Saturday, December 31, 2011

How Much Would You Pay for a Pair of Shoes?

According to Park Slope Patch, local (Seventh Avenue) businesses have had a booming holiday season.  Eric Mudick, owner of Eric shoestore, said his customers were choosing higher end merchandise this year:

Monday and Tuesday we saw mothers with their exasperated daughters coming in to buy things they cannot get while at college,” said Mudick. “One girl bought four pairs of handmade boots for $500 a piece.”
He said the biggest difference he saw from last year was that people bought more expensive shoes this time around.
“Instead of buying two pairs of shoes made in China for $200 a piece, people seemed to value quality more this time around,” Mudick said. “People were coming in and buying boots that cost $500 and up, but they will last for ten years.”

Hah.  I'm not even at the cheap Chinese shoes end of this scale.  Not surprising I'm barely ever on Seventh.

Handbag Giveaway (9th & Fourth)

La Gran Via

The sandwiches at La Gran Via are all in the three to four dollar range, and they're huge.  I got a ham & egg for $3, and a big cup of cafe con leche to go with it.  It's one of those set-ups where the store decorations, the vast array of baked goods, and the host of menu items posted above the counter make choosing your order slightly overwhelming.  And is a plain burger really only a buck fifty?  This place is hopping, with a steady crowd of customers in & out.  There's a counter with a handful of stools to one side of the store & it's a great spot to watch the lunch scene.  The bakery has a wide selection of cookies & individual pastries

but it's best known for its mind-blowing theme cakes, made to suit every occasion.  Here are a couple that would give any party a bit of an oomph:

You can check out an inside view of the store here, and see more of those crazy technicolor dreamcakes on the store's website.  La Gran Via is at 5th Avenue and 45th Street.

Friday, December 30, 2011

15th Street

The Monk parrots are a regular presence around here, flying over in groups from Greenwood Cemetery.  Here they are on 15th yesterday, clearly the rulers of the bird feeder.  Just below them, a host of smaller birds, & down on the ground (out of the picture), a couple of abject pigeons shuffling about.


Looking back at earlier Polar Bear days, with some great Irving Herzberg shots (Brooklynology)

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day After

Happy Holidays

At home, after a day of heavy eating.  I am now the proud owner of fur-lined Latvian mittens,  the 1952 autobiography Bullfighter from Brooklyn, two novels by Ivy Compton-Burnett,  & a new, slim Canon A330 (thanks for the tip, Goggla).  These presents are perfect.  The mittens are a sensory delight, & the fact that the fur is hidden makes wearing them especially pleasing.  The bullfighter in question grew up just a few blocks from here.  Hemingway admired his skills in the ring.  Compton-Burnett's dark and subversive work isn't much known in the States, but it should be:

"Apart from physical violence and starvation, there is no feature of the totalitarian regime which has not its counterpart in the atrocious families depicted in (her) books."
                                                                                      Edward Sackville West

The little camera will have its first outing tomorrow.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Two exhibitions to see.  The first has just opened, & the second, at the Jewish Museum, has been around since early November.

Police Work: Photographs by Leonard Freed, 1972-1979 ( Museum of the City of New York,  Dec 20 through Mar 18):
Police Work: Photographs by Leonard Freed, 1972-1979 features a selection of vintage prints by the Brooklyn-born photographer who documented "life on the beat" with NYPD officers during the tumultuous 1970s.

The Radical Camera: New York's Photo League, 1936-1951   (The Jewish Museum, until March 25, 2012:
In 1936 a group of young, idealistic photographers, most of them Jewish, first-generation Americans, formed an organization in Manhattan called the Photo League. Their solidarity centered on a belief in the expressive power of the documentary photograph and on a progressive alliance in the 1930s of socialist ideas and art. The Radical Camera presents the contested path of the documentary photograph during a tumultuous period that spanned the New Deal reforms of the Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some Christmas Faces (To Dyker Heights After a Long Absence)

If you want the real lights overload, you have to go to Dyker Heights, & really, a Thursday night before the holidays is a good time to be down there.   The crowds last night were thin, and a pretty mixed group of people wandered the streets, though I heard a lot of Russian spoken.  I can't do justice here to the mega-mansion size of the houses, or the razzmatazz of the lights: in my photographs the epic scenes are timid miniatures.   I loved getting up close to the Christmas figures though, especially the choristers with their strange, replacement eyes, the grave, blonde angels, lips pressed to trumpets, and the Wise Man, splendid in blue, red and gold. Bulbous faced Santas were scary, and the snowman with blank eyes might track you down in your worst nightmares. 
You need to be there in person to get the full impact: block upon block of massive houses blazing with lights and brassy over-confidence.  As we rode home Borough Park seemed dim & secretive, and the regular house lights we had loved so much in Sunset Park & Greenwood Heights were faint, amateur affairs.  How quickly we had become corrupted.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The children & their parents seem to be causing a little tension in a South Slope, Seventh Ave. building.  I'm with Gloria on the doorbell ringing.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Meanwhile on 22nd Street ...

