Is life the car or the road?

Jeep Administration Building Implosion

April 14, 1979

Jeep officials said the building was too expensive to keep, that they needed the parking spaces.  It was 64 years old, built in 1914, and had been vacant for five years. The demolition was announced less than 60 days before the implosion date.

We were all so disappointed. To think what a beautiful, distinctive, classic and uniquely famous building was being torn down for a parking lot. Dare I say, it would have made a fabulous local art and industry museum, or maybe a community art center, at the very least!

As the Jeep Administration Building in Toledo, Ohio was being made ready to blow up, the classic, 63 year old Waldorf Hotel on Summit Street and Madison Avenue was being torn down, to make way for a bank.

Tommy was a punk rock drummer in a Detroit band. And quite the great drummer, at that. He seemed like the perfect metaphor of the pending doom – he was like the dynamite that was going to blow up the building. Out with the old, in with the new, rock and roll style. I thought punk was the perfect answer to disco.

I asked him to make some pictures with me inside the building in February and March, culminating somehow by getting onto the roof of the building, where Tommy stood on a ladder over West Toledo, and then posed on the building’s edge in an oxygen tent, like a punk angel overseeing the Jeep factory buildings, with the Toledo skyline on the horizon.

One day nearly two years after this shoot, Tom said to me, I’m moving to New York, do you want to come? Of course I said yes. We’ve been together ever since. Tommy (his drummer name, his real name is Tom), the proverbial dynamite of the Jeep Administration Building implosion, turned out to be the spark that changed my life.

We actually moved to New York on April 13, staying at a New Jersey hotel that night before we drove over the George Washington Bridge into Manhattan and down Broadway on the morning of April 14, 1981, exactly two years after the implosion Jeep Administration Building. It didn’t even cross our minds at the time. We were, after all, two nonchalant punk brats. In fact, not until right now have I ever realized what a fortuitous day that was for us.

Hotel Waldorf’s replacement — the Toledo Trust Bank building, oh-so-modern, but now is a building owned by Promedica whose headquarters is in the old steam plant building behind it on the river. The building now features a steak restaurant on the ground floor, where the tellers used to be.
Hotel Waldorf opened in 1916. It was famous for its marble lobby and for being fireproof.
Wrecking ball meets Hotel Waldorf, March 1979
View from the roof of the Jeep Administration Building, March 1979. The little clump of buildings in the center of the horizon is downtown Toledo. All those factory buildings shown here and more to the right were demolished in 2002 and 2006. All that remains is a single smokestack to mark the spot.

Is life the car or the road?

There’s a car involved (a Jeep) there’s a road involved (40 years so far), and there’s some dynamite, in the form of a couple of beating hearts (or is it music?) …. today is much more than just the 40th anniversary of the Jeep Administration Building implosion.

But we are still sorry to see it go.

Defending the Great Lake Erie

It’s a sad day when we the citizens of Toledo have to take it upon ourselves to vote on whether or not we should protect our huge wonderful life-giving nurturing Great Lake Erie. But that is our task on Tuesday, February 26, 2019. Our elected representatives won’t protect it.

Toledo had a national emergency in August 2014 when the city of Toledo admitted that the water was so toxic, we couldn’t drink it for three days. Four and a half years later, we drink water we buy at Aldi’s, hoping we won’t get cancer or some other dreaded disease from the toxic environment that nobody seems to want to take care of.

The Lake Erie Bill of Rights

Believe it or not, Toledoans are voting on whether we have the right to defend our Great Lake Erie from harmful, poisonous dumping. Which is one way of saying enough is enough to the harmful effects of corporate greed, industrial dumping and fertilizer run off into our lake and the water we drink. We are water too. We are the lake, the lake is us.

Corporate Greed: we are but laboratory rats in their experiment
I am the lake, the lake is me. Ouch! They chopped my head off.

