Sunday, December 31, 2017

January 3, 1934

The ten Scandinavians who occupy four shacks in a lot littered with tin cans and cast-off automobiles at the foot of 37th St. stood by last week in true Viking fashion and watched the mercury hit sub-zero depths without a murmur of complaint.  (Brooklyn Eagle)

Saturday, December 30, 2017


To hell with the freeze - got to get down to Coney Island on Monday.  Here's a pic from 1941.

 "First girl admitted--The Polar Bear Club at Manhattan Beach, admission to which was closed to members of the female sex since its inception 25 years ago, recently opened its lists to women. The first fair one to join was Miss Dale Roberts of 1608 Shore Boulevard, who is shown as she was properly initiated with a face wash of snow. She seems to be unaware of the menace of the club's standard-bearer [person wearing polar bear costume] at the right."

Friday, December 29, 2017


Preparing for holidays, the actual holidays themselves, and a higher than average number of guests and social events have taken up a lot of my time recently. As a result I haven't walked nearly as much as usual, and my walks have been short and practical in nature. This absence of free walking time is confining both to the mind and the body. When I'm not walking I'm not myself.  I long to be on the move again.

"The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts.  This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it.  A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making.  And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thought made concrete - for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can."    
                                                                                                                            Rebecca Solnit - Wanderlust

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Watch These Brooklyn Skate Club Regulars Dance Their Wheels Off (NY Times)
What make this space come to life are the bodies: To the pulse of disco and rock, they swoop and swirl in time to the rhythm, some touring the perimeter with graceful arcing strokes, while others stationed in the center of the floor work out the intricacies of tighter footwork, longer spins.

For the last eight months, the photographer Jessica Lehrman has been documenting the scene at Brooklyn Skate Club — a word-of-mouth oasis that convenes every Wednesday. A meeting ground for skaters of all shapes and sizes, it draws a cast of regulars, many in their 50s and 60s, who know one another from their days haunting the Empire Roller Skating Center, a defunct Brooklyn rink.

Walt Whitman’s BK house not worthy of landmark status, city says (The Real Deal)

The fabulous Art Deco entrance of Sunnyside's Golden Gate (Forgotten New York)

Another disappearing Polish restaurant - Kasia's, in Williamsburg (Daily News)

Catch-22 as BQX streetcar project rolls past deadline - stuck between money-losing options, city slows time line and will blow through budget (Crain's)

Albert Maysle's In Transit returns to the Metrograph (Metrograph)

Joseph Sciorra's Christmas presepi - this year's presepio is Trump's Amerikkka (Brooklyn Eagle)



Sunday, December 24, 2017

From the Vault

This one kind of sums up the year we've been through. Hopes for better days (and peace) in 2018.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Iloista Joulua!

Happy Christmas!  Finnish postcard, date unknown (NYPL)

Next on Fifth

A play cafe, and now a wine bar.

Coming in at Fifth & 19th Street:

"Tambour is a wine bar serving French Infusion food. We focus on creating beautifully simplistic & honest food, we believe in eating with the seasons and not over complicating the process."

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Out with the Old

No surprise here.  With Hamilton Plaza up for lease, the older businesses are on their way out.  Big J's liquor store will be setting up shop on Clinton Street come March.

Three cases of a bargain Big J's wine was bought & set aside for all contingencies.

The Sun in Winter

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Sunday, December 17, 2017

This is Fifth Avenue, 2017

Coming soon to 591 Fifth Avenue, next to the hardware store & the Bravo supermarket: the Good Day Play Cafe, a combination kids' play center/party space/cafe.  The original Play Cafe, in Bayside, Queens, is designed for children up to the age of six; its play equipment includes a "Hinoki cypress wood cube pit," & coffee, smoothies & food are served.. At the Queens location open play prices per child start at $9 per hour; two or three-hour sessions range from $14 to $20.  Sibling discounts apply. Memberships prices vary; a three-month membership for two children is $490.  Parties for 15 children (birthday children free) range from $450 (no snacks or tablecloths) to the Premium Package at $1,000. Add-ons, like infused water, & Stumptown coffee, come extra.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Speak the Seven Words









South Brooklyn

This quiet assortment, a group of pitched-roof wooden houses of the mid to late 1800s.  Back of the Grand Prospect Hall, you catch them off guard, these pieces of an older Brooklyn disappearing frame by frame by frame.

