Pedestrian Spy!
A surveillance-junkie's project-o-riffic 
wonder world of opinionated scape goating!

    This is the part of my website where I snap random pictures of people from my fire escape with a cheap telescopic lens camera, and then post them on the internet and make up wild, base-less, opinionated opinions about who they are, what they are like, and what they are thinking.
    There has been a lot of recent debate about the "New Big Brother" and advancing electronic surveillance techniques in urban areas designed to counter-act crime and terrorism... and the sweeping changes and under-handed erosion it may cause in our basic civil liberties. I recently read the facts/speculations discussed in this article in the Village Voice.
    I'm not necessarily against surveillance cameras in urban areas... I'm kind of indifferent to it... maybe because I feel like I really have nothing to hide (or maybe that's just what I want you to think)... I don't know. The whole "New Big Brother" thing strikes me as one of those things that ratty, activist liberal law school types like to bully people into debating about. They're all "Can you believe the rising potential of CTS and the effect it could have on our individual privacy" and I'm like "Oh... yea, these things are important to keep track of... but it doesn't bother me too much... I mean I..." and his face gets red and he rumbles "DOESN'T BOTHER YOU MUCH!? MY GOD HAVE YOU NO REGARD FOR THE BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF..." and I start nodding smiling-ly and my ears go on auto pilot and I turn to the guy behind the counter and say "Can you make that falafel to go please?"
    So to contribute to this trend, I have decided to experience it from the other, more fun, end. I think the whole omnipresent, unblinking observation eye of surveillance in our cities is a control freak's wet dream... and I'm taking the driver's seat. Here's MY contribution. I perch up on my fifth floor fire escape and snap random pictures of people on the street and then post them here, along with my instantly-formed opinions about them. Or is it what I'm mirroring my owning up to my perception of my own opinions about myself expressed through my opinion of what they are thinking?  It's a Judgement-o-rama technological wonder world of scape goating, I've never felt so in control... and I'm so full of projection I might as well eat film for breakfast. You decide...
    The pictures are kind of blurry and TV screen-y because I was so far away. Plus the blurry, digital-y fuzzed-out electronic image is consistent and often synonymous with the surveillance camera genre.
    Actually a couple of these people I have seen around my neighborhood before... so the opinions I have formed of them before will count in my summaries of them below. I hope the Surveillance Camera Outdoor Walking Tour of New York City includes me on their walking tour! I think I'll send them an email explaining who I am and what I do. And if you start walking around the Lower East Side, and feel a certain opinionated something leering over your shoulder from 50 yards away...
Who: A man pushing a woman in a wheelchair while another woman walks along. All appear to be middle aged. The woman (?) being pushed appears to possibly have a debilitating disability like severe CP or something, as her arm seems poised in mid-spazz.
What they are doing: The walking man and woman are carting the wheelchair "woman" to go get her mullet cut off (which is clearly visible) as the New York Times, as of summer '03, has recently proclaimed ironic mullet haircuts as officially, finally "over." Note: mullet haircut on non-trendily-dressed handicapped person in wheelchair may be evidence of lesbianism on one or all three. The man could possibly be an extremely butch lesbian. Note: attention to fashion rules betrays most lesbian stereotype.
Lifestyle: Handicapped lesbianism
Thinking: "I can't wait to get this mullet cut off my handicapped lesbian girlfriend... I hope no one sees it beforehand."

Who: Chinese lady
What they are doing: Carrying a red plastic sack down the street on her way home to steam dinner AND (of course) scraping her black sandals on the sidewalk so loudly that the men with jackhammers next to her stopped jack hammering and put their hands over their ears and screamed "Ahhhhh! What's that awful noise!?" She just kept walking by all smiley and oblivious. OBSERVATION: why do all asian women drag their heels and scrape-flop their sandals on the ground in NYC? No, really... WHY?! I'm having a nervous breakdown here!!! ALSO: why do all Asian people have those red plastic sacks and everyone else has black or white ones? Are the red plastic sacks better? Do non-asians horde them? Do they dispense out of the smiling mouth of some giant, golden cat shrine sculpture in some secret place off of Canal Street? What's up with that?
Lifestyle: Hogger of red plastic sacks
Thinking: "I need a small ego-boost... I think I will scrape my sandals on the pavement as I walk and just stare ahead all oblivious like I'm dreaming of the magic land of where red plastic sacks come from."

