The past fortnight I was visiting New York to see my daughter, Ragni Marea (and son-in-law, Julián) for a couple of weeks. A short trip … but, like always, very exciting. You can see us above with their cute friend Chovie.
While meeting them was going to be the highlight, one doesn't get to New York without buying a few things. Specially books and odd-ball photo stuff that are impossible or difficult to get here and certainly at the price and ease that one could buy them there. I thought I'd list some of them in this post.
To begin with, of course, there is Amazon
, from where I got a book that I was most unlikely to find in Karachi. This was Kate Bornstein's delightful memoir.
It's really a great book. I found it most interesting because Kate (once Albert!) was a Scientology person. She worked with L. Ron Hubbard
(who was the 'inventor' of this 'religion') and was thrown out after 12 years of service by a particular brigade inside the group. From an actor, to a Scientologist, to a telephone porn-freak, Albert/Kate
lived a marvellous life of ups and downs. He/She had the most bizarre of experiences (of all
sorts), but her new life came when she converted from a Man to a Woman, finally! I have been very fond of her writing since I read her first book (Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us)
. She's a wonderful writer among the LGBT group and she can write well because she's been through it all!
The book, however, was easier to ship out to Ragni before I left for the USA, not only because it saves the price/time for it to get here but because it would mean I'd have a book to start on when I reached NY. I have, in the past, used Amazon often to get books in Karachi when I was not in a hurry and there was no one coming from there.
(Liberty Books in Pakistan does give you a goodish collection of books — and reasonably well-priced, if you buy it on their web service, though. So try that first! But you'll have to still go to Amazon to get many books that never find their way here.
Amazon, which started as an online bookstore, now also gives you a lot of other stuff — but it's best to ship 'non-books' into someone's address in the USA/UK, if you are going there or someone is coming to Pakistan, because the stuff is unlikely to get here without being 'mislaid' (a great euphemism!) by the Post Office. Or charged some astonishing Duty Rates by the Customs, if it does reach you.
One of my choices was getting a small little Nikon 52mm Reversing Ring ($7) that I tried hard and could not find in Karachi, except at a rather shockingly high-priced shop that said on the phone that it would cost me "… just vunly Rs. 4000, Madam
. Maybe 3500 for you …"! I got that from Amazon. In case you've never used it, here's a video-clip
that will help you understand.
The Adorama Photo Store which I am very fond of, particularly because of the great Adorama TV video-clips
that I see very regularly, is a place I had to visit next.
A trip there got me a Nikon Extension Tube — the Manual kind; no Auto-Focus! Here's what you can do with it
, if you are new to photography. I was certainly not willing to pay Rs. 8000 for the Auto-Focus in Karachi. A shopkeeper in Sadar told me that I could get a Manual one for Rs. 2500 to be "brought in from China in 3 weeks". I accepted that … but was told, a whole month later, that the man had forgotten to buy it and "… could I please wait again for another trip in another month or two?" Nope!
Anyway, I got the Manual one for $7.21 at Adorama, which has wonderful stuff for every aspect of Photography. Well worth a visit if you are heading there.
Visiting bookshops is always my favourite time in NY. You can even read some books in many shops while sitting on the floor or at benches, have a cup of coffee and snacks at their restaurant, and spend hours in the store. Barnes & Noble is a large and wonderful bookshop, with more than one store. Though I have been to their largest building in NY, I prefer the Union Square vaali
building that you see in my photograph above. This area is a favourite place because you can come out and rest in the park, have lovely food from the stalls all around it, take some great pictures on the street, and if you can find the "vandarfool"
Ice Cream Van, you can have a lovely Ginger Ice Cream.
It wasn't quite as good as the one in London's Covent Garden (where the Ice Cream also has a bit of Honey mixed) but it was still gorgeous!
But let's get back to books! What an amayyyzing array of books at B&N ... with shelves and shelves of great Comix. I had to get one right away and soon found what I wanted. Believe me, it wasn't just because of the cover that made me want to buy it (but maybe it helped)!
Ed Piskor's book proved most interesting because of my own 'separate excitements' with the field of Hackers and Graphic Novels. I have just started reading it and am intrigued.
Despite the wonderful modern bookshop that B&N may have, there is always my favourite Strand Book Store
to go to on the other side of Union Square Park. Eighteen Miles of Books
is what their ad says — and every inch is a winner!
It's got twists and turns on all the floors, with books that may not be as well-stocked as B&N but enough to never ever let you leave. They sell new and used books, too.
Outside their shop - just near the entrance - are loads of brand new and old books, from $1 to $5, and many are a great bargain. I got Down In The Garden
(a book of infant photography by Anne Geddes - with flowers and vegetables into which her children's pictures are embedded) for $3 just when I had passed the same thing at a bookstall only a couple of miles away at $14.95 …
By the way, almost diagonally opposite on that road, if you are a ChocoFiend like me
, is Max Brenner ('Chocolates by the Bald Man'). Worth a try. And another. And another. Just take a look at their menu
After a lovely evening at home, I took a quick trip in the morning to Home Depot
near Ragni's house (there are HD Stores everywhere in the USA) to get me a Cable Light that was once so easily available in Karachi. Sadly, no stall seems to have those now. We do get fancy Chinese lights that clamp anywhere and have a moulded plastic base, but they have a dimmer which I cannot use in my Photographic work. These
were only $6.65 a piece, so I got two. I want 75 Watts each coming from the Energy Saving Lamps that have an 11-Watt Cool White bulb.
The bulbs don't get too hot, either. I love them for my Close-Up Photography but can use them with higher powered bulbs for other works. Here's a little video-clip
that shows you what to do with them.
