At Elizabeth Brooks’ bat mitzvah, we start the evening with Kenny G; Next a dance party with Ciara; Introductions with Fitty Cent; Dinner music with Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and Stevie Nicks; A desert acoustic performance by Tom Petty. And finally, end the evening with the “after-performance” by Aerosmith. It was the party to end all parties for David Brooks.
April 1994 was an exciting time in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was campaigning to become the first black president of South Africa. My wife, Andrea Peyser, had been assigned to cover the election by the New York Post, and I was hired to accompany her to photograph the historical campaign.
This was the very early days of the use of digital technology. I had purchased my first laptop and film scanner, taking them along to the African continent with the purpose of providing instantaneous reportage using the first international Internet service, Compuserve, to send images back to New York. This was revolutionary.
Our trip was a combination of old and new technology. Cell phones were not common place, beepers ruled, and instant communication was far in the future.
The best skiers in the world came to the East coast of the United States and the fans of the sport came out in force. As one of the accredited media photographing the event, it was one of the greatest sporting experiences I have had. And I have had many.
None of us knew what to expect when the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup made their decision to return to Vermont after a 40-year absence. The last time the world came to Vermont was 1978 when Stratton hosted an event. The last time they came to the East coast of America was Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, in 1991. Killington, known as the Beast of the East, spent over a month preparing the snow on Superstar to host the Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom on November 27th and 28th. The mountain delivered.
But the East coast fans were there for hometown favorite Mikaela Shiffrin who finished a disappointing fifth overall in the Giant Slalom. With over 16,000 fans in attendance, the athletes were amazed at the volume of the crowd, hearing them cheer at the top of the race course in the starting gate. They had never experienced anything like it. And the World Cup officials have taken notice.
My daughter was one of those fans. Both race days, she and her ski race team members arrived at the mountain at 6:30am to claim spaces at the finish line. Mikaela Shiffrin is the ultimate East Coast ski racer. Sunday’s Slalom event was Mikaela’s chance to prove her dominance in the discipline. And she came through. My daughter has been ski racing in Massachusetts for most of her life, and Mikaela Shiffrin proved why she is the greatest athlete for young girls to emulate.
Over the years I heard all kind of stories about the reputation of the Gowanus Canal. You never knew what you might see in its waters. But on this beautiful day, I saw the worst, a human body.
I had gained a fascination with this putrid, stinking body of water that cuts through my neighborhood in Brooklyn. Sort of hidden from the beauty of Brownstone Brooklyn, the canal was surrounded by industrial buildings nestled in the lowlands between the gentrified neighborhoods of Boerum Hill, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. It was a nowhere land with a toxic history. Today, it is a Superfund site.
My friend and colleague Kevin Larkin came with me to the Carroll Street Bridge over the Gowanus Canal so I could shoot a 360° photo of the bridge. You didn’t hang out on the Gowanus with expensive equipment alone for hours.
The Carroll Street Bridge is unique. One of the last drawbridges built to move laterally off the water, it’s architecture is truly spectacular with a dainty little brick house for the bridge tender. We were packing up equipment to leave when Kevin called me over to the bridge railing.
“Take a look at what that is floating in the water,” said Kevin. We could see a shape but couldn’t tell from the distance what it was. I pulled a telephoto lens and focused on the shape.
“Oh shit,” I said as I realized what we were looking at. I focused the length of the shape and realized the heels of shoes breaking the surface of the water were definitely attached to the feet of a body.
We never say the year. We don’t have to. It has joined the ranks of “Dates which will live in Infamy.”
I always loved the Twin Towers. Their box shapes dominated the skyline wherever you were. If you were lost in the West Village, you would just look for them and know that was south. They were comforting. They weren’t the prettiest buildings archetecturally, but they were grand. And when the sun hit them just right, they were twin pillars of gold.
The only reason I was home on September 11, 2001, was for a happy occasion. Andrea, Eliza and I were all going together as a family to Eliza’s first day of pre-school. We were up early, we were excited, and we had no idea what was really in store for us on that day.
It began with a shout from the living room. “Mark, come see this now!” my wife Andrea shouted.