Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, May 31, 2014

R You Experienced?

It's taken years, but finally, the traffic stopped just the point where I could photograph the lonely letter, just where the BQE and the exit ramp to the Hugh Carey Tunnel split. Now, to get the Research Bureau on the case of what the original sign read. Readers?

(Perhaps the missing "R" from Micelli's Furnitu_e?)

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dark Pond

I arrived at my hotel just in time for a powerful thunderstorm. As it cleared, I took this shot from my (screened) hotel window over the manmade pond below.

In the morning, I took a walk along the boardwalk that runs along the pond and behind the shops and restaurants of a created Main Street.

All quiet with the swan boats. The merry-go-round across the pond was still. Good morning, Montgomery County.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Trainwreck in St. George - Update

Last week in this space, we reported on no parking signs signaling a planned shoot around a weedy lot in St. George, S.I. A little digging by the Research Bureau has discovered that Trainwreck is a Judd Apatow comedy starring Amy Schumer and Bill Hader, slated for a July 2015 release.

Recent reports also link Method Man, LeBron James, and Tilda Swinton(!) to the project. The movie's plot is under wraps. Method Man and several bandmates from Wu -Tang Clan are from Staten Island. Could there be an SI angle? Tilda Swinton's character notices a harried education professor on his way to observe student teachers at Curtis H.S.  Their eyes meet...

At least Amy Schumer seems to have developed a taste for life on "the Rock." A poster in front of the St. George Theater has her returning in November.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Parking In Rhode Island - Then & Now

A weekend in Rhode Island always brings unexpected pleasures. The Providence Journal's CarsJournal Archives posts a car-related photograph from the Pro Jo archives and invites readers' comments. This one is from Providence in 1947.
(Courtesy Providence Journal)
Both readers who commented identified the car at the meter as a 1942 Oldsmobile and the cars across the street as a DeSoto, Buick, and Chevrolet, with some slight disagreement about the years and models. Closer to where your correspondent was staying, in Westerly, where there are no meters, FOTB Dan Allen was delighted by this sign by the municipal parking lot downtown.

Apparently the organizers of the art fair in Wilcox Park wanted to save the primo spots for the the buyers.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Trainwreck in St. George

Yellow signs. No parking Thursday. Another shoot. "Trainwreck"?

The locale, a weedy lot in the middle of St. George, is far from any train. I've often puzzled about who it belongs to. The apartment building on St. Marks Place or the brown and white house on Academy Place? Or neither. There are a couple of plastic chairs that suggest the homeowners (or letters) are exercising squatters rights.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Green Commuting

Waiting for the X10 on Victory Blvd. was surprisingly verdant.

Looking through the bus stop into the woods of Willowbrook Park, traffic on the boulevard was still visible.

The bus was only 6 minutes late.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Mr. de Blasio, Tear Down this Wall

All fall and winter, covered in burlap. We awaited the unveiling of the "Uplands." From the BQE, an ungainly, unnatural shape, like a levy wall or a strip mine.

From Brooklyn Bridge Park, a "sound attenuating hill" (below) meant to block the unpleasant reality of the BQE as it passes below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. I suppose it's sour grapes, but that short stretch of the westbound BQE, just after you passed beneath the Brooklyn Bridge and before you entered "the Trench," used to offer a glorious view of the East River and the Harbor. (The photo above is from the eastbound BQE, from where you can still see above the Wall.)


Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Search of Pig Snout's Hook

Most postcards portray their setting in its sunniest aspect. This one, of the ferry slip in Perth Amboy, presents its in darker tones.

Miss Goering, a character in Jane Bowles' Two Serious Ladies, upon getting off the ferry from the island, finds herself in even more desolate territory:
     Miss Goering struggled up the hill entirely alone. She kept her eye on the wall of the last store on the main street. An advertising artist had painted in vivid pinks a baby's face of giant dimensions on half the surface of the wall, and in the remaining space a tremendous rubber nipple. Miss Goering wondered what Pig Snout's Hook was.

Eventually she encounters an old man bending over some crates.... He was terribly busy trying to pry a nail from the crate with only a thin stick as a tool.
     "I beg your pardon," said Miss Goering to him finally, "but I would like to know where Pig Snout's Hook is and also why anyone would want to go there, if you know."
     The man continued to bother with the nail, but Miss Goering could tell he was really interested in her question.
     "Pig Snout's Hook?" said the man. "That's easy. It's a new place, a cabaret."
     "Does everybody go there?" Miss Goering asked him.
     "If they are the kind who are fools, they go."

