Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The End

I spent much too much of the last day of the regular season creeping along the Hutchinson River Parkway toward the mysteriously jammed up toll plaza at the Whitestone Bridge. St. Raymond's Cemetery was on my left as I toggled between two baseball games, each meaningless in itself: the Red Sox-Orioles (Birds won) and the Yankees-Astros (Yanks won).

The real action came in the out-of-town scoreboard updates from Toronto, Minneapolis, and Arlington, TX, as the AL Wild Card race resolved itself.  First, Cleveland beat the Twins 5-1, locking down one of the two Wild Card slots. This put pressure on the Rays and Rangers to win to have a chance at the other slot. The Rays jumped out 6-0 on the Blue Jays. But the Jays fought back, closing to within one run before the Rays finally nailed it down in the bottom of the ninth. That left Texas to come back from an early one-run deficit to beat the As 6-2. That forces a one-game playoff to see who will take on the Indians in the regular one-game Wild Card game. Whoever wins that game faces the Sox at Fenway on Friday. Got it? 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Lower Decks

Midday closure of the upper deck of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. Traffic slows to a crawl. A helicopter hovers. I associate it with the U.N. General Assembly and Obama being in town, anti-terrorism and all that. Why didn't it occur to me that there was a jumper on the deck above? Successfully talked down from the ledge. (Another one hadn't been earlier in the week, I find out subsequently.)

While waiting to merge into the two lanes moving across the span, I snapped this shot. The blue outline reminded me of Florida. Was it meant to call attention to the fraying concrete or a more significant problem below?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Joy Comes in the Morning

As I walked out this morning, something sitting on the low wall that lines a ramp of the building across the street. Joy of Cooking. Icon of 70s America. Recognizable from thirty paces, even to a non-cook. Closer inspection reveals it's a bit waterlogged. Left out in the rain? (There was no rain last night.) Dropped in the bath? Or the broth?

Moments later. An older gentleman has it in hand. Bon appetit!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Legging It

From The Nurse and the Hijackers (1977)
Multiple Occupancy: Eleanor Antin's "Selves" is at the Wallach Gallery at Columbia University. Reader, if you are a fan of Florence Nightingale, life-size cardboard cut-outs, nurses, paper dolls, makeup, ballet, soap operas, 1970s sky-jackings, or any combination of the above, you must attend. Here is the artist as the King of Solana Beach, a project from 1974. Walking amongst his (sic) subjects.

Solana Beach is a small kingdom but a natural kingdom for no kingdom should extend any further than its king can comfortably walk on any given day. My kingdom is the right size for my short legs.

See more from the series here (oddly) on this Washington University in St. Louis site.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Saturday, September 21, 2013

New York with the Works

Another large rectangular volume with a cryptic title. Here is Peter Spaan's first book, published in 1983, a few years before New York from the Yards. In that book, the photographs were all taken from the subway yards of the upper Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. This time the focus is squarely on Manhattan.

The photographs in the book are silkscreened. Some are relatively "straight," black-and-white shots of buildings. Others are rendered as collages, like the fold-out below, which I photographed on a table in the NYPL's photography collection. (Nice people.)

Samples of Spaans' handwritten notes adorn the gray endboards. Typed versions appear inside, and an English translation is included as an insert. Here is just one sample sequence (spelling as in original):

919.  this evening went on painting.
926.  found $20! - today.
977.  thousands of people arrested at the sit-inns. all this happened at the u.n. delegations. 3,000    policemen were sent to stop the fence-full demonstrators.
656.  it was such a piercing scream.
666.  via avenue of the americas walking downtown, partly west broadway to the warren street, directly on the corner is the cafe "raccoon lodge".
693.  sloans is closed today.

I asked Peter what the numbers signified (I thought they might notes referencing exposures to his photographs). His reply:
I just numbered my thoughts at the moment. In the book, Works of a City, you will find only a few of the notations.... The notations did not relate to specific photographs, at least not at the time. Words are words and photographs photographs. I mean by that I try not to illustrate my words with photographs, or translate my photographs into words. They are next to each other.

Next to each other is good.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Your Aluminaire Here

Photo courtesy Architect's Newspaper Blog
The proposal to move the Aluminaire House to Sunnyside Gardens, Queens, as the centerpiece for a new apartment building for the landmarked district, is pretty far-fetched. Although not for the reason councilman Jimmy van Bramer (quoted in today's Times) gives: "How can a house that in some ways resembles a spaceship be plopped down in the middle of this neighborhood?" That's what spaceships do, Jimmy, they plop down.

