This is Deborah
This is Deborah, I had been sitting on a bench in Verdi Park, it has been since early March of last year (2020) since I had attempted to speak with anyone, photograph them and listen to their story. I was feeling both rusty and apprehensive about speaking with anyone during this pandemic.
Deborah walked into the park with her dog, a golden retriever, and sat down on a bench not too far away from me. Thoughts kept going through my mind, can I interview someone from at least 6 ft away while both of us are wearing masks? Would someone be less accepting of a stranger’s questions because of the pandemic? And most importantly, would my children be upset with me? I did have my camera with a 300 mm zoom lens, so I could at least photograph without getting close.
It was at this point in our conversation that I told her about my blog and that I would like to hear more of her story and photograph her. She said I could photograph her dog. I continued the conversation none the less and finally, she asked me about my blog. I gave her my card and described what I was doing. She took out her phone and logged onto my blog. She started looking through it and said she wouldn’t be surprised if she saw someone she knew. And sure, enough she said, “there’s Johnny, he lives in my building.” I think that clinched it for her. As I started shooting, she asked me if she wanted Lilly’s face close to hers and she called her to come up onto the bench and put her face next to hers.
Deborah is 74 years old. She is a nurse and has a doctorate in Dance therapy. She did movement and dance therapy. She still works as a nurse seeing her clients on Zoom and clearly loves what she does. She has no children and is no longer married and laughed when she said it is so much better that way. She has lots of friends and likes living by herself. She talked about the way Verdi Park has changed and the volunteers that are in the park every Saturday planting and making the park so beautiful.
When I asked her what she likes about living in New York City she said, Central Park. She talked about how bad it was and how beautiful it is now. When I asked her what she dislikes about NYC she said it is too crowded and too busy, too many tourists and still she loves that. Of course, now it is empty and she likes that because she feels that we have the city to ourselves, all 8 million of us.
COVID-19 or no Covid-19, Deborah loves the city and she is sure to get out every day.
I walked over and sat down on the same bench towards the other end giving us a comfortable space of at least 10 feet, perhaps a little more than that. I started by admiring her dog (Lilly) telling her about my niece and nephew who have two Golden Retrievers in Portland Oregon. It was a little hard to hear each other from that distance, but Deborah told me she used to live in Portland Oregon. I asked her what brought her to New York City and she said she went to college at NYU in 1966. I think she could have gone to school in many places, but she chose New York City and I don’t think that was an accident because during our conversation she talked over and over how NYC was the best place in the world to live. She said even in the worst of times, when Central Park was a scary place to go, she loved it. She knew that in the 1970s Verdi Park where we were sitting was a haven for drugs and prostitution. She said many times on her way home from work she had been offered drugs. She loves NYC now even though all the movie theaters, concert, and museums are closed. She said once you live in New York City there is no other place in the world to live. She said it was a diamond. A real jewel.