Greenpoint, October, 2015

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kosher Fluids

Victory Boulevard and Willowbrook Road, Staten Island

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Traffic Lights

The traffic jam on the Garden State Parkway suddenly dispersed. Just where the rainbow began--or ended. The Pot of Gold? (Photo: Monica A.)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Roosevelt Ave. (June 2011)

How sad that my life has not come to mean
for you what your life came to mean for me.
. . . How many times in vacant lots have I
consigned my copper coin, crowned with the seal
of state, to that webbed universe of wires,
attempting hopelessly to stretch the time
of our connectedness . . . Alas, unless
a man can manage to eclipse the world,
he's left to twirl a gap-toothed dial in some
phone booth, as one might spin a ouija board,
until a phantom answers, echoing
the last wails of a buzzer in the night.

Joseph Brodsky (September 1967)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Turning Back the Clock

Rest stops are being renovated or replaced everywhere I go. Maryland House on the southern stretch of New Jersey Turnpike, the old McDonalds-centric stops along 95 outside of New Haven, and the little brick bungalows along the Merritt Parkway in southwestern Connecticut (above). They are gradually moving the pumps away from the front of the building and further into the rest stop (a very good idea) and giving the houses a facelift. In the process, they are replacing the old clocks, like this one:

BTW, we stopped at around 11 A.M.

Friday, February 21, 2014

No Backing out Now

Charles Olson's car without reverse gear recalls another poet car, David Antin's theft-proof Sunbeam, with its backwards gearbox (shifting into first put it into reverse, and v.v.). Your correspondent's mother and family archivist reminds us of the boyfriend of an older cousin, whom we called 'Phizzu' because he wore an old FSU sweatshirt or T-shirt. He drove an old Volvo (I think) which had no reverse: he would always park where he could pull out straight.

Peel P50
A little on-line research uncovered the Peel P50, a street-legal car produced in England from 1962-65, with no reverse gear. The car was  134 cm (53 in) long, 99 cm (39 in) wide, and 134 cm (53 in) high. According to, the P50 was not a big seller since it was very unstable, cramped, and noisy." It cost £198 and got 100 mi/gallon (take that hybrids). I guess, no reverse gear was the least of your problems. Cute though.

Peel Engineering still exists and has produced a limited number of new P50s. Here's a TopGear video of the P50 in action:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Smoke and Rearview Mirrors

I was tipped off to Edward Dorn's "101 poems" (for the California's U.S. Rte. 101, of course) by the British writer, Iain Sinclair, in his new book American Smoke: Journeys to the End of Light. Sinclair covers a lot of ground, investigating and reimagining the intersecting lives of writers Charles Olson, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Malcolm Lowry, Lew Welch, Gary Snyder, Tom Clark, and others.

Beautiful cover, folds out into a placemat. Strange that it only has one car, Neil Cassady's '49 Hudson, hovering up around Jack Kerouac's Lowell, when so many of the stories have to do with cars. How could it be otherwise...

Olson in Gloucester
Here's a good one about Charles Olson, the thundering prophet of Projective Verse and biographer-mythologist of Gloucester, Mass.:

Olson's car didn't do reverse. When a friend, sent out from the upstairs apartment with the great veiw, on the point, right over the Inner Harbor, to fetch cigarettes and whisky for another all-night session, sandwiches even, asked, with some trepidation, how Charles managed this thing, navigating the icy streets in a defective motor, the poet said: 'Never go backwards.' Arm raised--so!--gloved fist clamped to the fence, Russian cap and trailing coat. 'That way. Always that way now.'

More to come...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Texting at the Wheel

In Edward Dorn's collection, Hello, La Jolla (1978), There is a lovely little black-and-white photo, a profile, taken by Jennifer Dorn, of Dorn driving on a mountainside highway. It introduces the so-called  "101 section."

As Dorn explains, poems in this section were written "with one hand tied to the steering wheel, driving. I mention this not to mention writing is still capable of illegality, but that it is necessary beyond considerations of place and time. A rather open scrawl while one's eyes are fixed on the road is the only trick to be mastered."

Here's the first poem in the series, "A View, from 101":

One flew over the Cuckoo's nest
Playing right next to
Trailer Park Village

The factory neatly retailing
Its product

Traffic Moving Well

Both directions.

From the 7 train entering 69th St. (Feb. 16, 2014).

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Breathe in October

Courtney Barnett sings and plays two songs. Both are fine, but I really like the first, "Avant Gardener." If you don't, just enjoy the traffic swirling around Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn, where the video was shot in October 2013. Remember October? (Courtney's from Australia, so that's 40 degrees Celsius she's bemoaning.)

This mini-concert takes place not far from where your correspondent lived, nearly 30 years ago!, on Park Place just off Vanderbilt Ave.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Man with a Shovel

He got on in lower Manhattan, one of the last stops before the Hugh L. Carey Tunnel to Brooklyn. The bright orange shovel was hard to miss. He sat beside me, the shovel handle wedged between my seat back and the window. Still, I didn't ask about the shovel until we both got off at the college stop.

