No, I haven’t moved to Chicago. I haven’t even decided if I’d like to live there or not. Or where I’d even like to live at all in the future. I’m still in Michigan planning to periodically visit the Windy City from time to time. I have family and friends there, plus there seems to be possible outlets there for my filming addiction.
I’m starting to get ideas on how to possibly present past Amazing Strangers footage. I’ve thought of focusing on one character, like Dusty for instance, along with some music, I could put together a brief story about that subject in an interesting way. So if by chance you or someone you know has music they’d like to get out there, especially if it’s themed around NYC, Union or one of the “Strangers” there, I’d be very interested to hear/use it. I’d give full credit and promote the musician behind it in any way possible. Which reminds me…
I was in Chicago last week, and while there I ran into Kameltoe! I’d been planning to go to Chicago for the last week of September for a while. Then, just happened to mention it to Kameltoe (who is in LA), and by chance she was going there be there the same time!
So we met up in Millennium Park and recorded some of her new songs. She has many new songs, and I recorded about 6 of them that afternoon. I’ll get them to you as ways to present them come to me.
Yes, I have been able to finally work on art now that I’m away from NYC, but most of it has been paid jobs! I can’t share most of what I’ve done because they’re assignments that are reserved for client use only for now. But one of the pieces I can show is this Octopizza that’s scheduled to become a tattoo on someone’s forearm.
I am indeed for hire for art jobs, no matter how weird or wrong it may seem. Those are often my favorite kinds of jobs to do.
“Richy’s Paradise” was first posted on YouTube a week ago. It was up for about 6 hours, then Richy contacted me and asked that it be taken down. It was a painful call to receive, and just as painful to remove it. I love the video and I feel it’s important for people to see. But I also hated that he was so troubled by it. That’s my responsibility to bear.
Richy is off the grid. He’s not online, on Facebook or anywhere else. He doesn’t even have an email. That combined with him being almost a complete shut in, it shouldn’t have surprised me that he might freak out to all of a sudden have this, my camera inside his home, and some pretty vulnerable moments as well, on YouTube for the world to see.
Today however I talked to him and I’m happy to say I’ve gotten permission to post it.
When I first met him he was bouncing between homelessness and that building’s basement, dumpster diving, living hand to mouth.
The reason he’s able to live where he does is because he’s the superintendent of the building, responsible for all the work necessary to keep a building like that legal and standing. It’s a job he’s worked hard to get. He’s on-call 24-7, which contributes to his anxiety. But that’s also how he’s taught himself the construction, plumbing and electric for the work he does in his own place.
I’m thankful he’s willing to let me put this out there as is despite the worries he might have about no longer being so anonymous.
It’s just by chance I got this opportunity to see the inside of his home. A few days before I left the city for good I happened to walk by him there on 13th & 4th. He was sitting on the sidewalk working on some arts & crafts project. I told him I was moving away, so he invited me over to give me one of his maps. In this video you’re witnessing my discovery of him too.
All of the art, music, wood carvings and craftsmanship are 100% Richy’s work. All the songs on the piano are untitled, and written down only in his head.
I am no longer in New York. In fact, where I’m at is really REALLY not New York! Where I’m at in Michigan is a very different land to say the least. And here is where I’m getting my head together.
I just got off the phone with Shaggy, and he’s turning over some new leafs as well. “No more hanging out with the homeless!” is what he just told me.
After I left, he said he realized he wanted nothing more to do with them. He’s got one, maybe two that he’s still talking to since I left, but decided he’d rather be rollin’ solo than caught up in their drama in any way, shape or form. He even said he’s stopped introducing himself to people as Shaggy (his homeless name) and now says “I’m Bob.”
I was the one normal person in his life for such a long time there, and with me now gone he has no interest in hanging with the street people. He stops by Union Square for no more than an hour on any given day, hangs with the skaters who say hi to him and keep it movin’, but that’s it. Union’s totally empty now. He hasn’t seen any of the regulars hanging out there lately, and now with Fall just around the corner things are only going to get quieter.
I feel very good about being out of there. I’m still settling into my new schedule of doing less. A lot less. And forgetting I don’t have to be as stressed any more. My brain has been programmed to look for things to worry about. And when the top thing gets resolved it goes to the next one. And so on. That has to end.
Just starting to work on new freelance jobs and feeling productive again. That’s the key for me to start feeling good and at home. I need to feel purpose here, so I’m putting those ducks in line now.
I had one last video posted for less than 6 hours before the subject of it, Richy, told me he was really disturbed by his behavior in it and he wanted it taken down. It kills me to have had to take it off, but I also don’t want to disturb him. I really do like him as an artist and a person, so I’m trying to figure out another way to present it so he can sleep at night with it out there. He’s just such an amazing artist, and the piece itself I think is one of my best, so I’m going to do everything I can to get it to you in one piece at some point. And this is where it’ll be when it goes up again…
On the flip side, Ricky Dale called me and loves her video. I do too. But I especially love the swan-song she gave me to end my final video with Shaggy Bob.
If I were still there I’d be having a lot of trouble keeping my camera away from her. I hope someone else can pick up where I left off. She deserves to be discovered.
I’ve also been going through my backup of Union Square videos with a new appreciation. I’m experiencing that bizarre sensation of it feeling like a dream of some sort. It’s really strange. Hard to describe. I feel like I just returned from a trip to Oz.
If you haven’t heard it yet, I did an interview with Smug Films explaining a lot about why I left NYC, and delved further into some of the less talked about situations I got myself in at Union Square. Listen to that here at Smug Films website.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this footage yet. I’m still trying to wrap my head around everything I’ve got! Until then though, I’ve put off posting all the photos from my last couple months there, so I’ll be getting those up for you to see as of right now.
My friends, after 13 fruitful years in New York City it’s finally time for me to leave. I’m over it. The bloom is off the rose. I’m moving to go be closer to family, help out my parents and enjoy the freedom to work on my art in peace. That’s what I’ve been doing most when I visit them, and it’s just been impossible for me to find enough space & peace in this city to do that.
There are many reasons I feel the need to leave.
I am no longer enchanted with what I once saw here. I hate what I see it turning into and the type of people flooding in. They’ve priced me out, and killed my enthusiasm to document it. I just can’t keep up.
I also need to be with family. I got none of that here. And lately I’ve been feeling that lack harder than ever.
This isn’t necessarily the end of Amazing Strangers. I have enough footage and photos to furnish many other projects. I also have a lot of unused, unseen stuff to put out there. It does however mean the end of my Union Square updates. August will be my final month.
I will still keep up with normalbob.com same as ever. My passion for this is still strong. That’s part of it too. There’s a lot more I want to do.
It couldn’t be more clear to me that I am done with this chapter of my life. It’s been brewing in me for a while now. I’m also really looking forward to seeing where this takes me. I rule out nothing.
Check out an interview I did with Smug Film were I go into further detail on my departure. I’ve got a few unheard stories that you’ll probably find very interesting, and more.