Why was I being followed by a police vehicle while driving slowly down Main Street? I was not stalling traffic in any way. In fact, I was the only automobile going down Main Street in Bristol, Connecticut, the town I grew up in. I was showing a friend, who was an architect, the tragedy that was Main Street in this factory town. The left side of the street had original structures and was actually charming.
But the right side had been completely ripped down to make way for a small shopping mall, destroying all future possibility of any historic revitalization of this downtown. I expressed my frustration to my companion of how emblematic this was of the type of thinking - to modernize rather than preserve - that one might have found at one time in towns across America. I think that today there are more examples of preservation of older architecture/districts and the value and positive results in doing so.
The policeman actually followed us into the shopping mall parking lot and watched us leave the car. It was eerie and scary, honestly. I have a theory of why I was followed, part of which is that apparently anyone perusing the architecture in Bristol, Connecticut, is a criminal suspect - particularly someone in a vehicle with New York license plates.
Being ostracized for thinking differently is one reason I moved to New York City. Things have changed, of course, and with the plethora of media and the Internet, perhaps one is less the outcast for being different in the small town.
In New York City, however, with time and effort, you can not only be tolerated but also create a persona and become a small living legend by being different. Whether it is Adam Purple, graffiti artist Adam Cost, streetlamp Mosaic Man Jim Power, Tower of Toys builder Eddie Boros, or gender bender and fashionista André, you can turn eccentricity into celebrity. You can take a singular passion or talent and run with it.
It can be a very singular interest, perhaps decorating a bicycle over a period of 24 years, like that of Hector Robles in the photo. Hector grew up on the Lower East Side of New York City, on 7th Street between Avenues C and D. He currently lives in Staten Island and makes the journey to Manhattan with a combination of bus, ferry, and subway, toting his bicycle the entire way. The vehicle is in a constant state of flux, a work in progress. Hector, who is of Puerto Rican ancestry, is quite religious, as can be seen by the numerous figures and images adorning his bike.
I don't think Hector would fare well in Bristol with his bicycle. I am sure he would be tolerated, but I doubt he would be celebrated. And, I hope, not treated like a criminal suspect :)