Saturday, March 31, 2012

Streecha (33 East 7th Street)

A good thing about having a lightly read blog is that in mentioning a place you like to visit, you have zero impact on its existence.   No queue creating here!  Besides, Streecha is already well-known enough, so it's not exactly news to talk about it.  Still, at a time of day when lines are forming for overpriced brunch all around it, it's good to drop by for a quiet $7 meal: sausage & sauerkraut, a chunk of honey cake, & coffee.  Food is served canteen-style, & proceeds go to help the Ukrainian church across the street.  It's open three days a week.  When I first got in there were maybe half a dozen others, sitting far apart at the plastic-covered trestle tables.  The crowd was mostly middle-aged, and mostly the diners ate alone.  A trio of tourists sat at the next table - quiet, understated types who kept to themselves & made no fuss.  A couple of young people manned the counter. Every so often an elderly, white-aproned, white-haired woman emerged from the kitchen and scanned the room a bit anxiously.  She reminded me of my mother.  It was the apron & the hair, but also the sweet, open face, untouched by make-up, and a posture of domestic exhaustion.  And that look of worry.  She was as saintly a presence as the figure on the wall above her.
After a while, when I was down to the last crumbs of cake, a crowd of parents & kids burst in.  The fair-haired children carried eggs & baskets & were a little giddy.  Talk got louder, & bounced between Ukrainean & English, with the parents speaking only in their native tongue and the children using both.  The place had been hushed until now, but it was great to experience it this way too: full of life, & laughter & family silliness.  The kids looked a bit like my own English-Polish pair when they were little.
It's seems like a miracle that somewhere so nice as Streecha is still operating.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fifth & 7th

At Jackie's Fifth Amendment.  South of O'Connor's Jackie's & Smith's are the only old-school bars left on Fifth in the Slope.  A quiet night, seated at the bar between a Riker's guard and a slumped, white-haired man who said nothing at all. Generous buy-backs, a lovely young bar-maid would-be journalist, the gravel-voiced cursing of the ladies at the end of the bar.  "Tighten Up" on the jukebox.  The work week barreling down to an end. A little kindness left in the world.


Inside the old 65th Stationhouse in Brownsville (D. News)

In the Window of Dun Rite Cleaners (Fifth & 7th)

Carved wooden statues (who is Evelio?)

and tiny metal garments (much smaller than they appear here):

Could the figures be advertizing Evelio cigars?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sheer Genius

I'm pretty sure I've posted this before, but who cares? Everything about this performance is perfect. Billie Holiday was born on April 7th,1915, so the annual Columbia WKCR 24 hour birthday tribute will be coming up in a couple of weeks. A while back they had a one week non-stop tribute, so expect something big for 2015. Anyway, I'm getting in the mood for next month. My mother was born exactly two years after Billie, so the 7th is a doubly special day.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Onward, Brooklyn Boulevard

The Park Slope Civic Council is a hosting a Fourth Avenue pilot-project workshop tonight at the Brooklyn Lyceum.  The project, between Bergen & Degraw, will serve as a model for a grander transformation of "urban space" on Fourth. I'm sorry I won't be able to make it, but maybe it's just as well.  This sort of urban-design jargon makes me angry & depressed:

Through a series of playful temporary interventions, the pilot project will 1) begin the dialogue to engage residents along 4th Avenue and 2) test greening strategies and 3) create a socially engaged streetscape through experimental play...
Some initial questions:
    How might we transform the street into a living room for the weekend?
    How might we transform a few parking spaces into mini-gardens?
          How might we ingrate new behaviors on the street that incorporate movement and social interaction?   

          How might we form a new identity along 4th Avenue that connects these interventions together?

          How might we collect the wishes of other residents passing by?

The thought of Fourth Avenue as a weekend living room is my idea of hell, & the talk of "new behaviors on the street" (queues for brunch?  perhaps a return of the infamous dumpster swimming pool?) are only cause for unease.  Despite the condos that tower over the avenue, I still like Fourth as a refuge from the crowds further east, and don't think it needs a "new identity" but I guess it'll soon be completely colonized by chattering hordes. Why does it (like so much of Manhattan & the western shores of Brooklyn ) have to become drained of real-world value, & turned into some sort of giant playland for immature, wealthy adults?  It will soon be nothing at all.

