Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

What’s Up with the Hanging Sneakers?

I had always assumed that they were gang-related.

True or not, the images of sneakers hanging from telephone wires in the neighborhood conjured images of gang territory. In this report from the BBC’s excellent Close-Up Series, filmmaker Ramon Goni seeks the answer. His interviewees have a variety of explanations for the shoes, ranging from memorializing a favorite pair of Chucks to gang violence to modern art pieces. The Murky Fringe offers a first-person explanation.

You can’t help but wonder if this earnest reporter is revealing his naivete–who’s going to admit the real meaning of the shoes, even if they do understand their true purpose? I imagine the reaction of the locals: What’s this reporter–from a news agency outside the Bronx–up to, asking all these questions?

Or, maybe the sneakers dangling from wires across the city aren’t related to gangs at all. Maybe they’re stretched across the sky by kids who want to simply say: We were here. This is our neighborhood. This is ours.

No matter their original design, the shoe couples–tied together by laces, light as air–are things of beauty.

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Filed under: art, culture, new york, , , , , , , , ,

A Photograph, a Poem, an Essay to New York

I. A Photograph

If you had to choose four images to capture New York, what would they be? Photojournalist Hiroyuki Ito presents variations on this theme in his new exhibition, “Transfer of Guilt.” The idea for his series of four images, each arranged without context in a grid, came from a surprising place:

The idea of making grids came from visiting a video booth in Times Square, where the viewer watches four porn movies simultaneously on a split screen…Looking at four sad human dramas unfolding in front of my eyes was at least intellectually stimulating. Upon closer inspection, the random movies started to create rhythm of their own both visually and emotionally, as if John Cage was at work behind the screen.

II. A Poem

Actually, only a section of a poem. Part Six of Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry“:

I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine; 60
I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it;
I too felt the curious abrupt questionings stir within me,
In the day, among crowds of people, sometimes they came upon me,
In my walks home late at night, or as I lay in my bed, they came upon me.
I too had been struck from the float forever held in solution; 65
I too had receiv’d identity by my Body;
That I was, I knew was of my body—and what I should be, I knew I should be of my body.

III. An Essay

Finally, from a wholly engrossing, unsentimental, thoughtful collection of essays I read this weekend by Eula Biss, entitled Notes from No Man’s Land, an essay about leaving New York:

I often woke before dawn and could not fall back to sleep. I lay there listening to car alarms cycle through all their different sounds while my heart raced for no reason. It is hard for me to separate my experience of living in New York from the sensation of reaching the limits of my own independence. I was excruciatingly lonely, and everything was unfamiliar and diffficult. But, in a way, I was living my dream.

Biss’ refusal to admire the New York in everyone else’s imagination is in contrast to Joan Didion’s essay of the same title, “Goodbye to All That.” Biss cringes from the sentimental Manhattan of the “I Heart NY” crowd. Instead, she writes about the small moments of defeat, like her run-in (literally) with a pedestrian on a street corner in Chinatown. Or the negotiation of so many young people who come to the city (myself included), trying to negotiate independence and solitude.

Filed under: new york, , , , , , , ,

Naked in New York

The post-April Fool’s Day pranks continue. My friend Scott passed along this outrageous prank by Improv Everywhere in the NYC subway. Pants-off, panties-off, everything out in public. The shocked faces by fellow subway riders are classic.

My favorite part: the electronica by Tyler Walker. Just as fabulous as the actual prank.

Filed under: humor, new york, , , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
September 2017
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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