Greenpoint, October, 2015

Monday, July 30, 2012

Memoirs of a Swinger

Dart and Diplomat
On a car lot on Route 1 in Westerly, RI. I will reproduce the description on the front windshield verbatim:

For Sale. This vehicle is from the collection of Fine Antique Mopar Products of Fred. W. Smith. This classic is the iconic 1975 Dodge Dart Swinger 2 door hard top. It has the still famous Slant Six engine and has only 22,500 original miles. It is rare in that it has factory air condition that still works. It is priced out as $12,500. It is your chance to own one of the most reliable vehicles ever produced at an affordable price. There is a collection of things in the trunk that do not go with the car.
Ready for take off

It's not clear if the last line is a warning, a disclaimer, or a boast. Sadly, from your correspondent's POV, it's an automatic. Otherwise, you might have caught this icon of mid-seventies style and color cruising the BQE.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Barely Coastal

Postcard from Poquetanuck (c. 1910)
In a recent post, I reported on an excellent coasting, aka, "rolling," run through the gentle hills of Ledyard, Connecticut, that dropped you in Poquetanuck, a village of Preston. When I was growing up, Poquetanuck was a sleepy little place with a church, a few old houses, Bob Hall's trophies and uniform shop, and the aptly named Brookside bar. It fronts a marshy expanse known to us as Stinky Cove because at low-tide it really stank. Low tide? Yes, the cove is brackish, drawing water from the Thames River and ultimately the Long Island Sound. The coast of Preston.

Sleepy now, but at one time, before it was reincarnated into a mill village like nearby Hallville, Poquetanuck was a busy little port and shipbuilding center. In 1786, Jeremiah Halsey had built there a very curious boat, a "snow-brig," named the Lady Strange. Double-decked, about 150 tons, she was constructed wholly of planks. According to the indispensable History of New London Connecticut by Francis Caulkins, the only timbers used were for the keel, stem, and stern post. "She proved to be a good sea vessel and a fast sailor, and mad several voyages from New London, but was afterwards owned in Philadelphia." The application for the Registry of Historic Places claims the Continental Army ordered a 36-gun frigate to be constructed at Poquetanuck but I'm skeptical. These days, you can kayak there--if you don't mind the smell.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Das Phillies

Meet the Phillies
Keep the label up!
That isn't Germantown as in northwest Philadelphia you're looking at. That's Germantown as in southern Germany, probably Stuttgart. And these 1951 Phillies aren't in the National League, they're in the German Youth Activities, a program begun by U.S. GIs immediately after WWII as a way to reach out to children of the devastated nation. Naturally, baseball figured prominently in the effort. Nor was the reeducation limited to the boys. Here, a WAC Staff Sergeant coaches one young slugger. (Much more about the GYA here.)

But why Phillies? Yankees might seem a bit too imperialist. Red Sox a bit too, well, red for the times. Cardinals translates easily as Kardinals but means the prelates, not the birds. Let it be Phillies then. Who knows, maybe there's a biergarten or rathaus somewhere in Stuttgart where they still follow the Phils.

Note on the title: The plural definite article ("the") in German is "die" not "das." However I thought "Die Phillies" might be a bit provocative in some quarters.

(Photos courtesy Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study, Harvard University.)

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Other Quiet Coast

Topless Connecticut (Courtesy NY Times)
Sunday's New York Times featured a story called "On Connecticut's Quiet Coast." The writer particularly enthused about the towns of far eastern Connecticut, Noank, Mystic, and Stonington, calling them "as close to heaven as you get." As these are your correspondent's old stomping grounds, I'll use the next couple posts to fill in some of the more obscure corners of our near heaven.

