Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, July 29, 2011

Traffic in Paradise

That old familiar feeling.  Creeping along toward the bridge.  Lane drop. Except it's not the Kosciuszko but the Calvin Coolidge and I am headed not into Maspeth, but Northampton, Mass.

Tuned in to the local NPR station for a debt ceiling update--or downdate--I catch this bit of dialog, very apropos to the Happy Valley: "We want to hear your stories of giving birth to music." [You do?] "Surprise us." [Believe me, I'd be more surprised than you.]

I'll add the following photo from my trip to Hampshire College. Supply your own punch line:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

If You Build It, I Will Drive There

I half-achieved one of my goals for my road trip. I got to historic Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, MA, where professional baseball has been played since 1919 (the Pittsfield Hillies, later Electrics). However, the game between the Colonials (Can-Am League) and Rockland Boulders (Flintstones League?) had been moved to North Adams because of wind damage from a storm earlier in the week (unbeknownst to many of the fans who came out, hung around, chatted). No matter, I got to wander the park where George ("Boomer") Scott and many other greats, near greats, and just-grateful-to-be-here once played. Among other things, it was built so that home plate faces directly west, necessitating periodic "sun delays."

I took this shot from the pitcher's mound, looking in to where Carlton Fisk (Carlton Fisk!) once caught (not to mention batted).

Home run!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cabbages and Kings?

Driving out of Boston yesterday on the Hat (Mass Pike), I was sad to see the iconic Star Market that spans the highway has become a Shaws. Just doesn't have the same ring for the "Traffic on the 3's" as "Heavy past the Star Market overpass." A little later, listening to the Red Sox-Mariners radio broadcast, I caught this exchange:

Dave O'Brien: Shop where Joe Castiglione shops, Shaws.
Joe Castiglione: That's why it's good to be home.
Dave: I got some cucumbers the other day. Sliced them up with just a little salt. Delicious summer snack.
Joe: The cantaloupes this week have also been outstanding.
Dave: Oh, the cantaloupes have been off the charts.

Scripted or not, I love the Sox radio guys. A little later they ran through the names of all their elementary school teachers. I don't think anyone is doing product placement for Mrs. Meehan from third grade. (You can catch a little of the great team of Ken Coleman and Joe Castiglione in the background in the pretty good New England movie In the Bedroom.)

(BTW: Nearly impossible to find a photo of the Shaws (née Star Market) overpass on Google Images. Check with Homeland Security. I have a feeling there's more than cantaloupes and cucumbers at stake here.)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On the Road

Stolen from Ken's show playlist on WFMU
Your correspondent heads out today for two weeks or so. Goals include grinders, seeing the work of the mysterious Norwichtown Ovoid Carver (see below), and getting out to historic Wahconah Park to see the Pittsfield Colonials.

Hope to make a few posts from the road. Stay cool--if not starched and fragrant.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Breakdowns and Line Breaks

I have yet to have my first breakdown or accident on the BQE. When I do, I hope I can learn from Brecht's narrator in "Changing the Wheel" (tr. Michael Hamburger):

I sit by the roadside
The driver changes the wheel.
I do not like the place I come from.
I do not like the place I am gong to.
Why with impatience do I
Watch him changing the wheel?

I never broke down with Brecht, but I did with another poet, Juan Saez Burgos. My girlfriend and I were visiting Juan and Diana in Puerto Rico many years ago. We had had a great day driving out along the coast and then up into the mountains in the middle of the island. Coming back to San Juan on a fast-moving, poorly lit highway, the car broke down. Juan managed to flag down a tow truck (no cell phones in those days). Diana and Diana and Juan's four-year old son rode in the cab with the driver. Juan, Susan, and I sat in the back seat of the car being towed, leaning back (no choice there) and laughing about the absurdity if not danger of the situation. Here’s one of Juan’s very short poems. He died in 2006:


Those incidents between I don't know and death.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Tiempo, Por Favor, Tiempo...

I misremember the refrain in The Waste Land as "Time, gentleman, please!" It's actually "Hurry up please it's time!" Either way the publican's timeless (sorry) call at closing is one of literature's great memento moris.

I have my own.  Under the 7 train station at 82nd St. and Roosevelt Ave., most nights you can find this elderly woman propped up against the Yogurberry store.  She is surrounded by an array of cheap watches and clocks and batteries. She calls out: "Tiempo, tiempo, tiempo...." She does pretty fair trade.

