NEW YORK — Leaping off the 1 World Trade Center building seems like something of a holy grail for enthusiasts of BASE jumper, and last September a small group of enthusiasts managed to pull off the incredible feat, while capturing the exhilirating descent on video.

“BASE,” of course, is shorthand for the four types of fixed structures from which parachuted daredevils seek out: Buildings, antennae, spans (bridges) and earth (cliffs).

While the Freedom Tower at 1,368 feet tall isn’t quite as tall as the 452.02 meters (1,482 feet) of Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Twin Towers, the height is nonetheless dizzying.

Gothamist reported that the BASE jumping team, comprising James Brady, 32; Andrew Rossig, 33; Marko Markovich, 26; and Kyle Hartwell, 29, turned themselves into the New York Police Department to face charges of reckless endangerment, burglary and BASE jumping for the September 30, 2013, incident.

Streets of downtown Manhattan from the view of a BASE jumper.

A view of Manhattan from the point of view a BASE jumper who leaped from the Freedom Tower.


Update: “The First Kiss” by Tatia Pilieva was commissioned by a fashion label, according to The New York Times.

“Melissa Coker, 35, the founder and creative director of the clothing company Wren, commissioned the video to showcase her clothing line’s fall collection for Style.com’s Video Fashion Week. Style.com had created the video series for brands that might lack the financial wherewithal to put on a runway show during Fashion Week,” the newspaper notes.

But it doesn’t make a difference to me. The video, highlighting that tiny journey together for several pairs of people, remains as moving, sweet and human, regardless of how it was funded.


Magic is all around us. Sometimes you have to know where to look. Other times, it unfolds right in front of us.

This film by Liberty Smith and Sophie Windsor Clive falls in the latter category.

Murmuration


Food carts, a dog and a basket in Kolkata, India.

Curious signs — to me, at least — appeared almost everywhere.

KOLKATA, India — My interest piqued by signs nearly everywhere I looked, I often resorted to taking photographs in order to reflect on their meanings later.

It wasn’t just the street signs, such as the one for Shakespeare Sarani, that caught my eye.

“Roll Chow Sanks Bar — Handicapped” was a curious one amid a row of what may have been food carts. I think it might have been a snack bar of some sort.

“Momo Club” was anyone’s guess.

One of the city’s wily dogs stopped for a look, though I think she was more interested in scraps than in explaining.


Communists In Kolkata's

The hammer-and-sickle flag of West Bengal’s Communist Party flies around Kolkata.

KOLKATA, India — In the cultural capital of the world’s largest democracy, the hammer-and-sickle flag of the Communist Party flies from street lamps and public parks as commonly as most Americans at home see the Stars and Stripes.

Although the finer points of the Marxist organization lie beyond the scope of this blog’s focus — as well as any expertise on my part — it was a bit of a surprise.

Add to that the remnants of British occupation in street names like Shakespeare Sarani, it made for a curious walk around Kolkata.


Once again, my very good photojournalist friend Josh has created a two-wheeled video travelogue of a far-away city, Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.

As he did with video tours from a fixed-gear bicycle perspective of Zanzibar, Malawi, Bali and, of course, Jakarta (during my all-too-brief visit), Josh combines his love of self-powered transport with his exceptional aesthetic sensibility.

Please have a look and feel free to share your reactions in the comments section.


Josh in Jakarta — my good friend, photojournalist extraordinaire and fixed-gear bicycle enthusiast — sent me the following, gorgeous video from Zanzibar.

Just like he did with fixed-gear tours of Bali and Malawi, Josh again weaves his spectacular visual accumen, heartfelt storytelling and a sense of adventure while providing views of far-off lands.

The intro states, “Our official bike-wielding wanderer Josh Estey gets lost in the mystery and intrigue of Zanzibar, in the second installment of our three part Fixed-Gear Africa series. Join Josh as he peddles his way into the lives of witch doctors, spice traders, and former slave owners.”

It makes me long for the bicycle tours on which he led me through Jakarta so many months ago.

Please feel free to share your opinions in the comments below.


A clinic on Mirza Ghalib Street in Kolkata.

A clinic on Mirza Ghalib Street in Kolkata.

KOLKATA, India — The dizzying array of art and kitsch housed within the Marble Palace provided a foreboding sense of beauty amid chaos.

