Father’s Day is Coming

June 14, 2014

Wondering what to do for Father’s Day?

Brooklyn’s Sip Fine Wine offers these words of wisdom.

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Sip Fine Wine
New York Magazine: Sip Fine Wine


Little House on the Brooklyn Prairie

April 9, 2014

Take a look around and guess where we are.

There’s a white-washed building topped by a stout brick chimney. Rough hewn wooden posts holding up a shingled roof. Wood framed double-hung windows with slightly sagging screens. A wide porch holding an assortment of ladder-back rocking chairs, some with seats of woven rush, others with canvas webbing.

Are we in a small, sleepy Southern town? Or are we someplace in the American Heartland, perhaps an old farmstead out on the wide prairie?

Sorry, but no and no.

Actually, this rustic-looking structure is the Avenue H subway station on the Q line, deep in the heart of Brooklyn. Built in 1906, over the years the station has been updated and renovated but, thankfully, never replaced.

Now, don’t just stand there. Grab a glass of lemonade and let’s do a little rocking before we catch the next train to Brighton Beach.

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The Epoch Times: Renovated Brooklyn Station House, Relic With Modern Feel
NYC Subway: Avenue H Station
Subway Nut: Avenue H 


Iran do Espírito Santo: Playground

October 3, 2013

Perched on the southern border of Central Park, Playground is a sculpture by Brazilian artist Iran do Espírito Santo. The work, a single piece of cast concrete, is incised to make it appear as though it was constructed of large blocks of stone, precariously stacked atop each other.

The artist describes Playground as a kind of “idealized ruin” and a metaphorical playground. Metaphor or not, the children (and many of the adults) who encounter Playground can’t resist climbing upon, and scrambling inside, the cool, inviting space.

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Public Art Fund
Designboom: Concrete Playground by Iran do Espírito Santo


Heydays in Bay Ridge

September 27, 2013

Some of the most charming works of art in New York City are hidden deep underground in subway stations.

The 86th Street Station in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is the site of a mosaic entitled Heydays. The wall-sized work by Amy Bennett pays homage to the neighborhood’s bucolic past, depicting three family homes and a church with a tall steeple, all surrounded by grass, trees and a winding brick pathway.

A close look at the pieces of glass reveals numerous finely-crafted details including a man peering through binoculars, empty lounge chairs upon a balcony, an old woman leaning out of a window, an umbrella-topped picnic table, and a dog sitting on a wooden porch.

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MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design
Amy Bennett
New York Magazine: Neighborhood Profile, Bay Ridge


A Small Protest

March 13, 2013

Graffiti inside a bathroom stall in a Brooklyn grocery store.

Feed all people
Free the wage slaves
Question the system

The response.

And protest by
writing on a bathroom
stall instead of
actually doing something.

 

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The 21st Annual Hot Chocolate Festival

February 21, 2013

The holidays are over. The winter feels as though it will last forever. You long for an escape from the cold but you can’t leave the city.

In Manhattan, City Bakery has the solution. Every February, when the weather is at its bleakest, they host a  Hot Chocolate Festival. Now in its 21st year, the Festival celebrates the rich, creamy drink by featuring a different special flavor every day of the month. This year, the flavors range from Bourbon (February 8) to Vietnamese Cinnamon (February 10) to Creamy Stout (February 15th).

Today, I’m being a bit of a purist, with Darkest Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate (so thick you can eat it with a spoon) topped with one of City Bakery’s home made marshmallows. And suddenly, February doesn’t seem long enough.

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The City Bakery
The City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival


Sofia? Sophia? Sofia?

August 13, 2012

This handwritten sign was posted on the side of a bus shelter in Coney Island.

I can’t help wondering whether the author taped it next to the model’s face because he thought she resembled the woman he wanted to find.

I haven’t yet decided whether Joe’s note is sweet and romantic or stalker-ish and creepy. Or both.