I've wanted to photograph her for a long time but the crush of traffic on the subway stairs makes it a bit tricky. When I finally did, in the photo below, I had the spooky feeling that she was looking right at me. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, indeed.

(For T.S. Eliot fans, and more importantly, Fiona Shaw fans, you can check out Fiona (my favorite actress) doing a live bit from the Clairvoyant section of The Waste Land below.  Happy Halloween!)

Fiona Shaw - Clairvoyant section from "The Wasteland" from MrFizzy on Vimeo.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bulovar Times

If you look closely at the green sign on this overpass on the BQE West (headed towards the Triboro Bridge) you can just make out Bulova Av. Take a look on the map, and you'll see it runs for barely a block before it hits St. Michaels Cemetery.

A modest reminder of the days when the Bulovars (more properly, Bulovalts) prospered throughout northwestern Queens. A quiet, precise people, they emigrated from Central Europe in the latter part of the 19th century, settling mainly in present-day Woodside, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst. Some maintain they were a Celtic tribe, others Fino-estonian.

Whatever the case, they're gone now. A tidy church and some communal homes remain in Woodside, now used by the Latter Day Saints (see below). On the other side of St. Michaels Cemetery from Bulova Ave. stands their greatest achievement: The Bulova Corporate Center (left). What they did or made there now sadly lost to the eddies of time.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gonna Need Shades

These photos were taken from the passenger seat by your correspondent's brother as we exited the Grand Central onto the BQE East. Again, a surprisingly inviting green and brick portal. The tunnel underpass itself is only a hundred yards or so but manages to be so dark that the light at the end comes as a shock.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bring Me the Head of the BQE

Here are the BQE's inauspicious and almost verdant beginnings--actually, just the BQE West's--a trickle from the Grand Central Parkway. From this humble tributary it gathers strength as it winds through Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, and Maspeth before encountering the mighty Kosciuszko (Bridge) Dam. In future posts, I'll explore these lost in time headwaters.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


I'm not taking the BQE much this summer. I took this photo from an F train approaching the still-closed-for-renovation Smith-Ninth St. station just before the train crosses the lordy Gowanus. Sure does make it look good.

For some reason, the title of this post put me in mind of BK, shorthand, of course, for Burger King. Burger King, Ronald McDonald, Burger Chef and Jeff (remember them?). Are burgers always masculine? For that matter, are all sandwiches--a patrimonial lineage from the Earl of Sandwich down through Dagwood Bumstead to the present day?

There's the Pastrami Queen on the Upper East Side but that's a transplant of the old Pastrami King on Queens Boulevard. New Orleans has its Po' Boy, long and narrow, but also the Muffalleta (N.B. characteristic feminine -a ending), which is round, and often served in fourths, thus triangles--full of ribald possibilities...  Hmmm. A doctoral thesis is calling out here, and a tasty one at that.
New Orleans Muffalleta

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Low Line

Your intrepid reporter missed this one.  Comes as a reminder that there is a whole world under the BQE to explore. And some forward thinkers in Brooklyn (where else?) have been doing just that, brainstorming possible uses for the vasty public(!) space under the BQE. They even brought in the Space Buster (below), a sort of R. Buckminster Fuller-by-way-of-Rube Goldberg contraption to encourage creative thinking.

The most popular potential use seems to be community garden space. I'd like to see a kind of boardwalk stretching for miles--or at least many blocks--with art, cafes, and beer gardens.  It might be a bit loud but just imagine the views of the city from ground level!

Bring on the trolls!

Saturday, July 2, 2011


First the arrow. I thought it was a skinny nail or small spike when I first saw it on the platform at 82nd St. It seemed to point towards my apartment. Or not exactly my apartment. Slightly to the right. The Unisphere? The Iron Triangle? When I picked it up I discovered it was a plastic twizzle stick, somewhat gnarly. But how did it get there? 
Next the capsule. Lodged in a seam in the cement about two and a half feet away. Almost but not quite perpendicular to the arrow. Pointing, in a roundish way, towards Elmhurst Hospital--or Rikers Island? How long had it been there? What did it have to do with the arrow?

The train arrived. I got on. The conductor announced the next station: "Now arriving 74th Street. Manhattan-bound 3 train. Next stop 69th Street. Stand clear of the closing doors." I looked up at the other passengers. No one seemed to notice anything astray. At 69th Street, it was back to being a 7 train. 

No. Yes. Something was definitely up.

(Pretty much a straight-up rip-off of Cosmos (Kosmos, po polsku), my favorite of the novels of Polish genius Witold Gombrowicz. Beach reading for the paranoic!)