I also managed to get two small clamps that were just $2 for the pair! They are great for holding on to coloured sheets of paper for backgrounds and I was hoping to get them when I got back. I'm sure they are available in Karachi at not too high a price, but I was in Home Depot, anyway — and whatever you see there you seem to want to buy!
Sadia Khatri was visiting me the next day, from Mount Holyoke, and we went walking all over NYC - often to places where we had no idea what they were and how we'd ever got there. We did get to the Brooklyn Art Library in Willoughby. Their website said it was Open … but we found it Closed. Sadia's sister Fiza's work was there and we wanted to see it. Well, Fiza, here is Sadia wanting you to see that we actually did go there!
Three shops away from the Gallery was that wonderful other chocolate shop — Mast Brothers. One of the finest in the USA, the insides of the shop were a delight (and their chocolate cake was truly stunning). Here are some pictures.
Coming outside, still devouring our lovely cake, we discovered directly opposite us was the famous Book Thug Nation that also sold some new but mainly used books. We walked in and "Wow!!! Wow!!! Wow!!!" … Had a marvellous time inside and looked at so many great books. I got the following collection of stupendous new 'sell-outs' at prices way below their originally marked ones:
Jack Cole and Plastic Man
- A biography by Art Spiegelman (of Maus
fame. Haven't read it yet? Jeez … you've missed out one of the best Graphic Novels!) & Chip Kidd (known for his book covers
), with comic book pages of that hilarious character who could turn into anything
… drawn by Cole who took his own life. I was a mad Plastic Man follower as a teenager and also loved Cole's cartoons, later, for Playboy. (The collection was eventually published as Females by Cole
by Playboy Press. I have had that for years and love it!)
The Trials of Lenny Bruce
(by Collins & Skover): I was going to write a post about Lenny but it has now become important to read this book first. The book also has a CD - with Nat Hentoff
- which follows bits of the trial and some important show pieces. My own collection of Lenny Bruce's films, books, and posters, have been rightly added to by this book. One of my original Lenny books was taken by a neighbour's daughter and she never returned it — although wrote, years later, to say that she still has it!
- A conversation between Will Eisner
and Frank Miller
, two of the greatest artists of the genre. Will Eisner was the greatest genius of the comic book world and all his wonderful books are a treasure. Way different from the great Superheroes that were everywhere
with their fantasy worlds
(both loved greatly, then and now), Eisner wrote mainly about everyday people and places that he understood well. I have many of his books including Invisible People
that I got him to sign at a Comic Book Festival years ago. His Comics and Sequential Art
is a must read for anyone interested in that genre. Frank Miller is known for his noir style fiction as well as his Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
- The complete B&W set by Scott McCloud, among the best of the artists in the Comic World today. His website
is something that you should see. If you haven't converted to him after that, I'd be amazed. Scott's three volumes of Understanding Comics
, Reinventing Comics
, and Making Comics
are books that everyone interested in Comics reads. However, the first of the three books is an absolute must. You'd understand comics a lot better (and appreciate the art and science that go into it) once you open that remarkable book. If you are ever in Karachi you should see a large piece from his
Understanding Comics displayed at Faraar (the Gallery at T2F)
Later on Sadia and I went into Union Square (I do that often!) and Sadia bought some stuff at B&N while I couldn't help buying a couple of copies of Richard Dawkins' The Magic of Reality for some friends. I adore this book and think that everyone from 8 to 80 should have one. Or an iBook version, if you have an iPad.
Ultimately we just loitered around the park, ate a couple of things, and saw a statue of Gandhi Ji looking his best in his dhoti. My friend, Dr. Shamim, wanted to know when I showed him the picture below, about why we don't have Jinnah Sahab in other countries when 'he made a country', while Gandhi Ji was only 'a man who wanted Liberation' from the Brits. I do have an answer - an obvious one - but I guess this is not the place for it.
After many days I saw some Hare Krishna followers.
Here's Sadia buying something from a bhajan singer.
While walking around the stalls you may often find the Mormon LDS Church boys giving out their free copies of The Book of Mormon (aka Another Testament of Jesus Christ
), worth reading if you are into religious backgrounds
as I am. For those who do not know this, Mormons, who belong to the Church of the Latter Day Saints
, are a 'sect' of Christianity that many Christians believe is far from 'the Truth' (whatever that
"The Mormons have started looking really nice since Scientology appeared", said a comedian on TV in the USA. The Scientologists believe in a rather odd set of things (including all of us being from the stars … but not in the Panspermia
way) and are worth a bit of your time to go here
and take a quick look at their beliefs.
1. It is good to know that the Christians haven't started doing to Mormons and to Scientologists what Muslims in Pakistan and Indonesia (and in other Muslim states where they are beginning to follow these nutcases) are doing to the Ahmadis — who were made non-Muslims in Pakistan by the Parliament. After all, when Mr. Jinnah asked for Muslims in India to join up and put on the pressure for Pakistan in the late 40s, he did not say to the Ahmadis "You are not a Muslim - don't bother to vote". In fact he even appointed an active member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Sir Zafarullah Khan, as a member of his Parliament. Zafarullah Khan was known for drafting the Pakistan Resolution, being our first Foreign Minister, represented Pakistan at the United Nations, and served as a judge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
2.Pakistan's only Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Abdus Salam, was also an Ahmadi - but we managed to rid his image from our country for years and, only recently, we have managed to start remembering him among our faithful citizens. His gravestone was marked "First Muslim Nobel Laureate." A local magistrate ordered that the word "Muslim" be erased … so it now reads "First Nobel Laureate" :)
Well, this has certainly become a very large post, specially with all the links you may
want to follow, so I must end it now. Bye! More pics from my trip will be here
in a few days.