Sofia? Sophia? Sofia — Sophia — Sofia

This is Joe. Good looking Italian U met on July !!4th!! on the “D” train in Coney Island  — U are Spanish very beautiful  — 30, 125 lbs  —  long brown hair  — U gave me your ph. number and I lost my phone the next day!! I looked 4 U that weekend by the subway entrance but there were to many people  — anyone know a beautiful Spanish Sofia I described  —  help bring us together. Joe 374-816-3984 Thanx

 

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Look, It’s The Misha Fruits Truck!

July 12, 2012

It’s just an old delivery truck that is used to transport fruit to the shops of New York City. But when the Misha Fruits driver is at work, people notice.

That’s because most of the vehicle is covered with an elaborate display of graffiti-style artwork.

The front of the truck is emblazoned with the name of the company, partially hidden by enormous oranges and grapes the size of a man’s head. The right side shows a green monster (perhaps it is a bit of mold) and a colorful, stylized word which is, to me, indecipherable.

The truck’s rear is painted with an humongous, glistening cherry and the word “fruit.” And the left side is shows a panorama of the sun setting behind a bustling city where the houses are shaped like pieces of fruit.

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The truck is parked on Court Street in Downtown Brooklyn.

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The writing, and the creature shown, are mysterious.

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The cherry looks delicious.

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I want to live in an lemon-shaped house.

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Another view of the fruity cityscape.


The SCAR Project

November 5, 2011

It began when David Jay learned that a 29-year old friend had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A fashion photographer, Jay’s instinctive response was to take her picture. The result was what he called a “beautifully disturbing portrait.”

That photograph, which unflinchingly displayed both the woman’s beauty and her mastectomy scar, was the genesis of the SCAR Project. Jay went on to photograph dozens of women who underwent mastectomies while between the ages 18 and 35. All of his subjects courageously displayed what is usually hidden from the world: the devastating physical changes wrought by their disease.

The SCAR Project images have been gathered into a book (The SCAR Project), a DVD (The SCAR Project documentary), and a traveling exhibition, which is currently at the Openhouse Gallery in Soho.

The gallery has two levels. There is a folding chair near the front door. A few votive candles are burning, a lucite box holds printed guides to the exhibit, and a table, draped in white, displays a visitors’ book, the DVD and the Scar Project book. A glass container for donations is perched on a nearby ledge.

Otherwise, the space is empty. There is nothing to distract from the portraits, which are blown up to much larger than life-size and hang against stark white brick walls. Each photo has a label with the first name and initial of the woman pictured and the age at which her cancer was diagnosed.

The women in the photos gaze directly into the lens of the camera and reveal their disfiguring scars, discolored flesh, misshapen breasts, puckered skin. The images are shocking, moving, powerful and beautiful.

The printed guide contains statements from each of the women on display. It also reminds us that these should not be considered a collection of pictures of cancer survivors — some of the women involved in the SCAR Project have died.

One lost her battle with cancer before Jay was able to shoot her photo; the place where her portrait would have been displayed is marked by a large black rectangle. Another died only days before the exhibit opened; a vase of flowers was placed below her portrait.

Below are excerpts from the participants’ statements:

I am glad I didn’t listen to people who thought I was too young to get breast cancer. I listened to my body instead.

I thought about my body, and all that it has been through. It almost felt like my body did not belong to me, but to the medical community.

A scar that marks me, separates me. Makes me wonder if anyone could love me and not be scared of my death.

My breasts did not define me as a woman, and without them, I am still curvaceous, sexy, and confident.

I never thought I would do a project like this, but I never thought I would have a mastectomy.

It is about demystifying the physical scars left, and even celebrating them as war wounds from a heroic battle.

Cancer took many things from me, but the one thing I may never get over losing is my sense of security.

With my participation in the SCAR Project, I hope that other women will find comfort in these images knowing what to expect …. having our breasts removed doesn’t make us any less feminine and we are all still beautiful.

I stare into the eyes of my corpse. But I still feel, so I know I still live. And for life, for my life, I will continue to fight.

I … see it as something to leave this world after I’m gone. Something for my family to look at and never forget the fight that I fought for my life.

The SCAR Project has replaced a huge piece that was missing within me and I feel in control of my life again.

I’d love to see a beautiful photograph of something I find so ugly. Maybe if my scars were viewed as art it would help me to heal.

