A New York Shitty Photo Essay: Edward’s Gift

The Queens Way600

Be it ever so humble600

Borden Avenue Bridge

To Infinity 600

Adrift 600

Today, upon awakening to another beautiful day, I threw on a sundress, my comfiest flip flops and went for a walk around the industrial hinterlands of Long Island City. This may not be everyone’s idea of how to spend a Sunday morning— but I think we have established I am not “everyone”. What’s more, I wanted to head back to the Thomson Avenue Bridge to get a better shot of the missive which graces this post. It also graces the beginning of this one:

Spread Love The Queens Way

After my mission was accomplished and on a lark I decided to swing by the Hunters Point and Borden Avenue Bridges. I am a bit of a geek that way. It was near the latter— the former premises of Goldfingers, to be specific— I met a gentleman who was kind enough to give me a present. These:


They should revive if you get them in water quickly enough. I got them (pointing) over there. I picked the nicest ones.


Exactly how these feral flora found their way to the sidewalk in front of a shuttered strip club is anyone’s guess. The same goes for why this fellow elected to give me a pair of them. Nonetheless, it was a cute gesture so I thanked him and continued my shutter-bugging. My activity caught his interest.


Me (to my curious compadre): Not only is this place closed, but by the NYPD no less. Impressive.
Flower Bearer: This is the kind of place where unusual things can happen.
Me: I can only imagine.

He then asked me if he could join me on my walk as he was headed to the subway (so as to go home). I thought about this for a minute and answered:

Sure, why not?

This may fly in the face of what we are told is “common sense” but the fact of the matter is I like talking to strangers. He then admonished me:

I like to make people more comfortable with me being around. That is why I gave you the flowers. I “smoke” if you know what I mean. I hope that doesn’t bother you.

I am not 100% sure what you mean, but whatever. Fine.

I replied. So off we went— and soon enough it was ascertained exactly what he meant.

If I am walking with you, guys are more likely to leave me alone.

And then he proceeded to show me exactly how he surreptitiously smokes marijuana in public. I will not divulge this chap’s “trade secret”. Suffice it to simply say he is quite proud of it. Nonetheless— being the gentleman that he is— he offered his handiwork to me. I demurred:

No thanks, I was sort of born medicated.

He found this amusing, gave an impish grin and noted:

I have a motorcycle. I have been all over. I have probably smoked grass on every street of this city.

I stopped, laughed and said:

We all have to have something to aspire to.

He laughed at this and, with the ice being broken, began to tell me his story. I got the ball rolling as follows:

Where are you from? You have an accent.

Southern Germany

He replied.

Me: AH! I was going to say Poland— I live in Greenpoint. My landlords are Polish— but I was close!
My new friend: My landlord is Greek. He’s quite a character. He drives a tow truck.
Me: I have had a Greek landlord. I think I’ll with my present one thank you very much!

I stop to take a photo of this…

Time Well Spent 600

and explain to my travelling companion:

I like to take photos of things people write on walls.

He asked if I was a photographer. I said:

No, not really.

He then proceeded to tell me he started taking photos as a child in Germany. His first camera was a Brownie. Still, he gained a passion for photography after immigrating to the United States after his daughter was born. He took photos of her first frolick on the beach at Coney Island. At first she was scared, he explains, but eventually she got into the swing of things with gusto. After that, he was hooked.

I have thousands of photos on my computer at home.

He said.

Ha! So do I!

I replied. We laughed. Spying some rough terrain ahead, I tell him I am going to walk around it via the street.

He noted that said obstacle smelled very nice. I asked him if, since he clearly enjoyed the smell so much, if I could take his portrait. He agreed on the condition I take a portrait of him using his cell phone as well. A deal was struck!

Edward 1 600

Onward we went. I stopped to capture this…

Death Is Free 600

and afterward he continued to tell me his story.

I immigrated to the United States in 1959. I was born in a forced labor camp in Germany. My grandparents were Polish. They and my mother lived in Warsaw. She was taken to a labor camp with me in her belly! I never knew my father. He died during the Warsaw Uprising. My mother did not learn this until six years after the fact from the Red Cross. She later remarried and so I got a half brother.

Me: So I was not exactly wrong when I guessed you were Polish!

(Nodding to affirmative) Germany was a pretty open place after a war. Men would openly approach women and the other way around. A lot of my friends got heavily into sex. They got crazy.

Me: Well, I can imagine people were simply relieved the war was over. A little craziness is understandable.

Some of them never came out of it. I got a little crazy too but went on to marry and have a family. I could never understand that.

Me: I honestly do not know what to tell you.

He then showed me photos of his mother, brother and childhood photos of himself on his “clam shell” phone. After the war his mother got work in Brussels as a housekeeper for a banker who wore a top hat and “tails”. He went to a Polish school and became fluent in not only German, but French and Polish as well) . He finished hs “presentation” with a photo of himself as a young man donning his army uniform. He was quite fond of it— and I can understand why!

I got divorced in the 1980’s. My wife was too strict, I guess. She was Polish. Still, I have a pension and grandchildren so I am happy!

Me (laughing): Yes, it has been my observation that Polish women can be that way. I think it is a generational thing. Those who remember the privation of the war and afterward (Communism). I cannot say I blame them. It’s understandable.

My new friend then asked if we could sit down for a bit. I gladly obliged him.

Edward 2 600

I am going to grab me some water.

He said.

Edward 4 600 2


It’s vodka!!!

(in a speaking voice, laughing)

I got this water at Flushing Meadows Park! I went there on my bike, then up to Astoria and back to Mount Vernon. I do not know if I like this city very much. It’s so crowded. It makes me uncomfortable.

Me: But isn’t that kind of the appeal? Being uncomfortable? I grew up in a part of the country where you had to hop into a car to simply buy groceries. Everyone had their own private houses with their own private yards. They didn’t know who their neighbors were— and probably didn’t want to know. Yes, this city can seem like an “anthill” but at least here folks can and do talk to each other. We’re talking to each other right now. You strike me as being happy.

Edward 3 6002

I am 69 years old. I am old. I may very well die soon. I do not know. Who knows? I donate blood and take my thyroid pills. I am sorry I do not have my teeth in today. I left them at home. I am trying to get them to fit right.

Me: No worries, this is Sunday— and I don’t care! That said, does anyone ever really “know”?

My grandchildren make me happy. My daughter was born with a hole in her heart. Right after she was born they conducted surgery on her to fix it. She was strong. So strong she later gave me a pair of twins for grandchildren!

Me: That’s great. Well, I have to get going It was nice meeting you?

(extending his hand)

Edward. And your name is?

Heather. It was a pleasure taking a walk with you, Edward!

And so on our separate ways we went. Me to the Pulaski and back to Greenpoint; Edward to the 7 train so as to start his journey back to Mount Vernon.  When I got home I promptly placed Edward’s gift in a vase. This did not go unnoticed by the Mister.

yellow roses

Nice flowers.

He said. To wit I replied:

I made new a friend while out walking today.

The Mister: Animal, vegetable or mineral?

A 69 year old gentleman who was born in a forced labor camp in Germany. I met him outside a shuttered strip club.

I replied. Taking this in stride (The Mister has come to understand a LONG time ago that I don’t make this shit up. In fact, the more outlandish the “story” may seem, the more likely it is true.) pointed out:

Yellow roses mean friendship.

I had honestly forgotten this.

I love this town. This one’s for you, Edward!


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