Greenpoint, October, 2015

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Get Shorty

Checking out some tail
"First one's a shorty," the taxi dispatcher outside Terminal 4 shouted as she directed me to my cab. "Shorty," is, well, shorthand, for a "short haul fare," in other words, an address in Queens or nearby Nassau County localities. The driver of a "shorty" draws a ticket that allows him to skip the line-up of cabs waiting to pick up fares at the airport, which can take two hours or more. The drivers wait; the fares wait; the dispatchers try to make the matches as quickly as possible. Needless to say, getting a shorty does not make your driver all that happy.

The photo above paints a different picture of coming or leaving NYC by air. Early sixties: A cab waits on the tarmac at the International Arrivals Building at Idlewild Airport (later, JFK). Way, way pre-9/11. I found it on an excellent Bowery Boys post on Idlewild.

Monday, May 28, 2012

El Domingo en Guasca

Guasca is a small city of about 11,000 about 50 km outside Bogotá. At right is a photo of the fountain (under repair) in the little market square in front of the cathedral. And below, a few Sunday drivers. It is easy to feel like you have fallen into a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez or, for that matter, Cervantes.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Seeing Daylight

If there is one thing the BQE teaches, it's proximity. But even BQE veterans could learn from the Bogota drivers. Here a motorbike deliveryboy slips between our taxi and one of the Chevrolet microbuses that provide transport everyday for millions of people in the city.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Our Man in Bogotá

Que lindo!
A vintage Thunderbird parked on the busy Carrera 19 in the northern part of Bogotá at sunset. Needless to say, this is not your correspondent's ride. So far, the traffic has been lighter and less white knuckle- inducing than his last visit to the city five years ago.

Monday, May 21, 2012

End Days of Disco?

First Donna Summer, then Robin Gibb. It's been a hard week for disco superstars. I heard way too much "On the Radio" and "Stayin' Alive" in the late 1970s to call myself a fan but it's impossible to deny the talent or body of work of Donna Summer or the Bee Gees. Here's the closing credits to Last Days of Disco. The song, by the O'Jays, is not really disco at all but I think it captures the democratic and liberating spirit that music embodied. (I enjoy the idea of director Whit Stillman explaining to the extras on the Church Ave. subway station what he wants them to do.)
By the way, BTB will be on hiatus for a week or so while your correspondent does some research on traffic systems in South America.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Our First Grinder President?

"Let's roll."
Reale's Grocery, Westerly, RI (est. 1915)
As was widely reported, earlier this week President Obama picked up hoagies at a D.C. sandwich shop for his sit down with John Boehner and other congressional leaders. The sandwich shop, Taylor Gourmet, was started by a couple of Philly expats (expenns?) who despaired finding a decent hoagie in D.C. Their menu looks pretty good, if a bit on the high end side. The President reportedly had the "Spruce St. Special" with roast turkey, prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and sharp provolone.

If D.C. can support a chain of Philadelphia-style hoagie shops, is it too much for New York City to support one Westerly-style grinder shop?

Saturday, May 19, 2012


The needle and the damage done
Coming off the Kosciuszko Bridge. The first billboard in Queens is an advertisement for some cell phone network. I guess this is our version of the Polish witacze, or welcoming signs, that greet drivers as they reach the town or city limits. At least, at the rarely achieved 50 mpg, we weren't affronted by the welcome for too long.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fog Fobia?

Do my eyes deceive me?
That, reader, is the Gowanus Expressway crossing the canal at about 8:30 PM on a very misty Tuesday night. Not the peak of rush hour, but always jammed at least until the BQE and the access road to the Batttery Tunnel diverge. One car ahead of me? How is it possible? I've noticed this phenomenon before. In heavy fog, there seem to be fewer cars on the road. Could it be that New Yorkers so don't like driving in the fog that they take public transportation or stay home? If only I could bring in Adrienne Barbeau on KAB broadcasting from a lighthouse in John Carpenter's classic 1980 film.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Sinister Hybrids

Our first movie in the new BTB series Not on Netflix is Dolina (Valley), a Hungarian-Romanian production directed by Zoltan Komandi. It's based on a story by the Hungarian writer Adam Bodor whose work has been translated into Polish and other languages but, except for a few scattered stories, barely at all into English. Bodor's stories are largely set in the fictional Sinistra district of an unnamed and anarchic Central European country. Dark, gruesome, funny, timeless--the hallmarks of Hungarian literature--pity we can't read them or see the movie. You can read more about the film in this review from the 2007 Karlovy Vary (Czech R.) film festival.

