Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Al Pacino In Maspeth, Queens

Last week, once again, put Maspeth’s own Clinton Diner on the map for filmography geeks. Actually, taking that back, it’s not only film geeks alone, but also true, proud, and patriotic Maspeth citizens. The Barry Levinson-directed new HBO biopic, “You Don’t Know Jack,” about Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the infamous pathologist who administered lethal injections of euthanasia to 130 willing and terminally ill, was shot on site at Queens’ most famous diner. Al Pacino, who plays Dr. Kevorkian, was at the diner and gave a couple of lucky onlookers autographs and handshakes.

Although having Al Pacino at the diner was exciting, the co-owner with his father, Nick Diamantis, said movies are constantly being shot at this authentic 1965-renovated (built in 1935) never-been-touched-since space-age-style diner.

Clinton Diner has been featured in Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas with Robert De Niro in 1990, and Philip Seymour Hoffman was there on set in February, and just last week a film called the Gonzo Files with Zoë Kravitz was shot there.

Diamantis, 35-year-old owner and aspiring actor himself (he said he is a part of the Screen Actor’s Guild), who claims to have been in Law and Order, Salt (Angelina Jolie), and a couple of episodes of Gossip Girl, said, having films constantly shot at his diner has become, “part of business.” He adds, “We’re proud, especially to have Pacino here, but it’s part of business.”
Although it’s all business for this diner frozen in time, being in film has other perks than just getting paid and 15-seconds of fame. “I’m happy because it’s used in films. One day this diner may not be here,” Diamantis said. “But it will always be here in film.”

Julian Ruhe, the Location Scout/Assistant for the biopic, applauded the sincerity of the diner’s appearance, “The Clinton Diner is the real deal and has not been significantly changed since the 60's,” Ruhe said. “It is like stepping back in time. It's a place that most scouts know about and keep in the back of their mind for a shoot like this.”

For this particular shoot, which is set in the 1980’s, the diner and Maspeth’s industrial area is exactly what the producers needed to make the scene work. Although the scene was set in Detroit and they changed the name of the diner to Motor Drive, and Maspeth and Rust Streets were changed to Lockhardt Street and Pontiac Terrace, the diner with red-vinyl booths and all was the look they were looking for. “We were trying to find a classic diner that could be anywhere in the country,” Ruhe said. “Clinton Diner is the classic American diner and it is very spacious, which is an important part of any filming location.”

However, the location of a scene can only do so much. The talent and the writing also plays a big role. Tina Vanessa Smith, a 48-year-old who has been acting since she was five and was a waitress in the diner scene said, “It’s a powerful scene because he’s [Pacino] Dr. Kevorkian. It’s controversial dialogue. He’s saying people should die any way they choose, especially painlessly.” In support of the infamous Dr. Death, she added, “It’s inhumane to let humans wither away.”

Adam Mazer, the writer of the controversial biopic, with an especially controversial name about an especially controversial subject matter, said that everything went as he envisioned. After the shoot Mazer said, “Pacino is really owning his role.”

It was a particularly good day for the producers, talent and fans. Although there was some confusion with the press, who was notified through a mass email sent by a Maspeth local and president of the Newtown Historical Society, Christina Wilkinson, were told that it was an open set, but in reality it was closed to press, reporters were shooed away and were told they could not report on this, but, mostly, it all worked out in the end.

Frank Tantillo from Middle Village, who has a hobby, or obsession, of waiting for celebrities at the morning shows in Manhattan five days a week, got two autographs on pictures of Pacino from the Godfather and Scarface. From his hobby he has collected 4,000 pictures with celebrities and just as many autographs. After he got Pacino’s autographs, Tantillo had a magic glow about his face only celebrities give people. He was smiling big and dripping with sweat from the hot day. “He’s a terrific actor, but I’ve been here waiting for two hours in the hot sun.”

Another fan who was able to stop Pacino on his way to his car, was 60-year-old José Camacho, who works at the car repair center across the street from the diner. Wearing a white guinea tee and a thick black goatee he yelled, “Attica! Attica! Pacino, I’m from the Bronx too!” Pacino, born in the Bronx, stopped and shook José’s hand and gave him an autograph on a piece of paper, “To Joe from the Bronx,” it read above the scribbily signature.

Huffing from running across the street to talk to the actor and smiling with satisfaction, Camacho said, “He looked like he was pleased to see some one from the Bronx, some one from his own neighborhood, it made my day.”

The day was a long one, starting at 5:30 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. and everyone seemed to be lagging from the heat and the excitement of the silver screen. Tasos Vassilakis, a 72-year-old Maspeth local who sells bread to bakeries and diners, including the Clinton Diner, was there all day. Although he said he was watching the girls more than Al Pacino, he said Clinton Diner is a landmark of the working class town.

The classic American diner is usually packed with people whom all seem to be speaking different languages. And even during the shoot one could hear Greek, Spanish and Polish. “They say Maspeth is America. And it is America,” Vassilakis said describing the town as a true melting pot. “There are Germans, Poles, Greeks and Italians. Maspeth and Clinton Diner is America!”

**All pictures were taken by Will Yakowicz, article and photos can also be seen at www.queensledger.com

Saturday, 8 November 2008

My Chinatown: A New York Sketchbook

photo by: Nicole Tung

The crowded and noisome fish markets, the vendors sitting in crude shanties filled with counterfeit handbags, the language and lettering: all transported me to a different city that I didn’t understand. ‘I’m not in Manhattan anymore,’ I thought when I first moved into Chinatown two years ago. I felt like an outsider in my own neighborhood. Because I was an outsider.

At first I took solace in a line from Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown, “Forget it [Will], it’s Chinatown…” But after I started reporting on Chinatown, the veils of ignorance that divided me from my new neighbors, and they from me, began to part. I became captivated by the neighborhood’s layered history, cultural heritage and ancient traditions. I kept in mind, “nothing is what it seems in Chinatown.” I didn’t take the spitting personally; I didn’t let the pushing and shoving get to me. I didn’t forget, but I observed. I embraced it all.

Now, as I walk Chinatown, I feel I’m at home. Here are some of the people and their places in my neighborhood.

I. Columbus Park

At the Mulberry Street entrance to Columbus Park, two Chinese shoemakers sit on crates, briskly sawing off the worn heels of shoes and nailing on replacements they’ve cut from sheets of rubber. The morning air is filled with the chirps of songbirds in wooden cages, hung in the trees surrounding the entrance.

