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Early on a Monday Morning….

Sep 14

In Stories at 1:54pm


Monday always comes early, right? Been having zero dark thirty Monday calls since I picked up a camera. Today, 3am. Out the door at 3:45. Start of the week. Cab ride through dark streets to another plane. Not even the sanit trucks are out. Upside? No getting stuck behind school buses.

Years ago, it was simpler and more complicated all at once. I lived in the city and, like a lot of shooters, used a car service to get to the airport. Mine, believe it or not, was called Ding-a-Ling. Swear it’s true. It being the time of magazines having more than a couple nickels to rub together, photogs would routinely travel heavy—15, 20 cases of stuff—all on the airline. Hence there were times I would order up two or three Ding-a-Lings. The assistant and I would load and roll, a little Ding-a-Ling motorcade to the airport.

Airlines back then would grant a shooter a media rate for excess bags without a Papal fiat. You could get all your stuff on board for about $25 a pop. If you knew the skycaps, and I did, a quick Benjamin would make all your bags disappear into the hold of the plane, and no one would bat an eye. Those days, wisely, are gone.

In addition to the skycaps, I of course got to know the drivers, and there was one guy who I seemed fated to ride with more than others. He drove #22. He was an older gentleman from Queens who was born to be a NY cabbie. He had a big time NY accent and an even bigger inquisitive nature, not to mention the gift of gab. After a few rides he knew if you were up or down, if the baby had a fever, what you did on vacation, if things were going well at the office, and if you got along with your mother-in-law.

Which I did. She’s an ex-mom in law now, but she’s a nice person who used to visit on the weekends when my oldest, who’s about to be 24, was just a baby. She lived in Brooklyn, with her other daughter, who we can call Mary, along with Mary’s husband and their two young boys.

It was a Canarsie house with lots of frenetic Brooklyn personality, so in other words, it was mayhem. The boys were small, but growing like weeds, as boys do, and were bouncing off walls, as boys do. Given the challenges and vicissitudes of modern life, grandma found herself being mom a good deal of the time. Cooking and cleaning and homework and all the nuttiness of raising kids was back on her plate. She couldn’t just spoil ’em and give ’em back at the end of the day. There was always talk about everybody moving out and giving grandma back her house, peace and quiet, but it didn’t happen. Despite her energy, she was really wearing thin.

After visiting one weekend, she got good old #22 to go back to Canarsie, a pretty long cab ride. Given the gregarious nature of the occupants I have to imagine the conversation was lively.

And that very Monday, I had one of those early calls. I threw my stuff in the trunk, and, still in my morning ether, settled into the back seat of, you guessed it, #22. I was barely conscious, ’cause Caity, at the tender age of six months, had decided sleep was boring.

My friend the driver twisted in his seat, pulled his glasses down to the end of his nose, and looked at me with world weary, knowing, New York eyes. He didn’t say hello or good morning. He arched his brows and brought his finger up up by his face, the way one does when one is about to utter an undisputable, immutable, truth. “Mary should move out! It’s not fair to your mother-in-law!”

In so many ways, New York is a small town…..

Jason Wall says:

on September 14, 2009 at 2:04 pm

haha! awesome. :)

eouio says:

on September 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm

I love visiting New York. Grew up in a small farm town where everyone knows how often you change your toothbrush, and in so many way, visiting New York is like going home; just with different $#!% in the streets 😉

Troy says:

on September 14, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Thanks. It’s nice to see that just because you are a professional photog, that all of your entries are not specifically photography related. It is refreshing to be sure.

Mario says:

on September 14, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing.

And say “hey” to Nigel.

Cindy Farr-Weinfeld says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Great story, Joe!

Catalin says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

That’s a funny story! Similar things were happening with the car services when I used to live in Bahrain. Oh, and if you’re not familiar with Bahrain, it’s a tiny island state/kingdom in the Persian Gulf just across a 25km bridge from Saudi. The place only has about 600000 people and about 30% of those are expats. It’s like living in a little village where everybody knows everybody else…

Salfrico says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Awesome! I feel like I was in the cab!

Mike Noble says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Great blog, Joe. I was born and raised in Queens, NY and have had my share of cab rides in NYC. I don’t doubt that there are many #22s out there roaming the streets of New York dispensing invaluable advice and commiseration. Thanks for sharing the story.


Don Mamone says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Joe, I love this story. What a trip…literally and figuratively.

Ken says:

on September 14, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Good Day Joe,

Been to New York twice in my life.

Being a hillbilly from KY and was a stretch, but after I figured out they they were Yankee’s, I was fine. Nice folks those New Yorkers.

Ken in KY

Dickon Whitehead says:

on September 14, 2009 at 4:12 pm

That brought a smile to my face. Beautiful vignette of the everyday life, hope there’s much more coming. (feel the pressure!)

Andy Hagedon says:

on September 14, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Telling stories is a gift, and you got it, Senor. Thanks for sharing this one. Hey, is that plane wing above crossing the Bay to SFO, looking back into Oakland?

Dave Hutchinson says:

on September 14, 2009 at 4:47 pm

A quite enjoyable story. Thanks Joe, for sharing.

Sarah Kavanaugh says:

on September 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I have MOM-in law. We both think we lucked out.

Denyse Conrad says:

on September 14, 2009 at 5:21 pm

Great post Joe. Funny how some of these things jar our memories.