Friday, December 15, 2017

from Sleeping on the Wing

Perhaps it is to avoid some great sadness,
as in a Restoration tragedy the hero cries “Sleep!
O for a long sound sleep and so forget it!”
that one flies, soaring above the shoreless city,
veering upward from the pavement as a pigeon
does when a car honks or a door slams, the door
of dreams, life perpetuated in parti-colored loves
and beautiful lies all in different languages...

                                                      Frank O'Hara

When the system lets you down there's always ...

Thursday, December 14, 2017


You're the Boss, Applesauce: In Memory of Flawless Sabrina, 1939-2017 (Romy Ashby's Walkers in the City)

Joseph Rodriguez's El Barrio in the '80s  (Museum of the City of New York)

Grassroots Tavern Will Close Dec. 31, After 4 Decades On St. Marks (Bedford and Bowery)

Over at Fifth & 18th - Loft Tenants Say City OK’d Their Dangerous Building (City Limits)

The women boxers of Gleason's Gym – photo essay (Guardian)

Anderson Zaca's photographs of Brooklyn block parties (Brooklyn Paper)

Katia Kelly's overview of recent developments in Gowanus (Pardon Me for Asking)

Gowanus Sewage Cleanup Will Clear Out Several Businesses (City Limits)

In Staten Island, hiking the wild path of Richmond Creek - What was once one of New York’s most polluted waterways has been transformed (Nathan Kensinger, in Curbed)

A Curious Menagerie of Mutant Taxidermy - the fabulous art of Takeshi Yamada (Atlas Obscura)

East End Saree Shops (Spitalfields Life)

Back to Black: Manchester Smoke (Rag-Picking History)

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Fifth Anniversary

Making their way down 9th Street, members of the Carrera Guadalupana (Ministerio Mexicano) congregation. 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017


I always like seeing the Christmas decorations at this home on 8th Street. This was once the P. De Rosa grocery store and from what I've heard the building remained (or still remains) in family hands long after the store closed.  Just look at that window and its golden signs: Schaefer, Rheingold, candy & cigarettes, the family name, the small, perfect 1/2.  The permanent letters and once-a-year figures know each other well.

It's something of a mystery to find a store like this in the middle of a residential block. Were there once others? Looking in the local press archives, I could find no mention of a grocery store here.  There were plenty of De Rosas living in the area though. 

Monday, December 11, 2017

The School Bus

I spotted the bus parked on a Gowanus street. Of course. The Bread & Puppet theater company was back in town, performing its annual run in the East Village, where it was founded. If you're thinking seasonal means Rockettes or Wonderful Lives, think again:

"Directed by founder Peter Schumann, the shows hope to inspire the general public to create possibilitarian alternatives to our current political order. “Domestic insurrection is called for when the organs of public information are owned and manipulated by the same interests that own and manipulate the self-destructive economy”, says Schumann. “Domestic insurrection is the urgent response of citizens and residents to prevent imminent catastrophe.” The Domestic Insurrection Circus is 2017’s iteration of the large-scale political puppet circuses that Bread & Puppet has mounted each year since 1970. With brightly colored flags, twenty-foot cardboard billionaires, paper-maché animals, dada slapstick antics and a giant fantastic brass band the circus encourages audiences to take action against the intolerable political circumstances of the moment.
The Honey Let's Go Home Opera is a foray into flatness with cardboard as its muse and prime material. Cardboard is bent, stapled, and vividly painted by Schumann to create surrealist costumes and improbable puppets. “The nature of cardboard is refuse”, sings a chorus member, “meaning the discard of the economic empire´s excesses. By declaring reality to be cardboard you open the gates to unheard of growth and prosperity.” (City Guide NYC)

Our own family has seen several Bread & Puppet performances, both in New York & at the company's base in Glover, Vermont.  The Glover trip involved a whole bunch of kids poorly secured in a vintage, converted VW camper driven by a (vintage) family friend.  It was long on charisma & short on safety, but all survived the crazy ride.