Lugging his overstuffed backpack, Belgian tourist Dirk Bosraams surveys the groups of men playing Chinese chess, the women playing cards, the chorale wailing Chinese opera. Fresh from a three-week sojourn in Southeast Asia, Bosraams came downtown to visit the park because a friend told him it was a microcosm of Chinese culture in New York. “This park, right now,” he says, tugging at his scruffy traveler’s beard, “is more authentic than some places in Vietnam.”

The small patch of green in the heart of Chinatown was finally restored and reopened after 30 years of neglect on October 25, 2007 as an homage to traditional Chinese architecture. Its pavilion echoes the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, with its slanted slate roof, concrete columns and exposed wooden rafters. Here in my neighborhood, bamboo trees sprout everywhere and the gardens are accented with large jagged rocks. The nights are illuminated by big iron lamps with decorative dragonheads. The park is alive with people tying together the mind, body and soul through cultural activities. Beyond the pavilion, there are even basketball courts for youngsters dreaming of becoming the new Yao Ming.

Columbus Park wasn’t always influenced by Eastern thought. During the mid-1800s it was the heart of the Five Points. This was the most notorious slum in the United States, the subject of Herbert Asbury’s 1927 classic “The Gangs of New York”, and the Martin Scorsese 2002 film loosely based on the book. The dangerous and desperate intersection of Baxter, Worth, Bayard, Mosco and Mulberry, and its surrounding streets from Broadway to the Bowery, was riddled with club-toting, hobnail-boot-wearing gangs like the 40 Thieves, Dead Rabbits and the Plug Uglies, most of them Irish. But after the almost three-acre park was built in 1890, the turf was reclaimed for family activities, public gatherings and a tentative, emerging Chinese culture. Today, people of all ages and nationalities mix there, enjoying – some as observers, some as participants – the sounds of the World War II era Chinese arias, the languid yet disciplined motions of Tai-Chi, the spirited Chinese chess matches, the strolling herbalists and acupuncturists whose storefronts dot the surrounding neighborhood.

Dirk Bosraams is duly impressed. “Some places are designed to attract tourists,” he says. “But Columbus Park is not. It is designed for people to enjoy themselves.”

photo by: Will Yakowicz

A Weekend with the Columbus Park Senior Orchestra

High-pitched arias wail in the wind, carried through the streets of Chinatown. The erhu, (Chinese violin), the ruan, (long-necked lute), and the tambur, (five-stringed lute), emit discordant yet delicate plucking sounds. Every Saturday and Sunday, the 15-member Columbus Park Senior Orchestra of New York Incorporated plays and sings Chinese operas from the 1930s and ‘40s. All their instruments are electric and two microphones are plugged into portable speakers. On this brisk day, the elderly performers are swathed in scarves and winter hats. Passersby sing along, snap pictures, give donations or just listen intently, fending off the chill by hopping from foot to foot.

George Gong, 77-year-old percussionist and singer, founded the group in November 2007 by approaching several elderly Chinese musicians playing solo in the park and surrounding streets, and asking them if they wanted to form an orchestra. Now, just a year after their first official performance (at the Mott Street Community Center), the seniors are a permanent and popular fixture of the park. Although it has rained two Saturdays in a row, the show goes on. Dry underneath the park’s pavilion, Gong stretches out a hand and feels the cold drops: “We come every weekend, twice a weekend. Even when it rains, we come!”

Most of the orchestra members say they’ve been singing all their lives, but not Gong. He says that when he retired two years ago, he yearned to do something he’d never done before, so he began singing the treasured songs of his youth – eloquent ballads about love, happiness, despair. His daughters, he says, chastised him: “‘An old dog cannot learn a new trick!’ they yelled… I practiced everyday, and I proved their theory wrong. ” After his debut performance, he told them proudly: “You just watched an old dog do a new trick!”

But being an old dog has its price, he admits. It took four arduous months for Gong to memorize his first aria. Nowadays, he often sits in the park wearing headphones, listening to the same opera over and over. Turning off his tape deck, he smiles, showing sparse teeth, and reveals the unlikely source of his memorization technique. Decades earlier, Gong confides, a young performer named Barbra Streisand used to work in a Chinese restaurant just around the corner from the park. “Barbra would sing all through her shift in an attempt to memorize her lyrics,” he says, leafing through his Cantonese sheet music. “That’s how you learn songs, that’s how Barbra learned songs!”

Gong with his sheet music. Photo by Will Yakowicz

A visiting brother and sister who had just returned from a trip to China, Mitch and Alice Robinson, were lured to the park by the music they heard wafting through a fish market on Mott Street. “I heard the gong and vocals and said, ‘Alice, it’s the gongs, we gotta check it out,’” declares Mitch. Alice gazes wide-eyed around the pavilion. “We heard this exact music in China in the Temple of Heaven,” she says. “This place looks exactly like the Temple of Heaven…”

It’s many years since most members of the Columbus Park Senior Orchestra have seen the real Temple of Heaven, if they ever had been in Beijing while living in China. Gong hasn’t returned to China since he emigrated with his parents in 1950. Nonetheless he looks serene beneath a bamboo tree, displaying a “USA” pin on his patched pinstripe suit. “We got a lot of Chinese people here,” he says matter-of-factly. “It makes me feel like it’s my home country, with my countrymen.”

2. Life Force in Chinatown
Positive energy reverberates beneath the park’s pavilion as a dozen bodies glide in trance-like, tranquil movements. The bodies are concentrated and controlled, belonging to people of various ages, colors and creeds. Together they mirror the movements of a Chinese man dressed in a silk martial-arts jacket with frog closings. Mr. Jin, as everyone refers to him, has been in the United States only five months, doesn’t speak any English, and how he launched his weekend Tai-Chi classes in Columbus Park his students do not know. For they simply stumbled upon the entrepreneur’s class and joined in for the six hour session (11-5PM) held every Saturday and Sunday, costing them $60 a month.

Tai-Chi is the movement of the body’s life force – or “chi” – through every limb, to keep the body strong, the soul balanced, and the life force agile. Jin teaches the “Chen” style of Tai-Chi, developed by the Chen family in the late 1800’s in the eponymous village of China. Levi Wilson, a 33-year-old Tai-Chi student who also studied Shaolin, Taekwondo, and Hapkido for ten years, describes the Chen style. “It’s a soft martial art with aggressive movements,” he says. “It has its hard and soft points, it’s a constant flow of energy, but punctuated by punches.” At the end of most movements, the students punch, kick, or unsheathe imaginary swords.

