Thursday, January 31, 2008

Suburbian Scene in Windsor Terrace

Around the expressway you find places with more space around them than you'd expect. This house, which you could almost call a cottage, is the last on Vanderbilt before the highway and has quite a bit of undeveloped area around it on the South side. At one time houses stood there. Icky in Brooklyn posted a picture of this street long before the expressway, and you can see this house on the left side beyond the Elk's lodge, and also the houses beyond it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Last Exit to Middle School

Last Wednesday wound up being a day of reckoning. All year I've been on the beat of looking into Middle Schools since my daughter enters 6th grade next September. I was sold on New Voices in this neighborhood but some of my daughter's friends are interested in Bay Academy far away in District 21, so I thought I should at least apply. I visited Bay Academy in the fall, but somehow spaced out on getting the application. I didn't realize I wouldn't just get one, that I had to request it and go through the process of pre-applying for the application. All of this was necessary because we live out of the Bay Academy district.

When I found out what I had done it was horrible, and I expected the worst of the system so I didn't know if it would still be possible to get the application. I didn't sleep well that night, I felt vaguely panicky and the full moon stared down at me through the window. I managed to fall asleep, but when I did I dreamed that I was with my father and we both had insomnia, so we were looking through books in some kind of library. I had a small volume of mythical beasts listed in alphabetical order and I was looking for some sort of animal that began with A. It was a strange dream and it reminded me of something my father told me when I last spoke with him, about a time when he had fallen asleep with his cat right on his chest, and started having a very happy dream that he was with his mother, who has been dead for over 40 years. He only slept briefly and when he awoke his cat was still on his chest, staring directly at his face with wide eyes, as if she had been watching the dream too. That's how I felt the moonlight that night, as if it had woken me up with the intensity of its stare.

The next day I started making the calls to get the pre-application, or "pre-app" as it is affectionately known. I called the Parent Coordinator at Mark Twain and he kindly advised me to call the admissions office and ask for Mr. F. There was also a Mr. D in that office, but I was told I should avoid him if possible because at times he lacks patience, when dealing with disorganized parents I guess. Mr. F told me I could come and get the "pre-app," at his office at the school, which is on Neptune Ave. in Coney Island.

I got to Coney Island by subway. I thought about driving and would have if I had known how far Mark Twain is from the train. While I was walking down Mermaid Avenue for 15 blocks or so, through a very poor neighborhood, I got a phone call from a parent trying to schedule a play date. It was hard to walk, find a time slot for this playdate for my son, and navigate a block full of people waiting with a certain intensity outside the lighthouse mission. I wondered what they were going to get. The sidewalk was very crowded and I brushed into a man who spun around to see who would do that. He accepted my profuse apology with a look of satisfaction.

The nearer I got to the school the more desolate the neighborhood felt. Once in the building I immediately felt a certain warmth. Mr. D wasn't as bad as all that, he had bluster for sure and I'm glad I had the warning, but you have to enjoy those people whose attitudes are so caricatured by the people they work with that they become a public monument. I was highly distracted while in his office though by their scheduling system, a large wooden board about 25 feet wide and 8 feet tall hung with a few hundred tiny hooks, all of which held different colored tags. I wanted to take a picture of it but didn't want to aggravate Mr. D. I did manage to ask him about it and he joked "we sell clothes." It was amazing, an iron age excel sheet that I could easily see hanging in the Whitney.

That weird board, one of two things I've really wanted to photograph for this blog but didn't out of respect. The other one was the display inside the Windsor Terrace Scouts Center in Holy Name, 2 large plywood panels affixed with snapshots of scouts from all over the world in their various scouting uniforms, proudly posing in front of their tents. Try to get in there and see it, along with the board showing all the badges.

Above, Timbuktu Hair Care on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Bleak Face of Coney Island

Projects viewed from the Stillwell Avenue subway platform make a dramatic perspective study with a distinct contrast between spaciousness and density, a contrast I find infused with peacefulness.

