Monday, October 15, 2018

Work Left Undone

I was cleaning under the stove when I found the fortune.  It must have been there years.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Open House NYC (1)

I finally got to visit the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen, on West 44th Street.  The Society has been at this address since 1899, when it acquired the recently built, Renaissance Revival building.  The building was subsequently redesigned in 1903 to integrate Beaux Arts design features. It hasn't changed much since then.

The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York, was founded on November 17, 1785, by 22 men who gathered in Walter Heyer's public-house on Pine Street in Lower Manhattan. The aims of the General Society were to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen. The General Society during this early period celebrated the mutuality and centrality of the craft community. (Wikipedia)

Early in the nineteenth century the Society opened one of the city's first free schools, and in 1858 the Mechanics Institute began offering free vocational training in a variety of trades.  It still operates today, providing free training in plumbing, HVAC Systems, Electrical Tech, Construction Project Management & AutoCAD.  Andrew Dykes of local lumber yard Dykes studied here.

The Society library, founded in 1820, is the second oldest in the city.  It started out as the Apprentices' Library, and while it continues to provide vocational resources it also has an eclectic collection of general reading.  It holds fiction & non-fiction books - some surprisingly up-to-date material here -  and older, more arcane reading.  Its archives date back to the eighteenth-century.  The library, which might have one of the grandest reading rooms in the city, still has its old wooden card-file cabinets, though they serve only a historical function now.  It's open to the public, and a general $50 membership (less for students & seniors) offers borrowing privileges, archive access and various program discounts.  The layout of the library books is something of a mystery, with no signs indicating subject matter.  You need to be an old hand to figure it out, or a seasoned browser whose reading pleasures are fueled by chance as much as purpose.

The Society also has a lock collection, and runs a lecture series throughout the year.  Tuesday, October 30th: Why Unions Still Matter.

If you're in Midtown with time on your hands, drop in.  It's a beautiful building. There's definitely an institutional, preserved in aspic kind of feeling as you enter the building.  As you dust off a book that might last have been read a century ago. Nothing's simple though. Look at a picture of the graduating class, - a wonderfully diverse group, with a growing number of women in the class - & you see the present. The mission endures.

By Hammer and Hand all Arts do Stand

(Open House New York)

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Theme of the Week

I met more sewer men in the last ten days that I could ever have previously imagined. I asked them a lot of naive questions. I gained a great respect for the grueling work that sewer men perform. I got to look into the bowels of the street and see the infrastructure we take for granted.  I like that sort of thing. The infrastructure's perilously old.  I watched a camera travel down a sewer line; it creeps you out a bit, is far too like a colonoscopy for comfort.  I'm thinking more on what & how much of the what goes down the drain.  (The colonoscopy thing again, and the sheer waste.) Too many people asked us too often if we'd taken out utility insurance.  Reader, we did not. You should.

Monday, October 8, 2018


Fugitive’s plunge into toxic Gowanus Canal was a terrible decision (Post)
Once in Brooklyn, Stuart’s accused of robbing Bay Ridge shop Mist Tobacco while brandishing a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol on Oct. 1.
He allegedly made off with $50 cash and Newport cigarettes, and was spotted by a security guard at the Gowanus-area Whole Foods.
Cops found Stuart “sitting on a park bench” staring out over the oily waters, and approached.
But the spooked Stuart ran for the tainted channel, and was apprehended “in the canal,” court papers say.

Brooklyn DA indicts 5 in asbestos and false permits scheme (The Real Deal)
Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez indicted five New Yorkers on Wednesday in an alleged asbestos removal scheme at a luxury duplex renovation in the Greenwood neighborhood of Brooklyn.
The accused include expediter Scott Schnall, who was previously “banned for life” by the Department of Buildings, after it found Schnall had “regularly used his professional filing privileges to try to circumvent the zoning resolution and construction codes.”
According to the DA, Schnall and four others conspired to conceal the existence of asbestos at 816-817 Fifth Avenue before applying for construction work permits.