As part of the SCAR Project, I can “just be me”. No covering up or masking the truth. No pretending that everything is fine. Here I am. This is me now. This is my life.

I am a force of femininity to be reckoned with even without the organs that have come to define womanhood in our culture.

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The poster for the exhibit

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The gallery door

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View from the street

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Reading the guide on the upper level

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The lower level

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Looking at the black “portrait”

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The table and guest book

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Diagnosed at 17, she died shortly before the opening

The SCAR Project
The SCAR Project Exhibition
Utne Reader: The SCAR Project
Openhouse Gallery


Remember, They Say

September 10, 2011

Actually, I wish I could forget. But it isn’t possible; everywhere I look there are reminders, and this year their presence is especially heavy — even at home. This is what was in my personal email inbox this morning.

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Signs of a Hurricane

August 27, 2011

In anticipation of Hurricane Irene, the mayor ordered low-lying neighborhoods evacuated. As they prepared to leave their homes and businesses, some New Yorkers quickly posted signs with messages about — and for — the massive storm.

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A store in Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood

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At Rockaway Taco, Queens

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Cafe, Court Street, Brooklyn

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An apartment building in Rockaway Beach, Queens

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Liquor Store on Montague Street, Brooklyn Heights

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Another Red Hook storefront

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Optical shop, Court Street, Brooklyn

ABC News: Hurricane Irene: Lights Go Dark


At Last

June 25, 2011

It happened last night. I was attending a large event. The main speaker was at the front of the room, holding the attention of the rapt audience.

Suddenly, a woman stood and, without preamble, began reading aloud from the cell phone in her outstretched hand. “The State Senate has just passed legislation making same-sex marriage legal in the State of New York!”

The room erupted in cheers and applause and all in attendance began hugging friends and strangers alike. Last night a long, difficult struggle for equal rights finally came to an end.

The key votes in passing the new law came from two men, both of whom put their consciences above their party loyalty:

NY State Senator Stephen M. Saland, a Republican from Poughkeepsie, who said, “My intellectual and emotional journey has ended here today, and I have to find doing the right thing as treating all persons with equality, and that equality includes within the definition of marriage.”

NY State Senator Mark J. Grisanti, a Republican from Buffalo, who stated, “I cannot deny a person, a human being, a taxpayer, a worker, the people of my district and across this state, the State of New York — and those people who make this the great state that it is — the same rights that I have with my wife.”

I’ve never been prouder of my state. It’s been a long time coming, but in New York State, the rule of law is for equality — at last, at last, at last.

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This magnet, long stuck to my file cabinet, is now an historic relic.

NY Times: New York Allows Same-Sex Marriage
NY Times: The Road to Gay Marriage in New York


A Windfall

May 26, 2011

For months, I’ve heard friends discussing what they’d do with the income tax refunds they expected to receive.

One announced that his refund was going to be used to fix his leaky roof. Others said that they used the check sent by the IRS to repair a truck, pay off credit card debt, purchase a new refrigerator, television, computer, clothing. Some preferred to use the money on less practical items: a tropical vacation, tickets to a Broadway show, an excursion to a spa.

But now that my tax refund has arrived, and I have my windfall in hand, I’m not sure how to spend it all. Any suggestions?

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My windfall


AIDS Walk NY 2011

May 15, 2011

The weatherman predicted that it would be a rainy Sunday and he was right; we had a downpour. At times, the 47,000 people who participated in this year’s AIDS Walk NY were drenched.

But many of those who sign up for this, the world’s largest AIDS fundraising event, view it as more than just a charity fund raiser. In fact, quite a few of the participants – even those who can’t raise any money at all – consider participation something akin to a sacred obligation.

Regardless of the weather, regardless of their own disabilities or discomfort, they push forward on foot, crutches and in wheelchairs, uphill and down, and they somehow manage to complete the 10 kilometer trek around Central Park.

Just past the finish line, up a little hillock, large pieces of cardboard were hung under the shelter of a white tent. There, walkers used felt-tip markers to record their reasons for walking. Thousands stood in the tent and wrote until their messages overlapped and no empty space remained.