Hair Fashions by Lin

How much longer will this salon on MacDonald Ave look like this? It's annoying not to see the complete sign, the palette painted on the left is covered by the realtor's ad. Do people really want perfect computer generated lettering when the fallibility of the human hand can create something as beautiful as this? I guess it comes down to how much time people have to spend creating something, which isn't much when the cost of living is so high. And that's one reason why things made today look, um, like they do.

Slot Car Sign Long Gone

Monday, January 28, 2008

Brooklyn Calendar Girls Curbed

Who dumped this entire box of girly calendars on the corner of Prospect and 11th Avenue? It's a sad spectacle, although the girls look happy in that cheery mid-air pose. Who tosses away these useful time management devices candied with King's County princesses, who leaves Allison, Valerie, Meaghan, Sandra, Jeanette, Tiffany, Monifa, Simone, Yoliciel, Anna, Sheena, Yadira and Jenna on the curb like that, exposed to the elements? Who did that? I can't even figure out who gets credit for publishing this thing, no one thought to include that information anywhere. Maybe on purpose?

Whoever did I thank for increasing my Brooklyn trivia bank. According to my Brooklyn Calender Girls Calender, "Coney Island which comes from the Dutch word for rabbits, was named for its high population of rabbits." Am I always the last to know?

The calendars are kind of soggy and stuck together at this point, they've been there at least since last week. But if you didn't get a calendar as a delightful holiday gift and you find yourself near Key Food, there might still be a dry one at the bottom of the pile. Something tells me this is a calender few want to claim. But don't these girls deserve a decent recycling, at least?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

A Typographer Walks in Brooklyn

A lot of footwork went into Paul Shaw's article for AIGA, Lettering Grows in Brooklyn, published on Wednesday. It was with shivers of excitement that I took the virtual tour of the borough with Mr. Shaw, learning typographical references like versal, uncial, and batarde, feeling insecure about my monumental ignorance, but bolstered by the occasional typo. The article discusses 5 or 6 examples of lettering found in a wide smattering of Brooklyn neighborhoods including East Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint, Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and Sunset Park. (Next time drop by Windsor Terrace and tell us your thoughts about the George's Haircutting sign, oh please.)

It is not a surprise that someone would be driven to write an article which savors the craftmanship that formerly went into lettering as the newer examples are so lifeless. Paul Shaw notes that "websites devoted to ghost signs seem to be a growth industry," later expanding on that topic when he writes "Ghost signs are not only reminders of past products and services but they are examples of sign painting, a once-thriving profession that is now under assault. For the past thirty years the design and fabrication of signs has been increasing computerized." That is one valid soap box.

I found this article by way of craig's list; I noticed that someone living around the corner from me on 17th Street had a queen sized platform bed for sale. They turned out to graphic designers and writers who run an enterprise called Under Consideration, which offers several design blogs - Speak Up, Quipsology, (which linked to Shaw's article), Brand New and The Encyclopedia of Design. So the platform bed came with 3 drawers and 4 blogs. I love those craig's list extras!

Akash, a Kid for a Better Future

One day last year my daughter was in Prospect Park when this young boy of about 9 approached her, asking if she wanted to participate in a walkathon benefiting his organization, Kids For a Better Future, which strives to find ways to improve the quality of life for children around the world through various projects. Last year KFABF helped raise money to build a school for girls in Herat, Afghanistan.

How often do you meet kids like that? How often do strangers even talk to each other? I hear about the youth rock movement in Park Slope, the Tiny Masters of the Universe for instance. It is great to hear about children emboldened by the power of Rock. It is also so great to hear about the mission of this child, empowered by the idea that he can help people. That rocks too.

It seems Akash is still rocking. I just read this email:

Dear Friends and Supporters of Kids for a Better Future:

I had my tenth birthday on December 21st, and like last year I am gave up birthday gifts, and instead asked for donations to Kids for a Better Future. I'm writing because I hope you'll consider making a donation to Kids for a Better Future for my birthday.

