Check out this fun short film I made about my adventures this past October and November through Thailand & Cambodia! I call it the “SituAsian” (see what I did there?) and it’s a fun little romp through Asia as I experienced it. Places visited include Bangkok, Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Pai, Phuket, Koh Samui, Koh Phangan, the Full Moon Party, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Also, there are a few shots of street art and graffiti from New York City and London before and after the trip. See if you can spot the Banksy’s and the Hanksy! Enjoy!
Last year, I spent Christmas alone in Brooklyn photographing street art.
This year, I’m alone in London, doing much of the same.
Couldn’t ask for more.
Many happy returns munchkins!
(Keep your receipts)
Recently, I had a very fun photoshoot and interview in Toronto’s infamous Graffiti Alley with TorontoVerve. If you don’t know, TorontoVerve is one of the more popular street style photoblogs in Toronto, and presents a really great cross-section of the personalities and characters to be found whilst traversing our awesome little city. Also, the photos are absolutely stunning! Anyway, they asked me if I would like to be one of their subjects, and I was humbled and flattered by the invitation.
It turned into a really fun 101 lecture on Graffiti and Street Art from Toronto, which as you all know, I can yap my freakin’ head off about! We wandered together through the alley for a few hours, and I even made him hike up Spadina to show him the last Banksy left in Toronto!
Here are some of the photos of me in the alley, but for the full interview (We talk about Banksy, Spud, Poser, graffiti turf wars, and of course, Mayor Rob ford), click over to TorontoVerve now!
Fanks for Nigel for the invite and for being made of awesomesauce.
(All photographs copyright Nigel Hamid/TorontoVerve)
Among many of my things to-do whilst in New York, one of them was The Madonna Tour of New York. This isn’t something that is organized and run by official tour guides. This is something I fashioned myself using Google. I’ve always been really inspired by Madonna’s life. Her music, I can take it or leave it, but I find her struggle for success really inspiring. Unlike most celebrities today who are famous through nepotism or for nefarious acts, Madonna made her own life. She arrived in New York with no money, knowing next to no one, and was even sexually assaulted. She squatted in buildings and barely scraped by for 5 years in New York, until she finally got that record deal in the early 1980s. So I’m not particularly interested in the Madonna of now, more of the Madonna from the late 70s. Every year or so, I reread Andrew Morton’s biography about her (which I bought 10 years ago in a second-hand bookstore for $3) and it really gives me a kick in the pants to do more with my life. To be more ambitious and driven.
Anyway, Morton’s book is so detailed about the places and people in her life in the late 70s that I realized I could actually (probably) find these places and meet these people whilst there. So after scouring the book once more for precise details, I set about fashioning my own Madonna tour of New York… one that visited most of the places that were a part of her tapestry. I also contacted one very important person from her life at that time (more on that later…)
First stop, the synagogue in Queens.
In the late 70s, Madonna met the Gilroy brothers, Dan and Ed. They were musicians in a band and she was still a dancer at this point. She began a relationship with Dan and promptly moved in with him and Ed. Dan and Ed at the time were living in this above synagogue deep in the heart of Corona, Queens.
You can tell just by looking at it’s size and architecture that it was built sometime in the early 1900s and was converted into a house probably in the 1960s after falling into disrepair and disuse by the Jewish community.
Ed Gilroy and his wife still live in this synagogue actually, but weren’t there when I visited, so I left a lil’ hello note in their mailbox. When Andrew Morton visited this synagogue, Ed took him down to the basement where 30 years prior, Dan had taught Madonna how to play the drums. She had been a drummer in their band The Breakfast Club before becoming the guitarist…. and finally wanting to take the front position. Also, in the basement, are reel-to-reel recordings they made back then of Madonna singing and playing, of her chatting with Dan and Ed playfully …. it’s like a time machine back to the 70s and of her unfamous life, Morton wrote.
