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Criminal Suspect

Why was I being followed by a police vehicle while driving slowly down Main Street? I was not stalling traffic in any way.  In fact, I was the only automobile going down Main Street in Bristol, Connecticut, the town in which I grew up. I was showing a friend, who was an architect, the tragedy that was Main Street in this factory town. The left side of the street had original structures and was actually charming.

But the right side had been completely ripped down to make way for a small shopping mall, destroying all future possibility of any historic revitalization of this downtown. I expressed my frustration to my companion of how emblematic this was of the type of thinking – to modernize rather than preserve – that one might have found at one time in towns across America. I think that today there are more examples of preservation of older architecture/districts and the value and positive results in doing so.

The policeman actually followed us into the shopping mall parking lot and watched us leave the car. It was eerie and scary, honestly. I have a theory of why I was followed, part of which is that apparently anyone perusing the architecture in Bristol, Connecticut, is a criminal suspect, particularly someone in a vehicle with New York license plates.

Being ostracized for thinking differently is one reason why I moved to New York City. Things have changed, of course, and with the plethora of media and the Internet, perhaps one is less of an outcast for being different in the small town today.

In New York City, however, with time and effort, you can not only be tolerated but also create a persona and become a small living legend by being different. Whether it is Adam Purple, graffiti artist Adam Cost, streetlamp Mosaic Man Jim Power, Tower of Toys builder Eddie Boros, or gender bender and fashionista André, you can turn eccentricity into celebrity. You can take a singular passion or talent and run with it.

It can be a very singular interest, perhaps decorating a bicycle over a period of 24 years, like that of Hector Robles in the photo. Hector grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, on 7th Street between Avenues C and D. He currently lives in Staten Island and makes the journey to Manhattan with a combination of bus, ferry, and subway, toting his bicycle the entire way. The vehicle is in a constant state of flux, a work in progress. Hector, who is of Puerto Rican ancestry, is quite religious, as can be seen by the numerous figures and images adorning his bike.

I don’t think Hector would fare well in Bristol with his bicycle. I am sure he would be tolerated, but I doubt he would be celebrated. And I hope he wouldn’t be treated like a criminal suspect :)

8 Responses to Criminal Suspect

  1. In Three Rivers, Michigan says:

    Wonderful photo and story! Hooray for Hector and his combo altar/bicycle.

    It's too bad about your home town; many small cities and towns fall prey to a combo of rapacious developers chanting "jobs-jobs-jobs" (which never seem to go to locals) and an association, especially among older residents, between old buildings and poverty. However, many others have active preservation groups, and can hang in there…
    Three Rivers Daily Photo

  2. Jarart sent me over to ladmire Hector's bicycle — and admire I did! It's a real work, whether or art or devotion, I can't say on short acquaintance.

  3. Hector's bike is a work of art.

  4. I love your blog. This diversity is one of the reasons I love NYC. Thank you for bringing me a slice of NY life every day. Gotta have my fix at lunch time in this dull midwestern city in which I live where there is precious little diversity.

  5. I grew up in a communist country where conformity was the rule and people where being jailed for standing out. I remember being questioned by a policemen once for wearing a head band (it was the 80s). I hope that policeman was just over zealous and not representative for the current state of affairs. These security concerns can easily slide into paranoia.

    Love the bike, it is quite unique. I had a look at the other links and they are just amazing. Being different, that's what I love about New York.

  6. San Luis Obispo Photographer says:

    Love this blog thank you for having it!

  7. Yeah, yeah, yeah…try waterbury in the savage '60's…fistfights every day with boorish white trash, and unlike bristol ct, we had angry black yeuts, and vicious p.r.'s with knives….I finally made it out thanks to prep school…now I am back in waterbaby, and yep, same ol' shit, but now I am a gym guy, and can kick their asses!!! hooray…yeah, I wish I lived in gr village, but good mornin waterbarry

  8. Nice shot!
    NYC is great!!

    I love shooting photography in the city.
    The Last NYC Sunrise


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