This year money raised will support an organization working for children's rights in the Congos. The organization that we have chosen is called Ajedi-Ka. Their website is We want to support Ajedi-Ka because it works with children, and it seems very promising. It mostly works with child soldiers of both sexes, trying get them not to join the army, and trying to get them to leave the army, and go to school. Fifty percent of children in Congo do not go to school, and $100 dollars is what it costs to send one child to school for a one year. Ajedi-Ka works with former girl soldiers and other women victims of violence. We have learnt that sexual violence has been a huge problem during and after the terrible war in the region. Children that were born out of rape ar called by the Congolese "Children of the Enemy", and those children are outcasts of society. That term "Children of the Enemy" upsets me greatly, and I will never use this term except to say how awful it is. We will ask Ajedi-Ka to spend any money we raise on the rights of the Congolese girls and children who were born of rape during and after the war.

Now there's a Care Bear that is truly on fire, and what a big flame for such a young body. In case you'd like to give Akash Mehta a present for his birthday, there's a paypal link on the website

Friday, January 25, 2008

Squirrels Fighting for their Lives in Prospect Park

I recently ran into a man walking away from Prospect Park with a beautiful camera lobbing against his chest, it's lens weighing as much as quart of milk I'm sure. I suspected he had been taking pictures of birds in the park, a fact which he happily admitted to. He turned out to be Michael Castellano, and to my delight he's been kind enough to let me display his gorgeous images here and post his observations about the hunting behaviors of hawks and the defensive maneuvers of squirrels. Those are his images above, and below please find his comments.

"I've observed squirrel behavior many times when threatened by hawks. Like prarie dogs and meerkats, they have a special alert when a hawk is in the area. They growl out a low pitched warning sound and take defensive positions in the trees, usually on a lower branch with their tails against the main tree trunk, face and claws forward to face any attacking hawk. (See top image) When actually attacked, it's usually when the hawk succeeds in panicking the squirrel into running, with the hawk attacking from behind. Hawks will also attempt to knock squirrels out of trees where they may fall to their deaths.

One day last year I was feeding a couple of squirrels not far from the same location in the picture I sent you of the hawk with its kill. As I looked through the lens I saw both squirrels suddenly fleeing towards a tree. An instant later a big red tail literally flew over my shoulder and just missed catching one! Unfortunately I didn't even get a shot off of the near miss, although I did get one of the hawk, which landed in the same tree the squirrels climbed. But she gave up quickly and flew off.

BTW, I'm actually better known for my squirrel photos!" Here's the link for more squirrel and hawk action.

By the way Michael grew up on 17th Street, and left these comments regarding the 17th Street Ghost post.

"I read your blog on the 17th Street haunting. I'm Italian and grew up on 17th Street and the "ghost" you describe reminded me of my own father, who was always building and planting things. We actually had fig trees in the yard. He would wrap them in burlap and linoleum in the Winter to prevent freezing.

I grew up and lived in 437 16th Street, which is just above 8th Avenue. I now live on 14th. Where on 17th is this haunted house you heard about? It's more likely that there are mice or rats running around in the walls."

I don't know the address of that house, I didn't ask. Thanks again for the benefit of your experiences in the park and your skill with a camera!

Washington Cemetery

I read that if you try to visit a grave at this cemetery you may have to climb over others to get to it. I have no issue with that, do people need a lot of space when they're dead? What kind of floor plan do the dead require? Is a floor-through OK?

Maybe I should have been holding my breath or saying a rosary when I passed by here on the F train, but I just wanted to take pictures.

Some people these days complain about people who are "transplants" to Brooklyn. Of course, if you've lived here all your life, when you see new people coming and things changing in ways you don't like, you just add it up. But unless you are a Lenape somewhere along the line your people came here. It is very likely that most all the people buried in Washington cemetery were born in Europe or Russia or another far away place, especially the ones buried under the amazing old stones that have character and drama. Notice the newer ones on the left that make a blacker line, they have too much polish and too little artistry. That's how they make them these days. I guess the dead don't care.

Sid Luckman Ballfield

If you're in luck, you're playing ball on the Sid Luckman field, and if you are really lucky, you play like he did. Not so lucky, well, just behind it lies the Washington Cemetery, the part of it that lies North of the F line. I shot this from the train, you can kind of see the impressions of the dirty glass of the car windows which bear scratch marks and some stuff that looks like dried snot, like the marks a dog's nose make on a car window.