In the trailer, be sure to check out the great train-auto hybrids (as well as the clip on beards).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Speaking of Gniezno...

Beautiful Jędrzejów
and other unpronounceable Polish place names. I came across a great blog devoted to the "welcome signs," or Witacze, that are erected at Polish town, city, or regional (gmina) limits. They range in style and effect from mundane to fanciful to bombastic.

The blog is maintained by Polish artists Alicja Karska and Aleksandra Went. I learned about their project from a small, very interesting show at Columbia University's Wallach Gallery called Cross-Time Stories, which focuses on the work of artists in Eastern Europe, Turkey, and China coming of age around the pivotal year of 1989.
 Puławy: Poland's "The Second Venice"

One great thing about the Karksa & Went piece is that the photos are projected on the wall by an old-fashioned slide projector. You can advance the carousel yourself and enjoy not only the photos but the unmistakeable whirr-whirr-k'chunk sound of the projector's action. Predigital!

I like this humble one from Piotrków Trybunalski below. (Not far from Łódź, in case you're wondering.)
Piotrków Blues

Saturday, May 12, 2012

For Steam Men

Joe Biden wishes he were here
How do you plan to celebrate National Train Day? Don't tell me you didn't remember May 12th is National Train Day? Well, whatever you do, it probably won't be on the Gniezno Narrow Gauge Railroad in western Poland. This photo from a post by John Savery on the excellent Behind the Water Tower Polish rail blog describes a charter run on the last still operational section of the enormous Kujaway Narrow Gauge Railroad. Caps off to John for taking the run twice on one day: once as a passenger and once chasing it by car to take photos like this one. Of course, it probably wasn't that hard to keep pace with the Ptx48-1919 steam locomotive since its speed tops out at about 20 m.p.h. Sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Ramblin' Man

If your answer to yesterday's quiz was Mitt Romney, you're on the money (big money).
The brake is on the right, Mitt!
Here's the grown-up Mitt in the 1962 Rambler given to him by son Trigg for his 60th birthday (photo by Trigg, courtesy AP). That's 49 years after the picture in yesterday's post--possibly the last photographic record of Mitt looking like a regular human being (rather than an android, and not a particularly plausible one at that). Dig those wing windows on the Rambler.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Nixon Sucks a Dry Martini

Eagerly awaiting the release of Revenge of the Mekons. The documentary (trailer here) is rumored to include footage from last year's top-notch show (does anyone ever talk of the lower notches?) at the Bell House on the Gowanus, with your correspondent in enthusiastic attendance.  Check out this rather arty video from 1988 of "Ghosts of American Astronauts." George Herbert Walker Bush had just been elected President, Maggie Thatcher was hanging on in the U.K., a young Newt Gingrich was bringing ethics charges against House Speaker Jim Wright, and Willard Mitt Romney was into his third year as CEO of Bain Capital. Well, you get the picture.

Friday, May 4, 2012

"B" Chanties

"Brooklyn will become a chant." This billboard has been up on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge for a week or so, heralding the arrival of the Nets to Brooklyn. A few response came to mind:
"And Queens will become a curse."
"Well, why not? It's already become a cult."
"How will this affect property taxes?"

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Can a bus that's not in service be an express bus? (Or a local bus, for that matter?)

Are all buses that are not in service, but nevertheless traveling, express buses?

Reader, it is questions such as these that keep me awake nights.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Never Mind

In general, I am a fan of the traffic condition signs the DOT has installed on major roadways, including the BQE. Sometimes though they take it a bit too far. Precisely, this far.