Standing here, I was imagining a young black-haired skinny Madonna, younger than I am now, bounding down these steps and heading for the subway to go into Manhattan, taking the exact same steps I had taken to get there by subway….. it was a pretty connecting and exciting thought.
Next stop …. The Russian Tea Room in Manhattan
When Madonna first arrived in New York in the late 70s and was still a dancer, her dancing instructor (Pearl Lang) worried about how thin she was and how she was getting by, so she got Madonna a job at The Russian Tea Room on 57th. Now from all the sources I have read, she was a “hat check” girl there in the late 70s before getting fired. But I walked inside the TRTR and asked the hostess, and she said Madonna was a “coat check” girl in the early 80s. So I’m not sure which is correct, but either way, the hostess confirmed that yes, Madonna worked there.
Next stop …. The Music Building on the shitty west side.
The Music Building is an infamous shitty building on 8th avenue in the shitty “Minnesota Strip” part of Manhattan that, in the early 80s, must have been 100x worse. Drugs, violence, crime, and then this towering inferno, floor after floor, of disgusting sweaty, smelly wannabe rock n’ roll superstars jamming all hours into the night, spilling out into the street.
This is also where Madonna recorded her first demos and met her first manager, Camille Barbone.
Madonna used to actually squat illegally in the music building and wash herself in the ladies loo. Fab Five Freddy once said that when he met Madonna, she smelled so bad and it seemed like she was the type to get around, hahaha. Anyway, I tried to go inside but the doors were locked (you need a fob key to get in) and I didn’t have an appointment (which you also need if you want to look around).
But I looked up and knew that inside one of those windows was the studio where Madonna and Steven Bray put the finishing touches on Everybody…
Next stop, 30 West 21st street, which now is a very gentrified and beautiful area, but 30 years ago it was …
…where Danceteria used to be. Danceteria was the club where Madonna passed her demo tape to Mark Kamins (the DJ there, and sometime A & R rep, who briefly became her boyfriend) who then passed it on to Seymour Stein, head of Sire Records, who was laid up in the hospital after heart surgery and told Kamins to bring Madonna to him in the ward. Danceteria is also where Madonna had her first live performance of Everybody, and where she recorded her very first music video (Everybody).
Next two stops were the former locations of Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s, where Madonna and her early band Emmy played some of their first gigs. Emmy was actually Madonna’s nickname when she was younger so the band adopted it as their name. I have found some of Emmy’s recordings online, and I think my favourite is “Little Boy Lost.” It’s very punk-influenced and Madonna’s voice is so pure in it. She strains to hit some notes, but that’s what I love about it, she’s putting so much heart into it. Now they’d auto-tune out all her strain, which really is a sad thing. On “Little Boy Lost” you get to hear her voice unfiltered by subsequent technique and lessons. She had a lovely voice then, now it kind of sucks. When the critics in the 80s called her voice like “Minnie Mouse on helium” I think that really struck a chord with her and she has since tried to lower her octave (listen how deep she goes on “Papa Don’t Preach.”). But I kind of miss her spritely, natural voice.
CBGBs only officially closed in 2006…. and I made my first ever NYC visit in 2007 so I missed it completely, but luckily the dude who took over the space and turned it into a shop kept most of the memorabillia around.
The walls were never painted over. This wall and space was almost right behind the former bar.
Now, as promised, here’s the story of the person I contacted …..
Through a lot of online digging and sleuthing, I found the mailing address of Dan Gilroy, Madonna’s former boyfriend (mentioned above in the synagogue section), and also the man who taught her how to play the drums and guitar…. and basically how to make music.
So I wrote him a hand-written letter a few weeks before I arrived in NYC, basically asking him if he would be okay meeting up with me for a cuppa and a chat.
I figured that by the time he got my snail-mail letter, I’d already be in NYC, so I gave him my email address as a reply method, and kept my fingers crossed.