I can't tell if those beige areas are sand on the astro turf or places where the players have worn through it. They look like small islands in a blazing green lake. So much color next to so much grey.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

17th Street Ghost

17th street is one of my favorites for some reason. When I went to the Brooklyn Ghost Society meet up group at the Connecticut Muffin, a woman told a story about a house she briefly lived in on that street. She and her husband moved into her husband's family's house. One day she was napping (always a good idea) and heard what sounded like someone rummaging through drawers on the floor above her. She assumed it was her husband, but when she looked for him, she found him in the backyard. They got the feeling that the noises were the spirit of her father-in-law, who was always tinkering around, fixing things up, digging through drawers to find a needed part.

That sounds so much like some of the people I know around here, especially first generation Italians like the ones that used to own our house: they knew how to fix things, and everything was immaculate. I am one hopeless clueless slob in comparison. When we moved into our house, there were 4 fruit trees, all bearing fruit, somehow wedged into a plot of soil roughly 12 feet square. How is that done? Those are the kind of things Maria's family could do. She was so funny and charming, but she would roll over in her grave if she saw the amount of dust accumulating behind our refrigerator and who knows where else.

Back to the ghost story: I hear stories like that, about spirits that think they need things, who continue to look for material things even after they die. One story involved a spirit who loved pepsi so much it possessed a college student who all the sudden started drinking uncharacteristic volumes of pepsi and watching TV non-stop. He eventually got shipped off for psychiatric help. I wonder if he recovered.

Sometimes spirits stick around to look after people. In the spring I was driving around Bartel Pritchard Square (circle) and the car in front of me had plates that read AUNTDODO. My own Aunt Dodo had died recently, so of course I paid attention in complete astonishment. How many Aunt Dodo's are there, and even if there's one, someone makes it their license plate? (Dodo is a nickname for Dolores) At the time, I brushed it off. But now I have even more questions about reality, and have been revisiting that moment with more of an open mind.

Someone concerned about me sent me an article from Skeptic Magazine today, debunking things like superstition and hauntings. I'm sure he's been reading this blog. It is terrible to be a slave to superstition and fear of spirits and things like that. I know. It would be nice to be a skeptic. But once you've seen a ghost, or a ghost dog, that's pretty hard to pull off.

Sign Troubles at Royal Supermaket

I noticed the new electronic sign installed in the window with dismay because it hits the quiet corner of 8th Avenue and 15th Street in South Slope like a swatch of Times Square. It's small, but it moves light and pattern with a degree of intensity you don't want to go near if you're an epileptic. It lets you know without a doubt, if you had any, that you can in fact buy BEER and LOTTO tickets in that store. The words turn cartwheels, dissolve into animated patterns and reappear as another choice vice designed to jackhammer it's presence into your brain.

The other day I was in there and asked if they thought the sign was helping business. They said yes. Then I asked them if they were sure. This is a new skill I've developed, planting seeds of doubt in unsuspecting store owners. Wouldn't it be great to know for sure? If they could only turn it off for a week and see if it changes anything.

But they won't have to do that because it looks like the sign's been going on the fritz. Last week I noticed that the circus of light seemed to have unwanted streaks going through it. According to the shop owner, the lines had appeared, and when they went to take the sign in to be fixed, they disappeared. Later, they were back. Haunted sign, cool.

Today the only thing happening with the sign was a small vertical line on the right side and one little dot in the middle flashing red and green. I kept looking at it to see if I could figure out what it was advertising. Not lotto, not beer, not today. Looks like something fairly nonconceptual. Did God take over the sign to advertise spaciousness? Did Buddha take over the sign to advertise the emptiness and bliss at the root of all things? Maybe Kali, in her impassioned mission to kill every demon in existence, hacked at its wiring with her blood-drenched sabre. Who is controlling that sign now? I don't know but looking at the disabled thing is a huge relief.

So run, run in people, go see the miracle sign. And be sure to tell the cashier that the reason you decided to shop in their store today is because that damn sign is broken. Unless you loved it, in which case, I'm sorry.

