their shrubbery. (Cheers & Jeers: 5/26/08) Apparently employees of a local business were tossing aside these items instead of using a proper waste receptacle.
To quote the PR: “To some people, a used hairnet might not seem such a vile thing. To others, though, it would be as welcome as ... well, a used tissue, let's say.”
Yup, used hairnets and facial tissues. Vile things. Real health hazards.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I’ve heard through the grapevine that someone in Public Works checks this blog on occasion to find out about problem areas that need attention.
Obviously this site has presented a plethora of pooch poop pix lately. Maybe this problem will be addressed.
But it shouldn’t be just me pointing out all the litter and doggerolls. Government should be more of a two-way effort, especially on the local level. You have to do your part.
But which channel should you use? Should you try a phone call, postal letter or email? And where to send your complaint? Which department: Police, Public Works, or Building Inspector? Or how about contacting the mayor directly? Will your complaint result in action? Or will it be passed along to someone else and end up in a dead file?
I propose the city should have one channel devoted to complaints, an action line. To save time a format would be in place to quickly file a complaint, using the 3 W’s: What, Where, and When.
The channel could have two inputs: a dedicated phone line and a website form. The complainant would be instructed to give the basic details. For example:
WHAT: Dogshit on sidewalk.
WHERE: Near Clinton Street Laundry (street numbers could be used).
WHEN: Seen about 5PM, Monday afternoon, May 26th.
In the morning Public Works – or whatever entity designated to handle the channel - could check the phone messages and the online site for complaints. Someone would go out and take care of the problems.
Using one channel would increase efficiency and there would be no excuse that the problem wasn’t passed along to the right person. Of course, someone might make a false report or the problem might be resolved before the city gets there. Such incidents would be indicated in the records. But, more importantly, the records would give an indication of what problems are out there.
The city has been whining it has no money. Setting up a 3W phone line and website form shouldn’t cost that much. Also, with a record of ongoing problems, the city could use the data to see if any grant money or other funds were available to maintain the semblance of a clean community.
But if such an action line is put in place, it will mean nothing if you don’t use it.
Memorial Day afternoon. Overcast sky. More litter on the City Hall lawn.
As I compose and take another shot, a pickup truck pulls into the parking lot next to me. My writog sense tingles. Someone is going to ask me what I’m doing.
Actually I’m mistaken. No hassle. It’s the mayor, smiling. “Make sure to get all those pictures, Mr. Bush.”
“I’m working on it,” I reply.
Then the mayor backs up his truck and drives away. Apparently he took a side trip when he saw me, making sure to show his appreciation for my visual documentation of crap-dotted Plattsburgh.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The lower end of Brinkerhoff Street – in the area of The Strand and the North County Cultural Center – has been eyed for renovation. Plans have been proposed to turn the downtown section into an Arts Corridor. After all, the arts attract a different class of people than bars.
After leaving a reception at the Cultural Center this evening, I shortly encountered a bit of anti-art on the sidewalk.
After leaving a reception at the Cultural Center this evening, I shortly encountered a bit of anti-art on the sidewalk.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Thursday, May 22, 2008
“You own that building?”
I was shooting an empty storefront on Clinton Street. Large window, years of neglect, a patina of grime. The gray film offered a medium for graffiti artists. Fingers pressed against the pane, they had etched witticisms reflecting their four letter mentalities.
I lowered my camera and turned my head. A stranger walked towards me, a white haired man around my age. At least he wasn’t hassling me; his tone only suggested curiosity.
I explained that I wasn’t the owner, that I was documenting the vandalism. I pointed at the recessed entranceway, mentioning how it was sometimes used as a trash can.
The man observed: “They also use it as an urinal.” He mentioned how ugly this storefront looked compared to most of the other buildings on the street. “I used to have a business here. This building is owned by an absentee landlord; he’s never around.”
A common problem. At one city council meeting I had attended there was talk about requiring an absentee landlord to have a local agent to respond to any complaints or handle any problems. A practical solution. So practical that it will take Plattsburgh a hundred years to get such a regulation in effect.
In the meantime decay eats away too many buildings. And the landlord writes off his property’s depreciation from his taxes. Rot pays better than repair.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
About two weeks have passed and these doggie loggies just sit there. People park their cars right next to the mess without a thought. Maybe it designates a reserved space for the mayor.
And here’s a fresh slider near the corner of Clinton and Oak by the laundromat. This is probably a marker pointing towards the proposed Plattsburgh Arts Corridor.
(At least no one can complain that I put up only the same old crap on this blog.)
I thought the city had someone to clean up downtown on a regular basis. If so, where is he?