Jin was born and raised in Shanghai. He eventually taught three types of martial arts to the Chinese military: Shing-I, Pa Kua, and Tai-Chi. All three styles concentrate on the internal part of the body, the movement and control of one’s chi, and are considered soft martial arts (Neijia). Tai-Chi is unlike hard forms such as Kung Fu and Shaolin, which concentrate on attacks, physical strength and the external body. Tai-Chi is a circular exercise. The meditative, concentrated and physical motions are supposed to, through years of practice, make students sensitive to the movement of their chi and learn how to control the soul.

Most of the students have a hard time understanding their Mandarin-speaking teacher, so Jin overcomes the communication gap by leading his students by physical movement. They stand facing him and do exactly what he does. But, group activities like “pushing hands,” a basic exercise that transfers chi from person to person in a circle, need an English translation to be understood. A one-month-student, Caroll Lin, is the only student who speaks both Mandarin and English. Lin, her round, soft smiling head wrapped in a scarf, translates Jin’s words: “The pushing hands is an exercise to make students forget the instinct to resist force with force.” Instead, the exercise teaches students to yield to force and redirect it. “You need to feel the push and keep it going, ward it off,” she says. A key element of the exercise, Lin explains, is “a gentle exchange of weight and weightlessness.”

While the classes have helped Lin improve her Mandarin, she says that Tai-Chi has done much more for her emotional and physical well-being. “I used to be melancholic,” she says, smiling, “but since Tai-Chi I am not so melancholic.” The students, as a whole, are an enthusiastic lot. Andrew Steinman, a long time Tai-Chi student and Manhattanite, tilts slowly side to side, squats, whisks his arms upwards and then down again. “Oh, man!” he exults. “It keeps you alive – this is how you keep life energy moving through your body, from the toes to the top of your head!”
Class members say they’re like a family, after spending 12 hours together every weekend – learning, growing spiritually, and warding off the cold through their collective movements. “The class forms a community. The seasoned students help the novices,” Lin says. “It’s a community without formality…”

For both practitioners and observers, Tai-Chi is also an art form. Ele Malla, a lanky 17-year-old from Washington Heights, took up martial arts for self-protection. But he soon grew to love it on a different level. “I appreciate the art of the exercise,” he observes. “I use it, not like a painting hanging in a museum that you’ll forget about, but I use the art every day, and I won’t forget that.”

Moving in synch beneath the pavilion, Mr. Jin’s Tai-Chi class does indeed resemble an ephemeral tableau of ancient Chinese performance art, with the vast, unchanging metropolis as its backdrop.

3. Chinatown’s Third Eye

If Mr. Jin is something of a mystery to the denizens of Columbus Park, then Dr. Mou - who also teaches a Saturday Tai-Chi class - is a Chinatown legend. The locals rave about the uncanny accuracy and wisdom of Mou’s “third eye,” the ancient Eastern representation of enlightenment and higher consciousness.

So much so that this I soon found myself stretched out in the veteran acupuncturist’s Chatham Square office, with 33 slender needles inserted into my head, torso, arms and legs and then another set of 33 needles in my back. “Reeelax de leever, reeelax de small intestine,” Mou chanted alongside me. “Reeelax de right kid-ehnee, relax the left kid-ehnee…”

And I did. Guiding me through a meditation, Mou enabled me to control parts of my body I never knew a person could. With a flick of his index finger on my heart and kidney meridian, he popped in the silver needles to “cleanse” the “sick” organs. Also, positioned to alleviate my chronic lower-back pain, they entered my flesh with a smooth pinch. On the table, I felt etherized. While I lay face up, Mou placed a hot bottle of herbs on my belly and covered me with an aluminum-foil-like blanket, which was slightly suspended over my body on the needles’ tails. My body disappeared and I felt like I existed only at the needles’ points.

Earlier that day, when I entered Mou’s office, I had no intention of allowing Eastern medicine to penetrate my mind or my skin. The sounds of soft crashing and receding waves emanated from hidden speakers, and the room was filled with the pungent smell of burning herbs. Mou - full name: Chuan Jing Mou, O.M.D. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine) -motioned me to sit. He wore a physician’s white coat, a horseshoe of black hair hugged his temples and his languid eyes barely blinked. Lowering his head, he placed three fingers on my right wrist, and then on the left. His quiet, precise voice had a soothing tone, but some words were hard to understand. Even harder to understand was how he instantly knew everything that ailed a patient – me – without being told.

The Doctor, showing off a picture of his trip in Korea to rejuvenate his Third Eye. Photo by Will Yakowicz

Mou’s celebrated third eye, apparently, zoomed right in to my insides. “You leetle sick, leetle sick,” he announced. “Your leever, yes, leever and your right kid-ehnee, right kid-ehnee.” I’d started feeling sick just that morning, I admitted. Then he told me how long I’ve been smoking. “You smoke cigarette, for long time. Almost six year. You smoke the pot too.” Bingo. “The cigarette no affect you lung,” he explains, pointing out that people have different physiological effects from smoking. “They affecting your haaart.”

Then he told me about my back which I injured while training for NYU’s wrestling team. “You have bad back injury, very much pain in lower back. You have herniate disc.” My friend who served as a translator (for the more in-depth questions that challenged Dr. Mou’s limited English vocabulary), was also diagnosed, and was surprised by Mou’s accuracy. Mou insists that using a patient’s pulse to find out what’s going on inside his or her body, is the first step to successful treatment. “I take a pulse and know everything that wrong on your inside,” Dr. Mou tells me. “Then I treat you. Then you get balance and you feel bettah, much bettah.”

Mou hails from China’s Sichuan province. He was only five when he began studying under the tutelage of his father, also a master acupuncturist and Tai-Chi teacher. “My training was, follow my father and do what he do,” he says. He has never been back to China since leaving in 1986. When he speaks of his home country, his expression darkens. In the midst of Mao Zedong’s 27-year rule, Mou’s father spoke out against the communist party and was jailed for three years. His father was a fit 80-year-old when he entered prison, says Mou – but upon his release he was severely depleted physically and mentally, and he died three years later.