Who: Saucy, full-figured latina woman with form-fitting white jeans, mule sling-back shoes, an off-the-shoulder Daisy Duke-style blowzy blouse, beautiful hair, subtly shiny makeup and flawless ghetto claws. She is carrying a sack of Wonder Bread and a paper plate. NOTE: is walking with exaggerated confidence commonly associated with women in her socioeconomic/ethnic category. ALSO NOTE: Exaggerated confidence often is a sign of hiding something, like lack of confidence. Her seductive style of dress (particularly the off-the-shoulder blouse which revealed a well-moisterized and rather sparkly shoulder) and body language communicated that she wants attention and wants you to know that she wants attention and is in control of both sides of both her as the desir-ee and you as the desire-er. This is more direct than the Asian woman (above) who's passive/aggressive attempt to gain attention from the workmen near her with her loud sandal flop-scraping is more subtle.
What they are doing: Going back up to her apartment to eat some Wonder Bread on a paper plate, or perhaps refurbishing supplies for a party or picnic. NOTE: could possibly be using bread slices and paper plate as shoulder pads for her outfit.
Lifestyle: In Your Face.
Thinking: "I am bad and beautiful. Look at my big fine ass and flawless hair. I'm going up to my apartment to eat some Wonder Bread on a paper plate. Mmm-hmmm, that's right. You got a problem with that? You wanna say somethin'? I didn't THINK so!"

Who: Young guy in a remarkably unique outfit (satin/nylon, loose fitting shirt with an odd orange/red design on it, purple, flowing shiny pants and flip flops) walking a gay dog.
What they are doing: Walking a gay dog and secretly wondering if people are checking out his mind-blowing threads.
Lifestyle: Boyfriend of slim, artsy girl who owns a boutique in the Lower East Side that sells her "creative" clothes designs... which he wears in public because he loves her. She picked out the dog too.
Thinking: "God I hate this dog."

Who: Person of indeterminate sex driving around Manhattan on a yellow scooter wearing a yellow coat, white helmet and yellow flip flops. Remaining as motionless as possible while driving motorized scooter... almost android-like.
What they are doing: Channeling their fetishistic need to become a human traffic light.
Lifestyle: Recluse with possible institutionalized past, or history of drug abuse. NOTE: These sordid pasts (and present secret wish to become an inanimate object) are unknown to almost everyone in this person's current life. NOTE: individual was possibly taken to McDonald's a lot as a child... as it's typically brightly-colored, form-cast interiors and aesthetic seems to have had a dramatic effect on his/her subconscious.
Thinking: "If I had been born a midget this would go over so much more fantastically!"

Who: Incredibly handsome and sexy latin guy.
What they are doing: Walking around the neighborhood in a sleeveless T-shirt and pencil mustache, making people pop boners all around him. NOTE: good looking people, naturally, will attract more attention and therefor will be "surveyed" in this experiment more than regular slobs, naturally.
Lifestyle: Filled with lots of opportunities and drama, like most gorgeous people.
Thinking: "I am walking down a street."

Who: Trio of women... one middle aged, in blue, and rather normal looking ...and then two much older ones behind her that are totally mind-blowing - one with a cane and giant alien-eye black sunglasses, and the other in a denim halter top, pleated shorts, high heels and deep tan and a giant white lightbulb-head hairdo (the younger one may be a daughter). Both older ones are smoking and walking very slow.
What they are doing: One seems to be there as a point of duty (the younger one) as she kept walking ahead of them, then stopping and turning around and saying "Come ooonnn!" while the older ones just kept strolling slower and slower. The two older ones seem to be in ego-parade mode; strolling around, smoking cigarettes and socializing with other people in the neighborhood. Lightbulb Head Woman may also be working on her tan. NOTE: her tan lines may possibly match this outfit.
Lifestyle: Younger one seems to be in Hell, while older two may be retired and possibly divorced/widowed. Their lifestyles are quite possibly incredibly relaxed and trouble-free. Lightbulb head's insistence on wearing rap video-style sexy clothes (despite her age and potato-like figure) and bouffant hair communicates that she has gone beyond not caring what people think of her, which is a good thing (if she were in a gang she would be the leader). NOTE: women like Lightbulb Head and her friend are often parodied on comedy television shows... which they probably don't "get" or even care about.
Thinking: Younger woman: "Oh Abraham! may I have just one drop of water to cool my parched tongue!?"
 Lightbulb Head Woman: total absence of thought (which would equal desire)... nirvana, inner peace... perfect thoughtless bliss... God-like perfection .Cane Lady: ditto