Still, I'd like to propose a more welcoming spot for the 1931 beauty, designed by Albert Frey and A. Lawrence Kocher to introduce Americans to Le Corbusier's methods of prefabrication. It's threatened with destruction in its current site in Huntington, NY, so a move is definitely of the moment.

Why not install it here, on the Bald Spot of Maspeth, overlooking the BQE-Long Island Expressway interchange? Think of how beautiful it will be--maybe with a little landscaping--gleaming in the sun for tens of thousands of drivers each day. It might even necessitate a mandatory sunglasses law. Once a pedestrian bridge is constructed, visitors will take in the America the Aluminaire House and it's near contemporary, the BQE (c. 1936), presaged.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

On the Boulevard

Yesterday I had the unusual experience (for me) of crossing Queens Boulevard at 69th St. on foot. At this point of the QB there are eight lanes of traffic divided into two express and two local access lanes in both directions. When I made it three quarters of the way across I stood in the median and looked up at the sign for the BQE onramp (above).

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Low Line is Fine

Mexican Independence Day Parade, Manhattan, September 15, 2013.

Does not apply to low riders, ¡Por supuesto!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mysteries of the Yards

The large format, almost square book is placed before you. New York from the Yards by Peter Spaans. You, by the way, are in your numbered seat in the New York Public Library's Art and Architecture Reading Room. You've seen a few photographs from it on the Internet, lovely black-and-white shots of the City in the early 1980s, but are largely unprepared for what it contains.

Mystery #1: How many yards? You soon learn from the translation of the Dutch notes that the book documents Peter Spaan's project of photographing the City from inside its subway storage yards. And that he had gained the permission of the MTA to do so. Under the title, "The Nine Yards," a numbered list is provided. With eight yards. Not all that mysterious, after all, as Peter explained to me in an email: "#3 Jerome/Concourse yards are two yards. The Jerome Yard, also known as Mosholu Yard, is located at 3191 Jermoe Avenue in the Bronx. The Concourse Yard is located in northern Bronx near 205th Street and Jerome Avenue."

The book also offers a spacial representation of the yards and how they are distributed throughout the city. A kind of typewritten map. The Coney Island Yard, #4 in the book, is at the bottom of the page because it is the southernmost one:

Mystery #2: What's the line? The photographs, and collages, are introduced with an essay by Spaans called "The Real Line of New York." What does Spaans mean by this enigmatic and rather beautiful phrase. Again, from Peter's email response to my questions: "That is a tough one. Many people have a preoccupied idea of what New York is and how it has to look. Because of films, TV, books, etc., etc., etc., we don't know better. What I tried to do was to photograph New York from the inside, using the big yards and photographing the surroundings of the yards and so portray in another way New York."

Mystery #3: Where are the people? Spaans' photographs give us buildings, trains, buses, and cars (many doubt belonging to employees of the yards), tracks and platforms, but very few people. In fact, I think there are more pairs of pants hanging out to dry in one photo from the Fresh Pond Yard than there are actual two-legged people in the whole book. Here's Peter: "I am very interested in people. But I don't photograph them that much, at least not always on purpose. Many empty streets, but the streets are not empty, just no people. There are many artists and photographers who only photograph people, and me just what people left behind, what people created."

From Jamaica Yard
The photographs on this page come from a 2011 issue of a new version of New York from the Yards released by Harper's Books in Easthampton in conjunction with a show of Peter's work on the project. You can see more at Harper's Books site. Which brings us to one more mystery: The original book grouped the photographs by yard following the order in the list above. The new book includes no indications of which yards the photographs come from. The line is shifting but ever present.

From Jerome/Concourse yards

From Fresh Ponds Yard
More on Peter Spaans work here (BTB#1), here (BTB#2), and here (PS site). The site has many photos of the yards here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Stormin' up from Baltimore

Queens Boulevard foreboding
Thunderstorms predicted all day but sunny when I left the campus. Yankees in a rain delay in Baltimore. Dark clouds chased me all the way home. Stopped to pick up a couple beers at a deli in Elmhurst as the first streaks of lightning lit up the sky. Parked the car just as all hell broke loose. Too dangerous to break for the door. Opened a beer and enjoyed the show.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

To Swing or Not to Swing?

Robinson Cano vs. Red Sox (2010)
Listening to a lot of Yankee games on the BQE these September evenings. Here's an excerpt from John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman's repartee from Tuesday's Yankees-Rays game:

Susan: That was not a strike.