In 1986, Mou, then studying microbiology, wrote a couple of articles on Eastern medicine that caught the attention of an academic in Illinois who convinced Mou to come work in a Chicago-based regional research center. After working briefly in Illinois, he made his way to New York City. Once in the City he built a reputation in Chinatown, and now he owns his own practice, specializing in acupuncture, Qi-Gong (breathing and movement exercise) and herbal medicine. He practices and teaches Tai-Chi in Columbus Park and on Pier 17 on Saturdays. Mou is also the Director of the American Taoist Qi-Gong Natural Health Center and President of the American Chinese Qi-Gong Society.

Dr. Mou’s patients come from the Upper West Side, Boston and even Europe. He treats babies, young people and the elderly for a long list of ailments including asthma, infertility, addiction, and even cancer. The dim walls of the office are covered with pictures of happy couples and their newborns. “All these parents no able to have child. They go Western doctors but no help. This woman, see here,” he says (tapping a photo of a smiling mother with baby), “ten years no able have child, she come to me and have child.” He smiles proudly, declaring that his patients’ births go smoothly and that the results are exceptional. He barely credits Mother Nature, but says the successful outcome is due to the mystical power of acupuncture. One baby, he says, knew “two plus two is four, at age two!” Pointing to another picture, he muses: “You can see that the child has very nice features, although the father has a big mouth and the mother wasn’t pretty.”

Mou credits his success partly to caring rigorously for his own health. He practices Tai-Chi to “channel energy from the universe to myself”; when his body is filled with positive energy, he says, he has the power to displace negative energy from within his patients. And then there’s that third eye – a skill that is honed, he says, by frequent travel. He recently returned from Japan and Korea, and next month, he says, “I go to Mexico country. In three month I go to Greece country.” Mou says that engaging with communities and individuals throughout the world helps him to treat his patients. “Everyone around world have the same eye,” he says, placing a finger on the space between his eyebrows, where the mystical eye is said to reside. “Seeing the world regenerates my third eye and it helps me see people’s sickness.” Mou believes that his third eye will soon be powerful enough for him to be able to diagnose patients without even laying a hand on them. “I will be able to look at them before I take their pulse,” he declares, “and say, ‘your leever is sick.’”

Mou’s acupuncture did not work miracles on me per se, but it did make me feel much more relaxed. And as one who suffers from a severe back injury, the few pain-free hours he gave me I am forever indebted. He assured me that with a couple of more treatments the effects would be more long-lasting and that with a couple of more visits he could finish cleansing my kidney, and possibly my heart.

Lulled by his soft voice, his gentle touch, and the slender needles under my skin, words a patient named Martha Keith said while we were waiting invaded my thoughts: “Acupuncture works, and Western medicine cannot explain it… but it works.”
Amidst the rushing ocean sounds, he launched back into the meditation, chanting, “Welcome to Hawaii beach, reeelax the eye, reeelax the head, reeelax the haaart…”

At dusk, after the orchestra has packed up and the chess players have gone home, Cheron Tomkins, a British immigrant who lives in the neighborhood, walks her dachshund in the park. Although Tomkins – with her red hair and an unmistakable Cockney accent – is an outsider to Chinese culture, she insists she has never felt ostracized in Chinatown. Eastern medicine – like Chinese herbs and acupuncture – and lifestyle practices characterize her daily life and help her to attain physical and spiritual wholeness. “There’s a psychological barrier you break,” she says, petting her dog, “when you cross Canal Street.”

And Columbus Park? Its beauty, democracy and cultural richness, she says, make her “feel human again.”

Chinese Senior Orchestra of New York Incorporated:
Performs every Saturday and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
All year round, rain or shine, free at the pavilion.

Mr. Jin’s Tai-Chi:
Meets every Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. $60 a month. Meets under the pavilion

Dr. Mou:
7-8 Chatham Sq. Suite 805, 10:00a.m.- 7:00p.m. Telephone: 212-349-1768.

This article is also published at: http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/streetlevel/

Monday, 13 October 2008

Eat and Run and Just One More Game

Photo by Will Yakowicz

4. Eat and Run

I first found Ling Kee Beef Jerky in late August last summer. I was walking down Ludlow Street following a Chinese funeral procession. Thinking back, I don’t know what made me eat dried and smoked skin after observing a funeral; maybe it was a repressed cannibalistic tendency I have hidden deep inside me, or, maybe it was the sweet smell of marinade in the air and my weakness for delicious meat. Whoever’s funeral it was that day I was sorry. Watching the hearse and line of limousines and a full marching band playing, I sent my condolences silently standing on the corner of Ludlow and Canal streets. I looked up at the cloudless sky and walked through the open door into a room full of smoke, and in the time since, I’ve packed on a few pounds.

Three rickety chairs around a cluttered table remain vacant all day, but business is brisk at Ling Kee Beef Jerky. A broken bug-zapper hangs from the ceiling— but maybe the Buddha shrine on top of the refrigerator is warding off any unwanted creatures. The cramped space is a sizzling serenade of grilling meat, aromatic smoke, and hurried customers. They run in, rattle off their orders in Mandarin or Malaysian, grab their jerky and get on with their lives.

The storefront is on Canal and Division Streets, where most signs are in Mandarin and no tourist hordes go after deals on crappy counterfeit handbags. This part of eastern Chinatown caters to the locals, mostly new immigrants struggling to make a few bucks and to spend even fewer. Ling Yan bought the jerky business from her aunt about fifteen years ago, with her sister-in-law Mai Yan. Every day, seven days a week, the two women prepare and cook fresh jerky, an elaborate process. Ling hardly has time even for a courteous gesture. “I’d shake your hand,” she says to a friend, “but I got beef all over it.”

Jerky is an early form of food preservation in which meat is dried to delay the spoiling process and does not need to be refrigerated. Ling Kee’s jerky is different from nearly all the other varieties sold in the neighborhood. The recipe comes from Malaysia, where this delicacy is a little sweeter and juicier than the Hong-Kong-style version more commonly available in Chinatown. Their specialty is mild and spicy-flavored beef, pork or chicken jerky, which sell for $15-$16 per pound.

Drying meat is the oldest method of food preservation. Although the practice’s precise origins are unknown, there’s evidence to suggest that people in ancient Egypt, Asia, and North and South America, have all been making jerky for thousands of years. The name comes from the South American Quechua word “ch’arki” which means dried meat. Jerky preparation has been practiced in China since the Tang Dynasty (618-907). During that time the inhabitants of the mountains and valleys would catch native green peacocks, cows, pigs and deer and slice their flesh, marinate it (for three nights) and then dry it on a string in the eaves of a house. Now jerky is made in more controlled and sanitary environments, but most jerky connoisseurs declare that the quality of product isn’t what it used to be.

