Greenpoint, October, 2015

Friday, November 30, 2012


Was Abba Sweden's answer to Fleetwood Mac? If so, which one is meant to be Christine and which one Stevie? Which one Mick and which one Lindsey? It's easier to understand why, by this point, Peter Green was digging graves for a living. Is there something vaguely Romneyesque about all this? Watch this video from 1978 at your peril.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dig That Hat!

Maybe it's the gas lines, maybe it's all the disparaging references to Jimmy Carter during the recently completed election, maybe it's the release of a great Fleetwood Mac tribute CD (right), but I've had 1979 on my mind a lot these last few weeks. I was pretty dismissive of Mac in those days. In my first review as arts editor for the mighty Red & White (high school newspaper), I chose Neil Young's Rust Never Sleeps over the long, long-awaited Tusk. I stand by my decision. Rust has aged much better than Tusk. While Tusk has great hits ("Sara," "Rhiannon"), it can't touch "Powderfinger" or "Thrasher" for songwriting. There's too much filler on the double-LP "Tusk." But one song that kills, never released as a single, and covered beautifully by Marianne Faithful on the tribute CD, is Stevie Nick's "Angel." I never thought of Stevie as much of a rocker, but this video changed my mind. 1979, of course.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ferry Cross the Mersey

Have logo, will travel
Tonight I saw signs on the BQE for ferry service from Great Kills Park, Staten Island, to two locations in Manhattan. It's a temporary move to ease the commute of hard hit South Shore residents. (That's a photo I took in nearby New Dorp below.) A similar service will run from the Rockaways. SI City Council member James Oddo sums it up well, in impeccable Staten Islandese, "We all are all too familiar with the shortcoming of being an island, but using our waterfront in this manner makes sense, and I hope the Bloomberg Administration's initiative provides much needed relief to some Island residents." Here, here.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Earth Movers

The other cliff
Not hit as hard as parts of the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, or the Rockaways, the beaches of Westerly, RI, took quite a pounding. Tons of sand were carried off of the beaches of Watch Hill ("Little Newport") and transported down the coast a bit to make an inland desert of Misquamicut. That's East Beach in the photo above, below the reconstructed Ocean House hotel. In the photo below, bulldozers restore sand to Napatree Point side of the peninsula.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Indian Takes the Subway

MetroCard Wampum?
For the last two days, Jackson Heights has been overrun by a tribe of construction-paper head-dressed Indians. It's touching to see this low-tech Thanksgiving tradition passed on to another generation, in this case one made up largely of new immigrants.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


Best family crest on the BQE?

Wait for it...

Sorry, that's the best shot I've got.

Happy Thanks-for-not-Mitt-ing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Be the BBT

Andy Cuomo and Joe Lhota talk tunnel (Courtesy WPIX)
The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel is open again (no trucks). Thank you DOT. I don't take the BBT (or Hugh L. Carey Tunnel) very often. I just don't like sharing my BQE with the drivers who would normally exit the highway to Manhattan via the tunnel. One night last week, I decided to avoid Merge-fest and jump off the Gowanus at 38th Street. No rush, I thought, I'll just work my way back through Sunset Park, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Fort Greene--the old stomping grounds.

Everything worked pretty well until I got to around 9th St. in Park Slope, where it all ground to a halt. No problem: When one avenue stalls, I'll just jump over to the next: Third, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth. Nothing helped. All chock-a-block. Prospect Park West was fine, except it's one way the wrong way (I guess I never drove when I lived around here). Eventually I crossed the Rubicon of Flatbush Ave. and made it to Vanderbilt Avenue. After that, I was home free. "Never get off the boat," Martin Sheen says in Apocalypse Now, "Absolutely, goddamn right."

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gorillas in the Storm

Happier days
I've been keeping a hopeful eye out on my eastbound commutes. But it seems the big blue gorilla that graces the Hamilton Avenue Auto Auction ("#1 Auto Auction in Brooklyn") was a casualty to Sandy. It's come back from deflation before so maybe there's still reason to hope. What's FEMA's policy on inflatable mascots?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Beating Obama

Yesterday morning I woke to the news that President Obama would be on Staten Island to tour the storm damage, meet with families and officials, in short, the usual post-tragic storm show and tell. He would be touching down at JFK at 11:30 a.m. Expect street closures. Imagining conditions on the Gowanus and BQE with the Verrazano shut down or restricted to one lane for the presidential motorcade, I jumped out of bed, shoved a piece of toast in my mouth, swigged a cup of coffee, and hit the road. I threw in the double-CD reissue of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass--but that's just a good idea for any situation.

(Photo: Getty Images)
In the end, traffic moved along at a normal Thursday morning crawl. Obama's helicopter (duh!), Marine One, landed at Miller Field near New Dorp Beach at 1:15 p.m.

In the picture at right, Obama meets with residents in nearby neighborhoods devastated by the storm. Inexplicably, one man carries a "No standing-Bus Stop" sign under his arm. For the best and worst of Staten Islanders' response to the visit, check out the comments to this Staten Island Advance story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Miron Images

I passed this colorful truck on a gray BQE morning and it put me in mind of the great, oddball Polish poet Miron BiaƂoszewski (1922-83). Here's a timely one to celebrate the return of our staircase at 82nd St. It cheers me up. How about you?

A Ballad of Going Down to the Store

First I went down to the street
by means of the stairs,
just imagine it
by means of the stairs.