The description for the ramshackle mansion was no more than a line or two in my Lonely Planet guide, but a curious requirement involved first finding the local tourism office to register and make a free reservation for a visit. It was among the first evidence I saw of the country’s storied bureaucracy (along with a passport-verified Internet cafe sign-in).

Approaching the palatial residence, a wild and lively garden spread out past the iron gates to the steps leading to the building. Columns in a neoclassical style adorned the entrance, where several men stood idly. They were the guides, though they sported no discernable uniforms or name tags.

Walking along the marble floors and into the palace, one could see what appeared to be a museum warehouse’s worth of paintings, sculptures and other relics, as if gathered at estate sales for a couple of centuries. Statues of ivory, royal busts fashioned from onyx, Renaissance-style paintings, Bengali landscapes, Victorian-era furnishings and several catalogs’ worth of bric-a-brac filled each of the rooms and lined the walls.

Lacking the art history expertise to determine the priceless items from the worthless ones, I contented myself with having our guide read the captions off the brass plaques and painted picture frames. Works by Titian and Reubens, along with other masters, are said to live within these collections. It seemed plausible.

The guide led our small party from room to room, up the ancient wooden stairs and along an interior courtyard with chicken wire as a ceiling, keeping in the various uncaged birds fluttering about.

No photography was allowed, so I had decided I would quickly make a mental inventory of what I saw, but my memory was quickly overwhelmed and each objets d’art blurred into the next.

Maybe 10 minutes later, we were back at the entrance. The Western tourists before us had thanked their guides and doled out tips. I found my shoes and looked around for a suggested donation amount, since the guides were technically volunteers and subsisted solely on gratuities, as far as I could tell.

I handed over my several remaining rupees — I don’t recall how many — along with a hearty “thank you,” to which the guide responded with a few muttered words to his colleagues I didn’t understand. His face blank, I again thanked him and he walked off. As I walked out past the iron gates at the entrance, the volunteer stationed there just laughed.

Was I a clueless tourist? It appeared so.


Kolkata canines asleep on the sidewalk.

Kolkata canines asleep on the sidewalk.

KOLKATA, India — Depite ingesting an accidental mouthful of tap water, I decided there was little I could do but check out the bustling city of Kolkata, come what may.

Already familiar was the nonstop cacophony of Ambassador taxicabs, overloaded scooters, hulking Tata buses and waves of locals on the sidewalk.

Yet amid the chaos, I came across four sleeping dogs, positioned like jigsaw-puzzle pieces on the pavement. The sight provided an inexplicable sense of calm. I sensed everything would be all right. And so I proceeded to seek out the first stop on my haphazard list of destinations: The Marble Palace.

A goat sits on a Kolkata sidewalk. Photo by Bruno J. Navarro.

A goat sits on a Kolkata sidewalk.


An Accidental Drink of Water In Kolkata

An Accidental Drink of Water In Kolkata

KOLKATA, India — A split-second after swallowing a mouthful of water in the shower, the words that flashed through my mind were almost blinding in their intensity: “Don’t drink the water.”

Maybe it was the jet-lag. Perhaps it was a brief case of temporary insanity.

Either way, it was too late.

The moment reminded me of a scene in the “Sex and the City” movie where Charlotte absentmindedly drinks the water while bathing at a Mexican seaside resort the characters visit. Never having experienced such misfortune myself, I had been south of the border enough to know what that could mean.

Bacteria, parasites or viruses — oh, my.

My original concern was avoiding the dreaded “Delhi belly” I’d heard about. That was also the reason I had decided to play it safe my first night in India, at least in my gastronomical choices, if not my unintended wanderings.

Now, I had Kolkata municipal water in my tummy. I was, suffice it to say, a little worried.

Happy to have booked a couple of nights at the lovely, charming Fairlawn Hotel, I had been almost ecstatic to have my own bath, with running water, which could be considered spacious by New York apartment standards.

Although I prided myself on having a strong stomach, I knew that status (imagined or not) would be no match for certain pathogens not unfamiliar in the developing world.

Would my trip be cut short? Would I need to use my travel insurance at the very start of my Indian excursion? Was my life in danger?

It’s true that I could’ve contacted the excellent hotel staff and either inquired about the water’s filtration system or asked about an antidote for any waterborne illnesses I might encounter in the very near future.

Instead, I decided to venture into the city streets and hope for the best.




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