Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I may have put this on here before - I know I put something or other from Blue Valentine.  Oh well. The combination of Waits' voice, the lush orchestration, & that trumpet gets to me every time.  What a brilliant cover - I like it way more than the original.  Waits turns it into a love song for all the misfits, lost souls & general crazies making it through the days.  I remember when this album came out.  I had an attic room in a Newcastle rowhouse off the Westgate Road.  Played it again and again and again.

Graffiti on Graffiti & More Graffiti (9th St/2nd & 5th Ave/17th)

Catene, Sunday

I like the combination of Catene & car.

Laughing on Fourth Avenue


My day is always happier when there's a new essay by Romy Ashby.
Walkers in the City: A Little Thing That Happened Sunday Evening

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer's Here!

Closed & Soon Open??

Earlier this year Harry Boland's (5th & 9th)was closed for non-payment of taxes, but it opened up again fairly quickly.  It's been shut for the last few days. 
Update (6/7):  I saw a Closed by DOH sticker on the door yesterday.

Heard a rumor that 72 Seventh, where La Taqueria used to be, may well house (wait for it) a gelateria. All those gourmet ice cream-trucks, artisanal yogurts stores, & the like, make me think instead of this. Let's hear it for Mister Softee!


Coming home from the R, I passed the 13th Street laundomat on Fourth & saw a cage containing two very handsome parrots.  They were talking, but beyond "Hi!" it was hard to figure out what they were saying.  A hipster couple on their way to Greenwood Cemetery wanted to know if they were Monk parrots & I quickly put them straight  (that's about the extent of my parrot knowledge).

Over on 17th, I found David, who was embarking on a mammoth front yard display of animal life, with hundreds of big cats, dinosaurs, & their prey.  I love this!  When my kids were little, I probably had as much fun (more?) as they did creating animal parades with our huge collection of plastic animals.  It's good to see someone else getting into it.  I'll try & get back when he's finished putting the scene together.

Sunday Afternoon

A while back I took a picture of the Joan of Arc graffiti by the Gowanus. It was taken from the train. Yesterday I went down to take some closer shots.  This is only a short walk from where I live, and at this time of year, I spend a lot of time down here.  If you turn down just before the 9th Street bridge, you can get right down to the water and have this place to yourself.  Yesterday, though, there were a bunch of kids, all in black, setting off firecrackers.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Went the Day Well?

Yesterday I saw Went the Day Well?  at Film Forum.  The film is a British wartime propaganda number, based on a story by Graham Greene, and in the hands of director Alberto Cavalcanti it breaks out into completely unexpected territory.  As the inhabitants of a stock English village fight off German invaders, they cast off all restraints & turn into savage killing machines.  Ax wielding, pistol bearing women do their duty, and matriarchs bear the brunt of hand grenades to spare the lives of village children.  They're no Fugitive Girls, but still ...The entire Home Guard unit is slaughtered, and even the white-haired vicar bites the bullet. There were a lot of laughs in the audience as the bodies fell.

At the Forum, most of the seats bear the names of benefactors.  I happened to sit behind Miss Portland Hamlin (A Great Lady & A Great Cat), and Mel Johnson, and a little to the left of them was Fuckerhouse Films.  Miss Portland, a sixty something bearded man, & Mel, his wife, were clearly habitual moviegoers, and there was earnest pre-feature talk about the merits of various films.  Mel wondered why, in The Blues of the Night, the characters were all so happy to be living in a barn in Weehawken, and found the plot scattered.  The leading lady, she thought, was detestable. It was no wonder the guy threw her off a cliff.  Both of them admired Lumet, though Miss Portland hated Dog Day Afternoon, and found the characters "garbage".  Miss Portland was not swayed by Mel's protests.  Who cared if it was based on a real story? "Isn't it amazing that I feel this way?  The film is a piece of crap!" This verdict bothered me no end.  I was dying to jump in here, in defence of my favorite film, but said nothing.  Next to Miss P., Fuckerhouse had no problem keeping quiet.  A portly man in a checkered shirt and a wig, he was a sour presence, shoveling in the popcorn & swigging soda glumly.  His was the sad face of solitary movie-going, and I saw him leaving as the credits rolled, with his bright white sneakers and pants just a little too short.  Not well at all, I fear.

Going back along Sixth, the late afternoon light was crazily beautiful.  The chattering fools at Bar Pitti seemed oblivious to this (and yes, I do pity them).

At West 4th, I stopped to watch a pick-up game for a bit, to catch that light for a little longer, before heading down to the train.  A breeze blew away the heat's intensity. The sun's decline made everything rich and evanescent.  The day went.  Just fine.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gil Scott Heron, R.I.P.

Personal Touch, Jamaica Avenue

149th & Jamaica

Yesterday I went back to Jamaica Avenue, via Sutphin Boulevard.  Jamaica Avenue was originally a trail road for Native American tribes, and gets its name from the Lenape word for "beaver".  One of the signers of the Constitution, Rufus King (sounds like a soul man to me) settled in Jamaica, & the Rufus King House is a strangely bucolic presence on the avenue (see below).  Jamaica was a busy eighteenth century trading post, and later became important as a transportation hub, with major rail, bus, and subway connections.  In the 1920's Jamaica was the retail center of Queens, and in the 30's a center of government, entertainment and finance for Queens & parts of Brooklyn, but by the 60's it fell into economic decline.  In recent years, there have been a number of economic investments in the area, including the JFK Air Train. 

