tsatsas a 14th street pilgrimage:      
new york, october 1-10,2011
October 4th, 2011: Fourth day of A 14th Street Pilgrimage

More straying away from 14th St today, motivated in the morning by curiosity & gratitude towards the section of Harlem where I am staying with my friend Louise. Sort of like a locally-grown feeling: why export all the tsatsas far away from the community where I'm resting, writing, eating breakfast, and generally enjoying the peace of a quiet residential life? Louise & her house & neighborhood have been very kind to me in the last two years. Now that this amazing four-story wonderzone has been sold, Louise is moving out to Brooklyn, & so this is my last stay in Harlem. In proper Buddhist ritual form, I circumambulated Louise's block, clockwise, keeping my right shoulder towards the house. Below, the front stoop & the morning glories on the fence across the street.


I walked around the corner to the grocery store, then around a second corner, to where I noticed a beautiful old door and a vacant lot less ominously covered in rat-trespassing-assorted-danger warnings than some of the others in the neighborhood.

Further along this same block came two churches almost side-by-side: The Little Widow's Mite Baptist Church and the Faithful Workers Christ of God Church. I've been thinking a lot about real estate during my tsatsa walks: how property speculation & commercial development change the landscape of neighborhoods, and so I was interested to see that 1) the Little Widow appears to have gone bankrupt; and 2) the shell of her building is being offered in straight-faced real-estate fashion. Meanwhile, the Faithful Workers seem to be hanging on behind their fortified facade.
On the last face of the block, the first thing to catch my eye was Le Pavillion Garries, a plastic surgery establishment run by the one-woman beauty army of Dr. Rosetta Garries, MD. The Widow may have gone bankrupt & terminally decrepit, but her glamorous sister around the corner appears to be thriving. She takes meticulous care of her property. Whatever Thermage Skin Tightening is, it's in enough demand to pay for flower boxes, gilt-slate signage, new varnish, and clean white awnings with tassels. Louise tells me the Pavillion's whole facade was cleaned over the summer, which makes sense insofar as you wouldn't want to be selling pretty skin out of a crusty building. Poor Widow. Her Mite wouldn't go far, here, even if she still had it.
Last stops before heading out of Harlem: another old fire-alarm box with a flame on top that looks just like the Sacred Heart; Louise's kitchen, which is the warm heart of the block I've been orbiting; and the 135 St station on the 2-3 line. I have come to think of the alarm boxes as de facto spirit houses - more on this thought, below.
Then, a brief check-in with 14th St on my way to gallery-wantering in Chelsea. I can't resist the various sculptures of human figures on the street, so this bar-boxer joins the Buddha and Superman in an improvised tsatsa brotherhood.
In places where I walk more than once, I've decided not to repeat selfsame tsatsa spots on different days. So I walk along the High Line to Chelsea looking for new opportunities, and I am drawn to a small table with a view of a beautiful landscape billboard. Which turns out to be a moonlit photograph of Huang Shan, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in China. Hoorah. A pilgrimage with a view of a pilgrimage; a public art project with a view of another public art project. The Dharma is deep and lovely. My respects and gratitude go to Darren Almond, the photographer whose work the billboard is, and to the Friends of the High Line, who funded it.
One more High Line stop: a beautiful bench, beneath a young tree. Later, near the same spot, I saw two men in business suits lying on side-by-side benches, having a mellow conversation as they rested with their eyes closed. This ease, this contribution to the well-being infrastructure of the city is the central miracle of the High Line.
Reading up about Dr. Garries (above), I discovered that her block was maybe once called Striver's Row. This seems like a good name for the gallery blocks of Chelsea, and I am aware of all the strivers on the move there - those whose work is in the galleries, and those on the peripheries. I am perhaps ridiculously cautious of having the pilgrimage mistaken for a publicity stunt, and so this day's Chelsea tsatsas are placed in a welcome bathroom outside the Print Center of New York, and in a fire-nook already colonized by a purple ninja-gnome. On the way to a panel discussion for Art in Odd Places, I walked by an Episcopal Seminary, with a bearded & robed monk at the gate. Just a few feet further, an impromptu theological debate on the wall: You Are Loved vs. Forever Alone. I added a tsatsas-vote for the former.
I spent the end of the day with my husband and friends near NYU. Some by-now familiar tsa-tsa magnets: a disused street-font across from Washington Square Park; a Pizza-Man who joins the Boxer-Buddha-Superman clique; and some alarm boxes. Besides their attractive nookishness, I am drawn to the call boxes (old and new) by a pun on emergence. Maybe in a tsatsa context the boxes can be seen as places where new information can come up into individual awareness, within the context of the collective space of the street.
14th Street project pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7


Art in Odd Places 2011: RITUAL is guest curated by Kalia Brooks, MoCADA Director of Exhibitions and Trinidad Fombella, El Museo Del Barrio Exhibitions Manager/Assistant Curator. Festival Producer, Lucia Warck Meister. Founder/Director, Ed Woodham.

Art in Odd Places (AiOP) aims to present art that stretches the boundaries of communication in the public realm by presenting artworks in all disciplines outside the confines of traditional public space regulations. AiOP reminds us that public spaces function as the epicenter for diverse social interactions and the unfettered exchange of ideas. www.artinoddplaces.org