Monday, October 31, 2011

And Next Year?

Rumors swirl about the fate of Ruby's, and at least one other of the Coney Island boardwalk businesses that were to close by the end of the month.  Perhaps new leases will be signed, but under what terms?  Is it better to have something than nothing?
It was a beautiful day for what might have been Ruby's last.  After yesterday's freak snow, the fall light was back: crisp and heartbreakingly pure.  While the rides lay dormant until next year, and most of the businesses were boarded up for the winter, a cluster of drinkers lingered at Cha Cha's, and  larger groups lined the bar at Ruby's, or gathered outside it to catch the afternoon sun.  You wanted to be friends with all of them, and it felt, for that little time left, that you were. The mood was one of kindness, sadness, and unreality. In the distance a bride and groom posed for photographs at the ocean's edge. Closer by, a gull dined on Nathan's, and a man with a hybrid rabbit/mermaid/duck nestled in his arms seemed to be everywhere you looked: giving interviews, posing with the beach behind him, stooping to bestow largesse upon a small dog.  As he talked to me, he made the furry creature nod its rabbit head, as if joining in on in our conversation.  He said it came from the sea. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fifth & Ninth Looking a Little Retro

That car that just happened to be driving by, passing the Record & Tape Center, JFK Fried Chicken sign (no chicken these days), and Primetime Liquor, gave the Fifth & Ninth corner a good moment.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This Week

This Thursday, on the opening night of the Greenpoint Film Festival, there will be a world premiere screening of Jonas Mekas' My Mars Bar Movie:

" ... it was old and messy and it didn’t want to be any other way — it was the last escape
place left downtown New York. So this is my love letter to it, to my Mars Bar. Mars Bar as I knew it."

Mekas will be present at the screening.

Oh, & on a sort of related note, at St. Ann's Warehouse this week the Tiger Lillies & Justin Vivian Bond will be performing songs from the Lillies' album Sinderella.

The songs singled out for this special concert will be conveyed through the twin vocal assault of Bond (Shortbus, Kiki and Herb) and the Lillies. “Hopefully we will be able to generate quite a lot of hatred on stage between us” (Martyn Jacques).

Funeral Home

Yesterday I stopped to take a picture of the Arias building (one bedrooms from $2,900 if you're interested) and the Ortiz Funeral Home, two doors down.  Fourth Avenue, or as Mr. Markowitz would like it to become known, Brooklyn Boulevard.  As I stood on the corner, an older man - nattily attired in black beret & thin tie - approached, and told me softly that he used to live in one of the buildings replaced by the Arias giant.  Though he still managed to live around here, all of his friends & neighbors that were right there before had gone, forced out of the area by high rents.  He'd lost touch.  He shook his head.  He didn't know this place these days. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

At Anthology Film Archives

The Adolfas Mekas film, Going Home, was beautiful.  In 1971 Adolfas (who started the film program at Bard) & his filmmaker brother Jonas, accompanied by Adolfas' wife Pola Chapelle, returned to Lithuania for the first time in 27 years, and reunited with family members they had not seen since the war.  Semeniskiai, the place of their childhood, and their tiny wrinkled mother, in traditional long skirts and headscarf, look rooted in another century.  Like old home movies, the scenes of dancing & singing, the tending of an outdoors fire for a family meal, the mugging, laughing poses for the camera, evoke both the deepest joy and an ache for lost time. It is a film for and about exiles.
It made me think of my Polish parents-in-law, who also came here after the war, as did their close friend the filmmaker Stefan Sharff, who later went on to start the film program at Columbia. My father-in-law never returned to his home country, but I got the chance to go to Poland in the 80s, and met many members of his family.

There were seven people in the audience on Friday night.  Weren't there more people in the whole of the city who would come out on a fine autumn night to see such a film?  This made me resolve to become a more committed filmgoer there myself, & get a membership.  Basic membership is $60 ($90 for two people), and for that you get free admission to all the Essential Cinema repertory programs (assembled by Jonas Mekas - director of Anthology Film Archives since 1970 - & others), member-only screenings, and a $6 admission price for all other films.  If you go on December 17, you can see Jonas Mekas' Remniscences of a Journey to Lithuania, which includes footage of the two brothers' early life in America, and that same trip to Semeniskiai.  This piece shows some scenes from the visit, though I don't know if they're included in Remniscences:

The brothers worked independently during the '71 trip, and only revealed their work to each other when it was complete.  Going Home will be playing again next Wednesday, at seven.