East 100th Street, Brooklyn – Canarsie. It’s a street name I’ll never forget. A friend’s parents had been first generation immigrants, and the family was raised there. His Mom, a widow in her seventies, still lived in the same home. Over the years, she had taught herself 22 languages.
Reminds me, what do you call someone who speaks two languages? bilingual, of course. And three languages? that would be trilingual. Now, what do you call someone who speaks only one language? hmmm, according to the snarky Brit who passed this on, that would be an American.


Barbara N. Molyneaux says:

on September 14, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Your ex mother-in-law sounds like a wonderful lady. I have 3 boys who are close in age so I know about bouncing off walls, mayhem, hockey, lacrosse, broken bones and stitches. I can’t imagine my mother-in-law being within the same state, never mind the same house. Now my daughter is having a baby and I’m going to be a grandma. I get to do this all over again, but I get to give them back. I think I’m going to love it!

Dave says:

on September 14, 2009 at 5:52 pm

Joe – that’s a terrific story.

I think I recognize that flight path – if I’m right, that’s the Throgs Neck Bridge, and that’s the flight path going in to land at Laquardia – I’ve seen that view a few times….

kinga taukert says:

on September 14, 2009 at 7:32 pm

love your blog. love your photographs, love your writing, sometimes it’s hard to decide which is better 😉 ps. greetings from Eastern Europe [Poland, to be precise ;)]

Kevin says:

on September 14, 2009 at 8:12 pm

Joe – you’re as great a writer as you are a photographer.

Aaron says:

on September 14, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Joe, well written? I enjoyed it.

Aaron says:

on September 14, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Correction: Well written! That wasn’t meant to be a question.

Paul says:

on September 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm

I’ve always loved your work, but now I’m torn to decide…”do I look forward to the photographs, the teaching, or the words of the blog?”. Damn you Joe McNally for being so f-word-ing good!

Rodolfo Arpia says:

on September 14, 2009 at 11:55 pm

Great story dude… you got the gift… but you already knew that.

Mike Murillo says:

on September 15, 2009 at 2:26 am

Damn Joe!
Your prose evoces a simpler time…I sit in an old worn chair, an even older sweater around my shoulders. The kids are still asleep and the coffee is steaming…my only wish is that your latest post never ends…you missed your calling old man! start writing…they don’t write like that anymore!

Prakash Trivedi 'pk' says:

on September 15, 2009 at 8:51 am


Great posts (all of them!). I have to agree with quite a few of people who have commented here.

I am going to be in your DC seminar, looking forward to it and hoping you will sign my book and would get a chance to have small chat.

Thank you,

Mark says:

on September 15, 2009 at 9:21 am

Great recollections. Been there, done that too…NYC is a big small town, really. Yes, thanks for sharing.

Now, time for me to pack..

Elmer Escobar says:

on September 15, 2009 at 10:23 am

I really like your style of writing, its one of the reasons I zoomed through hotshoe diaries in about 2 days. Thanks for everything.

Todd W says:

on September 15, 2009 at 10:24 am

Nice story Joe, these “McNallyisms” are priceless!

BP says:

on September 16, 2009 at 12:38 am

i used a van limo service in nyc for years when there on assignment. one day the van arrived about 60 minutes late. brand new van had a flat tire on the bronx expressway. while the driver changed the tire a car pulled up and popped the hood. the driver yelled “what are you doing?” the visitors responded, ” you are getting the tires, we just want the battery.” only in new york.

David Hill says:

on September 16, 2009 at 11:16 am

Being a TV guy, I remember the days when the airlines were kinder to folks w/ lots ‘o cases-and I also remember the day the Benjamin didn’t work anymore…

Mike Cullen says:

on September 16, 2009 at 12:10 pm

I was going to say the shot looks like the Throgs Neck Bridge, but @Dave beat me to it :)

Great story!

Dave says:

on September 16, 2009 at 12:24 pm

Great story. Sometimes the world does get incredibly small.

c.d.embrey says:

on September 16, 2009 at 12:28 pm

Speaking of tipping skycaps.

We were flying from L.A. to Kentucky via Atlanta, back in the 1970s. Our excess baggage was about 1,000 pounds (a 16mm documentary crew needs a lot of equipment). No problem going, but on the way back we had a little problem taking off from Atlanta. We taxied out to the end of the runway and they did a final weight & balance. They then turned around and went back to the terminal and all of the standby passengers had to get off. Seems like the plane was a little overweight :)

We did this all the time and only had this one problem.

David Brown says:

on September 16, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Joe- when are you going to start running writing workshops, to complete the package?

JR says:

on September 18, 2009 at 1:18 am

Next thing ya know, truth will prevail and you could always tell if there was one too many NG photogs (with excess baggage) on a plane taking off (in the good ol’ days), by everything appearing droopy, including the take-off speed.

Nico says:

on September 18, 2009 at 12:09 pm

Hello Joe,
Can’t help but thinking there is more to that nice story, hope everybody is ok.
Have a nice day.

Michael Wiesman says:

on September 21, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Just wanted to let you know, if you don’t know already, that in this post there are a lot of snipits of code “

Not trying to be “that guy”, but offering a helping hand.

Thanks as always for valuable content on your blog, I always look forward to a new blog post from you Joe.


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