Connecticut Road
(Linda Eckstein, All My Eyes)
Regular readers of Hog River Journal (inexplicably renamed Connecticut Explored) may remember a piece a few years back called "Coasting Out of the Seventies" (I actually titled it "Coasting Out the Seventies," but let it stand.) In it I described a pastime my father passed on to his sons and daughters. He called it "rolling." The idea was to find a long, more-or-less downhill stretch of quiet road, put the car in neutral, and let it roll as far as you could without having to stop or put it back in gear. It combined sport with cheapness. There were plenty of good runs but the very best one was in Ledyard--now home to Foxwoods Casinos, then home to not much: Avery Hill Road, an idyllic backroad connector that took us from the Submarine Base in Groton to Preston. Here's how I described it the HRJ piece:

What made it particularly great was that, unless you perfectly timed the point at which you took your foot off the gas and controlled the speed you were going, you would not have enough momentum to carry you through the stretch where the road leveled off between two fields and make it to the point where you started rolling downhill again.  You could try opening the door and pushing off with a foot—or two if you had a passenger—but, if you mistimed it completely, you had to concede defeat and put the car in gear. If, if you got it just right, you would creep along, nearly coming to a stop, before slowly, slowly picking up speed until you were flying again, using the brakes only at the stop sign where the road met Route 2A in the middle of Poquetanuck Village....  I can still picture the exact point in the stone wall at the top of the curve of the hill where you give it the gas one last time, throw it into neutral, and let it go.

The best coasting car of all was a 71 Dodge Demon. Talk about close to heaven!

(This post dedicated to James W. and James V., coasting scholars both.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Nameless Queens

Who's counting?
A new news and phone cards store--just what we needed--opened on Roosevelt Avenue just steps from the BTB Research Bureau. Why "84" when it appears to be on the corner of Roosevelt Ave. and 85th St. (Woody Guthrie Street)? I say "appears" because it's actually on the corner of Roosevelt and Forley Street.

Roosevelt is the border between the gridlines of Jackson Heights' numbered streets, avenues, and occasional roads, and the quaint named streets and avenues of Elmhurst: Forley, Britton, Gleane, Ithaca, etc. Take a look at the lower right-hand corner of the topographic map below. You can see everything bends to the east or west after it crosses Roosevelt Ave. Elmhurst Avenue makes a bold attempt to maintain its name after it crosses Roosevelt Avenue but within a few blocks it is pacified by 37th Avenue. As Polish poet Stanisław Grochowiak wrote, "To the promised land of statistics."

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

No Chris Christie Fan

Emerging into the sun-dappled rotunda of the Frank R. Lautenberg Railway Station in Secaucus this morning, I noticed a table staffed by a cop and a vaguely authoritative figure in a pink shirt and tie. But what was on the table? Pamphlets? Inflatable neck pillows to ease NJT passengers' stress and strain? No, it was the Garden State's response to the the second crippling heatwave of the summer: Jersey Boys fans.
Exercise plan too

In an instant, an image came into my head of the same fans with Chris Christie's mug emblazoned on them instead. Sorry I am not proficient in the dark arts of PhotoShop to mock one up. You'll just have to imagine yourself looking across a bus or subway aisle and seeing a row of Christies batting back and forth. Sure, Christie's face would cover a pretty good-sized fan, but if we can get the reproachful finger on as well, imagine the cooling power!
The hot air that cools (Photo: AP)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

This Borough Is Your Borough

Arlo, Norah, Woody, and Joady (1951)
Many fascinating details about Woody Guthrie's New York life in the recently published My Name Is New York: Ramblin' Around Woody Guthrie's Town by Norah Guthrie and the WG Archives, timed to coincide with the centennial of Woody's birth. This one caught my eye. An envelope from Woody in the Brooklyn State Hospital (where he died) addressed to "Arlyo Guthrie, One Fifty Nine Dash One Three Eighty Fifth Street, Queens (Fourteen), Longy Island, New Jerk." I knew Woody and his family lived in Howard Beach at the end of his life (1952-1967) but I didn't know they lived on my street--more correct, I now live on their street.