(Pola Chapelle's album of Italian folksongs, originally released in the 60s, was re-released in 2005.  You can find out more about it and hear a sample here.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ominous link

Flat screens at Ruby's? More details of lease strongarming  negotiation on the boardwalk (Brooklyn Paper).  Not exactly surprising, but no less sad for that.  Better get out there next weekend.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Deli & Convenience, 314 Flatbush

Five Guys (2 ), Cheeburger, Bareburger, Corner Burger, Flipster... & so on & so forth.  There are a ton of places near me specifically known for burgers, plus a whole host of other places - bars, restaurants, cafes - that churn them out.  It's a little out of control.  My tip for a low-key kind of burger experience is the Deli & Convenience at 314 Flatbush, right next to the Q/B subway entrance.  Go back past the run-of-the-mill magazine/soda/beer section & hidden in the dim recesses of the store there's a fully functioning luncheonette counter, with a motley selection of counter stools & a few tables.  A 24 hour joint. It's not necessarily the best burger you'll eat, but service is prompt, and though kinda shabby, it's clean.  It's mostly a male crowd, but not in any way that makes you feel uncomfortable, and it's as far removed from haut-burger as you can get.  I sat between an off-duty mailman and a quiet thirty-something reading the paper, and felt quite hidden from the forces of change.  The fact that it's three doors up from a new Five Guys, replacement for the nice old Park Heights Stationers, made it all the sweeter.

Hopes for Ruby's et al.?

New leases for the Coney Seven? (New York Post)

Zamperla USA's plans to ditch real Coney class for crappy new eateries seem to have run into problems, & maybe they want to keep those well loved businesses they so disdained:

Zamperla had been in talks with Michele Merlo and Julio Gonzalez, who operate the Pelican Hotel in Miami, to run the four eateries. But the duo is now backing out because an ice cream parlor they opened on the boardwalk in July has been a huge bust, sources said.

Hah!  Nobody wanted that soulless place, did they?  Now another cycle of bullyboy cajoling begins.  It's a sad way to treat venerable institutions, but I hope something gets worked out to keep the Seven alive.

Update: Just read a post on Bensonhurst Bean.  According to NY1, Zamperla is offering Ruby's & Paul's Daughter 8 year leases.  Exciting news, though I wonder what the conditions are, & whether the other businesses will get some sort of deal.

Another Offering at the B61 Bus Stop

Stalwart on 23rd. Avenue

A traditional looking hardware store is a heartwarming sight.  I passed Bartunek's a few days ago & took this photograph.  Lovely, dignified signs, with no detail jarring or out of place. I especially like that Fence Matl. up at the top left. Bartunek was founded in 1925.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Dunkin' Donuts comes to Seventh (Here's Park Slope)
The real donuts are one block south, at 7th Ave. Donuts - a much better place to sit and catch a piece of an older Slope, along with a coffee & a cruller.  I liked it when they had the little paper cones for coffee, but it hasn't changed too much over the years.  It's still a teenage nightime hangout, and day or night, you'll find customers you'll never see sipping a latte in Grumpy's. Last time I was there, a couple of old guys were chuckling, and making lewd remarks about a friend's extended bathroom trip, while the kid next to me, filling out a job application for Rite Aid, spun out time with his mother, who took half an hour to order, and sent her pancakes not once but two times.  The waitress was heroically patient with this nonsense, while the guy at the griddle rolled his eyes, cursed under his breath & shot the lady a look of pure evil.

Smolen's Successor

So yesterday Gothamist ran the story that Mary's (conceived as "French Quarter meets the Lower East Side") finally opened in the corner building on Fifth where the Polish bar Smolen used to be.  You can read more about the situation here & here & here.

On Flatbush

Monday, October 17, 2011

Talking of the Seventies ...

The opening of this song is brilliant!

