Welcome to Little Italy on Arthur Avenue

July 29, 2006

Most tourists think that New York’s Little Italy is a few blocks in lower Manhattan filled with overpriced red-sauce spaghetti joints, tacky and vulgar t-shirts and knock-offs of designer duds. But knowledgeable New Yorkers know that the real Little Italy is in the Belmont section of the Bronx.

Arthur Avenue is the main street of Little Italy, packed with family run food shops and restaurants. Most of the places here not only sell Italian-style foods, they create it, including homemade cheese, sausage, pasta, bread, wine and pastry. The fish shops are operating-room clean, the bakeries warm and fragrant and the delis and cheese shops are brimming with pre-cut samples of their wares.

If you visit Arthur Avenue, you’ll eat a little, drink a little, taste a little, walk a little. Have a cannoli, a handful of roasted ceci, a stuffed zucchini blossom, a briny clam on the half-shell, a slice of pepperoni, a chunk of olive bread. Benvenuto! Mangia, mangia!

Little Italy in the Bronx Posted by Picasa

Scungilli Posted by Picasa

Octopus Posted by Picasa

At sidewalk clam bar Posted by Picasa

Beef tripe Posted by Picasa

Inside pork store Posted by Picasa

Outside Teitel Brothers’ store Posted by Picasa

Sidewalk display outside Teitel Brothers’ store Posted by Picasa

Inside Arthur Avenue Retail Market: Thank you Mr. Capone Posted by Picasa

Rolling cigars at La Casa Grande Tobacco Company
Posted by Picasa

Lamb heads inside Arthur Avenue Retail Market Posted by Picasa

In Arthur Avenue Market: Closed for my granddaughter Posted by Picasa

Inside Calandra Cheese Posted by Picasa

Cannoli filled while you wait Posted by Picasa

Inside Madonia’s Bakery Posted by Picasa

Chocolate covered cannoli Posted by Picasa

Rum cakes Posted by Picasa

Cream puffs Posted by Picasa

Eclairs Posted by Picasa

Arthur Avenue & E. 187th St. Posted by Picasa

  • Arthur Avenue
  • Village Voice: Arthur Avenue
  • Saveur: Arthur Avenue Guide
  • eGullet: Arthur Avenue
  • Off the Broiler: Arthur Avenue
  • Gastropoda: Arthur Avenue
  • New York Magazine: Arthur Avenue
  • Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue

  • The Kids from Phyllis Wheatley

    July 26, 2006

    Students, to you ’tis given to scan the heights
    Above, to traverse the ethereal space,
    And mark the systems of revolving worlds

    –Phyllis Wheatley

    Although her poetry was once an international sensation, today Phyllis Wheatley is remembered more for her extraordinary life than her work.

    Born on the western coast of Africa in the mid-1700s and kidnapped by slave-traders, she was purchased by Bostonian John Wheatley as a servant for his wife. Her name was derived from those of her owners and the ship that transported her to America, the Phillis. Observing her quick mind (she learned English in only a few months), the Wheatleys defied custom by teaching the young slave to read and write. Soon she was reading English, Greek and Latin classics and the Bible and composing poetry.

    Six years after her arrival in America, Phyllis Wheatley’s first poem was published; after another six years her book, the first published by a slave, made its debut. Her work brought her freedom, acclaim and renown. As a freewoman, she traveled in the US and abroad and met noted figures of the day including John Hancock and George Washington.

    These bright-eyed kids attend a school located in a tough corner of Brooklyn and named in Phyllis Wheatley’s honor. Caught on a class trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, they display the energy and imagination “to scan the heights” — and more than a bit of youthful, joyful hamminess.

    Three friends Posted by Picasa

    Doing a split Posted by Picasa

    Handstand Posted by Picasa

    Deep dimples Posted by Picasa

    Break dancing Posted by Picasa

    Smiling boy Posted by Picasa

  • Women in History: Phyllis Wheatley
  • Poems of Phyllis Wheatley
  • The Complete Writings of Phyllis Wheatley
  • New York School Directory: Phyllis Wheatley Academy
  • Inside Schools: Phyllis Wheatley Academy
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • Mysteries of Manhattan: A New York City Alphabet

    July 20, 2006

    In downtown Manhattan, someone carefully painted an alphabet on the wooden fence surrounding a construction site at the corner of Warren and Church Streets. There is no visible indication of why, when or by whom this alphabet was created.

    Apple � Boy Posted by Picasa

    Cat � Dog Posted by Picasa

    Egg � Fun Posted by Picasa

    Good � Hello Posted by Picasa

    Ink � Jam Posted by Picasa

    Krishna � Like Posted by Picasa

    Mom � No Posted by Picasa

    Ontology � Pencil  Posted by Picasa

    Quark � Robot  Posted by Picasa

    Silly � Tungsten Posted by Picasa

    Ulterior Motive � Vague Posted by Picasa

    Wet � X-Ray Posted by Picasa

    Yes � Zen Posted by Picasa

    Teddy Atlas on Fear

    July 17, 2006

    Tonight, in an effort to stay cool and delay going down into the oppressively hot subways, I attended a book signing at the Borders Books store in Columbus Circle (stores in ritzy neighborhoods tend to keep their thermostats set at Arctic levels).

