Showing posts with label Deuce. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Deuce. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving Photographs.. Memories from the Early Days in the Rockaways

In 2003, the Palm Gardens was still open before the owner renovated it with hopes of bringing in a more sophisticated gentrified clientele. I often stopped there when I arrived to the last stop at 116th St and would sit amongst the regulars and draw a bit of curiosity with my Rollei camera in cradled in my hands. I also was shooting with my Contax 35mm camera until I soon realized that although, I had captured some good images with the smaller camera, I was more successful and comfortable shooting with my TSLR.

I took this photograph of Frieda sitting at the bar with a cigarette in her mouth right after she had lit it. The No Smoking laws were already in effect and even though most of the regulars were getting used to walking outside the door of the pub to have a cigarette in the cold and lean up against the facade of the building, Frieda just did not give a damn'. I remember hearing one of the barmaids telling her that she would have to smoke outside, but she continued to puff away and didn't seem to even acknowledge their request. And they weren't about to tell her to leave.. she was a welcome regular and added some flavor to the milieu without a doubt. Someone told me that she would get gussied up for a night out in the Palm Gardens and take a car service from the adult home where she lived.

She was full of life and I believe I took this photograph on New Year's Eve. She got up and danced with another regular Mike and I took some pictures of them in the small dive bar. I don't believe I ever met up with Frieda again after that night and when she died several years later or maybe it was just a year, I found out and of course, was deeply saddened that such a wonderful spirit, so full of life and chutzpah had passed on.

"Frieda Smoking", Rockaways, NYC, 2003. ©Juliana Beasley

The second photograph, I took of Deuce. I never learned his real name, but this is the name he went by when I met him sitting in a lounge chair in Paddy's boarding house that was in a dire state of disrepair. Supposedly, Deuce also living in an adult home for the elderly, but like so many of the institutionalized that I met over the years, he preferred to spend his golden years drinking away his days watching TV for hours in a comfy lounge chair. I often found him there for hours on end sitting with Paddy with an end table between them cluttered with cigarette butts in several ashtrays and empty Guinness cans.  They occasionally would exchange a couple of words and usually it was speckled with very vulgar profanities with little regard to my presence in the room. Paddy would be reading his newspapers compulsively-- the room was scattered with piles of old newspapers-- and all the time the television provided a background noise. They would cackle and laugh and tell crass jokes about women, but they rarely made eye contact.

I will never forget the day when I noticed that Deuce had a photo of a spaniel dog in his breast pocket of his suede jacket. I asked him if he had ever had a dog and yes, of course, he had. This question provided a catalyst for all three men including my friend, Charlie who began to lament about the dogs who they had loved in their lives and who had sadly died. Each one told the story of their lost dear friend and their eyes filled with tears and they were filled with sadness.

"Deuce with Dog in Pocket", Rockaways, NYC. ©Juliana Beasley

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Old Photos Posted... John Trainer

"John and Mural in Squat", Rockaway Park, 2003. Juliana Beasley.

John Trainer. I miss him. He died of an aneurysm in 2004. Word went around that he keeled over a display rack of pretzels and potato chips in a local Arab owned botega.

We became friends out in Rockaway Park in the winter of 2002 when I first started going out there to photograph. He was usually the first person I saw when I got off the S Train. He was either passed out under some benches or standing by the radiators trying to keep warm in the MTA station on 116th St. He was flirtatious, but not dangerous. What he lacked in his alcoholic boundaries, he always made up for it with his staid respect for my space, despite his flirtatious ways with me.

I wanted to post these photos. They were shot with my Contax, not the T2 but another awesome Contax 35mm camera before I began to shoot the project much later entirely with my Rollei Twin Lens. All of these photographs have never been posted except the one, "Trainer as James Dean".

On one frigid day, he took me into the squat where he lived. He guided me through a dark hallway, holding my hand as we walked over a beat up mattress under are feet. As he explained to me the way toward the stairs, I held tightly onto him, not only to steady myself, but to catch him from falling over in a drunken state.

As they say the blind leading the blind. He was more disabled, despite knowing the territory than I was as we tried to locate a glimpse of light. My fear dissipated when I realized he was no more than a child afraid of falling.

