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The joy of having regular haunts.
Starting in September 2022, I began a year-long floral self-portrait series to document my first year in New York. This is the July 2023 entry, “Habit.”
As the temperatures have mercilessly climbed to sweltering, I am dragged through the swampy past to my first weeks in New York. A relentless sun intent on burning everything in its path to crisp, to extract as much water out of a living being as is possible. Sweat so persistent it was a waterfall into your eyes, the warm liquid supposedly working to cool your overheating system but feeling like a lukewarm bath. The rasping of automobiles and their hacking horns. A GPS in my palm, that has mostly become the palm, glued as it is to my hand, lest I get lost on the way to the grocery store. A stranger in a stranger place, no ties. Untethered, and up until that point, letting the wind whip me about like a napkin on a sidewalk tumbling only by the force of the breeze. With month twelve drawing to a close, I realize, walking down Prince Street in Soho, that things indeed have changed.
Prince Street starts (or ends) on Bowery and runs across the neighborhood into 6th Avenue, before it turns into Charlton, which runs into Greenwich, then Washington, then West and the Hudson. It has become a familiar path to me, the vein by which I enter this shopping district for everything from clothes to perfume and the occasional snack. Diptyque is at the intersection of Mott, La Pecora Bianca at Lafayette. I often wonder what it would be like to live above the Sézanne atelier on Elizabeth. Where Broadway and Prince collide is a photographer friendquaintance (a friend-acquaintance, if you’re new around here), to whom I have given too much money for the pleasure of a few 4x5 instant photos shot on a Speed Graphic—of me and my cousin on a bitter winter afternoon, of my parents and aunt on a brisque spring morning, of myself on surprisingly cool summer Sunday. Cross the street, traverse a few blocks, and it’s the new, but not improved, McNally’s, now more grand, polished,but lacking the hominess of its smaller, cozier, older space a few blocks behind.
In my own corner of Brooklyn, things have become familiar. The rumbling of the J train as it barrels down Broadway. The cacophony of car horns and anguished sirens and Latin music blaring from front stoops. Children screaming in delight. The McDonalds by the subway stop, where my roommate and I have ordered more french fries than is sane to admit. Next to it, Walgreens, where thermometers always seem to be out of stock. An art supply store for emergencies. The Korean-owned grocery store that has the best fruit, and the wholesale fruit stand that will sometimes sell you two pounds of cherries for three dollars. Antique shops line Irving Avenue, rows of colored glassware calling to me like sirensong. (I am usually powerless to resist.) We have a regular taco place, Thai place, and pizza place. The intersection of streets that bamboozled me my first few weeks I can now navigate perfectly in the dark.
In this penultimate self portrait, I wanted to create something in an ode to habit. Habit is familiarity; it’s being a regular. From my coffee shop in the Lower East Side to the corner of Broadway and Prince, there are spaces and places that I have continued to revisit because they are inexplicably comforting. These flowers are from a small shop on Prince Street that I’ve walked by countless times—usually saying that I should stop and buy a bunch. Soho isn’t known for its green space foraging potential, and the photographer friendquaintance pointed me here. So here I am, basking in the familiar.
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