John: Well, of course, it is a strike if you swing at it.

And speaking of philosophical conundrums, every game the Red Sox take from the Rays (including last night's 10th inning come from behind win), brings the Yankees closer to a wild card berth.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Screen Play

Snapshot Noir, at the Pace/Macgill Gallery, exhibited anonymous snapshots collected by Robert E. Jackson. One set of ten included shots taken through wire fencing.

I took this shot out my building stairwell window earlier in the summer:

And this one on Woodside Avenue, above the BQE:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Shadow Play

One more from the Storm King Arts Center. Her mother called for her twice, but the girl wouldn't leave the play space of the Mark di Suvero sculpture.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Digging It (Proverbially)

It would be easy to walk past the five grated openings in a section of field at the Storm King Art Center in Cornwall, NY. But curiosity is rewarded if you peer down through the grates to discover the 1970s-era Dynahoe tractor that artist David Brooks has carefully taken apart and buried. The piece is called "A Proverbial Machine in the Garden," an allusion to Leo Marx's, The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America (so the notes tell us). I can't decide if it's the most inane thing I've ever looked at or the most brilliant.

Here's a photo of the proverbial machine before its dismemberment and internment. You can hear the artist talk about the project at the Storm King site.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Happy Hour, 2 P.M. to 8 P.M.

A bar on Baxter Avenue, Elmhurst (aka, the Northeast Passage).

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Get Well Guy

Just heard that Guy Clark's October 11 concert in Raleigh, NC, has been cancelled due to illness.

Last year, Susanna Clark passed away. Here's a clip with Guy and Susanna talking about mutual friend Townes Van Zandt from the 2004 documentary Be Here to Love Me:

And here's Guy performing "Desperados Waiting for a a Train" from the 2005 film Heartworn Highways:

Guy had a new record this summer, My Favorite Picture of You. Another great picture of G & S on the cover. A friend heard Guy on a radio interview relating that the photo of Susanna was taken just as Guy and Townes returned from a monumental bender.

Hang in there, Guy.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Northeast Passage

My route from the BQE exit at 65th Place to Jackson Heights takes me along Woodside Avenue.

Many stoplights, many chances to photograph.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two on the Road

The Texas photo from the collage Texas to New York/Oil, in the earlier post Trading Places, comes from Peter Spaans' project, On the Road Too. In 2007, the Dutch artist and his American friend, Dan Schmidt, drove from New York City to Las Vegas and back in 19 days. They decided that travel on older highways and state roads rather than the interstates. Spaans documented the trip with over 11,000 photographs, all made from inside the car; two of them can be seen below and more on the project site.

Here is a description, supplied by the artist, of how the photographs were taken:
On the outward journey, Peter Spaans generally captured his images from the open window on the right side of the car, or by the windshield. On the return trip, he frequently photographed from the back of the car, either right or left side, depending on the position of the sun, and always with the window open. Day in, day out he focused on fixed points such as the grandness of the natural countryside, or electric and telephone wires, petrol stations, motels, churches, restaurants; he pointed his camera at houses and factories either empty, boarded up and abandoned, or inhabited.

And here is the map, charting their journey through the "fly-over states":

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Sticker Shock #4: Grinders

This late addition to our summer series on poets, cars, and driving begins with a multiple choice test: Which one of the following people or places does not appear in a Charles Dickens novel?
1) Mr. Gradgrind
2) Rob the Grinder
3) Grindstone City
4) Stone House

If you answered #3, Grindstone City, you are correct. It's in Michigan, not Manchester, and for years was home to the Alternative Press. We have previously featured bumperstickers created by TAP founders Ken and Anne Mikolowski in collaboration with poets Edward Dorn, Diane di Prima, and Robert Creeley. Today, at last, we present one of Ken's own "functional poems," pictured above and below.

The Dickens connection is not entirely a red herring. I found the bumpersticker in the Alternative Press archives of the Berg Collection in the New York Public Library on 42nd St. The collection is renowned for its holdings of Dickens materials. In addition to rare editions and original illustrations, it houses one of Dickens's writing desks and a pet cat's paw he preserved. The NYPL copy of Ken's bumpersticker had been folded for decades concealing the text: "An Alternative Press Bumpersticker" and an illustration that has a Dickensian touch:

(*Mr. Gradgrind is the schoolmaster in Hard Times, and Stone House is his school. Rob the Grinder, aka, Robin Toodle, is the son Polly (Paul's nurse) in Dombey and Son.)