Famous native Jamaicans or long-term residents are an interesting assortment, including Jimmy Breslin, Paul Bowles, Mario Cuomo and (oh yes!) Donald Trump.  The strong-man guru Sri Chimnoy established his headquarters right around here.  A zillion rappers hail from Jamaica, from early Run DMC members to 50 Cent, & Metallica hung out here for a bit.  Basketball is represented by Lamar Odom and Ron Artest.  In 2006, Sean Bell, an unarmed man attending his bachelor party, was shot dead by police outside the Jamaica nightclub Club Kalua.

Here are some of the storefronts or general street scenes I saw during a four or five block walk. I'll repeat myself (again) & suggest that you click on the pictures to see them better.

That empty Music Palace is a sad sight but the Popular Varieties & Gifts next door has a few treats on offer:

How demure this headgear is, and how old-fashioned the girls' faces seem.  The smudges on the tips of their noses are rather heart-breaking too . Wouldn't you like to just reach through the glass with a Kleenex and help them out?

There was a clearance sale going on at this store, so if you need a glam gown for either you or your daughter you might check it out.  Oh, the resonance of those pink, home-made signs:

Jamaica Ave., has a ton of furniture stores, many of them once-grand showrooms fallen on shabbier times.  This less fancy one, Alex (Dollar Bill) Furniture has some cool hand-painted signs.  I can just see the yups spending a small fortune on the retro dinette ware.

I love Santeria stores, and I always have a place in my heart for saints.  I've photographed many in the past.  The religious statues I found in this Jamaica Ave. store though, are the UGLIEST ones I've seen in my life.  Because of the sun, I couldn't take any decent shots, but this one might give you a sense of how unpleasant they are.  I'll come back on a grey day to capture the rest.

Here's a real contrast to the rest of the Ave., the Rufus King house.  I think I've done a little time travel.

And now I'm back where I began the tour, on 149th Street, heading back to Sutphin & the dubious pleasures of employment.

P.S.  The 99c Dreams store I passed on Sutphin last week has completely false advertising.  On the outside, it claims that every item is 99c OR LESS, but when you go inside, this is what you find:
OK, I wasn't really surprised by this marketing scam, but I was disappointed.  Yet more dreams dashed.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kid Enjoys F Train View (Smith & Ninth)

This kid looks like he's taking off alone for an F train adventure.  I think he'll turn out well. Here's a kid in 1953:

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I was in a pretty negative mood yesterday, and today the gods of the streets were trying to attend to my mental health.  Frankly, it got a bit annoying.

And when did the "gourmet deli" on 4th Avenue & 12th become THIS?

Sorry, but these suggestions won't do it.  I'll try a little music instead.

From Love to Purpose, Chateau Jewelry Store, Austin Street

I find the bottom sign troubling.

Booker T

Saw Booker T at the Bell House tonight.  He is coming up to 67 & in great form. The band played a good long set.  That Hammond organ!  Here's a really old video of Time is Tight (they played it tonight).  Grainy, & pretty poor sound, but cool.

Tuesday Night Complaint

Today I read a couple of online threads involving that hoary figure, the "real" New Yorker, and the respective merits/bragging rights of different boroughs. For some reason today, even though I knew an idiotic poster & some semi-ironic prattle wasn't important, the whole thing just pissed me off completely.   I've lived in Manhattan & Brooklyn, and I work in Queens.  I've lived on two other continents.  Most of the immediate family I grew up with is dead, and my childhood home is long gone.  I've lived in the city over half my life.  If I can call anywhere home I suppose this is it.  Perhaps I'm not "real" enough to fit anywhere (in the world!), & maybe I should deal with that. Still, the older New Yorkers I know (including the native-born) don't generally seem to think along those lines. Eventually, if you're here long enough (the time-frame seems fluid), and care enough about the place you live, you sort of sink into the texture of the place, and the whole question seems redundant. At least that's what I believed.

The whole borough sniping (even couched in jokey terms) is just stupid.  It's a big city. I don't care very much whether someone comes from Brownsville, Sunset Park, Hell's Kitchen, or Sunnyside.  I like getting out of the subway into a part of the city I've never been to before.  I like to wander.  I think there are interesting and important people, places and stories everywhere.  My neighborhood has its fair share of assholes (maybe more than its fair share!), but they're not the whole deal,  and I suspect there are tribes of assholes all over New York.

Much of the pleasure of living in this city is that freedom to be yourself (whatever that is) among millions, rather than marooned in the torpor of small town scrutiny, to enjoy wry, smart-assed, New York acceptance - not to hear middle class, mean girl bitching about who belongs in a place,  and whose little nest is more authentically feathered. Those mean girls sound very suburban indeed.

And while we're feeling really cheerful, let's go for a little Bishop, an outsider par excellence.

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant 
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

And While We're At Fourth & Ninth (Again)

I wonder how many thousands of times I've found myself at this intersection?  You can see the MTA work on the bridge over 4th.

The new old platform

Yesterday the Manhattan bound platform at Fourth Avenue re-opened.  I'm happy to say the platform doesn't look much different - just some structural work & coats of paint. I'll miss that amazing temporary view (folded up & dismantled with the temporary bridge), & wonder what they'll do when they start working on the other side. Starting next month the Smith & 9th station closes completely for almost a year, with only the grudging MTA offer of increased nightime service on the B61.

Update: The bridge will be back in September, according to one of the construction workers at the station. It will again provide access to the temporary platform, which will then be used for Coney Island bound trains.