Whilst in NYC, I received an email from him! He said he was now living in Texas (my letter had been forwarded to him there, so the mailing address I had found was technically wrong) so we couldn’t meet. I won’t include all of his letter here, for privacy reasons of course, but here are some select lines:
He’s so kind!!! His letter was so generous and giving, he didn’t even have to write me back at all, so I was so grateful for his response. If that man wasn’t like 60 years old, I’d be all up in his grill.
So there you have it, that was my own personal Madonna tour of New York.
I would highly recommend it:)
Madonna once said that what you do in life, and how far you go, depends on how hungry you are.
Sorry for not blogging all week, I’ve been in Montreal seeing family (and doing some graff hunting of course!) so expect regular blogging to resume next week!
Happy weekend, hombres.
I had some leftover footage after making this short film so I thought I would make a little short about the tiny moments one can have in NYC, that one should never overlook, no matter how small. Enjoy!
i just have to tell this anecdote, because everyone is talking about Tosh’s rape joke (which i found to be the best example of bullying, of inflicting pain, and of trying to control people’s responses to his stupid-ass, lame jokes… but i’ll let curtis luciani explain why Tosh’s joke was seriously fucked up, he does it better than i).
when i was living in London, England, i was at a shop, and in line to pay at the counter. there were two blokes in line ahead of me.
one of the guys yawned.
the other guy, who did not know him, STUCK HIS FINGER IN THE FIRST GUY’S MOUTH and yelled,
picture that for a moment.
now seeing as how they didn’t know each other, i thought the first guy might get a bit upset.
but no. instead, the first guy smirked and said, “it’s a good job i didn’t fart, innit?”
and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the ONLY RAPE JOKE THAT IS FUNNY.
next time you’re with one of your mates and they yawn, try doing the yawn rape. it’s a fun game anyone can play, and heaven only knows what kinda mayhem it will cause.
PROJECT MAYHEM YAWN RAPE.
I am no stranger to meeting celebrities. When I was a music critic, I had to interview them constantly. And it is not unknown for one or two notable personalities to float amongst my social circle back in Toronto. So meeting celebs never fazes me. However, last night I had an experience which is probably on par with my worst celeb encounter ever (the awful day of Jared Leto back in 2005 which you can read about here …. fuck I’ve been blogging for a long time). Last night I met Adrian Grenier who (unlike the celebs I know who are kind and gracious and giving) was incredibly lame and a boner-killer.
You heard it here first.
Adrian Grenier: When horses are this lame, they shoot ‘em.
Me and my friend Sidonie* (*not her real name, obviously. Changed to protect her privacy) were walking down East Houston Street last night around 11pm when we turn a corner and come face to face with Adrian Grenier who flashes us his brilliant smile. I recognize him immediately. Sidonie does not. We keep walking a few paces, but I quickly turn on my heel and call out to him before he disappears around a corner, “I love Entourage!”
I have never seen an episode of Entourage in my life.
The only thing I’ve ever seen him in is that fantastically manufactured movie from the 90s with Melissa Joan Hart, and the subsequent Britney Spears music video that accompanied.
He motions me and Sidonie over, holds up a 6-pack of Buds, and says, “We’re going to drink these and celebrate 4th of July on a rooftop, wanna join us?”
I say back, “I ain’t gonna say no!”
He introduces us to his two friends with him, John and Noah. They all went to high school together, and they all live in New York, but for whatever reason, they never see each other. Probably because Grenier travels a lot for work. He said he was just in Michigan and before that Ohio. I am blown over by the glitz and glamour.
We walk back down Houston to the Red Square building. That’s exactly what it’s called. Sidonie and I had walked by it earlier and I had commented that, with a name like that, it must be like living in Communist Russia.
We get to the roof, and there’s a huge statue of Lenin up there. So yeah…. Russian.
Sidonie asks to use the loo, and by using such terminology, it makes Grenier comment that “his lady” is also British and he has had to get used to British-isms.