I had just given him a portrait of himself. He placed the photograph of himself next to in an article from the Daily News that was leaning up against a wall in a special nook where he kept his belongings. He chuckled with pride.

"Trainer as James Dean", Rockaway Park, 2004(?). Juliana Beasley. The photograph that I gave to John.

"Empties in a Dresser at the Squat", Rockaway Park, 2003. Juliana Beasley.

In a low-lit room, I sit on a once dark orange carpet now turned brown through years of spilled beer, bitter cigarettes butts, and rancid dog urine. I look to the ground. I am in a lotus position; like the child I once was, sitting “Indian style” at a friend’s birthday party. Looking down to the carpet…I notice several cockroaches scurrying around me. I am probably more at home than I should be, my Contax on my lap as I change rolls of VC-400.

"Paddy's Amputated Big Toe", Rockaway Park, 2003(?). Juliana Beasley.

No, I am not at a relative’s house, but instead sitting center stage in a circle of frayed and worn Lazy Boys. I am at Paddy’s boarding house in Rockaway Park, surrounded by a bunch of grumbling older Irish men with rosaceous drinking cans of Cobra and Guinness beer, engaging in a silent exchange. They share mutual glances every so often while eyeballing an old television. It sits upon a pedestal—another broken black and white television. The reception is shot; skin tones are fluorescent pink. Occasionally, a cackling grumble spills over.

“Oh, the fuggin’ cunt!”

and a look of half acknowledgement and laughter at the crassness of it all.

The broken windows are covered in a blue tarp and the cold winter gusts whip against them and into the living room. Last week, when I back at home in Jersey, Paddy had thrown a chair out of the window in a belligerent drunken fit. It’s all makeshift and make-do around here. Charlie, Paddy and Deuce, the guy who lives in an adult residence down the boardwalk seem not to care about the chill in the air. Deuce appears at Paddy’s maligned boarding house to sit with the boys. He drinks for free. In his shirt pocket is a Xerox photo of a pet cocker spaniel that he talks about with loving nostalgia.

"Deuce at Paddy's", Rockaway Park, 2003(?). Juliana Beasley

"Paddy as Young Man", Location, Date and Photographer Unknown.

Trainer arrives to the scene and picks up a gallon plastic bottle of generic vodka lying on the floor next to Paddy’s amputated toes. He guzzles it down, sits down on a milk crate. He’s a mooch. Everyone hates John Trainer, the itinerant thirty-something alcoholic. He owes everyone either a drink or a cigarette in this town. He looks like a forlorn Irish James Dean. They say he comes from money and he likes to say it’s his choice for being out on the streets, homeless.

The others tolerate his presence.

I hear a gurgle and look to my right. John is foaming at the mouth. His eyes are rolling back. Boom. Man down. He’s fallen off the crate and presently, is on his back, twisting and bucking. His head is spilled into the kitchen, his torso in the living room. Drool covers his chin. I put my camera down, rush to his side.

“Are you alright, John? I’m right here with you…you’ll be O.K. don’t worry, John.”

The blokes remain careened back in their majesty, completely disassociated from the events. unfolding.

“Throw me a pillow,” I say calmly.

I put it under John’s bobbing head.

Then, “Call the cops!”

I drill like a captain at the helm. I turn John’s head to the side. He won’t choke on his saliva this way. I make sure that his mouth remains agape so that he won’t bite his tongue in two.

This is the shot! This is the action shot. This is the shot that explains in one photograph the level of self-destruction and dire loneliness I have been witnessing for the last several weeks. This is the shot that will make my book complete.

Again, the voice in my head, “Take the picture! Leave his side and pick up your camera!”

I don’t. I can’t. The voice that has always had its way…goes away.

The police have arrived. John has become conscious and returned from the world of cerebral thunderstorms and in congruencies. They strap him to what appears to be a hand truck and pull him through the door. I hold it open. They know John well.

“You’re going over to the Pennisula, John. It’s the best we can do for you”.

I can hear the boredom and callousness in their voices becoming more faint as they roll him down the path and into the darkness of the Rockaway Boulevard.

"John on Boardwalk Ramp", Rockaway Park, 2003. Juliana Beasley

I wrote the following story a couple of years ago for Will Steacy's book project entitled "The Picture Not Taken". When you get the chance take a look at the website. There are some interesting quotes from some interesting photographers.