Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fortune Avenue

At least they're are well cared for, unlike some we've seen.  They may be old-fashioned, but there's a little dash of elegance in the angle of the hat, the brisk knot of the scarf.  They're cold souls though, & not easily fooled. That quizzically raised eyebrow puts the whole charade  - them in the window, the swift, unceasing roar of life outside the glass - into question.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Brooklyn Collection (at BPL) will be holding its first author talk of the season on Wednesday, 28th September.  Brooklyn photographer Jamel Shabazz, well known for his study of hip-hop culture, Back in the Days,  will be talking about his life and work. Check out the Brooklynology site for more information.
Here's the trailer for a Charlie Ahearn documentary on Shabazz:

Improving, non-stop

Bus stop seat, Beard Street.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

St. Marks (Everything Must Go)

Park Slope Becomes Mott Haven!

According to The Brooklyn Paper, an expired street-cleaning contract has left Seventh Avenue in a state of filth.   Filthier, perhaps, than you or I might ever conceive:

“I literally have to hold my nose when I walk down the street,” said Pamela Johnson, who lives on Garfield Place. “It looks like the worst part of the South Bronx in the 1970s.”

Gosh, Pamela, it does sound bad.

After Yesterday's Fire at Danken

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Here's Park Slope has a scoop on Michael Pintchik's retail plans for a stretch of Flatbush between Sterling & Eighth Avenue.  These will involve the overhaul of four of his properties, including the former Blockbuster space & a building occupied by a dialysis center.  This part of the avenue, we are promised, will turn from "worst to first". Pintchik is (in)famous for his development of Bergen at Flatbush, (see Jeremiah Moss's Bobos on Bergen for an astute analysis of the block), and his new tenants further north will include a Weight Watchers & a "great restaurant .... something that everyone's familiar with and that everyone will love".  Hmm.  What could that mean?

On the 61

Monday, September 19, 2011


Coming up this weekend: The Coney Island Film Festival, running from Friday through Sunday.  You can catch a special, fundraising screening of the 1979 cult classic, The Warriors.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wednesday - Dumplings & Soccer Tavern

On Wednesday night I had dinner at a dumpling & noodle restaurant in Sunset Park (8th & 48th).  Pork & scallion dumplings, sesame pancakes, and barbecued beef with noodles.  Plenty of excellent food for two people.  $7.50.  After that, it was off to the Soccer Tavern, a few blocks down.  I'd passed the place in the spring, & had been meaning to visit. Most everyone there on Wednesday was Irish, and I might have been one of the youngest customers. We were flanked at the bar by two friendly guys, knocking it back steadily, and telling great stories. Of going to see Charlie Mingus at Slugs jazz club on East Third in '72, and having the honor of getting your lost wallet handed back to you by Mingus himself.  Of the very next week in Slugs, when jazz musician Lee Morgan was shot in the head by his common-law wife.  Of the club folding soon after.  Of County Donegal, the changing neighborhood, & Farrell's owner, Daniel Mills, who jumped to his death off the Verrazano back in 2008, after learning he was terminally ill.  Mills had worked on the bridge's construction back in the 60's. 
Though the bar has a steady Chinese presence these days, it wasn't apparent on this night, with only a couple of Chinese customers, and it felt like the very heart of an older Sunset Park.  It's a dim, beer-soaked place, with dark & elaborate cabinetry, and a fine bar. A couple of maps - the world and the States - are up on the walls, and an Irish stock calendar hangs behind the bar.  There's a public phone next to the jukebox, and the list of songs hangs from the wall in a well-thumbed book.
Its one of the friendliest bar I've ever walked into.

Two days after I went there, the Times ran this piece, Staying Put in a City of Change, with the Tavern one of the featured spots.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mannequin Gathering

Behind a chainlink fence on Ninth, under the Viaduct.

Two Views of Ninth

I picked up this photograph a couple of days ago, in a knick-knack store on Court.  Here's 9th St., approaching Smith, back in 1930,

and here's the scene today, sans trolley tracks, the end frame rowhouse, and a building at the corner that is now a Budget rental lot.