Other people are decorating too:

This Santa however, has given up on the merriment & lies slumped in a heap with other, undetermined companions:

Saturday, December 17, 2011


By the time I got over to 22nd Street this afternoon, I'd just missed the 5:00 p.m Light Spectacular, but the fifteen minute wait until the next show just built up the suspense.  While you waited, you could work a control box & push buttons to light up parts or all of Frosty, displayed on a large screen in front of the house.  This kept me, & the two small children waiting with their parents, quite busy.

It's grand show, with music, lights & special effects, but best parts are when the faces at the windows appear.  You laugh when you first see them, and like a baby, you enjoy them just as much again when they return.  They're a formula for instant delight.

More on the creators here (Daily News)

Update:  For much better photographs, & a far more technically capable description of the Spectacular, check out John Huntington's blog Control Geek.  I met John yesterday at the show.


My trusty little Powershot A590 is having problems.  Something to do with a warped opening to the battery compartment is causing the "Change Batteries" sign to come up unnecessarily often, & the screen to go dark.  Right now I'm using it with a rubber band wrapped around it, in an attempt to close the battery compartment more firmly.  An elegant, but inefficent approach. I'm hoping a little creative fiddling on the inside will solve the problem , but if not, I'll need a new camera for everyday use.  I'm trying to choose between the Canon ELPH 300  (a good price & maybe all I really need?) & the more expensive Canon S 95 (twice as expensive, but clearly better, & sturdier).  I have a Canon Rebel, but don't carry it around all the time, so I need a good back-up. Any recommendations, anyone?

J & R

Had to go to J & R to get some music for a friend.  What greeted me when I got up to the second floor? 

J&R is one of (or the?) last big music retailers in the city. Despite the Lady Gaga thrills, the scene is a bit dingy, in a comfortable way, & there's no frantic sales scene.  On the second floor, the shopping was sedate, and an elderly salesman in the gospel section had plenty of time for chuckled memories of Southern country stores.  Another clerk looked up an item for me (John Waters Christmas!) on the oldest computer monitor I've seen in years, & the ladies of the checkout worked slowly, with a tart, weary efficiency.  How civilized the whole experience felt.
When I'm at J&R, I like to head over to the corner department & stop at the cafe.  There's free internet access,  a decent cup of coffee, & a strangely satisfying view of the floor below.  Not much happening in accessories on an early Friday evening.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Chris Schneider's & Ryan Powers' 4th annual Holiday Light Spectacular is in full swing on 22nd street, between 6th & 7th.  The show runs every 20 minutes, starting at 5 p.m. . Here's last year's show, & you can catch the first two on Vimeo.

Holiday Light Spectacular 2010 from Chris Schneider on Vimeo.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sentry Duty on 9th

The Loneliest Room

While it was quiet enough in the bar tonight at Jackie's Fifth Amendment, and the talk tended to the low & melancholic, the Christmas lights twinkled, and softened a little both the mood and the tired sadness on the faces of the (mostly older, female) drinkers.  Early evening ennui on Fifth.  The dimly lit back room, however, was positively ghostly, and no fairy bulbs or Santas made a difference here. The tables, with their floral plastic tablecloths, were waiting for the party that never arrived, and there was no one handy with a set of darts to play a game or two.  If only you could conjur some past merriment to fill the room with laughter. This blurry shot is pretty pathetic, but it kind of sums up the spirit of the hour.


New leases for Coney Island boardwalk businesses (Daily News)
Ada Louise Anderson's great walk in the Mozart Garden (Brooklynology)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


The awning at the closed-up Pop's (Fifth & 19th) is turning an alarming shade of green.  Pop's Bazaar, a long-standing fixture on Fifth, was one of those places that sold just about everything, & had a reputation as a fire-trap.  Many years ago, a very nippy dog used to hang out there.