No matter why they chose to come out and walk on a wet gray morning, their determination helped raise a total of $6,214,768 and will bring us closer to a cure for the scourge that has taken so many lives and broken so many hearts.

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A walker writing on the hanging cardboard

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I walk for love

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I walk because I can

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I walk because my two kids need to grow up

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We walk for Grandma Shirley

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I walked … for all those who can’t

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I walk for the sake of my HIV patients

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I walk for Freddie – it’s been a long 20 yrs. without you

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I walk for my dad – and a cure

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I walk to help others in need

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We walk for all of our angels that left to soon

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I walked for the ones I lost

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I walk for Kenneth, John D., Michael, Bruce, John C. R.I.P.

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I walked for everyone

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I walk for a better world

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I walk for friends & family who died or living with HIV/AIDS

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I walk for life, I walk for love, I walk for my family

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I walked with a reason!

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I walk to make a difference

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We walked to create smiles, to show that we care

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I walk for Hernando, my bestie

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I walk for hope

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I walk in memory for all who lost their lives

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I walk for my generation

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I walk for my beloved mother, Damaris R.I.P.

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I walk because it’s the right thing to do

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I walk for my darling Francis. I love you

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I walk … so my grandchildren and great grandchildren won’t have to

AIDS WALK NY


This is a sale?

March 22, 2011

FreshDirect, New York’s premiere online grocery service, made its first deliveries to Roosevelt Island in Manhattan in 2002. Over the years it has expanded into other sections of the city (even New Jersey) and has won legions of detractors and admirers.

While critics have blasted the company for “overpackaging” (FreshDirect responded by reducing the amount of packing materials they use) and branded those who use it as “lazy,” I’ve been a satisfied customer since first they began serving my neighborhood.

While I find myself in local grocery stores nearly every day, I’ve come to rely on the FreshDirect team to deliver those items that — while cost-effective — are simply too heavy to me to schlepp home: cases of beverages, bags of kitty litter and huge containers of laundry detergent. I also scan their weekly newsletter to check out the latest offerings and bargains.

This week, however, some of the items currently featured on their Web site under the heading “Healthy Living For Less” don’t seem like such a bargain to me.

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Healthy Living for Less page

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Not such a deal

FreshDirect
New York Times: FreshDirect Expands Brooklyn Delivery Service


The Land Where St. Patrick Walked

March 17, 2011

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is the world’s biggest, noisiest, happiest celebration of Ireland and its patron saint. Between the dancing, drinking and green hair, it is easy for an observer to think that those who hail from “the land with 40 shades of green” have always been welcome and accepted here.

But the story of the Irish in New York has many a tragic side. Most terrible is the reason that so many Irish citizens arrived on our shores 150 years ago; they were fleeing the disaster known as An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger). The devestation began in the late 1840s, when a virus attacked the potatoes planted in the fields of the land where St. Patrick had walked.

Cheap, filling, and easy to grow, potatoes were an essential source of nutrition for poor, rural Irish families. When the virus caused the potato plants to wither and their crops to fail, it wasn’t long before starvation set in.

The Great Hunger, also known as the Great Potato Famine, lasted from 1845 to 1852. During that period approximately one million Irish people died and two million more emigrated, many of them landing in New York Harbor. Now, in a quiet corner of Battery Park, near the spot where those desperate survivors arrived, stands the Irish Hunger Memorial.

Created by New York artist Brian Tolle, the memorial opened in 2002 on a quarter-acre of land shaped to resemble a burial mound cut from an Irish hillside. The base of the memorial is made of slabs of concrete interlaced with bands of plexiglass-covered metal bearing excerpts from reports, poems, songs, sermons and letters describing the desperation and destitution of the victims of the famine. These are intermingled with information about world hunger today.

After walking around the base, visitors walk through a short, dark corridor where recorded voices recite facts about the Hunger and emerge into a small atrium lined with stone walls. A dirt path winds up the hill past thirty-two massive stones, each marked with the name the Irish county that donated it, a roofless stone cottage, wildflowers and grasses, all imported from Ireland.

