Monday, August 29, 2011

Bella Donna (Fifth & 20th)

When Hellhounds came in, the awning of the previous business was torn down, revealing its old, hand-painted Bella Donna sign.  Make of the juxtaposition what you will.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Irene passes by lightly

Well that was an anti-climax.  This morning most of the nearby stores were closed, but the local trio of bars (Timboo's, Smith's, Jackie's) were up & running, & Neergaard & Daisey continued to dispense wheelchairs, sitz baths and eggs over easy.  There was some flooding down by the canal, but by the time I got down there, all that remained were some traces of sludge and the briny smell of the sea.  At the store where the pig's head remains in the window, serious measures had been taken to keep out the water.

Crossing the canal, I could hear the plaintive cry of waterfowl.  It turned out to be a weatherbeaten man with a trumpet mouthpiece. Under the Viaduct, right next to the Lowe's parking lot & the scrap iron dealer's, he made his lonely call.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

4:30 p.m.

The avenue is half shuttered up already.

Julie's girls must fend for themselves.

But not this special occasion.

Neergaard is living up to its billing thus far, but will it stay open tonight?

Daisey's, another 24 hour joint, is looking good.

At Jackie's Fifth Amendment, a solitary drinker can be seen way back in the dim recesses of the bar, while at Smith's Tavern, a drinker gazes wearily out onto the street. At Timboo's, a band of regulars bravely hold down the fort.

At the corner of 9th,, the cop on the corner enjoys a smoke, & a coffee from Dunkin' Donuts.  Irene, we're waiting.

Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks

If you want to cocoon yourself - temporarily at least - in an older corner of the Village, & pretend that a Bloomberg era city is just a bad dream, the magic Tenth Street trifecta of Julius, Three Lives & Co., & Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks will do the job.  The Greenwich Village Historical Society once cited Three Lives as "a haven of civility", but really, all of these places deserve the praise. In comparison to the other two, Bonnie's Slotnick's is a newcomer, having only been there for a dozen years, but Bonnie is a long-time Village resident with an encyclopedic knowledge of food and city life, and the store, a book-crammed parlor floor, feels as if it's been there for ever.  This is the rare kind of bookstore - a salon really - where you can have a long conversation with the owner, and the quietly witty Bonnie is a real pleasure to talk to. You can hang out here browsing as long as you like, & whether your tastes are scholarly, professional, down-home American, or kitsch, there'll be something you want to buy. The collection ranges from rare antiquarian books, to an equally rare and valuable document I bought for a buck: a take out menu from Fine & Schapiro (Call TR 7-2721) , which included oven roasted pullets and spring chickens, tzimmes, charassis, kishke a la Fine & Schapiro, and home made rhubarb with apples and strawberries. 

Friday, August 26, 2011


Hurricane Donna: Rockaways, 1960 (via Gothamist)

Alex "Hurricane" Higgins (1949-2010)

"He played snooker with flair, flamboyance & a flagon of Smirnoff to hand."


Faces of Sixth

I like this woman's look.  She has a sweet, pensive expression, & the color of that wig is great.  A few blocks south though, there's a very sad collection of ladies.  The store owner didn't want me to photograph them, and it's not really surprising when you see how these women have been treated. There's something a little sick about putting such damaged mannequins out there in the window.  God knows what sadistic rites go on at this place when the store is closed.  Someone get these girls out of here before it's too late.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sixth Avenue & 30th

Signs from different eras.

Stand back a little, & you get La-Rosa Hand Made Cuban Cigars thrown into the mix.

The second floor store is empty.  La-Rosa, founded in 1958, has not folded though, but instead upped & moved to the Bronx.  Under the Hip Hop sign, above the doorway to 862 Sixth, is another sign, where you can just about make out the faint trail of cigar smoke.