Just for fun I tried to follow the path of 85 St. from Jackson Heights (me) to Howard Beach (WG). On Google Maps of course; I'm no Will Self or Iain Sinclair. It's not so easy, given the unpredictable condensations and expansions of the Queens anti-grid. It disappears in Elmhurst altogether. It picks up in Woodhaven, though pauses for the vast St. Johns Cemetery and vaster Forest Park (85 Ave. and 85 St. meet just south of here). Ozone Park is sketchy. But it runs straighter than an arrow through Howard Beach. A quick switch to Satellite view shows houses on the block are much larger than the little Cape Woody, Margorie and the kids lived in. Plus a whole bunch of in-ground pools. I doubt Arlo had many pool parties. But, as the photo above testifies, the Guthries loved the beach just as much as my family did.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Personal Demons

Word on the street is that Dodge will bring back the Dart in 2013 after 30 years in brand-name exile. But this is not Matt Saracen's Dodge Dart, let alone the one my family banged around Southeastern Connecticut in the 1970s. Instead, it is built by Fiat, based on its Alfa Romeo Giulietta. I guess I'm happy they aren't calling it the Dodge Giuliani, but it just doesn't have the feel of a Dart.
...and 1974.

It's unlikely they will bring back the Demon, Dodge's knock-off of the Plymouth Duster muscle car. It was only on the market for 2 years, from '71 to '72. Protests by Christian leaders about its name and satanic logo (below) scared the suits at Dodge. According to Lindsey Fisher on, they briefly considered rebranding it as the Beaver. Turns out that had associations all its own.
Living in a devil town

Does the American taxpayer still own Chrysler? If so, fellow shareholder, I'm worried.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Newclear Proliferation

Well read
What will our Nanny Mayor take on next after his war on the Supersize Soft Drinks (WMDs)? I have a suggested target that could benefit us all: Subterranean Sprawl. MTA riders share a very small space, and generally we do it well. And some people are just going to take up more space based on body size. Fine. But do we really need to artifically expand what God (and/or McDonalds) gave us? On both sides, no less? Let's tighten it up people. We all just need a little personal space.

I once witnessed this episode on a 1 train: A very slight young woman began to sit down onto a bench on which three people were sitting. Her slightly larger would-be seatmate (also a young woman) refused to slide over, even though there was plenty of room. "These are for three people, not four," she lectured. Hey, New Yorkers, let's make getting three on a bench comfortably a goal for 2012?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Opening Day (Again!)

We need a Spaceman (courtesy
The dreaded All-Star Break is over. The Red Sox start the second half of the season at exactly 500 (43-43). It's like cleaning the slate (except they are spotting their archrival, the New York Yankees, 9 1/2 games).

The photo above comes from 1977, when the Sox finished with a record of 94-67, tied with the Orioles for 2nd place just 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees. Don Zimmer was the manager and Bill Lee one of the starting pitchers. According to Chad Finn on, if you look closely at the picture you can see Ferguson Jenkins curled up in the backseat of the bullpen cart. Sleeping one off, according to Finn.

Tonight, Bobby Valentine will hand the ball to Franklin Morales to pitch against Tampa Bay. Go get 'em! Just for fun--by which I mean bittersweet nostalgia--here's the Sox starting line-up for (the real)  Opening Day in 1977. Wow!:

  7Rick BurlesonSS
  5Denny Doyle2B
14Jim RiceLF
  8Carl Yastrzemski    RF
16Rick MillerCF
15George Scott1B
  1Bernie CarboDH
27Carlton FiskC
  4Butch Hobson3B
31Ferguson JenkinsP

This post goes out to Tina B. who still believes.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Friday Night Brakelights

White walls and all
A latecomer to Friday Night Lights, ABC's Texas high school football as religion drama (Peyton Manning Place?), I am now gobbling up the episodes two or three at a time on Netflix. In an episode in Season 2, QB1 and all-around good guy Matt Saracen buys a used car. His new girlfriend Lauren, who claims to know a lot about cars, helps him get a good deal on a blue-and-rust Dodge Dart Custom. So far so good. "It's not a Slant 6, is it?" she asks. The seller assures her it is not. Like that's a bad thing! Of course it's a Slant 6! (He also tells her it's got 275 h.p., instead of the 225 the Custom packed.)