UPDATE: Yesterday morning, the sign was unplugged. Nevermind...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dub Truck, B Side

Walking up to Prospect Park West the other day I came across the dub truck again, and asked the guy driving if I could take a picture of the truck. He turned out to be Gareth, the man behind the bakery. He told me the paintings were done by someone called Love Billy, whom he allowed to paint one side of the truck as he wished as long as he painted a meat pie on the other.

Gareth wanted to know if I had tried the pies, which I have, the curry vegetable. It was delicious. Pushing it, I asked him if he was from New Zealand even though I already knew he was. He said yes, sheepishly. Eyeing him, I noticed he is much more elf than orc. I hear that people from there are self-effacing in a charming way, I wonder if that's really true. It seems to be. Maybe I'll find out, because though Figwit lives (in LA), here in Brooklyn, we have Gareth.

I told him I'd been watching Flight of the Conchords, and he agreed that was a good show. When I noted that it seemed like there are lots of cultural influences from New Zealand right now, he said, "Yes, we're taking over" in a tired, pleasantly sarcastic way. (Maybe he's heard that comment too often.) From what I've seen, that would mean a lot of savory pies, beautiful hand-painted trucks, amusingly hapless musicians breaking into impassioned song at any moment, girls riding whales, and of course small individuals overcoming monstrous evil. Sounds good to me.

Monday kind of Tuesday

It didn't go so bad considering it might as well be Monday. After my son's few outbursts of anguish about going to school, he settled into eating Special K with a few Captain Crunch mixed in and made the mental adjustment. He wanted to stay home and watch Tom and Jerry. The fifth grader faced the music after missing a week of school, still not entirely back to herself but motivated enough to fix herself tea in a travel cup. The little one looking fierce and proclaiming "I fighted the puppet with a sword!"

Dropping off the kids I saw more Brooklynites than I have in 3 days, parents walking their kids to school, youngish people wearing scarves trudging off to the subway, some with travel cups in hand. A stubborn toddler refusing to move while her mother walks ahead, the frosty cloud of her breath gracefully complementing her wrath. A kid, late for school, bounding along behind her mom, the pompom on her hat bouncing along with the rhythm of her little legs. Someone walking slowly to the bus stop. People who look tough, a man whose arms didn't swing as he moved holding the stub of a cigarette in his mouth, a woman who moved like a boxer but whose face I could easily imagine on a little girl.

I'd love to know what jobs those people have, it's not as easy to tell as in Fisher Price cities. I wonder what they're good at, what kind of crap they have to put up with, if the job is a struggle or something that just flows along with interesting incidences happening every once in a while.

I could go on, but won't, for your sake and mine. I want to look around and see if anyone has anything to say about the 6 Chapels event honoring MLK that took place at Old First yesterday.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oyster Garden Lecture Tomorrow

This comes straight out of my email, sorry for the formatting problems. No time to fuss.. 3 kids home from school...baiting each other...anyway, hope it's of interest...wish I could go...glug


Dear friends of the NYC Oyster Gardening Program:

Please join NY/NJ Baykeeper Executive Director Andy Willner and Meredith Comi, Oyster Program Director, this Tuesday evening at Solar1 for a great talk on oyster restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary.


Green Renter: Oyster Restoration in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary

Tuesday, January 22, 2008, 7:00pm, FREE

Andy Wilner and Meredith Comi, NY/NJ Baykeeper

The Oyster returns to the Green Renter!
This presentation by our expert friends at NY/NJ Baykeeper will look at the history of the oyster and oystering in the Estuary, as well as reasons for decline. Oyster restoration efforts done by Baykeeper will also be discussed. Not to be missed by anyone interested in this fascinating, storied animal and its local past and future.

Dirctions at

Sunday, January 20, 2008

CBS Construction once Asimov Candy Store

This is an attractive store front, I've often paused there hoping to see more than the very well crafted radiator covers that appear in the window. In a piece on Isaac Asimov, Deep in the Heart of Brooklyn mentioned that the Asimov family had a candy store at 174 Windsor place, and right away I wondered if it were the spot that now houses CBS construction. Well, there really aren't any other options on Windsor between 10th and Fuller.

CBS has kept the old world feel to this place, and because of that it's easy to imagine it as a family candy store that also sold comic books which I'm sure influenced the writer as a child. I wonder what kind of candy they sold. Was it packaged back then? If so, I bet the packages were beautiful.