Time for Some Teddy Pendergrass

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


On the Frank J. Trezza Brooklyn Navy Yard Collection (Brooklyn Historical Society)

From a current exhibition at BHS, Inventing Brooklyn - People, Places, Progress, created by students in the BHS Exhibition Lab program:

The photographs of Elliott Erwitt, on exhibition at the ICP until the end of the week (Ephemeral New York)

An interview with the founder of The City Reliquery, Dave Herman (Gothamist)

Monday, August 22, 2011


House prices have soared.  Condos have risen  Stores have changed identities in blurring succession.  Down go the butchers, the barbers, the old-school bars.  The corner bodegas, the small-time hair salons.  Up come the wine bars, the retro-hat shops, the self-conscious bicyclist stores, the fro-yo cafes.  More burgers in more varieties than you ever deemed possible, with carefully curated selections of beer to accompany them.  Change barrels along.  Take your pick of places to miss.

What I miss most, though, are the people that used to be here.  My neighbours, Jack, a gruff ex-cop, and Manny (Manny Manyana), a gym teacher, both of whom would bring me fish after boat trips from Sheepshead Bay.  Sal, a Korean war vet, who grew up on the block, and John, hanging out by their stoops, ready to talk.  Handy guys, both, who could fix things for themselves.  My next door neighbor, loud as a stevedore, but a real sweetheart, and her husband, retired from the Navy Yard, who, half-blind and in his nineties, still tottered down to Fifth with a shopping cart to get the day's groceries.  And the people I barely knew.  The tiny old Central American lady with long white hair and wide, brocaded  skirts, who looked like a malevolent spirit in a folk tale.  Walter, who lived across in a house across the street & never emerged from the third floor, relying on Whitey to bring him supplies, which were placed in a plastic bag attached to a rope & hauled up to his window.  Lilian, a spry older woman in dusty jeans & plaid shirt, who came in from Harlem to work on the house she owned. She told me of the bullets lodged in her body, & warned me that the CIA was controlling the weather.  The blind man who worked at a job assembling cardboard boxes, who was relentlessly cheerful & made me ashamed of my own minor gripes in life.  Even that woman, late one night, who shouted hoarsely through an open window for a needle & thread, "because I've split my pants, honey, & I need to fix 'em, quick."

These are just a few of the people I miss from my block. There are all sorts of others, many of whom who it would be impolite, tactless, or even unwise to mention. And none of them (apart from Whitey, who actually lived elsewhere) ever went up to Seventh Avenue.  Their world extended from Sixth downwards.  All over the Slope, though, twenty plus years ago, life had more vigor, though especially on its western & southern edges.  Life was less bland.  Many of the people I met on the street I talked to, & but some I just noticed and wondered about.  Today I regret my English reticence over the years, my inability to write things down, to take photographs, to ask questions.  I've missed or forgotten a lot this way.

I've seen Connie around ever since I've lived here, but we hadn't exchanged more than a few words until quite recently.  Today we talked some more. Connie has been panhandling in the Slope since the 80's, first on Seventh, but in recent years on Fifth, usually outside either Rite Aid or the bank on Tenth St.  The move from Seventh to Fifth was all because of Snake Man, a nasty slob of a guy who wore a snake around his neck, & grubby sweat pants that apparently showed only too well his sadly limited assets.  Connie still sneers at his loutish, homophobic ways. Snake Man was always calling the cops on Connie, who finally gave up the Seventh patch. It was too much trouble. Connie was born in Brownsville, but came to live in the Slope as a teenager, in the 60's, remembering Eighth Street (5th & 6th) as largely Haitian back then.  Connie worked for 21 years for the Parks Department, at the tennis courts in Central Park, where there were any number of celebrities swinging racquets, including a cute soap star or two.

We discussed a bunch of stuff today, some of which I won't disclose here, as Connie is inclined to be somewhat private. We did talk about the miseries of aging, and the bad stuff that narrow shoes will do to your feet.  We discussed the woman that agressively works the other side of Fifth from the bank. The woman whose raucous, rough-edged rendering of "sweetie", as she approaches you, removes every possible drop of nectar from the word, and inspires instead a sickening  terror.  Connie said she has a hole in her head.  I should look out for it. We talked about the yuppytown that even this part of Fifth is turning into, and the pain of making money.  After a while, in the kindest possible way, I was made aware that time in which money could be made was being wasted right then and there.  It was time to leave Connie be, after a quick photograph or two. The photographs did not turn out as well as I hoped, because my model fooled around a lot, partly out of vanity, partly as a joke, and partly (probably) to piss me off a little.  Connie is friendly, but also slightly fierce, in every sense of the word.  I felt pretty squat & ungainly in her presence, and also sadly soft in spirit.  She's toughed out a lot of difficult times, & continues to do so in style. She's pretty damn wonderful.