The photo above comes from the great IMCDb website (Internet Movie Cars Database) where the actual car's story gets told in this quote from the series producers:

"We just nabbed a blue 1974 Dodge Dart sedan for the Matt Saracen character as his 1st car for the Friday Night Lights TV show on NBC. It was in a farm field for 12 years. It started right up after it was pulled out. We've had to replace the master cylinder, gas tank, exhaust/muffler, tune up, oil/filter, idler arm, and charge the AC unit. The automatic transmission shifts fine. Otherwise it's a great car for $1,000.00. The interior is near perfect. The paint has lots of desirable patina wear giving it the '1st car I ever bought' look. It will see plenty of action. Watch for it starting episode # 7, second season. It's a hoot and a great picture car."

Of course it started right up. It's a Slant 6. "Can't kill 'em" was the word. If you are a fan of early 70's Dodges and Plymouths, you will want to stream Season 2 Episode 8 when Matt goes to pick up Smash, the star running back, after a college recruiting trip goes off the rails. Great shots of the car's interior.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

BQE del Sur

Light traffic
That's the view through the taxi rear window on the Costanera Norte expressway to the airport in Santiago de Chile. Those are the snowcapped Andes in the background. Too early for rush hour since Santiagans work until 8 or 9 and then dine absurdly late.

Moments later the sky erupted in a mind-blowing winter sunset. Santiago has a big smog problem, sitting in a valley as it does, and that no doubt contributes to the end-of-the-world palette. Then again, maybe it is the end of the world.

Apocalypse 18:15 horas

Monday, July 9, 2012

Run Don't Walk!

Eye catching
Always a big fan of pictograms, your correspondent captured this one by the stairway leading from the beach at Zappallar, a beautiful coastal beach resort northwest of Santiago. This one takes no chances, including not only the graphic but a bilingual message. Evacuation is no joke here in Chile where tsunamis added to the damage and loss of life following the massive 8.8 earthquake of 2010. A wave of 8 feet 6 inches was recorded at Valparaíso, just to the south of here. The Chilean Navy eventually took responsibility for not issuing immediate alerts about the tsunami, which would have saved lives. The moral of the story: Always know where your exits are!
Zappallar (Pumpkin Patch, en ingles)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Moving Stories

(Photo courtesy David Dust)
The most unsung, occasionally unslung, form of mass transportation. The escalator. New York has some very fine ones and some very crappy ones. The subway escalator at 53rd and Lexington (left) was reputed to be the longest in the world when it opened in 1933. Moscow also has some impressive ones. Check out post on Weburbanist  blog.

The English word "escalator" is very economical, while other languages--Spanish, Italian, Polish, Romanian--maintain the kinetic imagery of the "moving stairways," archaic in English.

Note: he is standing on the right
My favorite escalator performance art piece by the  Czech artist Jirí Kovanda. It's part of a series of very minor happenings he created in Prague in 1977, including one in which he suddenly begins to run very fast. More about Kovanda's work here.

Your correspondent now resumes his study of South American infrastructure and vinoculture. Happy 4th!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Diamonds on My Windshield

 (Courtesy Daily News)
Sunday morning on the 7 train. A young boy scrambles to get a window seat--meaning he kneels on the seat so he can see out the window. "Tomorrow will be the diamond train?" he asks his parents. The Diamond Train? Of course, he means the 7 express signaled by the "7" in a red parallelogram rather than the green circle of the local: Christmas colors all year round.

Black Diamond Express
We should call it the Red Diamond Train to differentiate it from the famous Black Diamond Express that ran from New York City to Buffalo on the Lehigh Valley Railroad from 1896 until service was suspended in 1959. The name "black diamond" derived from the anthracite coal that was the company's freight mainstay. Its passenger stock, sadly, rapidly diminished over time.

Revenue passenger traffic, in millions of passenger-miles*
Source:ICC annual reports (see wiki ). 

Sorry I never got to ride the Black Diamond. I did make a couple of overnight trips on the Amtrak Lakeshore Limited from New York to Chicago (I got on in Springfield, MA, and off in Elyria, OH). It did stop in Buffalo but got there via Albany rather than the more southerly Lehigh Valley route.

(*A unit of measurement of the passenger transportation performed by a railroad during a given period, usually a year, the total of which consists of the sum of the miles traversed by all the passengers on the road in the period in question.)