The sisters-in-law Yan, however, appear to be worthy heirs to the classic jerky tradition.

Ling, the master chef, says she’s been cooking jerky for 30 years. Gray hair inches from the roots of her reddish-brown bob and eyes bead around nervously, as she opens a back door that reveals a room awash in blood, bone and meat. A meat grinder fills a gray bin with red lean beef with each crank of its arm. A steel table is spattered with blood, and holds splayed-open legs of beef still on the bone. Most workdays, Ling wears a dark-red apron, sits in the back room, and skillfully slices through slabs of flesh with a 10-inch cleaver.

Ling explains her craft as she washes her hands. “Every day I make it and I taste it,” she says. “I re-do the recipe to try and perfect it. Every day it changes.”

The process is long and involved. Ling grinds the meat she carefully sliced and then marinates it for one day. She then presses and flattens the meat together into thin sheets and cuts them into squares. Ling points out that they don’t store much meat on the premises, except what they don’t use from the day. “We buy fresh 100 pounds meat every day,” she says, “and sell 50 or more pounds.” After Ling slow-cooks it for three or four hours, the rest of the job is given over to her partner, Mai.

Mai cooks the four-by-four-inch squares of meat on the coal grill. The squares regularly catch fire, the shooting flames releasing the aroma of the succulent meats. Mai, half-owner and half-smiling, flips square after square with her metal tongs as smoke curls through the air. After about 30 minutes, she places the squares in a colander to dry and then stacks the dried sheets in the display case.

Photo by Will Yakowicz

Photo by Will Yakowicz

The Yan family recipe is for gold-standard jerky, which tastes and looks more like a slice of steak than dried meat. The packaged Wild Bill’s or Pemmican jerky found at gas stations are virtually inedible compared with the traditional Malaysian-style version. The juicy sheets release a sweet and tangy taste with a touch of burnt, smoky flavor. Its consistency is delicate and slightly chewy. Jerky is the closest to 100 percent lean meat you can sink your teeth into. After many visits, I discovered that the beef is a little tougher and not as sweet as the pork. Beef is more traditional, but pork is definitely the customers’ favorite. Both Mai and Ling snack on their creation while sipping tea; pork is their favorite too.

For many patrons, this jerky signifies tradition and gives rise to fond memories. “When I was little, beef jerky was always a treat,” says 20-year-old Brooklynite Leila Liu. Her mom would bring her to Chinatown to do their grocery shopping, and the draw for Leila was always the jerky. Delicately biting into a thin sheet of lean meat, she says, “It’s delicious and addicting.”

Now that she’s grown up, it’s Leila’s turn to lure someone from Brooklyn to Chinatown: her boyfriend, Ivan Li. They trade bites of jerky as it pokes out of their wax paper bags. “This is my first time,” he says, “but I’m a big meat fan and I’ll be back.”

Most of Ling Kee’s customers have frequented her establishment for years. They waste no time gazing around the shop. A man in too much of a hurry to give his name buys a pound of spicy beef and brusquely stuffs his purchase inside his messenger bag. Practically outside the door, he calls over his shoulder: “I don’t buy from anybody else. This,” he taps his bag, “is genuine jerky.”

“Genuine” isn’t the sole draw here; other jerky specialty shops in the area (like New Beef King Corp. on Bayard Street) are also genuine. The secret here, regular customers say, is in the Malaysian style of spicing and cooking. Charlie Tang, who works in an electrical supply store next door, says, “The best jerky is juicy, Yan’s pork is the juiciest.”

Ling Kee is not a place to dine. Tina Tang, an English-speaking friend of Mai’s, says emphatically: “Jerky with red wine and family at home is the only way to eat jerky!” Ling Kee keeps her front door perpetually open, and those seats perpetually vacant. “People don’t stay here,” Tang sulkingly reminds a reporter who is asking too many questions and has clearly overstayed his welcome. “They take their jerky and leave.”

Ling Kee Beef Jerky, 42 Canal Street, open till 8 pm seven days a week.

5. Just One More Game…

Photo By Will Yakowicz

I walk down Cortlandt Alley every day. The metal shutters on the windows hang open like wrought iron eyelids. Graffiti stains the brick walls. Dead rats lie squished by truck tires on the street. When moviemakers are not using it for period flavor, it saves me a minute, to a minute and a half off my daily commute. The route twice counted saves me almost three minutes. In a year Cortlandt Alley spares me 1,092 minutes in and out of Chinatown. But for a certain type of person, down this alley is where time dilates— for the table tennis player, it is where time stops. The players that I’ve met there can spend hours of their lives entering and leaving this alley. In a basement room underneath the potholed street, they devote themselves to a game of back and forth, which sounds like the tick tock of a clock, except no one is keeping track of time.

Here, minutes routinely turn into hours. A nine-year-old Chinese kid hangs out with a middle-aged Frenchman and a Jamaican old enough to be his grandfather. The regulars — about 20 of them at any given time — frankly label themselves as “addicts.” Like classic addicts in search of their next fix, they can be ferocious. After scoring, they might be seen stumbling out of the alley, sweaty and shaky.

The New York Table Tennis Training Federation is the den of vice that breeds this behavior. It’s purportedly the biggest club of its kind in Manhattan, with nine tables arranged in 6,000 square feet of space. The orange balls fly and bounce swiftly across the blue tabletops. The pit-pit patter of balls on paddles sounds like a ticking clock. The constant oscillation seems to balloon time. “Just five more minutes, one more game” turns into an hour. An hour expands to two. Players in NYTTF sports shirt hike up their mesh shorts, take an athletic stance and prepare for approaching balls. Sweat drips, arms swing, and paddles slice the air with dizzying speed.

NYTTF is a serious place. Not much is heard above shouts (mostly in Mandarin), sneaker-squeaks, grunts, and game scores. Its patrons are usually immigrants from China, Vietnam, Ghana and even Brooklyn. There are students here, doctors, government employees, world-class table tennis players, retirees, and a model.

* * *

Mario Yee, a mailman and NYTTF volunteer who appoints players to coaches and assigns tables, plays table tennis every day after work. “You can’t make any money with Ping-Pong,” he says, “but we’re here to keep the tradition going.” Though the English invented table tennis in the late 1800’s, the Chinese adopted it as their national sport in the 1960s and have dominated the game since then — except in the 1988 Olympics when the Swedes won the title. At NYTTF most players are middle-aged Asian men who come after work to sweat and indulge in an obsession with friends. However, to some, table tennis is more than a tradition or addiction. It serves as an after school hobby, it maintains health, and helps achieve Zen.

