Archive for the ‘Memorable New Yorkers’ Category

Keith Alexander: Unforgettable

Five years ago today, my friend Keith Alexander passed away in a bicycle accident on the Shore Road in Brooklyn. Keith was one of those people that stuck with you after you met him – big in both personality and stature, sometimes brash, heavily tattooed, full of strong opinions about everything from cycling to body modification, he was not someone you’d likely forget. When many of his friends, myself included, found out that he had died, we were shocked, as you might imagine, but not just due to the sudden and tragic nature of his death – because he was almost larger than life, a person who walked into a room and owned it immediately, someone whose flame seemed incapable of ever being snuffed out.

During his life, he was a rock star, playing with Carnivore and Dee Snider’s Sick Motha Fuckers; a piercer and scarification artist, operating Modern American Bodyarts in Brooklyn; a teacher, teaching classes at The New School. He served as an adviser to Dee Snider for his film Strangeland and organized the film’s celebratory opening party, the Night of 1000 Scars. He was interested in martial arts, music, marketing, cycling, body art, technology – he once told me that he could get along with anyone because he could always find some common interest. The sheer diversity of the people who attended his funeral were a testament to the amazing individual that he was: martial arts practitioners, rock stars, heavily tattooed body modification enthusiasts, marketing professionals, little old ladies, you name it, they were there to celebrate his life and mourn his sudden passing.

In the five years since he died, the things we’ve learned about his last moments add to the amazing and sometimes surreal life story of our incredible friend. Each year on this day, several of his friends go to the spot where he died to leave flowers. The first year, we met a couple who had been there and saw what had happened. He was riding down the Shore Road path, which was used by cyclists, runners, and walkers alike, and came up behind a father and son who were cycling together. Keith was coming up fast behind them when the child, who had been riding erratically, swerved in front of him. Keith swerved to avoid hitting the kid, hit a pothole in the bike path, and went full-speed into a guard rail. This man and woman, who were jogging separately on either side of the accident location, went to his aid and stayed with him until help arrived, but his injuries were too severe and he died at the scene. These two people, who had been strangers before that day, went on to become a couple.

In subsequent years, we’ve met many people on whom Keith made an impression, some who knew him from around the neighborhood, and some who were strangers but remembered him from seeing him every day on the bike path. The path has been repaired and the section where he died no longer goes right up next to the highway. Instead, there’s a fence between the path and the highway, and it would be impossible for the scenario in which he died to occur today.

We still go there every year to raise a glass to him and remember his amazing life, and we’ll be there again today. I wonder who we’ll meet this time.

Fresh Poetry While You Wait

Ana writes fresh poems

Ana writes fresh poems

Just as I was enjoying the reduced foot traffic due to the July 4th weekend, I bumped into Anayvelyse. She was set up with a typewriter and a bench, ready to create poetry for a suggested donation of $2.

Situated around the Union Square area (University Pl. between 13th and 14th streets), Ana writes off the top of her mind to busy New Yorkers who need a little refreshing kick that only poetry can provide.

After reading yesterday’s NYTimes piece about how street vendors fight off each other in NYC, I was wondering how Ana avoids that situation, I did not have a chance to ask her when we met. But she did tell me that police does not bother her since she’s not actually selling poems, but requesting a suggested donation. After hearing some of the worst singers known to man performing in Union Square and invading the subways with their horrific tones; the poetry is a welcome, soothing change.

Here’s a sampling of what she’s capable of:

To the rooftops of this barren city, as if gazing down
down below. Moving, aerial, fluid, the pedestrians
marching below. Coming as if from all sides, pushing
towards the real of the city. I see them below, as
they rant in their step, an endless flow of presence,
a sacrifice to the streets.
So go get yourself a fresh poem while you’re out!

Ride in the park with Keith

I went for a ride in Central Park this afternoon. The weather was perfect and the bike worked flawlessly. I was at one. Zen.

Central Park in April

Local filmmakers celebrate 20 years of cinematic innovation

Zeitgeist MugsLocal filmmakers Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo of Zeitgeist Films sat down with Premiere Senior Editor and NYC Metblogs pal Jenni Miller to talk about their experiences in the film industry and the 20th anniversary of their company. I tagged along to photograph the two for the article and was interested to hear what they had to say about women in the film business and bringing great films that mix the political with the artistic to the public. From the article:

Zeitgeist Films, an independent film company known for delivering intelligent arthouse cinema to US audiences, is celebrating its 20th anniversary with a retrospective of its award-winning films at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. The company’s co-Presidents, Nancy Gerstman and Emily Russo, sat down with Premiere in their Soho office to discuss entrepreneurship, creating a girl’s club within a male-dominated industry, and acquiring the documentary, Trouble the Water.

It’s an interesting article and outlook from two women who followed their passion for making great films (and kept the company local – their offices are in SoHo). You can also see the retrospective Zeitgeist: The Films of Our Time at the Museum of Modern Art, but hurry – the retrospective ends next Wednesday, July 23.

In Memoriam – Keith Alexander

Three years ago today, my friend Keith Alexander died in Brooklyn in a cycling accident. Keith was a lifelong Brooklyn resident and one of the original contributors to the NYC Metblog. I can hardly believe that it’s been three years already; it seems like just yesterday I was at a bar in Brooklyn with him, talking about music and technology and our crazy-ass friends and making the bartender’s life hell. I miss him a lot.

Today, BME News (site is not safe for work!) relaunched with a piece about Keith (interview link safe for work) as its lead story. Several people contributed their memories and thoughts about Keith, including me. Take a look, and if you knew him, share some memories of your own.

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