Saturday, May 28, 2011

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.

1 comment:

Marty Wombacher said...

Great tour and photos! I really liked the one of the headgear women!