Hassled once again for photographing an inanimate object.
As I walked along I knew I was running behind schedule. The library was going to close in less than an hour. At least it wasn’t raining so that wouldn’t slow me down. In fact, the sky was clearing for the moment.
Shortcut through the schoolyard. I don’t take it that often. Some new playground equipment had been installed, colorful plastic. Kids were playing on the on the slides and other stuff. I walked around the activity, noticing a piece of equipment off to the side backlit by the setting sun, its translucent parts lit up.
According to my Google search, it’s called a fun hoop, a construct atop a metal pole with a hole on top and three holes around its sides. If you toss a basketball or similar sized ball through the top hoop, it can bounce out from any side.
I had a bit of time to spare. The light was just right. I didn’t know if I would ever get chance to catch this image again: a hovering carnival UFO.
I took out my camera, shot three images of the fun hoop, and then left.
As I walked to the public library, I quickly shot other objects that caught my eye. Before I arrived to my destination, some kids – middle school age – came up behind me.
“Excuse me,” said one girl. “Excuse me.”
I turned around. A girl on a bike asked me why I was photographing the children at the schoolyard.
I did a double take. No, I wasn’t photographing any kids.
“Well,” she replied, “it’s been in the news that someone who looks like you has been doing that.”
And where did you hear that? I asked. The TV news?
She didn’t say. Another kid chimed in, saying that she also heard about it.
Since I had nothing to hide, I put on digital camera on review mode and showed them what I had been photographing, including the backlit playground equipment. No kids.
A few feet away one girl was aiming her cellphone camera at me while holding a stick in her hand. I asked her if she was taking my picture.
“No, I’m just photographing this stick.”
Well, I replied, I don’t mind if you take my picture.
So two girls took out their cellphones and took close-ups of my mug. But they wouldn’t let me take their pictures when I asked – not that I was surprised by their response.
That wrapped up the encounter. The kids just drifted away.
So what brought that on? Is there a story in the news about a stalking pedophile photographer on the loose? Or did this originate from the kids or their parents? I remember when I walked through the schoolyard two mothers were watching over the kids.
I can appreciate concern but not bullshit paranoia.
Especially when I’m just shooting a hunk of plastic backlit against the sky.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Today there’s going to be a citywide cleanup, starting at 9 AM. I could upload so many images of problems around Plattsburgh that I would crash this blog service. But I’ll limit myself to three.
According to the newspaper article, rakes and bags will be provided. Well, as you can see from the image below taken yesterday on lower Cornelia Street, they better bring along some shovels. Pedestrians who didn’t paid attention pressed the bowwow brownies right into the sidewalk.
The article said it should take only two hours per ward. I think the Clinton Street area will take at least one hour. Besides shovels, a good hosing with bleach might be needed for these dog logs that have sat undisturbed among the broken glass for over two weeks on Clinton Street.
And it’ll be good to see this rusty razor blade finally removed from Clinton Street. It’s been lying around since winter.
Good luck to City Councilor Amy Valentine and her volunteers. (But it does suck that they have to pick up after so many two-legged pigs on the loose.)
Will I participate? No. Why? Three reasons:
1. Bad back.
2. I spend enough time photographically documenting Plattsburgh’s slide into slumitis that I’m sick of looking at trash and litter (especially the canine cannelloni).
3. I’ve already “volunteered” in the past when I was trapped on workfare, serving out a sentence at the Plattsburgh Public Works Department. (Great use of my college education.) In the springtime us workfare slaves had to shovel up the streets, sand and litter. On occasion the full-time municipal employees told us to slow down. Apparently we were making them look bad, even though we were working for minimum wage.
Wednesday, May 07, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
Thursday, May 01, 2008
What impression does a city present to first-time visitors?
Travelers judge the quality of a community by its institutions, especially the physical symbols of those institutions.
Let’s take a look at Plattsburgh’s City Hall. The devil is in the details.
Obviously these doors have been neglected for too long. Worn down by weather and people. Maybe time for a new finish on the wood? Dab of varnish or whatever it takes? Preventative maintenance will help these doors last longer. That will save the city money. Unless it thinks replacing them would be cheaper – a dubious proposition.
Take either side entrance, Cornelia or Trinity. Protective globes over the decorative lights are missing, probably busted by vandals. Leaves the light bulbs exposed to the elements. Is this safe, especially with rain leaking into the fixture? Would a building inspector let this pass if these were on private property?
Of course, Plattsburgh whines it has no money. At some point these details will have to be addressed. Too bad previous leaders spent money on nonsense like building a parking lot for a hotel by the lake that was never built.