The man goes on to explain that, "they've got a nigger there that jumps up and down in front of a mirror in his room all day long until he sweats and then he does the same thing in front of these lads and lassies and they think he's playing them music...."
     "Well, said Miss Goering, "certain people do like that type of music."

Eventually she invites him for a beer. And while her aspirations to sainthood will take her into dark and unseemly corners of the city, never to Pig Snout's Hook.

The waterfront district of Perth Amboy looks quite different today. The ferry slip has been reconstructed as a museum of sorts (the boondoggle sort?). Alas, on our reconnaissance, we found no trace of Pig Snout's Hook. We did find one establishment that dates to the time of Jane Bowles' visits to Perth Amboy from Staten Island: The Barge.

Established 1925, the building itself is much more recent. A waitress informed us that the original building across the street has been demolished; in any case, in those days it would have been a candy store--hardly what Jane was looking for.

In our day, the Barge appeared mainly to serve the Early Bird Special crowd in its dining rooms and the golfing (or golf-watching) crowd in its barroom. A scene not much different than that in Eli Reed's photograph of women having lunch at a Perth Amboy waterfront restaurant in 2000. Hard to imagine Jane Bowles satisfied here.
Eli Reed (Magnum)
Like Miss Goering, we never found Pig Snout's Hook. On our drive out of town, we spotted one or two windowless bunker bars that might have appealed to Miss Goering or Jane Bowles. We didn't stop.
Carl Van Vechten (1951)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Quiet Crossing

Miss Goering has little to say on the ferry as it plies the Arthur Kill between Tottenville and Perth Amboy. The kill is narrow, so the whole trip probably took 20 minutes or so.
(Courtesy NYPL)
Ferry service began in in 1864 and last until 1963. It was obviated and literally overshadowed by the Outerbridge Crossing, which opened in 1928, along with the Goethals Bridge--inaugurating that stalwart institution we know as the Port Authority. By car, it takes about 20 minutes to get from Tottenville to Perth Amboy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

On a Lark with Jane

Regular readers of this site may remember the first entry in our "Serious Ladies of Staten Island" series. In that post, we followed Miss Goering, Jane Bowles' character from Two Serious Ladies, on her journey from the house she had rented on an unnamed island to the catch "little train that meets the ferry." Bowles herself lived with husband Paul in a rented farmhouse on Woodrow Road on Staten Island for just under two years (1938-39). According to her biographer, Millicent Dillon, Jane would make the same trip--unlike Miss Goering, probably with company.

Let's pick up Miss Goering's journey from when the little train reaches the "tip of the island," which would have been Tottenville:
...the rain had stopped and the stars were shining again intermittently. She had to walk down a long narrow boardwalk which served as a passage between the train and the landing peer of ferry. Many of the boards were loose and Miss Goering had to be very careful where she was stepping. She sighed with impatience, because it seemed to her that as long as she was still on the boardwalk it was not certain that she would actually board the ferry.... 

The narrow boardwalk has been replaced.
The boardwalk was only lighted at intervals and there were long stretches which she had to cross in the dark. However, Miss Goering, usually so timorous, was not frightened in the least. She even felt a kind of elation, which is common in certain unbalanced but sanguine persons when they approach the thing they fear. She became more agile in avoiding the loose boards, and even made little leaps around them. She could now see the landing dock at the end of the boardwalk. It was brightly lighted and the municipality had erected a good-sized flagpole in the center of the platform....

There are few traces of the ferry slip. No flagpole.
"Why, people have been living here for years," she said to herself. "It is strange that I hadn't thought of this before. They're here naturally, with their family ties, their neighborhood stores, their sense of decency and morality, and they have certainly their organizations for fighting criminals of the community" She felt almost happy now that she had remembered all this.
Bentley St. to the ferry slip (courtesy NYPL)
For a few moments Miss Goering is the only person waiting for the ferry. In time, a group of young people arrive. Miss Goering is swept up with them as they board the ferry. Miss Goering accosts one,
     "Young man..., would you mind telling me if you all are actually going on some lark together in a group or if it's a coincidence?"
     "We're all going to the same place," said the boy, "as far as I know."
     "Well, could you tell me where that is?" asked Miss Goering.
     "Pig Snout's Hook," he answered. Just then the ferry whistle blew. He hastily took his leave of Miss Goering and ran to join his friends on the foredeck.

