Greenpoint, October, 2015

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Dodgy Philosophy

Greil Marcus has been writing his Real Life Rock Top 10 lists for 30 years through a variety of venues: New West, the Village Voice, ArtForum, Salon, City Pages, and, most recently, The Believer. Cranky ("Aren't tribute albums horrible...") or celebratory (pop songs, TV shoes, live music), they are always fun to read.  Now Yale University Press has published the lot in Real Life Rock. Happy New Year fellow listophiles!

Here's #10 from a December 1986 column from the Village Voice that shows some love for a WFMU fanzine and a slant six:

10. WFMU-FM, Lowest Common De­nominator, Fall ’86 (Upsala College, Fast Orange, New Jersey 07019) 
Fan­zine from the left-side dial spot (91.1) already described in these pages as “The #1 Choice of Lowlife Scum.” There’s an homage to Bobby Sherman, a poem about Vince Everett (Elvis in Jailhouse Rock), serious analysis of pop trends, and, completing our survey of contemporary religion, a summation of what it means to live in a world where God is dead, “JEAN-PAUL SARTRE FOR DODGE DARTRE,” a flyer apparently scavenged from a telephone pole in Seattle, which plumbs the black hole of existential vertigo even better than Sartre: “In my journey to the end of the night, I must rely not only on dialectical paths of reason. I must have a good solid automobile, one that eschews the futile trappings of worldly ennui and asks only for the most basic maintenance. My Dodge Dartre offers me this basic solace, and as interior parts fall off I am struck by the realization of their pointlessness. I may not know if the window is up or down. It is of no consequence.”

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

El Dolar

El Dolar van enjoying the last few minutes of free parking.
And then it was gone.
Jackson Heights, Wednesday morning.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Surging Temperatures, Plunging Automobiles

 Sign at the head of tiny Park Place, Mystic, Conn. Christmas Eve 2015.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015


At the BQE split, near the St. Michael's Playground, Jackson Heights-East Elmhurst border.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Be Kind, Rewind!

For the person who has everything...
Or the one who hasn't been outside the house since the 1999... Available at Majors Records, Port Richmond, S.I.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Bird Calls

Cheap! Cheap! Cheap!

Third Ave. along Gowanus Expressway.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gowanus Grays

Crossing the Gowanus on Monday morning. El Nino?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Cheek to Chucky

Got on the 1 train at South Ferry. A woman carrying a shopping bag got on right behind me. She stood in the door looking out and shouted, "Blue! Blue!" I couldn't tell whether she was calling for the cops or a dog. Eventually she sat down and put the shopping bag on the seat between us. Just before the door closed, a guy got on the train. "Where was you?" she asked. "I called for you." He told her about some trouble with the MetroCard. He seemed a little miffed that she had got on the train before he made it through the turnstiles. "I called you like five times. Four or three times. You can ask the people on the train." I waited for the question but it didn't come.
They talked about switching trains at 59th St. and whether or not to get off at Chambers to go to a Chinese restaurant. They both seemed very tired. I glanced down to see what was in the shopping bag. A Chucky doll in a bright yellow box with red and blue letters: "He wants you to be his friend"

Friday, December 4, 2015

House of No

I have been waiting years (years!) to be stopped at just this spot above Sunset Park on the Gowanus Expressway. Finally, last week, on a clear day with light traffic in the other direction, it happened. My black-and-white whale: the "Say No to Drugs But Yes to Rugs" House.  Got you!
Traveling both directions, somehow I never connected one side with another. This is also the building I call the Morandi House because of its odd stuccoed turret. Bonus!
Giorgio Morandi, Natura Morta (1964)
See what I mean? Can we landmark this building before it's too late?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Shadow Bagging

Traffic crawls to a stop through Williamsburg on a breezy late November day.
Bags and shadows

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Arches and Towers

The Brooklyn-side towers for the new Kosciuszko Bridge are already in place. Will the day come when the BQE traffic is light enough for a quick drive-through on the way to Queens?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Żywiec Redux

After an absence of over a year, the Żywiec beer bottle reappeared on the BQE-facing side of the Conch Umbrella building. Na zdrowie!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Ear Candy

How did I miss it? So many times driving on Forest Avenue coming into Port Richmond where things get a little run down, a little gritty, a little OTB (closed, of course).
There are only two storefronts on Barrett Street. One of them, Philip's Candy of Coney Island, just made it into the Store Front II: A History Preserved: The Disappearing Face of New York (Karla & James Murray), the second large-format book of photographs of classic NYC storefronts. They have a good story, having transplanted their longtime Coney Island (est. 1930) to Staten Island in 2003 after the MTA evicted businesses under the Sitwell train terminal for a remodeling project.
But Majors Records may have an even more amazing survival story. Majors was established in 1971--what a year that must have been for record stores! They hung on for 43 years until a rent hike in the Pathmark plaza threatened demise. After a story about the store's closing appeared in the Staten Island Advance, the owners got eight offers for new space, including the one they moved into on Barrett Street. (Read Advance story on reopening here.)

