Monday, November 25, 2019

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

B-Ball NYC

"For those who have crashed their skulls against poles, chain link fences, and concrete after taking it to the butter, and have gotten up and kept playing"

                                                 from "For Those Who Know ... the Playground" - Bobbito Garcia

Larry Racioppo's newest book, B-BALL NYC is a great tribute to the game here in New York. Basketball played city-wide, from Hunts Point to East New York, from Sunset Park to Staten Island, in a playground or a gym, or anywhere a wall or a fence or a branch of a tree can accommodate a makeshift hoop.  Along with its cousin soccer (as played in the cities of the world where nobody calls it that), a game where a ball and the wobbly painted lines of goalposts are all you need by way of equipment, basketball belongs to everyone.

Players are largely absent from the book. The sidewalks & scrappy lots and & rain-slicked schoolyards are mostly caught in between games, when the kids are elsewhere.  But their spirits are ever present.  Generations of them. The photographs span forty years of street ball dreams.

Tomorrow night there'll be a B-BALL NYC exhibition opening and book signing at the Brooklyn Arts Council, in DUMBO.  Details below.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

13th Street, 1982

Here's a film worth seeing. In tandem with the Undesign the Redline interactive installation currently at the Art Mobile in Thomas Green Park, the Fifth Avenue Committee will be showing the 1982 Erik Lewis documentary Where Can I Live - A Story of Gentrification on October 26th. The film examines the harassment and displacement of working-class Black and Brown Park Slope tenants in the early 1980s. Its main focus is on a group of 13th Street residents fighting to protect their homes and their community. The film was shot just as the Ansonia Clock Factory was being redeveloped as co-operative housing, as were a number of smaller multi-family rental buildings, and as landlords & developers were emptying buildings as fast as they could to maximize rents & property conversions.

Where Can I Live reminds us of just how much more diverse Park Slope used to be - both racially & economically.  A neighborhood that loses that diversity is always a diminished one.

The film will be shown at 12:30 at 621 Degraw Street, home of the Fifth Avenue Committee. You can also watch it online, on Vimeo.  A word of warning: the online film has a very uneven sound quality, making some parts of it inaudible.  I imagine the screening at FAC will have overcome those issues.

Where Can I Live - A Story of Gentrification from Erik Lewis on Vimeo.

Looks like this film is no longer available, but here's a link to regional libraries that have copies either on VHS tape or on DVD.

Friday, September 27, 2019


I noticed these signs at the Lopez Bistro last week.  The Lopez bakery appeared in the neighborhood at Fifth & 8th back in 2005, and moved down to Fifth and 19th five years later, expanding to offer restaurant food as well as baked goods.  It became a well-loved local staple, with more of a cafe/diner feel than a bistro. Checking on the dates of their arrival/move surprised me a bit - it felt like they'd been around much longer.  They'll be missed.

Friday, September 6, 2019

In September

What's sweeter than a cherry ice at summer's end? The sun's still hot, but days are shortening, as summer dips into the fall.  And coming home from the train, there on the block, is the ice cart.  The luck of it! To buy an ice for a couple of bucks, and take it only steps away, and sit to eat it on the sidewalk by your door.  To spoon it in its concentrated cold before it melts, with movements both rapid and precise. By the end of it all your mouth's stained red. The ice is gone and you're the cherry flavor now.

Truth be told, the carts are easy enough to find, and stick around well beyond summer, or even fall.  I've eaten cherry ices in Detective Joseph Mayrose Park in winter, when the weather turned mild enough.  It's pretty great to eat a cherry ice outside round Christmas.  If you don't think about it too much.  But the ones in September are the best, so loaded with sentiment, what with the year turning and another birthday gone, and everything speeding up beyond control.  Eat them as slowly as you can.  But hurry. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019


The dog reacted badly to the move.  Familiar streets walked from a different home base confused and frightened him.  He refused to turn up certain blocks and one time slipped his collar and bolted.  The prospect of walks set him panting and trembling.  When it was time to go out, he hid.

He's much better now.  The panting and the trembling has gone.  Indoors, he lounges rather than skulks.  When we're out, he still wants to set his own, seemingly arbitrary routes, but is easily coaxed to compromise.  It's as though he's resetting his place in a tilted world, mapping the design of his new old territory.

I'm the same, minus the trauma.  I find I don't miss the old house a bit.  I love this geographic rearrangement.  What's your immediate neighborhood?  Five, ten, twenty blocks?  Even a short move changes the radius, and sets a lot of the regular walks into reverse.  The angles are all different.  Even a street you've walked thousands of times is new again.  For that, and this shift in the altogether right direction, thanks.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Another wooden house getting an extra floor.  Are there fewer demolitions & more (substantial) alterations these days, at least on smaller parcels?  At any rate, this naff, extra-floor-on-wooden house stuff is getting to be a thing.

An 80s tax photo shows the original structure looking much the same as it does today,

but in the 40s it's quite different.  There's a store on the first floor, the old, original cornice is still there, and wild, two-tone asphalt shingles cover the building.  Early twentieth-century psychedelic!

In July of 1915 four-year-old Eleanor Maggie fell from a fire-escape back of the house with barely a bruise to show for it.