When we want a good selection of candy we go to Krupa on Prospect Park West, and even now a sizable chunk of their store is reserved solely for that. When I was only in second grade and lived by Columbia I was somehow allowed to go to the local candy store by myself, what joy. It would be very hard for me to let my kids do the same. That's the fear disease in action. The more people stay inside, the more they have to stay inside because it's lonely out there.

It's usually lonely when I pass by CBS, I never see anyone coming or going. But when I was taking this picture, I did see a man entering 172 Windsor. I asked him if he remembered when this place was a candy store. He said no, but he could recall that it used to be a thrift store. The man was from Croatia, and he and his family arrived here in 1962. I asked him how he liked it here. "It's the best," he said. He also owns a place of Fuller, and it's true, that's As Good As It Gets around here. Interesting that like the character played by Jack Nicholson in that movie, which was filmed in part on either Howard or Fuller, Asimov was a claustrophile. I'm sure he found many small places to comfort him in the family house, which according to dithob was across the street from the store. So it probably was one of these bow fronts.

Thanks again, Brooklyn Beat, for illuminating the history of this place, which always seemed to have more going on than I could account for.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Portrait with Stomach Virus

Weird how the virus all the suddens appears like a swamp monster bumming you out. The 3 year old was sick for 3 days, threw up on Friday, felt ok on Saturday, but then on Sunday she was like a rag doll who refused to be put down all day. The 10 year old was sick for 5 days. She was pale and exhausted all week, grey and pinkish circles around her eyes. Today she's her old self, better than new, playing with her siblings and guiding her brother through science experiments.

When I woke up this morning I felt like I had a crowbar in my stomach. As the day passed, the crowbar moved up into my head. For some reason my son was moved to draw this picture of me passed out on the sofa. He said "Mommy, it's a scribble figure. I learned how to do that at the Brooklyn Museum." He went there on a class trip this week. He also mentioned learning about something called the Burghers. He told me a very long story about how they overcame oppression from a tyrannical king. Maybe one day I'll figure out what he was talking about.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Leonora the Dealer

According to Leonora Stein, many who frequent her shop, Babbo's Books, which opened a little over a year ago on PPW, are self described book junkies. Well, they go to the right place, 'cause she can hook you up. As the bookseller who currently holds the monopoly on used and new books in a large chunk of South Brooklyn, she brings something crucial to Windsor Terrace and South Slope in the form of her well selected and affordable literary offerings. True to her slogan, "used and new books for everyone" she strives to reflect the desires of the neighborhood and wants to hear what you want. She'll work with you.

Just as she's been working to bring the community together in her way, in the various activities offered at Babbo's, which is named after her father, a book binder who died in a car accident 4 years ago. On Thursday night a writing group meets on the premises, on Sunday Matthew Reichers teaches about Buddhism and every Saturday at 11:00 she offers the Ezra Jack Keats story hour at no charge. A book club meets the first Friday of every month, and a plan is in the works to host a reading of The 30 Day Diabetes Miracle, a method of curing Diabetes through diet and exercise which was written by her cousin, a diabetic whose survival formerly depended on three doses of insulin per day.

She says she sold out when she opened Babbo's. What, what did you say? Well, she originally dreamed of opening a book store geared to the cause of social justice over in the Flatbush/Prospect Heights part of Brooklyn where she hoped to host lectures and discussion groups with the potential to unite diverse communities. Then one day when walking down Prospect Park West on the way to her home in Windsor Terrace she noticed the retail space available, felt a tug, and before long Babbo's came together. She expanded her target niche from the socially disenfranchised to everyone. I for one can forgive her. Perhaps she can franchise later if she's not satisfied with her choice. Perhaps I'm selfish, but I'm very satisfied with it.