* * *

His name is Alston Wang, but his coach calls him “Hidden Tiger,” because behind his always-present smile, says the coach, “is a killer.” With a paddle, of course. “I saw him kill 24 players,” said Robert Chen, Wang’s coach and director of NYTTF. “He killed 24 guys, not kids, but men!”

Alston is nine. His tender age can rile up opponents, especially when he beats them; in the October tournament, most of Wang’s two dozen opponents were ten to 20 years older. Said the sweaty nine-year-old, with an excited look: “Sometimes they say the ‘s’ word when they lose a point.”

Photo by Will Yakowicz

When Alston first came to Chen’s club, he played four hours straight. Then, Alston at a beginner’s level, “gave me the impression of a hard worker, with respect and discipline,” Chen says. Now, six months later, Alston’s ranking is 1,700, which, according to the USATT ranking system, is intermediate level. Alston is considered a unique player and a great student, gifted with sharp eye-hand-foot coordination. “His touch is amazing, he listens and learns exactly how I coach him,” Chen says. “Other kids have their own way of thinking, but he absorbs what I teach.” Chen says table tennis has helped Alston Wang “discover his genius,” but neither Alston nor his coach, can take all the credit. “His parents should be credited the most,” Chen states. “Without his parents, there’d be no Alston. Without parents we’d have no players.”

As talented as Alston is, he still says table tennis is only a hobby, “but it’s also a way to beat my father.” Alston and his family moved to Brooklyn from Hainan, China two years ago. While in China his father taught him how to play table tennis. Alston, wearing shorts and a t-shirt emblazoned with the NYTTF logo says, “The first time I played my dad I couldn’t beat him. I just swung the paddle.” He twirls his paddle in his hand and continues, “but now, I can beat him 11-0.”

His dream is to be a table tennis professional and go to the Olympics, but first, he says he wants to beat his coach. Chen shrugged in disapproval when he heard Alston boast about his ability to beat his father and take on his teacher, but did positively remark of his student’s skill: “He already started and is on his way to be a star. For him, it is a career.”

* * *

Leroy Smith returns the ball with ferocious speed and his 20-year-old opponent can’t reach the ball in time. “Come on! I’m an old man.” Smith yells, “you got to move your young legs. Let’s go! Let’s go!” Although Smith has a meeting to go to in ten minutes he cannot tear himself away from the table. After each game he compulsively pulls another ball from his pocket, saying, “This is the last one.”

Smith, the septuagenarian, has 38 table tennis trophies, was president of The Greater New York Table Tennis League, and plays five times a week with the vigor and intensity of youth. Forty years ago, Smith came to New York City from Jamaica with his wife and kids. He says he used table tennis to assimilate. When he started to play in the former downtown club at the old Firehouse on Lafayette Street (a block from this location) the group was like, “a little U.N.” He quickly bonded with the players—really all of them, Chinese and other ethnicities. “Once together in the club,” Leroy says, “we could never put the paddle down.”
While he eats shrimp fried rice, members surround him and ask about his day, his games and health, and claims to be the most recognized non-Chinese in Chinatown. They call him “Black-Chinese.”

Now, Smith plays for “survival.” He says: “I play not because I want to win, but because I know the damn benefits. It reduces my blood pressure; it’s an aerobic exercise. I’m 72 and I’m still jumping around.”

* * *

Sitting out a game, Jean Philippe Kadzinski, or J.P., stands up from his seat and glances at a player who forcefully slams the ball across the table. “Don’t hit it aggressively, it’s all wrong,” J.P. says. “You have to feel the ball.” He half-squats, whisks his hands in the air and his feet and hips move along in a balanced glide and says, “You have to be in Zen.” Unlike many players, he does not play with aggressive movements, but with the tranquility of meditation. “Ping-Pong is a kind of philosophy,” J.P. continues, “like Tai-Chi.” He stresses that a player must be in harmony and balance with the body to be successful.

J.P. has icy blue eyes, a strong jaw line, a James-Bond-style smirk and hair that never seems out of place. He is a 44-year-old French model and has appeared in L’Oreal commercials, on Harper’s Bazaar covers, and in campaigns for Burberry and Mercedes-Benz. Despite only three years of experience in the game, he claims to be the number-one server in NYTTF, with 25 of his own original serves. After his first game, he realized he was a natural; since then he has won 20 tournaments and placed first in the “NYTTF Open” last August. “It’s strange,” he says, smiling after winning another game. “I feel like I was born with a paddle in my hand.”

J.P. says table tennis is not about winning, but about the philosophy behind the sport. He barely moves during a game; he seems to control where his opponent returns the ball. With a ball pressed to his lips he comments about his technique, “It’s a finished touch, a balance.”

Although few at the club emulate his style, the better players appreciate it. Longtime player and member Phillip Barren breaks it down like this: “It takes what we call touch—a delicacy, a finesse—to reach out and touch the ball so it can drop in the corner [of the table] and no one can reach it…”

Even with his meditative style and finesse, J.P. plays with an addicts’ intensity. He describes a day of table tennis as an erotic encounter he must hide from his wife. “I can’t go home for an hour,” he whispers. “My hands, they are shaking. I must stretch and relax.” And then, that word again: “It’s like a drug… an addiction like smoking or drinking or gambling.”

As hooked as they all admit they are, most NYTTF players don’t consider the game a vice. Phillip Truong, a Vietnamese immigrant, says he used his table tennis obsession to quit his pack-a-day smoking habit.

To Leroy Smith, it’s a downright virtue. “It is my responsibility to stay healthy,” he declares. “I am addicted to it now. The addiction is the realization that the body needs help. It’s an addiction with a purpose, an educated addiction.”

New York Table Tennis Federation New York Table Tennis Training Center has two entrances 384 Cortlandt Alley between Canal and White Streets, or on 384 Broadway. For more information, visit the website: www.nyttf.com. Open seven days a week, 11-a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closes Sundays at 6:30. It is the biggest table tennis club in Manhattan, with nine tables in 6,000 square feet of space, a lounge area, concession and equipment stand, and restrooms. NYTTF has been open since June 26, 2004.