Then people known to people unknown
passed me by and I passed them by
That you did not see
how people walk,

I entered a complete store:
lamps of glass were glowing.
I saw somebody - he sat down -
and what did I hear? what did I hear?
rustling of bags and human talk.

And indeed,
I returned.

(transl. Czeslaw Milosz)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Stairway Redux

With no fanfare, no politicos cutting ribbons, after about a month and half, the subway stairway on the southwest corner of 82nd St. and Roosevelt Ave. reopens. We're back to full (i.e., three quarters) capacity. Yogurberries all around!

Saturday, November 10, 2012


A few nights ago, beginning on the Verrazano Narrows Bridge, continuing along the Gowanus Expressway and then the BQE, I observed no fewer than four convoys. How many kinds of convoys could there be? Reader, take your best guess. The answer will follow this Youtube video of the 1975 C.W. McCall classic, "Convoy," with scenes from the 1978 film it inspired. Kris Kristofferson, Ali McGraw, Ernest Borgnine, and the immortal Burt Young (as "Pig Pen"). The story is ludicrous but it looks great. Why not? Sam Peckinpah made it.

The answers:
#1) About a dozen National Guard trucks including some heavy-duty earth moving machines. Headed to the Rockaways?
#2) 5 Verizon vans with yellow lights flashing.
#3) 4 NYC buses--all "not in service."
#4) 4 NYC PD tow trucks.

Catch you on the flip flop, good buddy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Odd Days

Shift into "L" for limbo
This morning, following the example of New Jersey, gas rationing goes into affect in New York City and on Long Island. So knowing whether your plate ends in an odd or even number or letter (I've always felt "K" is the oddest letter), joins other long forgotten or repressed gas-crisis habits: paying close attention to which gas stations are open and which are closed; checking your wallet to make sure you've got a goodly supply of cash; and driving in ways that (you believe) use less gas. Yesterday, as I crept along on the BQE, I found myself slipping the transmission into neutral when a slight downhill allowed me to maintain speed. Am I saving any gas? Who knows? But I've got that 1979 feeling all over again. (I can still tell the exact location of the Lehigh station in North Stonington, Conn., where I had good luck filling up.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Eye Before the Storm

This shot is from a pre-Sandy BQE. You see a lot of graffiti on trucks. And the finger scrawl in the dirt on the back panel "Wash me!" is pretty common. But the artistry that went into this one is pretty rare. How would you describe the medium? "De-griming?" "Etched-in-eww?"

Listen to the Boss

In the end, it came down to Bruce Springsteen or Kid Rock. Not much of a contest.

Here's the Boss's video for "Atlantic City." Beautiful black and white images of AC, all the more poignant after the storm.

Monday, November 5, 2012


"It's like North Korea," Harald Tremmer of Hanover, Germany, was quoted in this morning's The New York Times. Tremmer was running in an impromptu marathon yesterday, which followed the course of the canceled official version. That meant the runners passed many gas stations with many people waiting in line to buy gas.
Thanks, Yanks (and Brits)
Well, nobody ever accused the Germans of subtlety. Harald might have thought of an example closer to home: Berlin, 1948. After the Soviets sought to cut off the part of the city controlled by the Western powers, American and British planes flew in food, supplies, and, yes, fuel--as many as 1500 flights a day. Maybe, it's time to reciprocate. Chancellor Merkel, how about sending some of that German largesse to Rockaway Beach or New Dorp?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Somewhat Upset Max

Yesterday, I took a trip to the Central Library in Jamaica. Everything worked. The F was running local, but it often does on weekends, and I was able to stop off at Ben's Best in Rego Park for a pastrami sandwich and Cel-Ray soda. The library was open (I'd checked on the web since branches in Broad Channel and the Rockaways are closed indefinitely). I only had to wait a few minutes for my book to come up from the stacks (the library is undergoing heavy renovation). Buses coursed in and out of the Jamaica station across from the library (above).

Outside the library, I saw a man with empty plastic gas containers upset because he couldn't find an open station. On the way back to the subway, I walked across the parking lot of a gas station on Hillside Avenue with its pumps wrapped in yellow tape. The reports of fights in gas lines are already coming out. It will be sad if the massive effort to get the city and region on its feet again becomes a real life parody of Mad Max.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Someone Left the Cake Out

Three days after Halloween, the nightmare of Hoboken goes on: streets flooded with water, sewerage, fuel oil, and god knows what else. People trapped in apartments with no power, heat, or water. National Guard troops maneuvering its narrow streets to help. I lived in Hoboken, very briefly, in the very early 80's. In fact, I lived in a house on Harrison Street, as far south and west as you could go before running into the palisades of Jersey City Heights. Even a moderate rain would flood the streets--we'd sit on the stoop and watch as drivers determined to drive through the monster puddles or just give up and turn back.
(Courtesy World Maps on Line)
Reason: Much of Hoboken is below sea level. This illustrated map from 1881 gives you a good idea of the situation. In the foreground are the ferry terminal and docks on the Hudson River. As you head inland the city slopes down until it runs up against those palisades. All those empty lots waiting to be built up should by rights be arable farmland or marshes. That's where the water should go. But the helter skelter of development was upon us even then. And the price is being paid today, mostly by the poorest who live in the projects and crappy housing of the backside of the city. Good luck to them. Good luck to us in learning a lesson from Sandy.