Mysteries of Brooklyn: The Painted Kiosk

February 17, 2007

Dere’s no guy livin’ dat knows Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo, because it’d take a guy a lifetime just to find his way aroun’ duh f_____ town.
— Thomas Wolfe, Only the Dead Know Brooklyn, 1935

A narrow, wooden pedestrian-only bridge connects Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay to Shore Boulevard in Manhattan Beach. Built in 1880, the span is known as the Ocean Avenue Bridge.

At base of the bridge, at the corner of Shore Boulevard and Exeter Street, stands a shabby wooden kiosk. No signs indicate the purpose of the hexagonal structure. 

On one side of the minuscule building is a boarded up door and an ancient air conditioner clogged with paint. The other five sides feature plywood panels carefully painted with fanciful, colorful scenes. 

Who painted them — and why? A name and date appear on some of the panels, but time has made the script difficult to decipher. Is the date “74″ or “94″? Does the signature say “Salystein”? “Sacystein”? “Szcystein”? “Sackstein”?

For those in the neighborhood, it is just part of the landscape. Every day dozens of joggers and strollers pass without even glancing at the little kiosk or its fantastic menagerie. Just another of Brooklyn’s many mysteries.

The kiosk
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Dog panel
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Fish panel
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Cat panel
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Bird panel
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Flower panel
Originally uploaded by annulla.

Wikipedia: Manhattan Beach
NY Times: Manhattan Beach
Manhattan Beach Community Group
Kingsborough Community College

Mysteries of Brooklyn: The Hidden Grotto

October 13, 2006

Dere’s no guy livin’ dat knows Brooklyn t’roo an’ t’roo, because it’d take a guy a lifetime just to find his way aroun’ duh f_____ town.
— Thomas Wolfe, Only the Dead Know Brooklyn, 1935

At the mouth of the alley near the corner of 43rd Street and 8th Avenue, between the bar and the plumbing supply store, stands a tall iron gate. Affixed to the front are two signs: the white one says that a garage is available for rent; the yellow sign proclaims in English and Chinese that behind this gate is a private driveway; violaters will be tow and ticket [sic].

Peeking past the iron bars of gate, beyond the partially-disassembled cars and the tools strewn about the ground, a passer-by can glimpse something that seems out of place — a flash of color out of keeping with this dirty, gray, shadowed space.

If the workmen are in a good mood they’ll allow you to pick your way through the mazes of tires, wrenches and hoses until you reach the back wall. There you will find a grotto roughly hewn from wood, plaster and pieces of broken stone. The person who built this wasn’t a skilled craftsman, didn’t know how to use a lathe or a level, didn’t know how to move the electrical outlets that were already laid onto the surface.

But at some point, an unknown person, for unknown reasons, felt compelled to build this grotto in this very spot. Driven by passion or madness, he or she carefully built a series of niches, firmly fixed statues of saints inside them and painted the entire creation.

Today, the men who labor here know nothing of the hidden grotto, its creator or its meaning. The plaster is crumbling. The paint flakes from the wood. St. Gabriel’s wing is broken; St. Joseph’s robe is chipped; Mary’s blue mantle is marked with patches of gray. But still they stand here, long forgotten, silently keeping watch over the workers and cars. Just another of Brooklyn’s many mysteries.

The hidden grotto Posted by Picasa

Madonna with electrical outlet Posted by Picasa

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

Mysteries of Manhattan: Romance and Anti-romance

June 10, 2006

Two mysterious, brief encounters near the main branch of the New York Public Library today left me wondering about romance in this city.

First, on the 42nd Street side of the library was a scene that should have been in a movie – an old Checker cab was parked in the right lane, blocking traffic, while a photographer hurriedly shot images of a gloriously gorgeous newlywed couple. At first glance they appeared to be models posing for (perhaps) a bridal magazine, but the scene lacked all the accoutrements of a professional photo shoot; there were no stylists, no makeup artists, no assistants – just a perfectly beautiful pair in a perfectly dramatic setting on a perfectly beautiful day.

Secondly, a sign pasted inside a phone booth on the 5th Avenue side of the library. As I passed the booth, I caught a glimpse, took a few more steps and stopped. Had I really seen that? I went back for a photo of what is possibly the most anti-romantic image ever.

So … is New York one of the most romantic cities in the world or the one of the least? How do this sign and this couple exist on the same block? In the same city? In the same universe?

Stopping traffic on 42nd Street Posted by Picasa

A big clinch Posted by Picasa

Sign pasted inside phone booth (WARNING: not for the queasy).

  • New York Public Library
  • Checker Taxi Stand

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