Who: Teenage boy in all red... hurriedly running around the neighborhood apparently looking for someone. NOTE: seemed to switch back and forth between butch latin mode and totally queeny gayness. NOTE: when he seemed to find the person whom he was looking for... he shrieked to them from a block away, slightly hopped up and down on the balls of his feet, and did that raised-arm "screwing-in-a-lightbulb" wave that the Queen of England does from her car when waiving to civilians.
What they are doing: Looking for someone and half heartedly suppressing desire to start doing runway moves.
Lifestyle: Lives in a latin neighborhood and goes to school. All his friends are girls.
Thinking: "I secretly wish I was Lightbulb Head Woman."

Who: Latin, pudgy, face-pierced, possibly mexican homosexual wearing a Joan Jett/Pete Burns-ish "gothic for summer" outfit with fringe T-shirt sleeves (homemade with scissors) and wearing headphones.
What they are doing: On his way to pick up club invite flyers for his job handing them out outside the exit of giant gay clubs in the rain on weekend nights.
Lifestyle: Permanent outcast. Kind of like a black guy at hardcore punk shows... this guy will always be slightly "off" in his chosen subculture (gay industrial pierced goth trapped in a 1990 time warp). Twice-weekly attendance at East Village screenings of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" prevent him from meeting a boyfriend at SBNY or The Roxy.
Thinking: "Ministry's second album was the best one."

Who: Possibly actor Wallace Langham (on right)
What they are doing: Walking towards the East Village possibly being actor Wallace Langham and catching people's attention because of this.
Lifestyle: If he really is Wallace Langham: baggy eyes from 5:30am call times, and fame. If he is not Wallace Langham: ordinary life with strange occasional perks afforded to someone who looks remarkably like Wallace Langham.
Thinking: "Why do people keep yelling 'Gary Shandling!' at me?"

Who: I have seen this guy around for about two years. He's semi-homeless and hangs with the "Siesta House" crowd (if you're familiar with any of my 'Top Ten' entries from 2003, you may be familiar with this vermin and drama-infested trailer/shack that used to exist under the bridge in my neighborhood that a lot of the homeless locals used to stay in). I call this guy "Jesus" for obvious reasons. He's kind of young for a homeless guy (although he seems to be aging fast)... and may possibly have had a wild past. Every time I pass him he is screaming conspiracy nut and anti-government stuff. He seems like he'd be fun to hang out with... to a point.
What they are doing: Walking around scoping the street and connecting with other members of the Siesta House crowd.
Lifestyle: See: the context of any Raymond Pettibon drawing.
Thinking: "The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles."

Who: I have also seen this woman around for even longer, about four years. She lives in the area and also hangs with the Siesta House crowd. She is not homeless. She is very friendly and a little nutty. She dressed kind of nice for hanging out with such a "low brow" crowd. I think she just likes the excitement. She looks like a cross between (actress) Lupe Ontiveros and (John Waters' actress and greeting card model) Jean Hill. Once I saw her in the back of the deli I frequent downstairs. She was pouring vodka into three plastic cups for her friends and mixing it with Libby's Cherry Juicy Juice, and stirring that with a Twix bar, and then eating the Twix. She was out of sight of the owners and when I saw her she put her finger over her mouth and mouthed "Shhhhh!"
What they are doing: Walking around scoping the street and connecting with other members of the Siesta House crowd.
Lifestyle: Laughing and tipsy.
Thinking: "That dumpster would make a great serving bar."

Who: Chinese lady wearing an upside-down tulip flower hat made of wicker. I see asian women in these hats all the time. Gays in NYC steal artifacts from other cultures all the time and make them trendy... why this one hasn't caught on yet is beyond me. 
What they are doing: Walking home and, of course, scraping her white clogs on the sidewalk loudly. 
Lifestyle: Wandering Daoist 
Thinking: "The sage has no mind of his own. He is aware of the needs of others. I am good to people who are good. I am also good to people who are not good. Because Virtue is goodness. I have faith in people who are faithful. I also have faith in people who are not faithful. Because Virtue is faithfulness. The sage is shy and humble - to the world he seems confusing. Others look to him and listen. He behaves like a little child..." alternated with; "Why does mom collect aluminum cans?" 

