Urban Life

Fifth Ave

U is for an homage to urban life.

Letter U

Not all that’s beautiful is unmarred. I’ve caught my breath at many a ruin I’ve discovered by surprise, whether on a hiking trail in the Santa Monica mountains (below, right), or across the street from the Indian Ocean (below, left).


Then there’s the urban environment, not unmarred either, but captivating. The following images are my homage to street life. While the circumstances of some street people may be unfortunate, the presence of those without traditional shelter seems to be an everyday — if devastating — part of the urban habitat, certainly for as long as society remains a little broken. My concern over a potential callous description of struggling individuals led me to include the majority of images of unsheltered street folks in a different type of post. In the pictorial here I’ve tried to preserve a range of other people populating various streets, be they in Los Angeles, New York, San Jose or Colombo.

Street Bikes

Street Life

Growing up in Iran, we’d drive by shanty towns entirely made of corrugated tin. Those tin cities remain a dominant image in my memories of Tehran, along with the curious faces staring back at my own curiosity. Later, as an adult, I experienced the same expressions while visiting Colombo, Sri Lanka (below).

Sri Lanka Kids

Sri Lanka Sunset

Sri Lanka Houses

The Colombo images are a couple of years old, from the time I booked the lead in a movie meant to shoot in Sri Lanka. The booking caused me to miss three weeks of film class, which I had to make up by turning in an extra credit assignment. So I scraped together the shaky, lo-res footage and pictures of Sri Lanka I found on my phone, and added words and music. Ironically, the phone video survives, but the movie I was starring in never it made to completion. I got Sri Lanka out of it though.

On the video I slapped on the label “Have a Heart Productions,” not referring to the content of the footage, but as a buttering up joke for the film teacher to accept my bid for extra credit. (He did not.)

Here’s the pixelated Sri Lanka journey.

Having been raised in Tehran and New York, aspects of city life, from poverty in exotic capitals to “tagged” ATMs and bullet holes in urban America, seem routine to me. This feels wrong. But maybe the psyche needs to categorize everyday human woes into “routine” so we can walk down the street without having an existential crisis.

The bullet hole below is of a Hollywood storefront. It happened between the time I walked to a concert venue to watch the Exceptionally Tall Man play the keyboard, and afterward when the two of us walked home together. The picture was taken by the Formerly Perfect Man, who left the gig before us, and jokingly claims he can’t come to my neighborhood without getting shot.

Bullet and ATM

I refer to the inexplicable allure of alleys, construction sites, abandoned shacks and ruins as a welcome haunting in me. Certain barely-standing structures are tragically sublime, even breathtaking. There are so many untold stories in a beautiful ruin.

(Companion piece: City Girl Hauntings.)

City Elements

Cab and Subway


~ Part of the A to Z Challenge ~
A post a day except Sunday for the month of April to cover topics beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Events always real, names always changed.

Cathartic Monkeyism returns in May.

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  1. Cities are such fascinating places – maybe events is a better word, ongoing collective events, always in flux, not mere places. Thank you for this collection of impressions.

    1. Thanks for your visit. “Ongoing collective events” — that’s a nice way of putting it.

  2. You have such an eye for beauty, Gigi – for the cycle of humanity within civilisation and civilisation within humanity. Your images are beautiful but like the poet you quoted, there is as much and maybe more beauty in your mind and through the windows of your own self, as there is in the vistas around you. Thanks for letting us stand outside and peep in šŸ™‚ ā¤

    1. And you’re so lovely to see me that way — it seems like a much better version than I see myself.

      1. I think many would prefer to see themselves through other people’s eyes.

      2. I don’t necessarily prefer it. I do like it through your eyes, though. šŸ˜‰

      3. Well that’s alright then ā¤


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