Every aspect of this small patch of land is significant and symbolic; even the size of the space reflects the Irish Poor Law of 1847, which denied relief to those living on land larger than a quarter of acre. Small, subtle and enormously moving, the Irish Hunger Memorial helps illuminate the wonderful, terrible history of the Irish in New York City.

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Approaching the memorial from West Street

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Closer to the entrance

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Plantings overhanging the concrete

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Through the entry corridor

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Words on the walls

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More quotations on the walls

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The words stretch on

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Climbing the hill

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The view from the top of the hill

CRG Gallery: Brian Tolle
The New York Times: A Memorial Remembers The Hungry
New York Magazine: Irish Hunger Memorial
NYC: Battery Park
Battery Park Conservancy


01.01.11

January 1, 2011

I wasn’t thinking about the significance of the date when I made an appointment for December 31 on the Upper East Side. It was only when I was en route that I realized that to reach my destination, I had to change trains at Times Square. It was still early in the day, but the place was already a madhouse.

When I got to my appointment, I sadly told the person I was meeting that my route had taken me through Times Square. She laughed and said, “Now I know you’re a real New Yorker! Only New Yorkers try to stay away from Times Square on New Year’s Eve — the tourists can’t wait to get there!”

She was, of course, correct, and as soon as our meeting concluded, I made a hasty retreat to Brooklyn, where I spotted this reveler on Montague Street. Happy new year!

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Woman celebrating the new year in Downtown Brooklyn


A Very Porky Christmas

December 25, 2010

The folks at Esposito’s Pork Store on Brooklyn’s Court Street have decorated for the season. Have a very porky Christmas!

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The store

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Santa Pig

New York Magazine: Esposito’s Pork Store


Happy Freecycle Thanksgiving

November 25, 2010

All over America, at this very moment, people are peeling, chopping, roasting and baking, busily preparing traditional Thanksgiving meals. But one person in Brooklyn is seeking an alternative to expending all that time, effort and money via a Freecycle Thanksgiving.

Freecycle, if you are not familiar with it, is a simple, rather noble concept: those who have things they can’t use give them freely, as gifts, to those who need them. The object is to reduce waste, save valuable resources and ease the burden on landfills.

Freecycle members contact each other online using message boards operated by the Freecycle Network. While most members post messages describing the items they want to give away, a few request items they want but don’t have.

This “wanted” listing, posted the evening before Thanksgiving, struck me as particularly ambitious and audacious, and I can’t help wondering what type of response it will generate.

In any case, however you choose to celebrate the day, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

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The notice on the Freecycle Web site

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A closer view of the post

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Freecycle Brooklyn


R.I.P. Michael

November 8, 2010

Today, as I emerged from the Clark Street subway station onto Henry Street, my eye was drawn to a bright spot of color beyond the doors. Moving closer, I saw that the vibrant hues were actually candles and bouquets placed on the sidewalk. The location, just outside a college dormitory, is a stop for a private bus that shuttles students from their Brooklyn residence to Manhattan.

Feeling dread, I approached the man working in the coffee stand adjacent to the spot and asked whether he knew anything about the flowers. Sadly, he told me that early yesterday morning a student had committed suicide; he’d leapt from an eighth-floor window. “My boss,” the man said, “was here when it happened. He didn’t see the boy fall, but he heard him hit the sidewalk.” He pointed out that the pole of the bus stop was covered with handwritten notes carefully taped to the steel.

As we spoke, a young woman came out of the building and knelt at the makeshift memorial, arranging a box of sweets among the flowers. The boy who fell, she said, was a close friend, only 19 years old. He jumped to the cold, dark street at 2:15 a.m.

I later read more about the tragic death in the newspaper, including the name of the young man who died, Michael Simmons. He was a talented actor who had recently arrived from Tempe, Arizona to study at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. My heart goes out to his friends and family.

R.I.P. Michael.

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Flowers, candles and a box of sweets

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Notes on the bus stop pole

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R.I.P.

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A friend mourns

The Brooklyn Paper: Death plunge at the St. George Hotel
New York Daily News: Friends say mushrooms contributed to fatal fall


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