And that is the most he said all night. He is completely out of it, and, we later realize, absolutely stoned. John and Noah tell us about their night at some bar where a naked woman fed them cheese (that’s definitely a stoned story), and then they whip out a bong and each take a hit. Both Sidonie and I decline the bong, especially after all three of them cough and hack like it’s the strongest shit ever.
We start to talk about Canada, about living in New York, about travelling, about Asians (don’t ask), and we start to see some fireworks out in the distance from Brooklyn to which we oooh and ahhhh. Sidonie and I are driving the conversation forward each time, throwing our best gems at them all night, trying to get them to at least talk to us. John and Noah, bless ‘em, were very obliging and entertaining.
Grenier is not. He doesn’t really engage us in conversation, apart from the odd remark. He can barely make eye contact. He plays a song from his phone so that we have background noise, but other than shifting from one foot to the other, really doesn’t say much. John and Noah do all the entertaining, and frankly, are more deserving of any fanfare that Grenier garners.
It’s really windy on the roof, which I am enjoying after the sweltering day on the streets of Greenpoint photographing graffiti. But Grenier is totally not feeling it. He comments several times how he doesn’t like the wind because it’s messing his shaggy hair, nor does he like the roof because there is no seating up there. (It’s literally just a rooftop with a railing …. and Lenin).
So Sidonie, John, Noah and I push on with our conversation. We are laughing a lot and slowly getting to know these guys. They are teachers and playwrights, and occasionally direct shows for HBO with Grenier. I’m actually beginning to forget Grenier is even there. But after 45 minutes of pleasantries and chatting amongst ourselves, Grenier suddenly opens his mouth to speak. We collectively hold our breath, waiting for the wisdom and gems to fall from his lips like rain, and wash down upon us in a shimmering glow of enlightenment:
“I want tacos.”
Thanks you, Obi Wan.
At that, we follow him back down to street level and walk across Houston and into Soho to a place called Taquiera on Orchard street. The place is rammed and we feel like a two groupie sheep following this hungry, stoned boy into a joint to satisfy his munchies.
It’s painfully obvious by this point that Grenier only invited us along in the first place because he wanted filler for his (pardon the pun) entourage.
Sidonie and I quickly decide this isn’t for us, and we walk over to him to say our goodbyes. We thank him for a lovely encounter (lie), and congratulate him on his success. He says he is currently making a movie right now but isn’t at liberty to say which one (that’s great, but no one asked). He makes mention that he would love to work with Natalie Portman one day (um. okay.) Sidonie then asks innocently if she can take a photo with him.
He replies, “I’d rather not because I’m really stoned.”
We each give him an insincere hug, then make a swift exit, leaving him and his stoner entourage to find some other brown-nosers for ego-inflation.
Back out on Houston, Sidonie and I just look at each like we need a defibrillator.
Maybe it’s because we’re Canadian… maybe it’s because we are accustomed to the celebs we know to be gracious and kind …. maybe it’s because it’s exciting New York …. for any/ all of these reasons, we were simply unmoved by the whole experience. A great reminder that celebrities, like other humans, are just as prone to being uninteresting and boring as the rest of us.
An epiphany that is only to be found in a place like New York.
me at 5Pointz in Queens in 2011
NEW YORK SHITTY!
soon, i will be in you.
i leave for my home-away-from-home on wednesday, and i’ll be there for TWO WEEKS! since 2007, i have gone to NYC at least once a year, and now it seems i’m going once every six months! I was just there over the winter holidays, and before that, i was there during spring 2011.
horsing around in the empire state building gift shop in 2007
if you check out my New York City category, you will see hundreds of blog posts which feature my photographs of all the amazing street art and graffiti that i found (mostly in bushwick and williamsburg, but a good deal in manhattan too).