    The book signing (and reading) was by boxing trainer and commentator Teddy Atlas who, working with writer Peter Alson, has just published his autobiography, Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring.

    During the course of his career Atlas has moved through every level of society, working with the famous and infamous, the beautiful and the ugly, dancers and athletes, doctors and executives, underprivileged kids and hardened criminals. He’s known gentleness and viciousness, redemption and damnation, punched hard, dried tears, heard as many confessions as a priest, felt the power of love and the damage of indifference.

    He arrived late, delayed by taping a TV segment at Brooklyn’s Gleason’s Gym and, apologizing profusely, read a long passage from the book. Then, fielding questions from knowledgeable fight fans, he spoke about his work with young boxers, the “Golden Age” of the sport (in his opinion, the 1920s – 1950s), why today’s fighters don’t measure up to their predecessors and why he isn’t working for HBO.

    Just before he began signing books, this unmistakably tough guy said something that struck a chord with me. He spoke about fear. Atlas, who is certainly in a position to know, says that all fighters are afraid. Even the men who appear to be the toughest, the most fearless, are scared to climb into the ring. The trainer’s job isn’t to teach the boxer how to stop feeling fear (an impossible goal), but rather, how to live with his fear.

    “They’re all afraid,” said Atlas. “Do you think there’s one of them that wouldn’t rather go get an ice cream than fight? They can’t stop being afraid, but they can learn not to show it. They learn to accept it and deal with it and not let it stop them.”

  • Atlas: From the Streets to the Ring: A Son’s Struggle
  • Hardcore Boxing: Kimo Morrison and Teddy Atlas
  • Gleason’s Gym
  • Borders Books Columbus Circle
  • Dr. Theodore Atlas Foundation

  • MoMA loves Dada

    July 17, 2006

    As a student I learned that Dada was a short-lived, rather silly art movement of little significance. My professor snickered about a few European artists who became notorious in the 1920s and 1930s by treating porcelain urinals like fine art and filming each other slicing up cow’s eyeballs. They knew how to get publicity, he told us, but they created nothing of lasting value or meaning.

    How little he — and I — knew. This exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was a revelation. The show is the first in the United States devoted exclusively Dada, and it is one of the best exhibits I’ve ever seen. I wandered in with no particular expectations and left with a fresh understanding of, and appreciation for, one of the most influential art movements of the 20th century.

    The exhibit will be open for two more months. If you have the opportunity to go, do so and be prepared to think about Dada in an entirely new way. Don’t forget to pick up an audio guide. The commentary is fascinating and, thanks to our art-loving mayor, who has been throwing some of his money in MoMA’s direction, the guides are currently available free of charge.

    Dada at MoMA Posted by Picasa

  • MOMA
  • MOMA: Online Dada Feature
  • Dada at MoMA Exhibit Catalog
  • The New York Review of Books
  • The International Dada Archive

  • Stand Up for Bastards

    July 16, 2006

    Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land.
    Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
    As to th’ legitimate. Fine word — ‘legitimate’!
    Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
    And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
    Shall top th’ legitimate. I grow; I prosper.
    Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

    — King Lear, Act I, Scene II.

    Today, in the space between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, a small audience braved the brutal heat for art’s sake. They gathered in a shady corner of Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park to watch the Boomerang Theatre Company in a free performance of Shakespeare’s King Lear.

    An extraordinary moment came at Act 3, Scene II, when Lear and the Fool emerged from the shaded grove. As the king cried, “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow!,” a strong current blew through the trees, bending the limbs with such force that a branch came crashing to the earth.

    A grove of trees serves as “backstage” Posted by Picasa

    Edgar draws his sword against Edmund Posted by Picasa

    Edmund is mortally wounded Posted by Picasa

    Kent watches as Lear cradles the dead Cordelia Posted by Picasa

  • Online Literature: King Lear
  • Boomerang Theatre Company
  • Bill Fairbairn
  • Review of Boomerang Theatre Company’s King Lear
  • Empire-Fulton Ferry State Park

  • Viva La France! Viva L’indépendance!

    July 14, 2006

    Today is Bastille Day, the anniversary of 1789 uprising when the people of Paris rose up and stormed the Bastille prison. Their actions set in motion the overthrow of the monarchy and the birth of the modern French Republic.

    In France, Bastille Day is a national holiday that is celebrated (much like our Fourth of July) with parades, parties and fireworks. In the United States, festivities marking the day tend to be both sparse and quirky and generally include a peculiar event called a “waiter’s race.”