Old News of Old Times

I guess this has been floating around for years, but true to form, I only discovered it today, as I wasted time on Youtube. Back in 2007, the BBC made the documentary Once Upon a Time in New York: The Birth of Hip Hop, Disco and Punk. Whatever you think of the documentary as a whole, there's some great old footage. Here's Part One:

Good News at Hinsch's!

The Brooklyn Paper reports that the recently closed Hinsch's will live on!  The lease has been taken over by Gerard Bell, owner of Fifth Avenue restaurant Skinflint's:

We’re shooting for Nov. 1,” he said. “We’re in here now cleaning and just patching up some holes and we’re ready to go.”
Bell, a lifelong Ridgite, said he wanted to keep the shop from becoming another chain store — a common fate over the years.
“We wanted to revive the place, said Bell. “It’s a part of Bay Ridge history.
The menu will feature a couple new items, but the famous chocolates, milk shakes and egg creams will stay the same — as will its iconic signage and old-school interior.
“Everything is staying. We’re just cleaning it up and making it look nice,” he said.

Happy news!

Hell Gate

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"More than a Freakin' Tree"

Marty's staff answer to Jamie. (Daily News)

"In emails sent between 2007 and 2010 that The News obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, Jamie Markowitz weighs in on who will sit at her husband's table at official events, which local artists should be hired to make ceremonial gifts for the office and which Brooklyn slogans her husband should feature in his State of the Borough address.
One slogan on her list: "Brooklyn ... it's more than a freakin' tree!" (The slogan was among those submitted in a 2005 contest.)"

F train Shoes

The F was running as a C train last night, and by 11:30, it was infrequent.  When a train finally rolled into 14th St., it was packed.  Just down the car, a slip of a girl -  stick-thin, maybe 13 or so? - nestled up to an older man I hoped was her father.  She had long, dark blonde hair that fell straight to her shoulders, a short micro-mini of some ultra clingy fabric, and a sweatshirt top embroidered with the word "Dreaming". He was fair, with a crumpled, tired face, and a crumpled shirt & pants.  Maybe early forties. Both looked sad, and they spoke so softly I couldn't really hear them, but I just had this feeling they were Russian.  As the train got to Brooklyn, her head dropped to his shoulder, and he patted her hair. She looked like she was about to cry.
She was only a child, and the clothes were were all wrong for her age.  Compounding the hooker look of the barely-there skirt, and what made her outfit so remarkable, was the shoes she wore:  six inch wedges, metallic gold tipped at the toes in black.  They covered her feet all the way up to the ankles, and the golden part was like scales, or feathers even.  It looked like she had wings on her feet.  They were Firebird shoes.  They made me think of Brighton Beach in the winter, and the bookstore there with the model of the Snow Queen in the window.  They were, at the same time, the sluttiest and most magical shoes possible.  They were quite beautiful.
Oh how I wanted to photograph those shoes.  I thought about a quick snap as I left the train, but the two of them, sitting there in silence, were so tragic and self-contained, I didn't have the nerve to break in on them.  I looked at the shoes intently, trying to press their image into my mind so I could draw them when I got home.  It would be too sad to lose them.

Occupy Wall Street March: Sixth, & 46th Street (Blocked from Times Square)

Occupy Wall Street March: Bryant Park

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Room for Rent

It's dark now when I go to work, and the sun doesn't rise until after I get on the train.  Here's a building I pass most days.  Not the first time I've taken a picture, but in the dark it has a certain grim allure.  I still wonder about what kind of party you might have here, with the subway cars rumbling directly overhead.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Today at Zuccotti Park

You can count on Mark Twain  (my favorite sign)

Raging Grannies

Simple, & on the money

Unsung heroes ...

of our miserable health system

Reading the Declaration

and the Constitution (with an "asshole" sign pointed his way)

Knitting to occupy Wall Street

Fighting in style

Hope so.

Modern Italian Bakery (Ditmars Boulevard)

Something about this triptych caught my attention.  Three very old-fashioned kinds of stores: the kinds of humble, everyday places that sell or produce basic, practical goods. Wood.  Bread.  Cloth. The sad irony of that empty Modern bakery in the middle. Just not Modern enough, it seems.