Who: Strikingly odd Asian woman in black tights, leg warmers, and a brigtly patterned maternity dress. Also had a kind of "Holly Hobbit" bonnet on with a different pattern. Carrying a giant umbrella with yet another pattern.
What they are doing: Walking around in her tin-foil insulated Holly Hobbit bonnet and her tin-foil insulated umbrella blocking out the Frankenstein Gangster Jew Torture Laboratory Wagon waves that are trying to erase her memory and replace her with a clone (she was able to sense my camera and block it out, obviously).
Lifestyle: Non-stop, inner-world adventure.
Thinking: "Away ye... to The Land of Nod!"

Who: Fairly homely girl riding bike while wearing flowing tie-dyed dress, Birkenstocks, and then a bike helmet with a rhinestone tiara on top of it (yes really).
What they are doing: Being free.
Lifestyle: Possibly bi-polar and nuts. Can often be heard loudly saying things like "I have this habit of getting into conversations with total strangers!" NOTE: Personality probably swings between these two realms:
    1) Hippie girl optimism and friendliness... everybody's favorite kooky girl.... lifestyle punctuated with free-form dancing to trance music, giving strawberry ice cream cones to homeless bums lying in the gutter, pot smoking and jewelry made out of twine and sticks and weeds she finds in the park that she then gives to strangers on the street and:
    2) A whirlwind of neurotic issues, frustrated/unresolved childhood trauma and dangerous psychosis and depression, accentuated with pro-active vindictiveness, relentless judgment of others and eye-for-eye karmic point checking.
Thinking: "The nudist camp this year is going to be wonderful."

Who: I have seen woman on my street for years. She's brilliant. She wears old time-y clothes (accentuated this with a fanny pack) and rides an old bike everywhere. She also has long braided pigtails. She is a bit standoff-ish but not unfriendly. She seems really smart. She appears to be an activist of sorts... very political... she probably doesn't like surveillance cameras. See the black knee-high socks and 1800's black boots? Now that's brilliant. She lives in this building on the street that looks like no others, and it has these really strange old windows. I've walked by before when the door was open and peaked inside and it looked like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. I would walk up and introduce myself but I'm afraid if I went into her place she would offer me rhubarb pie and oat straw tea and show me her wooden sculpture with a hole in it and make me try her smelling machine and then teach me the banjo.
What they are doing: Going off to do brilliantly beautiful things I'm sure. I imagine when she leaves... she rides her bike to a rolling green hill area with windmills.
Lifestyle: Angelic selfless perfection.
Thinking: "I need to pick up more Tannis-root."

Who: Chewbacca Woman
What they are doing: Running inside her building before her Wookie fur pops out of the human rubber skin mold she has designed to cover her massive fur.
Lifestyle: Wookie hiding on planet Earth for some reason, disguised as a human. I have seen this woman before and she is so big and so wide and her hair is so huge that I swear she is a Wookie in disguise. Probably forced to work menial jobs as she can't do anything where she has to speak because no one can understand "Rhhheeeeuuuuaaaaggghhh!!!" Maybe she could be that person who makes announcements on subway speakers. ACCORDING TO WOOKIE LORE: Wookies are sentient and for the most part, friendly. They are very loyal to those they trust, but can also be very violent when angered. They are proficient in hand to hand combat, which is usually the method used during disputes on his home planet. Their language is a series of growls, grunts, and roars. Their vocal abilities don't allow them to speak basic, but most of them do understand it. Their planet is a forest world, covered in Wroshyr trees, which the Wookies build their cities and homes in. The trees grow so close together that one can walk on top of the foliage. Their society is technologically advanced and they have mastered space travel.
Thinking: "Rhhheeeeuuuuaaaaggghhh!!!"

Who: Two genius teenagers
What they are doing: Riding their bikes really slowly around, one of which is a hand-made, jerry-rigged tricycle with a giant basket in the back for a *HUGE* jambox which bass-heavy music was *blasting* out of for the whole universe to hear. Amazing.
Lifestyle: Endless summer.
Thinking: total absence of thought (which would equal desire)... nirvana, inner peace... perfect thoughtless bliss... God-like perfection .