    For several years Les Halles Brasserie has organized a Bastille Day block party in downtown Manhattan. Even though the restaurant is currently covered in scaffolding and the street outside is undergoing major construction, the party went on, including dancing girls, waving flags, a four piece band playing La Marseillaise, chilled champagne, food fresh off the grill and special appearances by a cow, the Statue of Liberty and Marie Antoinette.

    The barricades, metal plates in the asphalt and potholes made the footrace particularly challenging; professional waiters had to walk (no running allowed!) the course holding a full tray; the winner wasn’t the first to cross the finish line, but the first to cross without spilling a drop. In the spirit of empancipation, this year the “waiter’s race” was won by a steady-handed waitress. Viva La France! Viva Viva L’indépendance! Viva La Femme!

    Dancing girl picks a partner out of the crowd Posted by Picasa

    Lady Liberty stands outside Les Halles Posted by Picasa

    A cow Posted by Picasa

    Marie Antoinette Posted by Picasa

    Waiting at the food tents Posted by Picasa

    Food trays emptied quickly Posted by Picasa

    Lamb sausages sizzling on the grill Posted by Picasa

    Holding trays, waiting for the race to begin Posted by Picasa

    The winner (on the right) is announced Posted by Picasa

    Les Halles Posted by Picasa

  • Web-Holidays: About Bastille Day
  • French Embassy: Bastille Day
  • La Marseillaise
  • Les Halles Brasserie

  • Angry signs in Brooklyn

    July 13, 2006

    These handwritten signs, both addressed to pedestrians, caught my attention.

    Taped to fence on Monroe Place Posted by Picasa

    Taped to wall on Pineapple Street Posted by Picasa

    The Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band rehearses

    July 9, 2006

    Seventy Six Trombones

    Seventy six trombones led the big parade
    With a hundred and ten cornets close at hand
    They were followed by rows and rows of the finest virtuosos
    The cream of every famous band

    — Meredith Willson, 1957

    They call it Bridge Park, but usually the only thing growing behind the chain link fence – just below the Bronx-Queens Expressway – is a few weeds, some scruffy pigeons and a pile of broken glass. But every once in a while that rough patch of concrete gives life to rousing music. On this sunny Saturday members of the Brooklyn Steppers Marching Band are using Bridge Park as a rehearsal space. It isn’t easy to synchronize marching and playing, but these members of the Brooklyn Music and Arts Program are practicing diligently.

    Getting a good view Posted by Picasa

    Brass instruments gleaming Posted by Picasa

    Here come the drummers Posted by Picasa

    When the bandleader speaks, the musicians listen Posted by Picasa

    The big bass drum Posted by Picasa

    Hitting a high note Posted by Picasa

    Waiting to play Posted by Picasa

  • Brooklyn Music and Arts Program

  • A visit to Governors Island

    July 7, 2006

    If you’ve spent any time in New York, you’ve probably seen Governors Island, but chances are you’ve never been there. This island in New York Harbor long served as a key defense base and access was restricted to authorized military personnel.

    In the period immediately following the revolution, the newly-formed United States fortified Governors Island. Fort Jay was built at the island’s highest point and Castle Willliams near the shore. Administrative buildings, housing and other facilities were erected, and for hundreds of years the island was occupied and run by various branches of the military.

    In 1996, in a cost-cutting measure, the Coast Guard reassigned officers and troops, moved equipment and records, and permanently closed the base at Governor’s Island. Once emptied of its inhabitants, the island was essentially split in two; the 92-acre area surrounding Fort Jay and Castle Williams was declared a national historic landmark district and the remaining 150 acres turned over to City and State of New York, which have not yet decided on its use.

    This summer, the island’s historic landmark district is open to the public. Ferry service brings visitors from the Battery Maritime Building (next to the Staten Island Ferry Terminal) and tours are provided by the National Park Service; both ferry and tour are free of charge.

    Benign neglect has allowed much of the historic district to slide into decay and most of the Victorian manses on Colonel’s Row, once devoted to officers’ housing, remain off-limits. While visitors aren’t able to enter most of the buildings, they are free to enjoy the sweeping views, stroll the wide walkways, laze under the centuries-old shady trees and explore the ghost town the lies only a few hundred yards from Manhattan.

    Welcome to Governors Island Posted by Picasa

    Castle Williams and lower Manhattan Posted by Picasa

    Cannon and dry moat at Fort Jay Posted by Picasa

    Abandoned hospital Posted by Picasa

    Abandoned dental office Posted by Picasa

    Support Center New York Posted by Picasa

    Inside abandoned building (shot through window) Posted by Picasa

    Abandoned housing Posted by Picasa

    Vine-covered fence Posted by Picasa

    Visitor reading in the leafy shade Posted by Picasa

    Our Lady Star of the Sea Posted by Picasa

    Weeds growing through cracked tennis courts Posted by Picasa

    Decaying porch steps Posted by Picasa

    Library Posted by Picasa

  • Governors Island National Monument
  • Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation

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