Monday, February 27, 2017

Scaling Down

It's time to start shedding possessions.  Apart from the shared things, I'm fairly light on extra baggage, but there's still too much.  I don't have many clothes, and the ones I do have are mostly second-hand, but vanity & sentiment have led me to keep things I'll never wear again.  That sheer, black D&G shirt with leather cuffs - who am I kidding?  The long, black Armani coat that looks more like something a disaffected teen gunman might wear? A Harris tweed cape I haven't worn in thirty years, that now feels more Seinfeld than Highland?  But pare down I must.  I've never had much in the way of jewelry, and have given most of it away.  That one's easy. The early, seminal record collection never made it to the States, but the books? The books have traveled three continents. Books from my mother's university years, paperbacks my brother gave me when I was seven or eight - mother & brother long gone, but their presence still warm in the pages. My own college books, from a time when reading was romantic. And yes, I'm a bit of a literary snob about my collection. It's a good one.
I can only get rid of books grudgingly, one by one, telling myself that only the truest, fittest must survive - only the ones I can't imagine being without.  Reading distilled.  A late Roth doesn't escape the cut, though anything up to Pastoral is indispensable.  The more market-friendly books hit the curb, but the misfits - a cheap, crumbling Henry James (surely I'll never read Henry James again), a slim Irony (1975) - head straight for the trash. There's still a sizable number left - a lifetime of books, including a few I've had since three, or four, or five, and others that appeared just a month or two ago.
If the core of the collection were gone, I might disappear myself.

Friday, February 24, 2017



I noticed that the barbershop at Fifth & 13th had had its shutters down for a while.  Today the guys in the deli next door to the shop told me that Frank was taken ill recently.  He said most likely the barbershop wouldn't be re-opening.  I don't know how long Frank's had been around on Fifth, but over thirty years at least.



Thursday, February 23, 2017

En La Capilla

Building Sight

262 18th has had a SWO in effect since November.  Just the look of this 'two family' screams Construction Contrary to Plan.  There seems to be no plan at all really, just a kind of makeshift improvisation, dependent perhaps on the random availability of building materials.  The older (yellow) section at least has symmetry going for it, but what happened with those window openings over on the green side?  When I looked this way last July, work had been proceeding under an implausible Alt 2 permit, and a partial SWO had just been issued. The building was only half its glorious width back then. By October a new building permit was approved. but it took less than a month for the site to be shut down again.  Nothing's pretty here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


I came across this picture quite by chance, when I was looking for something else.
Second Avenue, 2012.

At Night

"Walking at night involves displacements both of the city and of consciousness - like the ones Guy Debord alluded to when, in Paris in the mid-1950s, he celebrated a relationship to the spaces of the metropolis that undermines or upsets habitual influences and is 'insubordinate to usual attractions'."
                                              Nightwalking: A Nocturnal History of London - Matthew Beaumont

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Troubling Signs

The Hank's flames are looking awfully dim with that giant MARJAM up there.

And over at St Marks, the eleven plastic letters have gone into hiding.  Well, we hope they're still holding on.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Troopers

Why are State Troopers now patrolling Fifth Avenue?  They were out on Fifth yesterday, much to the concern of passers-by, and I saw them pulling over a black woman driver, for reasons unknown. Prior to this, they'd been double parked a couple of blocks farther north.  When I asked them why they were there, one of the troopers told me that Cuomo was sending state police out to "help the city." I asked her why they needed to be here on Fifth - hardly a hotbed of crime - & she asked me if I'd been paying attention to the news.  Well, there's a surplus of news to pay attention to right now, with most of it far more serious than the endless Cuomo/DeBlasio feuding, and I couldn't say I'd heard anything about a state police initiative in NYC.  I wanted to try and find out more, but our conversation, such as it was, was abruptly halted when the two troopers turned on their lights & sped off to stop the driver I referred to earlier.  She was allowed to drive away after a few minutes.

I can't recall ever having seen state police working round here before.

Early Morning

Saturday, February 18, 2017


Dios Vive 

Browse Every Art Exhibition Held at MoMA Since 1929 with the New “MoMA Exhibition Spelunker” (Open Culture)
How a Museum in Queens Became a Neighborhood Ally (Next City)
Sunset Park Officials, Activists Call For More Engagement On Development Projects (Updated)
(Sunset Park Patch)
Labor dispute emerging at major city recycling center (Politico)
Employees at the Sims Municipal Recycling facility in Sunset Park have been attempting to join Teamsters Local 210 since December, they said, citing excessive health care costs and what they claim is poor treatment from management.
4 Decades After Eminent Domain Loss, Gowanus Concrete Plant Ready to Leave (DNAinfo)
Dora, the badass red-tailed hawk of Tompkins Square Park (Laura Goggin Photography)
Stanley Bard, Who Ran Chelsea Hotel as a Bohemian Sanctuary, Dies at 82 (NY Times)
Calling the Chelsea Hotel Home (NY Times)
Luc Sante, The Art of Nonfiction No. 9 (Paris Review)
A Bowery tinsmith paints his city of memory (Ephemeral New York)
“This Case of Conscience”: Spiritual Flushing and the Remonstrance (Queens Museum)
In the new millennium, religion, its relation to the state and mutual respect are hot-button issues across the globe. In Flushing, Queens, this very conversation started 350 years ago with the Flushing Remonstrance. The Flushing Remonstrance was drafted in 1657 and signed by a group of Flushing residents who were offended by the persecution of religions outside the established Reformed Dutch Church. This document is considered by many to be a precursor to the Bill of Rights’ provision for freedom of religion

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Frames Down on 22nd

It's demolition time for 334 and 336 22nd Street.  The two frame buildings sold last year for $1.9 & $1.5M respectively, to an LLC with a Long Island address.  As yet, there are no permits filed for a new building.  A look at the 80's tax photos shows 334 looking pretty much unchanged from thirty years ago, but 336 is revealed as an old sweetheart of a building.  You could always bet that the cover-up job in more recent years had kept a lot of its details under wraps.