Most of the little row of frames (forever remembered as the Russo Realty, Notary Public houses) are still there, though their recent, much-needed renovation has made them generic and plastic looking.  Dormers have been slapped in, but the little upper windows have vanished.  As for that building on the end!  Across from it the building that once housed a nice looking luncheonette is home to  F Line Bagels (MTA, had you nothing better to do with your time?).  The 1930 photograph is very dark. and I can't make out the Ninth Street stores just before Smith, but they're clearly more substantial. Trees obscure the much of the streetscape in the background, but the larger building (apartments now) is plainly in view.  I wish I could take the trolley down Ninth, just once, and go through that luncheonette door.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Monday, September 12, 2011

from The Biggest City in the World

"Mrs Agnese was eighty-one years old.  She had arrived the day before on the Italian liner Rex.  It was 10 o'clock when I reached the Italian-American grocery operated by her son, Salavatore Agnese, at 504 Court Street, but the old woman was still upstairs, sleeping happily in a large feather bed ...

The old lady was extremely proud of her son's grocery store.  She has four sons in New York City, and they all run grocery stores.  She wandered through Salvatore's store, admiring the provolone cheeses hanging in the window, slapping them affectionately with wrinkled, capable old hands."

                                                                                                                               Joseph Mitchell

When Mitchell visited the Agnese family, in the 1930s, 504 Court was still a part of Red Hook.  Here's the Carroll Gardens 504 today, sandwiched between an operating grocery store & Le Petit Cafe.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Sonny's, Opening Time

The damp & dim- lit comfort of Sonny's, early in the evening when it's just opened up, and well before the youngsters teem in, is one of life's small pleasures.  A wobbling seat at the bar is the best perch on which to watch the night begin.  Just as the water's lapping motion, a few yards away, soothes the spirit, so does an hour or two here.  Troubles wash away.
I met up there with a group of neighbors yesterday. Later, back in the South Slope, they introduced me to barman Johnny Hope, who tells a good story of older days, of gangs & cops & the all encompassing world of a kid's block.  He's a mine of information.  He's also got real barman style. Here's a fuzzy picture of his Bloody Mary Mix, where you can see a silhouette of the man himself.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Back to Work

Back to work this week.  To cheer myself up, I've been reading Joseph Mitchell's My Ears Are Bent, as I chug through Brooklyn, Manhattan & Queens on the F train.  The pieces in this collection were written in the 1930s, when Mitchell was a young journalist, and conjur up a New York I long to have experienced.  Every line is gold.  Here's Mr. Friedman, an "extraordinarily fat" patron of Dick's Bar & Grill, down near the Brooklyn Bridge, "one of those places with a twitchy neon sign", where "there are a big bowl of fresh roasted peanuts and a bottle of mulligan on the bar, and the tile floor is littered with peanut hulls and cigarette ends and balogna rinds from the free lunch":

   The place was full the night he died.  He fell off his barstool and began to gasp.  The House ran to the booth and called the police.  An ambulance doctor examined him while he was stretched out on the tile floor.
   "You can hardly call him a man," said the young doctor. "He is just a living barrel of beer."
   Just before he died he looked up at the customers gathered around him with drinks in their hands and said, "I drank thirty-two beers tonight."  Those were his last words.

I could ride the train forever reading this stuff.

Nature in the City

Outside Timboo's, chrysanthemums, and a distant volcano.

Around the corner, the leaves of a neighboring plant give this mushroom a floral suggestion.  The tree pit at Fifth & 12th is full of them.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Del Re

Dominic Del Re, born in Bola, Italy, has been driving his knife-grinder truck around Brooklyn since the late 80's.  I was still missing a lot of things English when I first met him, and loved the opportunity to talk football (soccer).  Even back then he said the job was brutal to his hearing.
The truck is a lovely sight to behold, with its hand-painted lawnmower, knife, scissors, ice-skates, shears & hatchet.  You can read a 1997 profile of Mr. Del Re here.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Bay native releases single, Coney Island Winter (Sheepshead Bites)
Celebrating the Bensonhurst-born street photographer Helen Levitt (Bensonhurst Bean)
Manual Training artists of the 30's & 40's (Brooklynology)
Stabbing at Fourth Avenue station (FIPS) - This is the only site where I've heard anything about this incident.  Not a new situation, as far as crime is concerned (like that completely unrecorded murder a year back), but as always, the lack of reporting is disturbing.