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I Turn My Camera On; Or, Letter from Bryant Park, Fashion Week

September 11, 2008

I’m sitting here in Bryant Park watching people go apeshit over fashion models and designers. Just saw a bunch of photographers run to get shots of Anna Sui, who I sort of recognized but didn’t know who it was until I heard someone say “Anna!” The photogs, schlumpfy guys all, are standing around in little clusters of two and three looking down at the little screens of serious-looking black cameras they’ve got slung around their necks. Then there are also a lot of younger women, Japanese and American, milling more hesitantly, with smaller ordnance cameras.

One guy, earlier, almost fell into me at the little green desk-table I was sitting at, as he got pushed out of a scrum of photogs surrounding two tall black models, with aquiline features and wearing Egyptian goddess, Isis-type garb. The big cameras, when they go off, sound like thwack thwack thwack. Directly in front of me, a middle-aged black photog, with a French bulldog’s squished-up expression and the suggestion of an afro, is taking pictures, but not getting up to do so from where he’s sitting, of random women who look good but obviously aren’t models as they walk by. One other civilian-looking woman saw this just now, as she was standing here. She smiled, and walked on.

The scene has now calmed down somewhat. Directly across from where I sit is the Bryant Park Hotel, all black brick and gold trim. To my right is the green and gold, old-style carousel, ridden by kids on ornate up-and-downing horses. A blue baseball-capped black man just pushed a flat of cases of Peroni beer past me. Impossibly thin models, vaguely Russian-looking, keep swishing by. Photogs move up and away, as the models pose while walking or stop and pose, either giving a smoldering look or smiling wanly. It’s like a kind of chemical or magnetic reaction, electrons drawn and then repelled from a nucleus. The models’ breasts move around in their shirts or dresses like a sped-up grandfather clock’s pendulum. Another flat of 25 cases of Peroni beer, pushed and guarded by five black guys, just rolled by.

It occurs to me that, women-wise, a man could probably clean up in this vicinity of town with civilian women during these Fashion Weeks.

I am wearing a tie and pink tennis shoes. I look good but not great. Thumping, irregular bass is and has been this whole time issuing from the big white tent complex (where the actual fashion shows are held) directly behind me. I am sitting at the back end of the tent complex, away from the entrance, which is festooned with voting- and election-themed Fashion Week slogans, on 6th Avenue at 41st Street.

The photogs have this way of running up ahead of the models, humping gear, about 15 feet, then turning and shooting. I wonder if the civilian women walking by, in their own finery, harbor a secret desire to be mistaken for a model, and shot.

Several people walking by, Anna Sui one and maybe Ralph Lauren another, have been wearing black T-shirts bearing the legend, in a stone color, “Save the Garment District.” A leaf just fell from the air in front of me—the first falling leaf I think I’ve seen this fall. Soon more, soon all, will fall. All of my friends at the Rough Guides office in New York, where I got my first real job, as an editorial assistant, were laid off this week. With respect to Fashion Week: I cannot decide whether I do not care about the models, the hubbub, or whether I do care, deeply, but refuse out of pride to admit this to myself, and move up to the front. I feel sort of the same conflicted way that I do about Anne Hathaway and The Devil Wears Prada, when I see it come on TV.

I have freckles and am 28, for a little while longer.

A white bum named Tim, carrying a metal-frame rucksack and wearing two hospital bracelets—one blue, one white—just approached me. He had a twang in his voice so I asked him where he was from.

“I’m from Savannah, Georgia,” he said. “Where you from?”

I told him.

“I just get outta the hospital,” he said. “My lung collapsed.”

I gave him a dollar and he shook my hand, a strong handshake that lapsed into looseness.

“I been panhandlin’. I just get outta the hospital but I’m gon’ panhandle the shit outta these people.”

He shook my hand again and asked my name. I told him.

“Hell,” he said, “I got a son that’s got a son named Hunter.”

To my left, a couple dressed in black that both seem very drunk, she tottering on heels and he holding the smoldering ass-end of a cigarette, keep putting their tongues into each other’s mouths, slowly and very deliberately. Tim had reeked of alcohol. I don’t know whether these fashion shows are ending or beginning. I have an hour to go until my therapy appointment. A motherly-looking handler woman who’s holding an iPhone keeps hustling up late girls, coltish, into the back of the tent. She just called one “sweetie.” Two women walking with a pair of NYPD just walked by, one woman shaking one of the cops’ hands.

The trees are the kind that look camouflaged, from shedding bark, and their green leaves, way up high where the sun breaks in over the skyscrapers surrounding, have begun to have a yellowish tint about them. The flagstones are big gray squares and rectangles. No one has taken a picture of me directly, but I bet I’m in some anyway. Watch the newsstands, the magazines. You might see me there, writing this, mustached, pen in one hand and cigarette in the other.

* Late-breaking correction: A woman did just take a picture of me, a long woman with long brown hair and a handsome face in a white dress and a slim, flow-y, almost ankle-length orange sweater-type thing. She said, with an accent I couldn’t place, that “I looked so cool. I like your style, weird and funny.” This picture she took was for “her fashion blog.” This was right after I ran into my friend, former roommate, and fellow Arkansan Jessica, a red-haired beauty who walked by where I was sitting and whom I wolf-whistled at, to get her attention.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Joe permalink
    September 11, 2008 4:13 pm

    I do hope this photograph is published in a periodical I read. I’ve got to see these pink shoes.

  2. scram. permalink
    September 11, 2008 5:47 pm

    Either ‘photog’ is a new Magic card or your standards of vocabulary have plummeted.

  3. Joe permalink
    September 11, 2008 6:45 pm

    Oooh, snap!. Scram, that was cold.

  4. Jen permalink
    September 11, 2008 11:22 pm

    Well aren’t you cool, flirting with fashion week…

  5. Jake Freedom permalink
    September 13, 2008 4:13 pm

    I like this style of writing for you.

    Did anyone ask if you were “Earl”?

    See you next week.

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