She must be at least a little content, considering that her dream of owning a bookstore goes back to the age of 9 or 10, when she was a student at PS 321 in Park Slope. During middle school at Poly Prep, where her mother teaches history (ka ching, thanks mom!) she briefly entertained a career in law after winning a mock trial in which she played prosecutor. But by the end of her years at Midwood High School she felt more inclined to become a writer, and at 17, the dream of the store reemerged. After graduating from Bard she spent a year in the Citiyear program helping out in a 4th grade classroom at PS 137 in the lower east side, which led to the opportunity to participate in business training courtesy of NFTE. In particular, she credits her teacher Katarina Zacharia, who mentored her through the process of creating a business plan, with teaching her the lesson she values most: be flexible.

Other businesses on the strip have been very supportive, especially Diane from the Hallmark as well the folks at Krupa. Local book seekers tell her they always try to buy from her before buying online or heading to B&N, which I was very happy to hear considering it's not exactly easy to stay in business with rents as high as they are. She's says business isn't bad, she happily reports that people have been very generous in turning in their cast offs, and I can tell you that I've been bewitched by several finds I've come across at Babbo's. She sold 80 copies of the latest Harry Potter book, whatever that was, and impressively, 16 copies of Siddhartha, which she finds she can recommend to just about anyone. Someone says, "I just read something really long and involved and I'm looking for something short and beautiful." Leonora says "Siddhartha." Or someone says "Can you recommend something for my teenage daughter?" "How about Siddhartha?" Soon WT is going to be one of the most Buddhist by way of Germany communities in existence. Can Keanu move in soon?

But not into the store! It's pretty small, Leonora perpetually shifts things around to fit new arrivals, never appearing daunted by the long row of boxes lined up for sorting on the left side of the store. I know I'm not supposed to go through those boxes, those books haven't been priced yet, so I have to restrain myself. Which is hard, because for some reason I find when I'm in that space, books seem to come alive, they seem to ooze their history, varied perspectives, mysterious origins and brilliance as if she sprinkled them with some fairy dust.

Where she hides that stuff, I haven't discovered, although I've snooped around a little. I have a feeling that cat of hers, Holly GoLightly, knows the secret. I'm keeping my eye on that cat.

But enough about that show stealing cat, I wanted to write this because I'm so proud of Leonora, who at the age of 25 has started to irrigate this neighborhood with a river of premium words and welcome kindness. Let's continue to look out for her and watch Babbo's thrive.

Babbo's Books
242 Prospect Park West

And God Said "@#%&ing Slow Down!"

I know because I heard her. But she didn't say @#%&ing, I added that. Sorry God.

A Daily News story reports that construction worker Yurley Lanskey may have died because "supports were pulled away from wet cement too soon."

I heard a brief comment on NPR the other day regarding the dangers of how we do cement work here in NYC, something to the effect that here we try do in 2 days what in other places requires 4. Did anyone else here that?

Perhaps Yurley's death can do for construction safety and building integrity what Nixmary's did for child safety. And perhaps if people would just slow down and think no one would have to die like that. I know it's not easy to do though. It's monstrously expensive, for one thing. Living with conscience is dauntingly expensive.

The Story of the Story of a House for a Dollar

It was a little bizarre yesterday to look at the links list at OTBKB and see a Brooklynometry story attributed to Brooklyn Junction. I thought it was a mistake, so I clicked on the link and read Brooklyn Junction's post about the Brooklynometry post A House for a Dollar, which was picked up by Gothamist. Brooklyn Junction didn't make any mention of Brooklynometry. Strange, I think. Gothamist had it, right there under that gorgeous photo they came up with from mercurialn's flickr. I guess Brooklynometry is too small, random and illiterate a fish to appear to the Brooklyn Junction bigger fish eyeball.

You know you can pimp out Brooklynometry alls you like. Attention makes Brooklynometry one happy ho. You just say the name when you do it. But I'm sure I've done things far worse so I have no hard feelings to BJ. And I really like the word "junction." Just so you know BJ, in case you actually read this. But of course, you should read Gothamist with the precious little time you have, of course, without question.