Who: I have seen this woman (pushing baby) around for the last year or two and she is a total fucking genius. She is like the female (born), non-ironic version of Amanda Lepore.
What they are doing: Walking her baby in a stroller and rocking everyone's world
Lifestyle: She is latina and probably in her late-20's, early-30's. She has a triple process blond dye job which she always keeps styled in "calendar girl" styles. She always has on full-glam make-up but doesn't really need it as she has a very pretty face and nice skin. She always has on nice jewelry and has her nails done. She has a Pamela Anderson-type body she keeps in great shape. She is always wearing some incredibly sexy outfit... like a coffee-ice-cream colored ultra-mini and halter top and blazer jacket with metallic gold pumps and jangling bracelets and a gold hair bracket... ALL WHILE PUSHING A BABY CART!!! This woman is ALWAYS dressed to the Maxim-Magazine/Telemundo-talk-show-host EXTREME (she kind of seems dressed down here in this photo) and is never without a huge sexy smile and a big wave to everyone. She also has a super confident, street-smart, friendly personality similar to former Texas Governor Anne Richards... but more in your face (it's a latina thing). I have never seen her with a husband or boyfriend so I think she's a single mom. I have also never seen this woman not "on" and not taking care of her kid (which is a boy and is totally adorable - she dresses him in little baby baseball uniform outfits). I think this woman gets up at 5am every morning for her morning feedings AND to get the Farrah-curls and mascara just right.  I saw her before she had her kid and she was wearing a maternity dress... full hair and make-up and high heels. All the guys in the neighborhood know her and wave to her and always say things like "Ohhh momma you are beautiful!!!" and she always smiles and waves back and says "Thanks boys! You havin' a good day!?" and it totally makes their week. She also seems to be friends with all the women around. Just walking past her on the street is as refreshing as a tall, cool glass of water. She has zero attitude and is a shining ray of bright sunshine every time I see her.
Thinking: "I love the world."

Who: Totally normal, non-threatening, non-weird person
What they are doing: Something normal
Lifestyle: Nothing weird or creepy or sinister going on here folks! So sir-reee! Yep... A-OK! Everything's f-i-i-i-n-n-n-e-e-e!!!
Thinking: "I smell chiiiillll-dreeeen..."

Who: Radical feminist performance artist
What they are doing: Messing with male, white corporate society minds on the Lower East Side by pushing a giant vagina with a baby's head popping out of it (and an audio cassette blasting Miss Piggy reading from Valerie Solanis' 'S.C.U.M. Manifesto') on wheels ...while on her way to a woman-only poetry reading at Blue Stockings book store
Lifestyle: Ed Asner in stretch pants
Thinking: "That's offensive."

Who: Shimmering American Indian Fashion-y Ghost Lady
What they are doing: Shimmering and evaporating and disappearing and re-appearing all over the place at once... only visible through people's peripheral vision. Wearing designer labels. Forgetting she's an astral projection and trying to drink a blueberry soy smoothy through a straw and having it spill all through her and onto the concrete below. Always wondered what those spilled stains on the concrete are? They're from ghosts who dry to drink stuff.
Lifestyle: Floating through unknown realms and making sure anyone who needs special help is getting it... guarding against evil big and small... helping the meek... levitating expensive dresses right out the doors of Upper East Side boutiques and placing them at the feet of women who can't afford them (the salespeople are always too shocked to do anything, or the recipients are sometimes accused of shoplifting via ESP)... considering her Native American plight and why there are no American Indian supermodels and getting her revenge on her people via fashion-y ghost stuff... wearing kick-ass invisible clothes and shoes.
Thinking: "Pink and brown are the new colors for fall. 'Granny Chic' will also make a comeback."

Who: Ice cream truck
What they are doing: Playing a horribly loud recording of a music box "ice cream man," song out of it's loudspeaker and making people's ears bleed
Lifestyle: Playing an awful and ear-splitting, scratchy, blaring recording at top volume and driving people insane. Selling cheap but colorful ice cream that people buy mostly to use to stick in their ears to soothe and stop the bleeding. Learning sign language because of mysterious on-sets of deafness in people all around it. Starting a "noise war" with the sandal flop-scraping asian ladies to see who can make the most apocalyptic, building-rattling racket.
Thinking: "What?"

copyright Mark Allen - 2004
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