Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Signs of Maine

After a week in Maine, BTB is back on the job. Here are a few signs we saw on our vacation Down East. Outside the Georgetown General Store on Rte 127:

Road painters take a break in Popham Village:

And our favorite, from the bulletin board in front of Percy's Store in Popham Village, Phippsburg:
Both working!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Rite Place, Wrong Time

Delivery trucks are the bane of drivers on narrow streets. Still once and a while it's nice to contemplate their stolid qualities.

I was briefly stuck behind this Rite Aid truck in Woodside the other day. It made me wonder about the Rite Aid logo. Red, white and blue. Sure. The shape? A shield I suppose. If so, this one's been nicked in battle. You ought to see the other guy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hare, Hare Krishna

From pushcarts to this cart...

The Hare Krishna Festival parade. Seen and heard from the CUNY Graduate Center Library, second floor of the old B. Altman's building at Fifth Ave. and 34th St.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Pickle Barrels, Piano Stools, and Pea Shooters

Before food trucks lined New York City streets, there were pushcarts....

The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill, first published in 1964, was reissued last year by the New York Review Children's Collection. The novel has an interesting timeframe: The narrator (Jean Merrill), writing in 2036, recounts the events of 10 years earlier, when pushcart peddlers stood up to the massive trucks taking over New York City streets. The illustrations, which I have remembered since childhood, are by Ronni Selbert.

The Pushcart War started on the afternoon of March 15, 2026, when a truck ran down a pushcart belonging to a flower peddler. Daffodils were scattered all over the street. The pushcart was flattened, and the owner of the pushcart was pitched headfirst into a pickle barrel. . . .
      It was near the corner of Sixth Avenue and 17th Street in New York City that the trouble occurred. Mack was trying to park his truck. He had a load of piano stools to deliver, and the space in which he was hoping to park was not quite big enough.
      When Mack saw that he could not get his truck into the space by the curb, he yelled at Morris the Florist to move his pushcart. Morris' cart was parked just ahead of Mack.
      Morris had been parked in this spot for half an hour, and he was doing good business. So he paid no attention to Mack.
      Mack pounded on his horn.
      Morris looked up then. "Why should I move?" Morris asked. "I'm in business here."

I decided to check out "ground zero" for the Pushcart War. There were no traces of the "Daffodil Massacre" on the corner of Sixth Ave. and 17th St. You more likely to see a Citibiker than a "Mighty Mammoth" (the juggernauts against whom the peddlers struggled, most often with peashooters). Not a pushcart in sight.

We have just over 10 years until the Pushcart War breaks out. How about dedicating one wall enclosing the parking lot to a mural reproducing one of Ronni Selbert's illustrations? That would be an appropriate memorial before the fact.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

The Fort

South Brunswick, NJ. In the post-rural landscape of Infragistics, Hexaware Technology, Somfy Systems, to name just a few. I couldn't find any identity marker for this edifice. I think I'll call it Fortifax.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Your Message Here

A challenge from One More Folded Sunset has roused the Research Bureau from its summer doldrums: Why so many blank billboards on the BQE?
Driving west on the expressway yesterday, we counted 4 out of 4 blanks on the Queens side of the Kosciuszko Bridge and 6 out of 14 blanks on the Brooklyn side (ending at the Gowanus Canal where the BQE terminates). The empties included both bare frames (no board attached) or blank boards, like the one above in Maspeth. (This one actually has an ad from the New York Times on the other side: Are eastbound drivers are a better market?)

What explains this dropoff in billboard advertising? Are the analog boards about to be replaced with digital ones (see WFMU DJ Frank O'Toole's rant here)? Or are drivers too busy looking at their little screens to pay attention to the big ones? Readers, what are  your theories?

(Note: This count does not include smaller company maintained boards, like the Marly sign in Greenpoint, or those afixed to houses or propped up on a building roof.)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

At Carl's Jr., in Gorman

From Danger on Peaks by Gary Snyder:
Route 5, Gorman, CA. (Photo: George Garrigues. Source: Wikipedia)
To Go

Slopes of grassy mountains rise steep up from the narrow town
of Gorman north of LA on the route of the 5. Clusters of bush and
spans of spring wildflowers in bloom: California poppy, lupine,
paintbrush, fiddlebacks--blue, orange, and yellow--arching across
the slopes above. Afternoon angle to the sun. "Gorman" painted on
a hillside water tower. At Carl's Jr. in Gorman, getting coffee, I say
to the truck driver just parked on a slant and walked in behind me,
"those things are really huge, how the hell do you drive them." He says,
"they're really easy."--"still, you have to find a place to park"--
He laughs, "yeah you do."

Heading north toward Tejon Pass
humming ant-column vehicles
six, eight lanes wide
curving through a gap in the vertical
cowflank-tan mountains, tops out of sight
sprinkled with spring flowers

bigrig parked by the water tower
sun, cars, hills, coffee--all
to go

Monday, June 8, 2015

Summer Series 2015: Monstrous Trucks!

That bittersweet moment. Classes done, grading in, commencement over. I'll be spending less time on the BQE, giving the work crews a little more space.
This summer's special series shines a little light on the big dogs of the road: trucks and truckers. Love 'em, hate 'em, secretly wish you were one... We'll start off with a short, exquisite poem from 1987 by Joseph Ceravolo, whose Collected Poems recently appeared from Wesleyan University Press.


A garbage truck across the road
turns into the traffic, the avenue
a burst of solar        blindness
It is the birthday of the universe.

Ceravolo was born in Astoria and lived in New Jersey. Perhaps that's why he wrote as frequently as he did about trucks--even that most unloved of trucks, the garbage truck.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Ice Beer

On the Van Wyck Expressway near Atlantic Avenue.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015