Photo by Greg Cook 

Bread & Puppet offers grand spectacle & a bracing dose of anti-establishment invective.  It's a period trip, to be sure, & its style & substance reflects the company's 60s roots, right down to the home made bread handed out to audience members after the show, but its message remains topical, and its methods influential:

"Still the circus retains Bread and Puppet’s signature brew of political satire, poetic tableaus, and vaudeville clowning ... Giants of the “99 percent” confront “corporate dwarves.” A (literal) whistle blower emerges from the intelligence community. The dead of our war in Afghanistan are remembered. Plans for an oil pipeline across Vermont are criticized. A song is sung to honor “the courageous soldier Chelsea Manning, who got 35 years in prison for telling the truth...”
...The theater’s influence is profound. One example: the giant puppets that routinely appear at public protests are descendents of Bread and Puppet—often directly because company alums have started their own theaters around the world. "(The Artery, WBUR, 2013)

At the end of this catastrophic Year of Trump (with little relief in sight), a blast of Bread & Puppet might be just what we need.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Prance On

It's good to see them from the viaduct, but for one reason or another I've been riding the R more over the last few days.  I haven't done much walking either, but I did get a paltry snow walk in yesterday, and caught the reindeer from ground-level. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Again, the New York School

from Late Echo

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting...

                                                           John Ashbery

Monday, December 4, 2017

At the Demo Site

Update - 12/5 : I have revised my wobbly research findings.  I could still do w. technical backup!

I spend a lot of time looking through viewing panels. Last time I walked along here the vacant property at Fifth/Flatbush/Dean was still standing, but now the parcel is a demolition site. When did this happen?

As I peered at the demolition, the ghost signs on the side wall of Shake Shack (170 Flatbush Avenue) caught my attention.  I really need someone with a sharper eye and a keener sense of history to figure these ones out. There are at least two business signs on the wall here - one a picture framing shop, and one a "quick lunch" restaurant. Today's 170, a warehouse building, seems to be the same building indicated on a 1916 E.B.Hyde map. This replaced narrower brick buildings shown on the 1903 Hyde map. In 1898/9 the whole block was vacant, and by 1903 the lots north of 170 Flatbush Avenue and over to Dean St. were still empty, except for a couple of small wooden buildings at the corner of Flatbush & Fifth Avenues. In 1905 an ad in the Brooklyn Eagle lists a wooden house at 172 Flatbush Avenue for sale; the house is at the back of the lot, and presumably freestanding. All this would seem to suggest that the signs on the side of 170 date to somewhere between around 1900 and 1915.  I'm wondering if a wall of the older, narrower 170 (the one with the signs on it) was retained when the building was expanded/altered/rebuilt.

The construction history of the buildings adjacent to 170 is hazy. I originally thought they were newer than 1916, but as they hew to the configuration shown on the 1916 Hyde map, I now think they must just have been modernized.  Details on the Dean Street side of the building that spans Flatbush/Fifth/Dean do seem to reveal more vintage looks.  If anyone has more info on this I'd love to know.

Though it looks impossible that the Flatbush Chop House (172-4 Flatbush) was ever advertised on the side of 170 Flatbush Avenue, it was fun to discover its existence while I was digging around. In the 1920's it offered fifty cent lunches and Shore Dinners, with lobster listed at $1.75.  It billed itself as "The Most Delightful Dining Place in Brooklyn." This Daily Eagle advertisement from 1930 boasts of its new Bar Grill, "one of the finest and most completely equipped in the city."

I couldn't find any picture framing businesses listed in the immediate vicinity of 170 Flatbush, though I did come across a couple of framers on nearby Fulton Street.  Of course, as I dug into all those Eagle ads I became distracted and came across an old ad for the Triangle store at 180 Flatbush.  Years after the sporting goods store closed, the building still stands empty, but here's the army store business in 1922.

David & Goliath

The Fitness Wars are heating up. Harbor Fitness & Crunch are in buildings across from each other on Fifth Avenue; each gym has an entrance on 15th Street.  Crunch is on the upper floor of the building it occupies: the floor below it remains vacant.  Harbor, with its gym on the 15th street side of the building complex, is expanding into the vacant storefront previously occupied by Vice Versa.



Harbor Fitness, founded in 1991, in Bay Ridge, has four South Brooklyn locations.  Crunch, founded in 1989, in the East Village, has over two hundred locations throughout the United States and in Canada.

.... If I seem to you
to have lavender lips under the leaves of the world,
I must tighten my belt.
It's like a locomotive on the march, the season
of distress and clarity
and my door is open to the evenings of midwinter's
lightly falling snow over the newspapers.
Clasp me in your handkerchief like a tear, trumpet
of early afternoon! in the foggy autumn.
As they're putting up the Christmas trees on Park Avenue
I shall see my daydreams walking by with dogs in blankets,
put to some use before all those coloured lights come on!
But no more fountains and no more rain,
and the stores stay open terribly late.
                                      from "Music"- Frank O'Hara (1954)