Le Monde:  In summer, from space, large portions of Lake Erie take on fluorescent tints. This is not particularly good sign….

https://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2019/02/22/les-habitants-de-toledo-dans-l-ohio-appeles-a-donner-un-statut-juridique-au-lac-erie-pour-sa-survie_5426743_3244.html

Happy Birthday, Pierre

Photo by Anonymous: Felix Nadar’s second ascension of Le’ Geant in Paris on October 18, 1863 (my mother’s birthday), shown aside a regular size balloon to contrast its gigantic size, on the ground where the Eiffel Tower now stands, Champ de Mars. Le’ Geant floated all night, but in the morning, it infamously landed (by crashing across the countryside in a high wind for 30 minutes, no one escaped injury) in Hanover, Germany (where King George V took them in). Nadar’s efforts to advance aviation were praised by Jules Verne, who in his next novel, modeled the main character Ardan after Nadar in Journey From The Earth To The Moon, where he was sent to the Moon in a cannon!

A coincidental cannon, Civil War style, c. 1863. So close in the universe; so far across the world.

I’m probably not the only one wishing Pierre Gentieu (1842-1930) a Happy Birthday today, January 26 – as if I knew him personally – he would be 177 years old!  After all, Pierre owned the entire set of Jules Verne’s approximately 30 science fiction novels, translated into English (when you just know he read the books in French!) so it’s no wonder to find him projected in our hearts and our minds one hundred years later.

Consider this 1863 Parisian balloon scene and how different it is from the photo of the firing of the cannon, happening concurrently across the ocean. Imagine Pierre in 1863, age 21, as a carefree bohemian in Paris drawing satirical cartoons for underground papers, writing poetry, hanging out in salons, exploring his creativity, and perhaps he went ballooning.  But instead he sailed to America, fought in the war to abolish slavery, married Binie Weed from New Canaan Connecticut, and Voila! Here we Are!

So Happy Birthday to Pierre, who spoke French (and English), stood up for his principles, fought in nine Civil War battles, and knew quite well that there was a more progressive use for the cannon than as exemplified in the photo above.  At 177, he may or may not have gone to the Moon (who can really say), but astrologically, he is definitely completing his sixth Saturn return. (I checked his chart!) That is one wise old great great grandfather.

Pierre in 1863

9/11 seventeen years ago


Seventeen years ago

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001, and we were living in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with a photo studio in the Village. I was working from home that morning, making arrangements for a big shoot scheduled for the next week. Clients would be flying in from San Francisco for the shoot. Tom came in from outside and said that he saw the super, who said that a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. We lived about five miles east of downtown Manhattan. We ran up to the roof to see it. It was unbelievable to see a tower up in smoke. Later on, we witnessed the actual collapse of one of the towers.

Anna, who was 11 at the time, was safely at school in our neighborhood, so before noon that fateful morning, being in a bit of shock, we walked up to 7th Avenue, to the Rite Aid store. The air on our street was permeated with dust and smelled like burnt metal. At the store, the shelves that had medicine and first aid supplies were completely empty. The clerk said that people had been buying things up to donate to first aid centers.

We then walked to the nearby hospital to see if we could donate blood. They already had more people donate than they could handle, but we could check again later.


It was the worst moment in history that we have ever witnessed. The city was in mourning that week and the week after, and all work stopped.

My photo shoot had been postponed to the week after that. The clients told me that under the circumstances, they would not be flying to the shoot after all. The first day back in the studio, which was about a mile from Ground Zero, we had the casting for the shoot, and it was a record turn-out. We were all overwhelmed with grief and sadness, but we were all ready to get back to work.

Copacabana 1981

My first job in New York was photographing at the Copacabana, 1981. The film was quickly processed in the back and sloppy prints were made, full of fix, slapped wet in a folder, and then I’d have to try to sell them. I’d be off work at 2am, taking the subway and walking through Washington Square Park alone to get home!

Granddad Pinkerton & Hebe

I was 22 and still in college when I photographed my grandfather in his lazy boy chair, reflecting on the statue of Hebe, goddess of beauty and youth, as it had been dislodged from its wall space in their Westmoreland living room, a family heirloom ready for movers to pack up and ship to Oregon, to my aunt. My grandparents were moving out of their home of 50 years to a modern apartment, where they would live out their lives for a couple more years.

Fiberglass patterned curtains, clocks with different times, Hummel figurines on the TV, a bin of magazines by the lazy boy chair accented the old home’s patina.

In the background, above the Hummel figurine, hung my mother’s oil portrait of my grandfather sitting in his rose garden. I’m close to the same age as my grandfather was then, when my mother painted his portrait.