Greenpoint, October, 2015

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gimme Seltzer!

Hooray! A Beer Mayim seltzer truck on the BQE. It even explains what seltzer is (for the uninitiated or the uncarbonated*): "Natural spring water with carbonation"!
(*Was it Socrates who said, "The uncarbonated life is not worth living"?)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Men in Black

Parallel universe parking
Periodically, I ditch the Staten Island Expressway early and take the slow route to work. Winding and bumping along Richmond Terrace, with the water to your right, it's easy to imagine yourself in an earlier century. A time when this would have been a bustling waterfront. I shouldn't have been so surprised, then, when I came around one curve in the road to find a Model T puttering down Port Richmond Avenue. A quick look up the avenue revealed half a dozen more, plus all the personnel and equipment for a film shoot. The HBO show Boardwalk Empire had taken over this part of the old Port Richmond downtown. Good call. It's been trapped in time for decades. One upside of utter urban despair is that nobody bothered to tear down these great early twentieth century buildings.

With the filming of Damsels in Distress on the grounds of Snug Harbor and Boardwalk Empire in Port Richmond, could Staten Island become Hollywood on the Kill Van Kull?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What Lies Beneath

You could hear the woman talking into her cellphone from the other end of the subway car: "I'm walking down the block now." A head lifted here, an eyebrow there, a glance or two were exchanged. The 1 train was just pulling into 103rd St. station. A moment later, she was off the train. Astonishing, when you think of it. So far underground, and the call went through for enough time to deliver the message. The presence of mind to deliver it nonchalantly. Much more interesting, probably, than the story it belied: a babysitter late for a pick-up or a mother late to relieve one? Whatever the little lie was about, for just a moment, we were all complicit.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

WMDs on the BQE?

Slam dunk!
I happened to catch a few minutes of Rachel Maddow's MSNBC documentary "Hubris: Selling the Iraq War." Not much new here (though it was nice to see Valerie Plame again!). It reminded me of the artist's rendering of what Colin Powell referred to, in his infamous 2003 UN speech, as the Iraqi "mobile weapons labs," or, as I called them, "cartoon trucks."*

Good thing, too, as it put me on the alert. I was able to capture this snap yesterday of a highly suspicious mega-vehicle on the BQE. Has the Al Qaida infiltration begun?
(Apologies to the Ippolito's)

(*Later thought to be mobile weather stations. Meteorology is murder.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Impressionist on the Express Bus

Rainy night approach the toll at Brooklyn Battery Tunnel on the X10. What can I say? I'm no J.M.W. Turner.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Forever Green (May You Stay)

Green on red
I like it when messages are fingered into the dirt and grime on the back of trucks. Sometimes it's just a nickname or initials. Sometimes a waggish "Clean me!" This one seems to offer a political message: Verde pa' [para] Siempre = "Green forever." Ironic? Sincere? What about the hearts? Who knows? Now I'm trying to track down what the A/N logo with the castle turret stands for.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

All in the Timing

Eye on the job? (Photo: Getty Images)
The BTB candidate for the Holy See? Hold onto your kippah... It's Mike Bloomberg.

Look, it's not as far-fetched as it seems.

On the plus side: He's available (soon). He's not married (don't ask questions). No Latin, put passable Spanish.

On the morality/sin index, he's taken on Sloth (bicycle lanes), Gluttony (beverage container size limits), Greed (err, not so much). Still, two out of seven's not bad.

Potential negatives? Only one: He's a Jew. But who knows Catholics better than the Jews?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Civil Rights, Pepsi Lite

Mexico City, 1968:

Brooklyn Queens Expressway, 2013:
A lot more than 20 ounces of gall there.

Slip Slidin' Away

Boston traffic (Photo: Joe Sartore)
I decided to forgo the bottleneck onramp at 43rd St. and take my chances with Greenpoint Avenue bridge. I had just about reached the left turn onto McGuinness Boulevard. Just one Rav4 between me and easy sailing. The traffic coursed through the intersection. The light went yellow. As the Rav4 pulled out, I cut a hard left and shadowed the him on the driver's side. No problem. 'Boston slide.'

When I searched for 'Boston slide' later on the Internets, I couldn't find reference one. Reader, am I the only one who remembers this term for the classic Masshole driving move? (I do claim credit for a synonym, the 'moving pick' from RI days.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

MTA or PhD?

For good, I hope
You may have noticed that the MTA's Poetry in Motion program is back, bringing the likes of Billy Collins' "Grand Central" to subway cars (and buses?). This poster on a 7 train confirms it:
"Many of you felt parting was not such sweet sorrow. So we're bringing it back in a very artful way. Hopefully, you'll feel transported."