This article is also published at:  http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/streetlevel/issue/2009/

Sunday, 28 September 2008

The Youth Palace

Owner Chen dancing with partner. Photo by Will Yakowicz 

6. The Palace of Memory

I didn’t stumble into Doyers Street, just off Chatham Square on the Bowery. I didn’t really find it myself either. I was told about the elbow-shaped street, which has a violent history of Irish and then Chinese gang wars, the opium trade, and illegal gambling rackets, by a friend of mine who throws parties. He gave me a card that read: Youth Palace, Inc. with an address: 11-13 Doyers Street. I walked slowly into the street, with its moldy Post Office, dim sum joints, barber shops and beauty parlors, and listened. I heard a faint beat. I continued to walk and the beat got louder and then I heard the high pitch of Mandarin. I looked up to a purple curtained window and knew I was there.

The long wide room smells of cigarettes and nostalgia. he lined faces of the dancers, all middle-aged Chinese couples, are illuminated green, red and yellow by lights that spin and pulse. An elegantly dressed sixty-year-old man bows and extends his hand to a forty-year-old woman in an evening gown. “May I have this dance?” his wordless gesture says. She accepts. He gently pulls her hips close and leads with assertive yet delicate steps. To an outsider, the music that propels them is an intriguing mixture: dance-inducing bass beats, and wildly exotic, pop-infused Chinese folk music layered with a fetching wistful serenade of Mandarin vocals.

Youth Palace, Incorporated on Doyers Street is the only dance studio in New York that specializes in the five traditional dances from the Fuzhou Province, which many of New York’s Chinese immigrants once called home. Xi Chen, the owner, is a Fuzhou native. Wearing a blue blazer, blue slacks and dancing shoes, Chen has a light moustache, a youthful bounce, and nearly perfect rhythm. At age fifteen in his hometown he learned the traditional dances: the Manshan, Manshi, Quaishan, Quaishi and the Chinese cha-cha, all consisting of fancy footwork, spins and twirls. He immigrated in 1997 and built his dance studio in 2005. “The Chinese are always working, working, working,” says Chen. “So I figured I’d open a dance studio so they can relax and be healthy.”

His words echo the message of the orange and black banner in Mandarin, posted above the wall-to-wall mirrors: “Through dance is energy, culture, health and happiness” is the rough translation. All the studio’s members are Chinese immigrants, so when an outsider walks up the stairs, the one or two who speak English ask outright: “You immigration officer?”

Sherri Chen (no relation to the owner), dressed in a blue evening gown and a matching choker necklace, says she works long hours at the Gramercy Park Hotel, and comes to the studio to unwind and enjoy her culture. Her lean shoulders flex as Chen twirls her. She explains her philosophy: “Life is stressful, but dancing is not.”

The floor is covered with baby powder to help the dancers glide across the surface, but it takes more than powder to pivot elegantly while retaining one’s footing. Sherri, who has soft graceful steps and fluttering fingers, says, “When you dance you must be very light. Be like a fly in the sky, to the rhythm: bom, tah, bom, tah.”

According to owner Chen, the music consists of traditional Chinese folk songs transformed into dance remixes with synthesizers and bass. To some patrons, it brings back memories of home and the passion of youth. Dancer De Lan has movie star looks and walks as if he’s waltzing. He recalls the first time he went to a dance studio, at home in Fuzhou, 20 years ago: “…I thought, ‘the music is exciting my body.’” For the past two years at Youth Palace, he dances three hours at a time, five days a week and attributes his intensity and commitment to the music itself. “The music makes me wild,” he says. “Everyone, when the music is on, goes wild.” The wildness, however, is tempered by grace. There’s a controlled formality to the sound of synthesizers, bass and soothing vocals, sending the room into a rhythmic circular motion.

De Lan dancing away. Photo by Will Yakowicz

Dancing is more than entertainment at Youth Palace. Chen says he started his studio to help his fellow immigrants feel less lost in New York City. “We wish to transplant a bit of Chinese culture to America,” Chen explains. “This studio helps migrants who just arrived and do not speak any English connect with their hometown and culture.”

To gain entrée to Youth Palace, one only needs an unassimilated Chinese identity and a pair of dancing shoes. “We don’t dance to forget, we will never forget where we came from,” Chen proclaims. “We are Chinese and this studio is Chinese culture.” 

The name, Youth Palace, is rather ironic for there are almost no young members here. “People come here to hear the music they grew up listening to,” Chen says. “Dancing to their music rejuvenates them, gives them energy and makes them feel young again.” These dances, he warns, may die out with his generation for they are of a past era.

Notwithstanding, the two daily sessions (2-5 p.m. and 8-11 p.m., seven days a week), typically draw ten or more couples. During the break between sessions, members sit around smoking cigarettes and drinking tea, while others dance before the mirror to put the finishing touches on their waltzes. Chen points out that the dancers in his studio are not competitive; no one boasts of being superior and no one has anything to prove. He says that most members are good dancers, but gallantly insists he cannot pinpoint the best one. Here, a woman named Zhong playfully interjects: “I don’t know who’s the best, but I am the worst!”

As the night’s final song draws to an end, De Lan pops his leather jacket over his shoulders with a flick of his wrist. He knows the secret to the dance, to youth, to Youth Palace. “You have to feel the music,” he says. He takes his dance partner by the arm and they glide through the curtained door, in a cloud of baby powder.

Many thanks to my translator and friend, Winston Woo, for his help.

This article can also be seen at:  http://journalism.nyu.edu/pubzone/streetlevel/issue/2009/

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A Woman With The Right Shot

(Photo thanks to www.pipercarter.com)

Piper Carter is a woman of many distinctions: the first black female photographer for British Elle, technician, artist and a storyteller. The quality of Carter’s pictures suggests she’s been a photographer all her life, but the truth is she’s only been shooting for 16 years.

For most photographers, such a late start would doom a career, but not Carter. She first picked up the camera as a junior at Howard University majoring in dance and musical theatre. She became bored with the major and decided she wanted a change. Carter explains, “my friend said, ‘Hey let’s flip a coin’ and he flipped a coin and it was heads and that decided I was going to study photography.”

Carter suggests flipping a coin to determine her studies is just another unexpected happening that characterizes her life. She believes in balance, give and take and of course— Murphy’s Law, what can go wrong will go wrong—which further characterizes Carter’s life. She breaks down much of her career with this theory:

“Photography, in general, is very much like Murphy’s Law, you gotta be flexible, because things happen. You might have a shoot planned and you wanted to go on location, and then for some reason you can’t. Or [the weather reports will say] it’s not gonna rain for five days, but then it starts raining. The insurance doesn’t come through so you can’t shoot for as long as you wanted, you wanted to shoot from high up, but the model is afraid of heights…it’s all these things and it’s always something...you gotta be flexible.”