In the next post: In search of Pig Snout's Hook!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Perth Ambience

Perth Amboy was bright in the after rainstorm sunshine. A working class city with well-kept houses, churches, municipal buildings. Even some pretty Victorians, like the one below.
(Photo: Susan Hendel)
Still, my research partner and I sensed something ominous beneath the wholesome, or at least respectable, facade. As we came out of the St. Peter's churchyard, with its 18th century gravestones, we saw something odd on the front of a pickup truck parked across the street.
(Photo: Susan Hendel)
Closer inspection revealed the figure of a shirtless man (professional wrestler?), a green tongue lolling from his mouth, astride a wooly animal. "It's a beaver," my companion said. Looking closely, I could see she was right. Stranger still, the truck belonged to the P.A. Board of Education. What goes on in the classrooms of Perth Amboy? (All this before we found the creepy locker at the ferry slip museum.)

We weren't the only ones to have sensed something not-quite-right lurking behind those windows. These photographs are by Rachel Harrison, from her 2001 series, Perth Amboy.

More from Perth Amboy, including the reason for our research trip in an upcoming post!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Trip to the Podiatrist

34th Ave., Jackson Heights
"Come in. Have a seat. The doctor will be right with you."

Sunday, May 11, 2014


One morning, last week, as I cut across 65 St. on my way to the BQE onramp off 37th Ave., I passed two television news crews at work. I never found out what they were reporting on.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Curtains for the Winnebago

Another untold story from the lot on Front Street, S.I.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Luxury You Can Afford

I wasn't sure what I was looking at behind the trash bags and debris.

It turned out to be a Bentley and a Rolls Royce, cheek by jowl.

Wave Street and Front Street, Staten Island.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Speed Trap

What's the best place for a speed trap? A place where people are likely to drive fast. What's a more likely place for people to drive fast than the Brooklyn-side approach to the Kosciuszko Bridge in the evening when there's no traffic? Because there is never no traffic. As I slow down just before the NYPD car angled to road, I imagine my conversation with the officer:
"A thousand nights of creeping along, inch by inch, towards the bridge. The first night I can remember not having to.... Couldn't you just leave it to the potholes to do the damage?"

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Be Safe out There

I puzzled over this motto on the bumper of a NYC Department of Buildings Prius as we crawled towards the Kosciuszko Bridge. "Build Safe I live safe"? Or maybe it was missing a pronoun (and a comma)? "You build safe, I live safe"? Then I realized what you probably already have: That's not an "I", it's a "|", i.e., a vertical slash. Nobody ever said the DOB wasn't subtle. Or maybe nobody ever said it was.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Practice Patience

From John Cage's collection of 190 paragraph-long one minute stories. The text of each is is formatted to take up the same card-size space. In the piece, Indeterminacy, Cage (or the performer) would draw one from a card file at random and read it, then draw another and read it, and so on. It was performed recently in New York along with two other Cage pieces (at the same time). You can read them all on Eddie Kohler's beautiful site. Here's one for a Monday morning (before the BQE):

Standing            in            line,

      Max            Jacob            said,

          gives            one            the

to            practice


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Calling Warsaw 1939

An exhibit to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day in the third floor rotunda of the Public Library's main branch. In a glass case, open on a book stand, a Warsaw telephone directory from 1939. Jewish surnames predominate, along with typical professions and addresses: Glicksman, Józef, dr. med., Nowolipki 54; Glickson, Helena, lek. dentysta, Żelazna 75; Gliner, B., skł. futrz. tow. [fur warehouse], Grzybowska 70 [street of Warsaw's Great Synagogue], on and on.

It's an unexpectedly handsome volume, bound in brown leather, with "telephony" spelled out in an Art Deco'ish font (complete with stylish lower-case "T") on the cover. When I lived in Warsaw, 50 years later, I hardly remember seeing a phone book. Some buildings and districts still had spotty telephone service. I had friends with no phone. If you needed to reach them, you called a neighbor and they would go next door  and knock.

Friday, May 2, 2014


Manor Road & Victory Blvd, S.I.
Trouble in the street
On the water
Under the water
On the train.

The answer is
Jesus Christ
Versus Satan.

-Subway Preacher (can't remember which line)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Fun in the Rain

Out of focus but somebody is having fun in the rain!