A Bit More of the Weekend

Neglected liquor sign: from the Q train, Sheepshead Bay

A classic storefront : Jimmy's on Sheepshead Bay Rd..

Phone, repair sign, food: Brighton Beach Ave.

Three men: boardwalk

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Declining Postal Service Gets Even Worse

Yesterday my mail came at 6:30 p.m., and this set a new record for lateness.  As I returned yet another mis-delivered letter to the carrier, I asked what had happened. Apparently, because a number of routes have been cut, this will now be the normal delivery time.  This seems like ineffective planning to me.  Once the darkness draws in and the clocks go back, how are the mailmen supposed to read addresses in the dark?  Will they be carrying flashlights?  They don't even read the mail very well in daylight. We're already used to miserably poor service, and the Van Brunt P.O. is notoriously uninterested weak in responding to the public about mail problems.  On our block, we rely on the kindness of our neighbors to send a good deal of errant mail to each other. Seems like things will only get worse. 

Ladies of the Boardwalk, & a Little Music

I can't remember where I first saw this 1979 film, directed by Arnold Baskin, but I think I've seen it on at least a couple of blogs over the last few years.  It's worth bringing back again.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Brighton Beach

Who is this man on Coney Island Avenue & what exactly is he promoting?  Lotto tickets would be an obvious guess, but the way he's kitted out might suggest otherwise.  His house-hat, & and the little house he's holding are quite mysterious accessories, and the notice-board he bears has only a scrawl of graffiti on it. And yet. When I look at a sign near him, I see that the symbol that begins the word "Loto" sort of matches those on his houses.  But why the houses? If I were Russian, I would surely know these things.

This store is right before CIA hits Brighton Beach Avenue, just before the train track swings around from the Sheepshead Bay station.  Whichever train you're on going to Coney Island, it's always exciting when you get near to the water, and the kid in you gets a little tingly with anticipation.  Even underneath the tracks, there next to Enigmatic Advertizer, it's pretty cool to see the Q pulling around and heading off towards the Brighton Beach stop.  I guess I'm easily pleased.

Green on 12th

Update. A matching van on 11th!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sell, Sell, Sell, Around the Rising Yards Arena

In the words of that Smirnoff sign, "Let the carnival festivities begin".

Passed Hank's today, & wondered how much longer it'll be around. Here's a picture of the place when it was still the Doray Tavern. By Lucille Fornasieri-Gold, circa 1978, in the Brooklyn Historical Society archives.

199 Fifth

The Jany's Meat Market sign at this location is on top of an earlier one, presumably San Jose's, which was there before Jany's.  Maybe Jany's has some fresh meat tucked away at the back, but when you go in it looks pretty much like a regular grocery/deli. This little cow though, peering out from under a contractor's sign, is evidence of a meatier past.  I asked the guy behind the counter about the older sign, but he told me he was from Manhattan & knew nothing about it.  Fleisher's,the up-scale butcher business from upstate Kingston (originally founded in Kensington, Brooklyn) is about to set up on this block very soon.

A New Essay by Romy Ashby (Hurrah)

A new, beautiful piece from Romy Ashby,  I Remember, & news of a new magazine, Housedeer, which will be available very soon.  It sounds great, so give it your support.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


West Nile-carrying mosquitoes in Brooklyn, including nearby Greenwood Heights (NY1 via The Bensonhurst Bean)

Where do the Books Go?a film by Joey O'Loughlin, explores the different experiences of Brooklyn Library readers. 

Playing music and meeting old friends at Conte's Market, Yorkville (NY Times)

Dog & Cat Hospital

Now this is a lovely sign.  Fifth Avenue at 68th Street.