Me on the brooklyn bridge in 2007
of course, i plan on doing what i do best whilst in the big apple …. GRAFF HUNTING. but i also have a lot of other things planned as well.
for example, this thursday, i will be in the audience for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (the guests that night are Channing Tatum, Oliver Stone, and musical guest Maroon 5. EXCITING!) so if you’re watching the show on thursday night, that hyena-laugh in the audience is me.
you won’t see me, but you’ll hear me.
me on carrie bradshaw’s stoop in 2007
that being said, blogging here might slow down for a bit. i have a lot of last minute things to take care of before i leave, and once i’m there, i might not find the time to blog until friday or the weekend, so bear with me! i shall return!
clubbing in the meat-packing district in 2010
clubbing in the meat-packing district in 2010
clubbing in the meat-packing district in 2010
prepare yourself for this blog to turn into a new-york-street-art-photojaculation. YOU LOVE IT.
(pass the kleenex)
me in Bushwick this past winter
now here’s hoping i don’t lose my patience when american customs treats me like shit ….
So something happened last weekend that I wasn’t sure if I should blog about, but a few days have passed and I have reflected on it a bit so I guess it’s kosher to talk about now.
Click here to enlarge the photo.
So this happened. The link might not work anymore by the time you read this because Craigslist ads are notoriously short-lived. But yeah…. this is definitely about me.
Apart from the fact that his punctuation is atrocious (dude, put a period in there somewhere!), this is, I guess, kinda nice and flattering?
I’m having a hard time with it because although he’s paying me a compliment, it also kind of angers me. I remember this exchange (although i’m drawing a blank when it comes to remembering his face) and it was all very benign. We were just talking about my shitty old camera and about a lot of the graffiti one might find in the area. So why his post has a romantic vibe to it makes me feel like less of a human being and more of an object.
I’m probably reading too much into his few short sentences. I guess I’m at an age (read: breaking point) where I don’t like being ogled when I’m out in public. Leave that for the teenagers. I want to be treated like a member of the community, as a human being, and as a distinct soul. Not as a possible date.
Am I being mean?
I’m being mean, aren’t I?
I didn’t respond to his post … wouldn’t want him to discover I’m actually a moody cow.
Anyway, fanks to the bajillion people who flooded my email inbox, facebook, and text messages, giving me a head’s up about this and sending me the link! Nice to know my readers have got my back.
my Twitter handle has been painted onto a wall near King Street East and Church. I know who put it there, and why ….
i never do graffiti myself, but i like the idea that other people are doing it for me.
don’t go through life without spending at least one full day jumping for joy.
of course, one does need to groom a bit before one hits the road.
and if you’re gonna jump through life, might as well do it with a friend!
even though sometimes you might wanna claw at their eyes and yank out your hair.
you’ll always find a way to laugh again and embrace the silly.
life’s so much better spent when everyone joins in the fun.
I’ll be your Emmylou and I’ll be your June,
if you’ll be my Gram and my Johnny too.
No I’m not asking much of you,
just sing little darlin’.
Sing with me!
(GIFs by SweetGif!)
“I despise modern music. Words cannot express how much it gets on my nerves – the false, pretentious, smug assertiveness of it. I hate business, having to deal with money. Money is one of the most hateful inventions of the human race. I hate the commodity culture, in which everything is bought and sold. No stone is left unturned. I hate the mass media, and how passively people suck up to it.” — R. Crumb
I pushed the wrong button while logged into my photo storage service and accidentally made most of the photographs posted on here in March unavailable. They haven’t been deleted, they just have new co-ordinants. I can’t be arsed to go post-by-post and re-insert the pics. So just remember, if you’re browsing my March 2012 archive and see a lot of this:
please note that it’s because i occasionally have brain farts.
If there’s really something in that archive that you wanna see, let me know, and i’ll do my best to refashion that post into something pleasing again.
some of those posts contained excellent street art finds and really glorious photographic work…. including my birfday post! aw, sadness.
stupid brain, imma stab you wif a Q-tip now.
my friend Damien made this. i’m used to being called GGG (hahahaha, if you don’t know what that means…. never you mind), but i’ll take GG – Graffiti Guru!