Boerum Gold

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The End of the Line

Early morning at 179th & Hillside, the last stop on the Queens-bound F line.   When I was here on Thursday, the streets were still heavy with mist.  Hillside feels down on its luck, with more than its fair share of hard-times gold buyers, and shuttered stores you wished you'd seen in better days.  It's a scrappy scene of smoke-shops, liquor stores & bars.  The stores for the most part are low-lying, and many have vertical signs that rise above the roof-line.  This gives them a fly-by-night flimsiness. A new Dunkin rubs shoulders with a pizza shop where only pigeons visit.  The avenue seems to stretch forever.
Of course I only found myself here because of the Mannish Water escapade (see yesterday).  This meant I stayed for about five minutes, before heading back on the F in the opposite direction.  So this visit means almost nothing & I'll have to come back for a longer walk around.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Far Cry from Campbell's

When I first read this soup ad on the F train yesterday, I thought what I saw was  a) a result of poor eyesight & sleep deprivation or b) a satirical art piece. Mannish Water? Was there ever a more evocative name for a soup? A name that was pleasing in its stout macho vigor (despite the qualifying "-ish"), yet also conjured the troubling whiff of urinals. This soup, a Ram Goat Flavor Mix, certainly sounded potent.
I'd never seen an ad for Grace Foods before. This Jamaican company has been in business since 1922, & if you check out the company site you can read a pedantic yet curiously romantic account of its history, that goes on for pages & pages & pages. Take this extract, for example:

In March of the same year, Donald Myrie, a member of the Grace News editorial
committee, had asked 'Why no Grace, Kennedy Sports Club?' Were they all to wait for
'our Good Samaritan' Carlton Alexander to do it for them, or 'do we do something for
ourselves?' There had been such a Club formed in 1959 by founder and first President
'Junior' Foote. It was bases at the old Wembley Club on Dunoon Road. The opening
activity had been a cricket match -Jamaica Rums vs. Merchandise Division. It was
described as a 'very liquid' affair. Much liquor flowed, much food was downed, and the
famous 'Sugar Belly' and his Combo provided music. Neither Captain Bradie Hale
(Rums) nor Carlton Alexander (Merchandise) was able to give a clear account of scores
or result of the game, or indeed whether there had been any result.

I was happy to see Grace Foods staking a claim up there on the train.  The ads these days are generally so bland & uniform: a whole carriage-worth of one gaudy corporate message repeated again & again, or a tirade of self-congratulory MTA-talk.  It's soulless fare. There's little in the way of ad-poetry, of smaller appeals to our sometimes grubby needs & desires.  Even Dr. Zizmor & his peeled ladies are getting harder to find.
I wanted to take a photograph of this ad all the way from Brooklyn through Manhattan, but the surly guy who sat under it scowled at me so viciously I didn't dare.  He stayed on in Queens, and was distracted for several stops by by a cute black girl in a laced goth bustier, who wore tiny shorts & knee socks & carried a tennis racquet.  Not distracted enough though.  He glowered right past my subway stop, and I had to go to the end of the line & wait for him to leave before I took my shot.  I think it was worth it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Meanwhile, on 12th Street ...

The oversized Key Food awning goes up, & the fire damaged house next to it looks much as it has done for the last two years.

Further up the block, 314, on which construction began five years ago, is still empty.  What a vision of shoddy disharmony. Recently some men with a hose appeared, to drain water from the third floor roof, & to patch up leaking windows. The "guard dog" a sign on the door warns of has never so much as whimpered.

Monday, March 19, 2012


Fort Greene Tire Shop set to close (The Local):
"F&S Tires is preparing to shut down after 27 years at the corner of South Oxford Street — the result of city enforcement that prevents the store from keeping more than 99 tires in stock at any time."

Smith & 9th Street station's re-opening delayed (Brooklyn Paper)
A real surprise.

Raising Steel: A Mohawk Ironworker Keeps Tradition Alive (WNYC)

Danny's Rim & Tire (Fourth & 11th) : Sunday Afternoon

Now there's a dog with presence.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Almost Spring on 21st Street

Something for everyone here.  Vintage cars, a boat, a good supply of scrubbing brushes & an eclectic assortment of animals, including a giraffe.  I 'm increasingly drawn to the world of obsessive collections.

Friday, March 16, 2012

When I was in London, I visited a lot of churches, and this seemed a sure confirmation of middle age.   Often I was the only person present in a church, other than clerics or volunteers.  This sometimes made me a target, and led to awkward encounters: an invitation to mass, an unctuous guide trailing at my heels trying to direct me to an American memorial (painful proof of a lost accent), and a long conversation with an idling vicar, who talked of his conversion, and pressed a Jesus pamphlet into my hands before I left.  Mostly though, I was left in peace.