As flexible as Carter is she is personally attached to her work, and for that she won’t bend. According to Carter she doesn’t shoot a picture for the hell of it. She says each shot comes from within, comes from her body. Carter describes her first photograph at 21-years-old as a birth of a child, and even a rush, a high that she is still chasing today.

From then on she pursues her passion and succeeds to make her name into a brand. She was on VH1’s “The Shot,” and is heavily involved with her own private projects. Carter balances her work between art, math, and the science that is behind photography while getting an interesting shot with creative lighting and a story she’s trying to tell.

“My first image was some friends of mine sitting on a bench, they were just sitting there and I saw them and I said, ‘Oh that’s a great photograph right there’ but now I look back I go, ‘Oh man!’ It wasn’t as great as I thought it was [laughs]. At the time it was pretty advanced for a beginner to notice something like that.”

“I grew up in Detroit, Michigan. That was in the 80’s, the height of the crack era. I ran to and from school everyday [laughs].”

“Not me, I was a good girl. I was what you would call a ‘cool nerd.’ I was captain of the cheer team, class president, and National Honor Society. I wasn’t a street kid. In Detroit there’s only two kinds of kids in the street: he’s either running the street or he’s dead. I definitely wasn’t the one running the streets, definitely didn’t want to be dead—so I kept my butt in the house! [laughs].”

“As a kid— Yea, that was me— as a kid. I used to act and dance, but I decided, I really wanted to do this photography and film thing, it’s my passion.

“Steve Klein, he’s my main influence. I love his work; he’s incredible. I also love The Northern Renaissance, I love the light and style; I’ll probably have to give that up to Vermeer. I have different influences for what shoot I’m doing and the story I want to portray.

“I’m very much a story teller, my stories are not necessarily linear with a starting point or an ending point, but there is the evidence of a story there. I usually think of the story first [before I shoot] like who is she, what is she doing, where is she from, what season is it, what colors do I want?

“Yeah definitely, every time I close the shutter.”

“It’s a little of both. I’ll have an awesome shoot where everything works. Then sometimes it just sucks— everything went wrong and it’s not like I wanted. This just means I have to get back on the horse and do the thing again.”

“I am, I get really quiet. I’m really fun and bubbly [usually]— but I get really serious, and intensely focused. Some people say I’m a little mean, but I’m still crackin’ jokes, I’m not aggressive with the camera, I’m more of the type of photographer who wants a little more from the model. If I gotta bend a little that’s fine they have to too, either way we’ll get a good picture. It’s like a dance.”

“Definitely, the model is an equal contributor. Every person there is an equal contributor and you need all those elements. It’s like a stew— you need all those elements to make it taste good. Without one you got too much of the other.”

“Sometimes I get sucked in too. I meditate, I talk to my friends, I talk to my mom and grandmother, they’ll keep you right on point. I watch Oprah, she’ll keep you lined up [laughs]. I read a lot of spiritual books, if I’m not reading a technical manual, which I’m a huge fan of.”

“Actually I have a couple, but they reflected who I was at that time. And they also reflect certain qualities that are still true about me now, but I think right now I’m changing and developing new work and I would like for my work to go, not necessarily a different direction, but, I think I want to do work that’s a little more abstract. So I’m working on a little more abstract concepts at this point. I don’t necessarily have work that reflects where I am going.”

“Right now I’m working on this idea for Wonder Woman as a Jihadist. I’m doing a lot of research about that, I don’t know what the final image will be, at the end she might not even be a Jihadist, that’s just what I’m starting with now. I’ve been doing research about women wearing hijab, and women covered in 3/4’s, things like that. What I’m doing now is checking out what her costume will be. That’s what I mean when I said I want to do more abstract. This is more towards my personal work, not my fashion work.”

“Making images honestly, just the idea of making great images, and seeing great images. When I see amazing images, it inspires me and motivates me, to go out there and DO.”

“One thing that I was proud of for a long, long time was being able to shoot Erykah Badu. I think she’s so incredible. She was really sweet and giving with herself. When it came to shooting she had a great attitude and I got a great picture out of it [published in Spin Magazine]. She respects you as an artist.”

“I am in my dream job now. I’m only at the beginning though. I’m not at the pinnacle, but I’m happy. I haven’t reached my material success yet. I’d love to shoot for Visionaire magazine. I’d love to shoot for Italian Vogue. I’d love to shoot for W. If I could do a Gucci campaign or Valentino, that’s where I’d love to be and where I see myself. On my own I’ve done a lot of underground designers, but this year I think I want to shoot mainstream.”

“Other things I’m doing are portfolios for models and ‘look-books’ for designers. And also I’m doing video as well. I make videos for designers’ shows and I also started doing what I call web-based ‘fashion film.’ I’m not doing the film in the traditional sense with interviews; I’m doing something more creative. It’s like a magazine editorial in Italian Vogue— a twenty page spread of dresses, coats, boots whatever, I’m doing that just as a video. It’s a little more creative and abstract. No talking, no dialogue, there are no stories, and it’s not linear [featured on YouTube]. You just see a girl running through the forest, she’s got a dress on with no shoes, or we’re walking to a house and opening the door, just abstract moments where each piece goes together but not in the sense of a traditional story.”

There she is: Piper Carter, a well-balanced artist with a serious technical side to her. For, in her words, “It’s a mathematical job…photography in general is all about math and science.” Piper’s pictures are balanced stories that evoke the looker’s mind and eyes. Laden with light, confidence, and intellect her shots urge one to stare and think.

Piper has just finished her first campaign for Vanilla Star Jeans featuring Nastia Liukin USA Olympic Gold medalist; which will be on buses in NYC, and in most teen magazines like Teen Vogue. She also just finished an editorial in Trace Magazine featuring the model Georgi. She expects to re-launch her brand as beauty and fashion photography in September and has been working in NYC, L.A., Philadelphia and Detroit. To get the real thing go to her website: www.pipercarter.com , she has a FaceBook and myspace account with more of her photographs and videos to check out.

Link to Carter's website: www.pipercarter.com

To see where this article was published go to: www.ilovebeeing.com/beeing_profile.html