It’s New Year’s Day and the streets look hungover. In the backseat, Malcolm and I have loaded in our French artist friends, Bullet and Stephen. They hold hands and mutter romantic bits we’d like to understand and mutter. Love talk in English sounds infantile. I hold Malcolm’s hand when I don’t need two on the wheel. We are on the way to Brighton Beach. It’s rare for us to travel through New York above ground.

We park under the subway trestle and zero in on Tashkent, an Uzbekestani grocery store with a block-long buffet: mountains of cold salads, vats of pink borscht, tender cheese blinchiki, coriander-scented Borodinsky bread, crispy chicken cutlets, dumplings bulging with lamb and onion. Our hunger explodes.

The boardwalk is empty but for a few burly Russian men in thick leather jackets, talking on their phones. Puffy clouds put on a show. Near the water, wind pushes us around. We let the surf wash our hands before we hurry back to our mittens. Bullet is petite, with a pixie haircut. Her work deals with disappearance, what remains, seen or hidden. She looks like a French pop star and moves with the fresh-cut joy of a child. In the sand, she finds a lone red rose on a stem and waves it like a magic wand. A gust rips off petals and I capture them on my camera, blowing toward me. Stephen triple-wraps his neck in a long scarf, dashingly, and photographs Bullet, dancing.

At Coney Island, the Polar Bears will take a frigid, sobering dip into the new year. The roller coaster is braked, the Ferris wheel, a frozen circle. On the beach, all body-types shiver. Many wear flannel bathrobes and slippers. Wrist-banded swimmers will be called in by color. “Blues! Walk, don’t run!” the emcee barks from his lifeguard chair. “Hit the water and exit right!” Stephen’s art deals with the immediacy of color. Last year, he’d filmed the Polar bears with temperature sensitive film, seen them enter green and emerge purple. But today we have only our naked eyes. We can tell the ones who’ve dunked by their laughter and high fives, their legs bright red as warm blood rushes to the surface.

Violet Bundle –

Ink on cold pressed water color paper

22″ x 30″