Does this suggest we felt the suspension of the program was not so sweet? Or not so sorrowful? Bitter sorrow? Sweet relief? Damn you, MTA, I don't pay you $104 a month to make me think! Actually, given what the authority is proposing for its next fare hike, we ought not just to feel transported, but actually be transported (a la Star Trek).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

State of the Expressway

"My fellow Americans, the state of our Brooklyn Queens Expressway is strong. [Standing ovation] Who am I kidding? It's f*cked. [Shocked silence] Perhaps not as badly off as it was last year--by short term measures, that is: The repairs on the viaduct over the Gowanus are dormant for the moment. The potholes in the stretch through Greenpoint are filled. But let's face it, our beloved BQE needs work, serious work, costly work. A replacement for the Kosciuszko Bridge, wider lanes, safer on-ramps, structural repairs of all kinds. Like generations before us, we could bite the bullet, spend the money, endure the delays and rerouting. Or we could kick the can down the road, down the expressway. Whatever..."

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deflated Ape

Laying low
Family matters took me to the Gowanus neighborhood this afternoon. Since we had time to kill, I took my nephew to see the replacement inflatable ape at the NY Auto Auction. We came up Hamilton Avenue... Not again! Gone!! Wait, what's that on the roof? A pool of blue and gold (the shades). A quick consultation with Sartoris revealed the 30-foot creature was merely deflated--a precautionary move before the latest storm. Good thinking guys. One ape lost to the storm is enough for a lifetime.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snow Machines

(Courtesy TLC)
Have you noticed the reemergence of Sarah Palin? Sadly, it's mainly in jokes on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report about how forgotten and irrelevant she's become. I couldn't help but think of her when I came across this passage about forest Eskimos along the Kobuk River in John McPhee's Coming into the Country:

Dog teams have largely been replaced by snowmobiles (or snow machines, as they are almost universally called in Alaska).... Snow machines, however--for all their breathtaking ability to go as fast as fifty miles an hour over roadless terrain--break down now and again, and are thus perilous. A stranded traveler cannot eat a snow machine. Dog teams in the region are increasing in number, and the take of salmon is growing as well.

I wonder what Sarah is doing now.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Are You Shovel-Ready?

Big storm coming. Better check on the essentials. Scraper? Check. Brush? Check. Shovel? Check. Back-up shovel? Check.

What if I'm stuck in the car under some snow drift? Television? Check. Replacements? Check. Dusty Springfield? Check. Mekons...
A full gas tank and some water wouldn't hurt either.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Lion in Winter

Is a Jaguar Mk2. At a garage on Bradley Avenue and Victory Boulevard, Staten Island. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ed Koch, Critic

Sometime around 1984, Mayor Koch and I went to see Last Night at the Alamo--not together, of course. The movie, by Eagle Pennell, was getting a little bit of attention from critics like Roger Ebert. Black-and-white, low budget, it told the story of a couple of lovable losers in Dallas trying to figure out how to keep their favorite bar, The Alamo, from closing down. A reporter must have asked Koch what he thought of it. I can't find any record his response; what I do remember is that he unloaded on the movie. He didn't just say he didn't like it or, "It's not for me,"but wondered why movies like that even get made.

Hard to imagine a mayor, governor, senator or politician of any stripe today even going to see a movie like Alamo, let alone sharing their unvarnished review? Maybe, Chris Christie, but I doubt it. Needless, to say I disagreed with the Mayor's review but you gotta admire the guy's... What's that word Jews use...?

(Pennell's only other film, The Whole Shootin' Match, was rereleased a couple years ago, and you can get it on Netflix. Alamo is sadly condemned to obscurity.)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Own Private Colorado

The E train was packed when it left 53rd & Lexington, and now it was standing at Court Street. The dreaded "passenger in need of medical assistance." Our conductor added the detail, "We are waiting for EMS to arrive." Twice, five minutes apart. Not a hopeful sign if you get sick on the subway.

By a stroke of luck, I had a copy of Robert Adams' Denver photography collection (c. 1970-74) in my bag. I even got a seat when somebody in front of me gave up the ghost (not literally). With John Doe and Exene singing "See How We Are" for a soundtrack, I created my own black and white documentary.

Or a maybe a feature film, a la Wim Wenders. A girl in a white dress walks out of a trailer park...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Thunk..., Ca-Thunk

We were cheek by jowl as we crawled towards the Kosciuszko Bridge. I had just about reached the top of the on-ramp at 43rd Street when I heard--or felt--a thunk from the back of the car. Did someone hit me? I looked back over both shoulders. Didn't look like it. Ca-thunk. Driver's side, definitely. I pulled on the emergency brake and got out. Son of a bitch. A panel of some sort had blown up against the rear wheelwell, and the wind was holding it there there tight. I pulled it off and flung it to the non-existent breakdown lane. It felt strangely good to be outside the car on the BQE. Almost