"I felt like an idiot carrying a shovel onto a bus," he told me, "but I left my car in the lot a couple nights ago and it got iced in. I tried to dig it out with a scraper but that just broke. So, 30 bucks for a shovel and here I am...." We parted when I got on the shuttle bus and he hoofed it towards his car. To do what he had to do. I doubt he'll ever drive without a shovel again. (I know I don't. I have two.)

Walk tall, Brother.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Second Look and More

This morning brings news of the death, at 75, of Nancy Holt. As an artist, she will of course be remembered for the monumental Sun Tunnels project in the Utah desert, as well as other large scale pieces of "land art." I love those pieces, but what really caught my eye when I saw the retrospective at Columbia's Wallach Gallery in 2010 were several small pieces created with a typewriter on plain sheets of 8 1/2 X 11 inch paper. Apologies for the photos, which were taken through the glass case. The first is titled Hometown (Holt was born in Worcester but raised in New Jersey).

The second doesn't have a title, unless it is Sun Moon Water Sky Earth Stars. A poem or a statement of the artists's beliefs.

(For an earlier BTB post on Holt click here.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blue on Blue

New York Harbor from Verrazano Narrows Bridge (lower level).

From the X10 express bus (February 10, 2014).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Not Sochi

The other Winter Olympics: Shoveling. Not falling. Intersection crossing. Subway stair climb. Parking on ice.

Silver Lake Park, S.I. (Feb. 2014)
I took part in the biathlon last week. Cruising the campus for parking, I spied a spot at a right angle to  and on a slight downhill to the road. All I had to do was get up the icy ramp with enough momentum to ease around a minivan and into the spot. A moment later, my driver's side front fender was a foot from the minivan's rear bumper. Every attempt to go forward or backward brought me closer to the minivan. That's when training kicks in and equipment matters. Pop the trunk and out with the shovel (steel, not plastic). Wheel by wheel, inch by inch, in and out of the driver's seat. With one or two fortuitous slides, I backed up just enough to get the hell out of there. Four days later, my heart rate is just about back to normal.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Doll's House

Research for the Serious Ladies of Staten Island series has taken me down some streets I'd never otherwise know. On this one, in the window of a home undergoing intermittent repair, I encountered these four serious ladies.

Which is more intimidating, the sign or the dolls? Need I ask?

Friday, February 7, 2014

I Must Go Down to the Seas Again

South Beach, S.I., seen from Lily Pond Road (Feb. 2014)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Slipping Up

Roosevelt Ave. and 78th St. (Feb. 5, 2014)
Upside down.
Face down.
Head over heels.
Arse over tit ("The Band Played Waltzing Matilda," Pogues)
Do góry nogami (Polish; literally: To the top with the legs)

Others? (No googling, please...)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Make Your Own 70's Movie

The lower platform at Queensboro Plaza provides a great vantage for split screen cinematography. Sydney Cash's Columns (2000) make it easy to be your own DP.

Did the jogger see something?

Who is the guy in the yellow vest listening to in his earpiece?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Serious Ladies of Staten Island - Part VII

Surely one of the saddest Staten Island stories between September 11, 2001, and October 29, 2013, when Sandy demolished its southern shore, was the death, in October 2004, of Anita Bitri, her 7-year old daughter, Sibora, and her mother, Azbije, from carbon monoxide poisoning. Bitri had immigrated from Albania in 1996, and was a rising star in the Albanian and Albanian diaspora pop music scene. The boiler ventilators of her house had been stuffed with plastic bags by workers building a porch in order to prevent concrete debris from getting in.

In the photo (left), Anita,  her daughter (on right) and a friend visit the Monument of Independence in Valona, Albania (from The album cover (below) for Gjithmonë med jush (Always with you) is more in keeping with the profile of a glamorous chanteuse.

Anita Bitri's music is not really to my taste. It reminds me of music I heard a lot in Poland, over-the-top pop productions that would be at home on the Eurovision Song Contest. But you can't deny her talent or the sincerity of her efforts. The video for "Bijës Sime" (My Daughter) begins with the singer on the Staten Island Ferry, then wandering melancholy through lower Manhattan and on the Brooklyn Bridge, presumably thinking about her daughter (who also appears and sings in the video). I'm not sure whether it was released before or after the accident. Either way, it is very poignant.

Bitri lived with her husband, Luan Prapaniku, who died shortly before the death of Bitri, her mother, and daughter in a quiet street that runs between the Arrorchar Market to South Beach, just at the point the boardwalk begins. The accident occurred just two weeks before a City regulation requiring all residences to have carbon monoxide detectors came into effect. The single-family home was demolished and replaced with a duplex (below) in 2007. Bitri's house was also pink.

Anita Bitri's home town, Sarande, is sometimes called the "Albanian Riviera." Just a few miles off its coast is the island of Corfu. Here it is in a photograph by Claudio Viezzoli from 1996, the year she came to New York.

Sarande, Albania (Photo: Claudio Viezzoli)
Would the view along South Beach, just two blocks from her house on Ocean Avenue, have reminded her of home?

South Beach, Staten Island (Jan. 2014)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Still a Few Bugs in the System

82nd St./Roosevelt Ave. station. January 2012.

Good thing too. Doors opened on the track side.