Pleasantries in Greenwood Heights (Corcoran)
There’s a palpable sense of community in Greenwood Heights; residents know one another by name and shop owners issue pleasantries at first glance. Once primarily residential, Greenwood Heights has evolved into an even more energetic space. Cute cafés and boutiques dot Sixth Avenue, where even the development of more and more businesses hasn’t quelled the intimate, close-knit community feel.
Greenwood Heights real estate is a burgeoning business due to the plentiful homes and apartments in development. Homebuyers will find that Greenwood Heights condos for sale are quite modern, and even luxurious. Although new, the developments fit in well with the area’s long-standing single and multi-family homes, and wooden-framed row houses. 

'I'm Doing My Workout,' Mayor Tells Homeless Woman Seeking Help (Park Slope Patch)
Mayor Bill de Blasio was stretched out in butterfly position at the Park Slope YMCA when a homeless woman asked him to provide more housing for people like her.
"I'm doing my workout," video shows de Blasio telling the 72-year-old woman before he stands up and walks away. "I can't do this now."

Checking in on NYC’s ambitious homeless shelter overhaul, 18 months later (Curbed)
The mayor promised to “turn the tide” on homelessness—but how successful has the initiative been?

Desire paths: the illicit trails that defy the urban planners (Guardian)
According to some urban planning experts, Broadway was New York City’s earliest desire line, following as it does the Native American-made Wickquasgeck Path, which is thought to have been the shortest route between pre-colonial settlements in Manhattan that avoided swamps and hills. Broadway is the only remaining one path, according to Marini, that “wasn’t wiped out by the European grid being overlaid on it”.

Joginder Singh’s Boy (Spitalfields Life)
Spitalfields Life Books will be publishing A Modest Living, Memoirs of Cockney Sikh by Suresh Singh in October. Here is the fourth instalment and further excerpts will follow over coming weeks.
In this first London Sikh biography, Suresh tells the story of his family who have lived in their house in Princelet St for nearly seventy years, longer I believe than any other family in Spitalfields. In the book, chapters of biography are alternated with a series of Sikh recipes by Jagir Kaur, Suresh’s wife.

William Blake Illustrates Pioneering Feminist and Philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft’s Children’s Book of Moral Education (Brain Pickings)
Four years before she ignited the dawn of feminism with her epoch-making 1792 book Vindication of the Rights of Woman, the pioneering British philosopher and political theorist Mary Wollstonecraft (April 27, 1759–September 10, 1797) set out to change the fabric of society at the loom: She decided to write a children’s book of allegorical stories inviting young readers to contemplate questions of moral philosophy. At the heart of her vision was an insistence on the value of girls’ education as a counterpoint and challenge to Rousseau’s seminal 1762 book Émile, or Treatise on Education, which focused on the education of boys and reflected the era’s dominant ethos that women are to be educated only in order to make desirable wives and good conversation companions for their husbands.

Friday, October 5, 2018

At Abraham & Strauss

Brooklyn Daily Eagle, January 2, 1901

And at the Knickerbocker Theater, Broadway, October 1900

NYPL Digital Collections

Thursday, October 4, 2018

RIP Ms Colombia


Ms Colombia, a colorful and beloved figure in the Jackson Heights LGBT community, has been found dead, Council Member Daniel Dromm has announced.
Ms Colombia, whose birth name was Osvaldo Gomez, was found dead in the waters off Jacob Riis Park, Dromm’s office said. No foul play is currently suspected, although the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has yet to determine the cause of her death.  (Jackson Heights Post)

There will be a memorial vigil for Ms. Colombia tomorrow at 7 pm at the Jackson Heights Post Office, 37th Avenue & 78th Street

Thursday, September 27, 2018


I didn't have time yesterday to visit the Nicola Hicks exhibition in Chelsea. I only got to look through the gallery door, but I swore to myself I'd be back again today. And so it was.  The gallery is dimly lit, the figures sharp in monochrome. And the presence of their shadows - like pools of dark energy - is as potent as their physical forms.  Familiars.  Shape-shifters, the figures stand in a world before animal & human were split apart.  How facile such distinction.  They belong to the first stories.  Not the safe ones, but the ones that only a child is fresh enough to know as true.

Here are the beasts. Here they come padding back again.