St. Clement Danes, in the Strand, is a Christopher Wren church badly damaged during the Blitz.  It is the church of the RAF, and outside is a statue of Bomber Harris, responsible for the bombing of Dresden and other German cities.  The vistors' book is full of tributes to relatives who served their country, but not all the comments are kindly ones:

"Put this statue away,  he is  the devil!"

St. Bartholomew the Great. right around the corner from Smithfield Market & next to St. Barts hospital, has been in continuous use since the twelfth century, and has survived the Great Fire, 18th century squatters & the bombing of World War II.  Its Norman interior is much in demand as a film-set.  The church is known for its healing powers.

I have no desire for a funeral service, or any kind of tombstone, but Edward Cooke's memorial stone is as beautiful as any I've seen.

I hadn't seen a hair-merchant's burial stone before my visit to St. Bartholomew's,

or even thought much about the profession:

Judging from period documents, trading in hair had the potential to be the most lucrative area of the business. In 1756, John Brooks of Holborn recorded sales of parcels of French hair worth £90,000 (roughly £6.5 million today). Harvey Spragge, recorded as a “Hair and Silk Merchant,” was said to have died leaving a fortune of £30,000 in 1733. At the other end of the social spectrum were itinerant chapmen, who often sold human hair, particularly in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries at the height of the wig’s popularity. Urban hair merchants are known to have employed dealers to purchase hair from around the country and it is possible that some exploited the chapmen’s communication links. Another way to procure hair was to make it come to you, as can be seen from advertisements placed by barbers and wig-makers with offers such as this: “If any man or woman hath good hair to sell, let them repair to George Gray Barber and Perriwig maker over against the Greyhound Tavern in Blackfriars, London; there they shall have at least as much ready money as anybody else will give.”

Issue 40 Hair Winter 2010/11 , Matters of the Head - Emma Markiewicz

At Southwark Cathedral, I coveted shoes.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heard On the B69

"She was wearing a pencil skirt so tight it was disgusting.  It was like two sizes too small.  It was so tight it was like her legs burst out from under it to say hello.  I was violated, just looking at it."

Keith Haring: 1978 - 1982

From the Brooklyn Museum show:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On Eighteenth Street

Before yesterday, I hadn't noticed this small apartment building between Third & Fourth Avenues.  What a remarkably grim example of the invasive species.  A quick Google Maps search shows those ground-floor boarded windows to be a permanent feature.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One Bakery Becomes Another

The Three Star Bakery, on Fifth just by the expressway, is to become La Dolce Vita.  Here's Park Slope profiled this place last summer, and discovered there had been a bakery on the premises for over a century.  Three Star had been advertising "summer hours" in the window for some time, which didn't seem promising even in a mild winter.  Nice that there'll still be a bakery on site.

Inside The French House, Soho

     No television.  No cell phones please.  The French House, on Dean Street, serves beer in half-pints only, except on April Fool's Day. Its wine selection is large, & a lot of Ricard is downed.. Former regulars include Brendan Behan, Dylan Thomas, Lucian Freud, and (see above) Francis Bacon, and it's still known as a hangout for the arts and theater set. 
     The small barroom is worn & comforting, and the walls are lined with black and white photos of its earlier days. It's clubby.  Not un-friendly exactly (perfectly polite), but essentially a private party. There isn't much need for new faces, and you can't help but be jealous of the chosen.  I went in at lunch, and watched from a seat at the side of the room as a handful of locals - mainly older men - walked in and struck up muted, knowing conversations with the barman.  Nothing much but murmurs, and the clinking of a glass or two.  A perfect place to soften the realities of a two o'clock world.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Sun Bo Bo

A couple of days ago my alert neighbor informed me that Sun Bo Bo, the Cantonese restaurant much loved by Chinese postal workers, was shuttered.  It shut down for a bit a year or so back, & I thought it had closed for good, but it re-opened after a while, with no discernible changes.  This time though, with so many stores nearby changing hands, I feared the worst.  In fact, it's been shut for the past few days due to illness in the family.  Sun Bo Bo is a two man, father-and-son business, and right now the father is sick.  Because of this, its future is uncertain.  Good wishes to the family, and hopes for a speedy recovery.

Wig Endures

I had to go to Staples, on Fourth, to get a couple of things for work.  The only good thing about my mission was checking on the wig on the Union Street fence.  It had been hanging on the barbed wire since at least the fall of 2010, and I was confident it would still be there.  Yes!  A testament to the longevity of synthetic tresses!

The Freedom Press is the oldest anarchist publishing house in the English-speaking world, & has been in business off the Whitechapel Road since 1886.  It's down an alleyway behind (oh sad irony) a KFC.  On the side of the Press there's a very nice display of Notables.  Click on the picture to catch the roll-call.