In 1886, the house was sold at auction for unpaid taxes, for the sum of $125.

Soft Times

Monday, February 13, 2017

Coffee News

I was happy to notice today that Steve's C-Town, on 9th Street, is now stocking locally roasted coffee beans.  When I saw the zip-code on the coffee packet, I guessed that the supplier might be Gillies Coffee, in business since 1840.  And I was right.  Originally based on Washington Street, in lower Manhattan, Gillies eventually moved to 19th Street in Brooklyn, between Third and Fourth Avenues. In 1999, Donald Schoenholt, president of Gillie's, spoke to the NY Times about the shift of several coffee businesses to Brooklyn, when a major container port opened on Third:

''The largest roaster in the community is Chock Full o'Nuts, which has a major roasting plant on Third Avenue,'' Mr. Schoenholt continued. ''There was also, until a month ago, the largest trade roaster in the United States, Harry Wolfe & Son, located at 383 Third Avenue. They recently closed their doors after about 100 years ...There are many smaller firms, five or six that I can think of offhand, all within this general area, of which mine is one.''
Most roasting plants around Gowanus and Park Slope are concealed in anonymous brick buildings, and Mr. Schoenholt said modern roasting equipment releases no smoke. ''100 years ago a coffee roasting factory would belch heavy, oily smoke,'' he said. ''Now all you see is the occasional cloud of steam. But the aroma is all over. Sometimes as I'm driving in to work, I can tell what part of the week's roasting we're into, French roast or espresso.''

I love buying local, and am especially happy to buy from a company like Gillies, with such a long and prestigious history. I'm reminded of a happy time in the 1970's when I visited Dublin and got to stay with the Quaker Bewley family - longstanding coffee and tea importers - who showed me the true, simple way to brew their products.  It involved an earthenware jug, a strainer, and an alarm clock.  No tricks. I love good coffee - I lived in Rwanda for a couple of years and enjoyed the best arabica beans I've ever tasted - but I just can't stand the faux-mystique & high prices of today's Emperor's New Clothes coffee scene,  There are any number of upscale cafes in the area these days, with earnest pour-over artists doing their thing, and a fresh crop of roasters have recently settled in Gowanus & Red Hook.  Best wishes to them, but they're out of my range, I'm afraid.  Give me the real deal at a fair price, and I'm happy. Thanks Gillies & Steve's.

Winter Hush

Yes, it's a bit late for snow pictures, but while there are still a few gray piles of the stuff curbside, I think I can get away with it.  Some quiet Fifth avenue moments.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Green-Wood, Through the Fence on Seventh

I've walked along the side of the cemetery here countless times, but I never noticed this headstone until yesterday.  Eva Schneider, 42, and her daughter, also Eva, both perished in the SS General Slocum fire of 1904.

Only 321 passengers survived from a total of 1,358 passengers. The final death count totaled 1,021. The next largest death toll in the United States would come decades later with 2,974 dead from 9/11.
There would be miracle stories of survivors for the lucky few and heartbreak for those who lost loved ones. It was widely reported that Captain William Henry Van Schaick would not bring the ship to shore for insurance reasons. Instead, Van Schaick steered the burning ship to North Brother Island. Van Schaick would testify that gas tanks and lumber yards made landing near 130th Street, close to the Bronx, dangerous.  (New York Public Library)


Friday, February 10, 2017


Solid Gold, I have to say I like your slogan a lot.  I however, am definitely not.  When the hell did Sleepy's become Mattress Firm?  I remember the halcyon days when Sleepy's & Dreamy's mattress stores were bookends on the block, making it (one hoped) an unlikely renegade on Fifth, a kingdom secretly inclined to the world of the subconscious!  Who knew what might happen here? Dreamy's left a while back, and ... Mattress Firm?  Life returns to sober reality

The block in 2011

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February Morning (15th)

It felt like early spring, and everywhere clarity.  Even the dog, normally straining home for breakfast at full pelt, was happy to sniff the air and linger.

Monday, February 6, 2017

In Memoriam

In 2014 Felipe Castro Palacios was killed by a hit-and-run driver outside the Gowanus auto repair business where he worked.  Ever since his tragic death, there's been a small and beautiful memorial shrine out on the sidewalk in front of the Third Avenue transmission shop.  I've stopped outside to look at it many times, but have always felt hesitant about taking out my camera.  Over the last few weeks though,  in a couple of quieter moments, while the shop has been closed, I've taken a handful of quick photographs.  Yesterday, there was a fresh bouquet and a birthday balloon. RIP.