Lots of CDs, used and reconditioned DVDs, and newly minted vinyl but the real attraction are the racks of records--original release vinyl, some used, some new and never opened--that make up the back end of the store. Neil Sedaka, Helen Reddy, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan, a superb collection of Joan Jett records. And those orange price tags that I haven't seen for decades. Dig it.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

We Still Have Ignition

Checked out For a New World to Come: Experiment in Japanese Art and Photography, 1988-1979 at Grey Art Gallery in Japan. Lots of good, grainy stuff here. One photograph (emulsion) caught my eye. Deadend Street from 1978 by Kunié Sugiura. It didn't look like Tokyo... It looked like, well, Queens.
Sure enough... Take a closer look and you'll see a sign for Manhattan Ignition Corp. Look it up, 4517 Davis St. in Long Island City. It's still in the book. I knew I had to check it out.
Not much has changed. For some reason, we no longer put the "Street" on the "Dead End Street" sign. Strunk & White would be pleased.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


The Atlantic Avenue exit, a favorite.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wedding Photo

Cleaning out the BTB photo archives, I came across this shot from exactly a year ago. A far cry from this year's crisp November.

Mazel tov!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Wheel Wash

Weirdly warm November day on 35th St. outside the CUNY Graduate Center (formerly B. Altman's). Not sure it justifies opening a hydrant. But it does provide a free wheel wash.
I'm not 100% but I think the dog vendor may have set up there to pick up the Twitter traffic. Or maybe there were too many carts already around Rockefeller Center for the installing of the Christmas tree. No joke.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lyft Line

"The most affordable ride in town"? The MTA gives a boost to Lyft.
And I thought $6.50 was pretty good for a ride on the X1 from Central Park South to Eltingville (South Shore, Staten Island).

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Lemon Lite

Damn, but it's been a long time since Joe Ely appeared on the blog--and a lot lot longer since I saw him at the Bottom Line with a very young K.D. Laing opening. Couldn't help but think of him when I saw this scene unfolding on Forest Avenue on Staten Island. It's not exactly a "cherry on top" anymore but, then again, the Bud in the truck isn't really Bud anymore.

The call me the Crazy Lemon.
I'm crazy, wild, free for a while.
I can't help what they think, I was born that way.
I'll be a little crazy till my dyin' day.
Just a man on the run, they call the Crazy Lemon.
It's true that I stole the Budweiser truck.
I changed my mind but the truck got stuck
In a muddy ditch, so I hitched it back again.
The second car that passed had a cherry on top
But just my luck it was the first to stop.
They said with a grin, "Looky here, it's the Crazy Lemon."

From the great Down on the Drag LP (1979), though I heard it first on the equally great bonus EP that came with Live Shots (1980).

Keep on runnin', you Crazy Lemon...

Friday, October 30, 2015

Sticker Shock

The iconography of the shield? BQE Road Warrior. Or Knight Errant.

I don't where he got it, but I want one.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Linc-C Out

In a surprise to almost no one, Lincoln Chafee has decided to quit the race for the Democratic nomination for president. The Daily News headline sums it up pretty well.

If he's looking for a silver lining, Linc can take some comfort that he gets to share the page with Beyoncé and Jay Z.

Read the online News story here. Without the wonderful, woeful headline in the print edition.

Friday, October 23, 2015


Making the early start for S.I., I decided to take the back route to the BQE, through Sunnyside, Long Island City, and Greenpoint, what I call the soft route via Dublin. Missed the Kosciuszko korek (Polish for "cork," or traffic jam).
Still slow getting on at McGuinness Boulevard, but gave me a chance to appreciate expressway-side living.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


A good name for an auto repair shop, and a good location too, you would think. Targee Street, Staten Island.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Moby Grape Moving

The pink is the first thing to catch your eye. Then the absence of any company name or logo. Just a phone number.

You look closer at the numbers. Something funky about that font. Check out that 0. Call it San Francisco Sound. Prime example: Moby Grape's 1968 Grape Jam LP cover.

It turns out the van belongs to Ideal Moving, which has only been around since 1994. I guess they had to settle for Pearl Jam.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Shadows on the Newtown

Looking east from the Kosciuszko Bridge. What will the view from the new bridge be like?

Thursday, October 8, 2015

BQE Open

A couple of weeks ago I noticed a brand new tennis ball along the lefthand margin of the westbound BQE, just as it dips to go under the Brooklyn Bridge. And then another, and another, and another... They seem to have been dumped and rolled down along the edge of the highway. Art project or frustrated tennis player?
The balls are still there, though no longer new. A few have been run over and jammed into the openings of the rectangular drain covers. This one seems safe from that fate, at least for the moment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Bridge Update

The long delayed Kosciuszko Bridge replacement project is well underway. The towers for the eastbound bridge (above) already dwarf our beloved but outdated bridgelet. And the roadway on the Queens side is being laid (below). If the project stays on schedule, this Queensbound span will open in early 2017, followed by the (sob) removal of the existing bridge later that year.
You can read all this and much more in September Project Update newsletter on the NYS DOT site. I was pleased that the newsletter is available in Polish as well as English and Spanish, a nod to the Greenpoint community and also to the General.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Umbrellas of Bogotá

Most days I've spent in Bogotá begin cloudy but break open at some point into cool, dry sunshine. It wasn't clear at all whether the umbrellas this guy was selling on the median of a Bogotá avenue were for sun or rain. Or both.