Funny how I came across the story. Actually I was searching for ghost stories, so I went to a meetup of the Brooklyn Ghost Society. I didn't come away with a ghost story I could sink my teeth into (wah!), but this real estate one was so sweet it did something to my brain. And luckily the teller was kind enough to throw it to the 4 winds via Brooklynometry, where it landed in Gothamist, and then Brooklyn Junction, and then OTBKB, and then the GL. So thanks again for that tale, a lot of people seemed to enjoy it. A Victorian for a dollar, what's not to like? It's like candy. Candy that belongs to Brooklyn. (Candy is on my mind today after reading Deep In the Heart of Brooklyn on Isaac Asimov and his father's series of Brooklyn candy stores. Pete's is great but it's nice when history blinks its astonishing eye at you.)

I'm wondering if some felt manipulated by the title of the post "A House for a Dollar," because as the story traveled it was rewritten twice with reference to the time period. Apologies if the original title of the post caused any sudden or violent reactions.

Ok, back to the navel of my navel of my navel. My sitemeter, that is.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Baby Love

While loitering in front of the house we sometimes run into our neighbors, 2 SVA students who for some reason take an interest in us even though we are not half as hip. They are friendly people and unlike many of gotham's younger voices, they don't hate children. They ask "how are you" as if they really want to know, they're generous with their advice and amusing stories.

The last time we saw them they told us about a surprise birth that had occured in their aparment which they share with several rodents and snakes. They had no idea their chincilla was pregnant. One day they peered into the cage and saw a strange appendage on the female that turned out to be her baby.

This art student radiated joy and happiness like I've rarely seen in someone so hip. I am still basking in its glow. We found out all about the struggles of the chinchilla couple as they adapt to life with baby and learned much about this odd little animal from the Andes whose fur is so soft it inspired overhunting that nearly lead to its extinction.

We wanted to know if they were going to sell the little fella, but no, they are keeping their baby. I hope they never move so we can loiter with them and watch that tiny fur ball grow up. Actually it's because of them that we felt comfortable getting a chinchilla ourselves, before we fully comtemplated the fact that they often live for up to 20 years. It was really kind of a hapless decision, but so far it's working out.

And Cruella, don't even think about it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

NYC logophobia

Not only is this new logo on taxi cabs but it also appears on DOE materials, as shown.

I wasn't glad to see it on an information packet handed to me by my daughter's 5th grade teacher, although I was glad for the information. I'm just having trouble with it. I believe it was the blog Pardon me for Asking that called it blobby. (NO, it was i'm not saying, i'm just sayin) It is much more. Words it brings to my mind: edema, dropsy, constriction, smog, claustrophobia, congestion, eminent domain, brutality, bully, brass knuckles, abuse of power, gridlock. Escape from New York.

I believe the font is called Power Station and some of its usages look pretty good. But not this. Sorry to be a pain in the ass, NYC government. Maybe it's just me, but I think this logo needs some air.

A House for a Dollar

From a Brooklynite who prefers to remain anonymous comes this story of her family's house in Victorian Flatbush. Thank you!

" mom's two great aunts bought the house together when it was built in 1909. My family was fairly well-to-do back then, but they lost their money in the Depression. My grandfather was going to lose the house to taxes. He made a deal with a friend of his, a wealthy lady from out West. She bought the house for a dollar (and of course had to pay off the taxes), with the stipulation that she would leave the house to my mother in her will. Thankfully she was an honest person, and she did just that, so the house is now back in the family. Between the early 40's when this deal took place, and the time of her death in the late 70s, she turned the house into a boarding house. Sailors, soldiers, merchant marines, businessmen, and even a few businesswomen (including my mother when she was in her early 20s) rented rooms there. It was run very strictly; no visitors allowed upstairs, and doors had to be left unlocked during the day so the homeowner could come in and clean up/make the beds. She also made breakfast for the roomers. When she died in the 70s, my mom moved in with her family."

Window Kitty

Another 8th Avenue house. But this one looks like it could be in France for some reason, maybe because that cat obviously has a very European schedule. Wish we could all slow down and watch like you, Kitty. It would save many lives.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Pigeons on 8th Avenue House

Thanks to the Bed Stuy Blog I for one am better versed on brownstone architecture. But I can't say for sure what you would call this South Slope house beyond "frame" or if that window is a bay, hanging bay, or whatever. Does anyone else care? This house is probably around 13 feet in width. Many would avoid that, but a house that size can be very cozy, just enough. And as you see, the pigeons don't seem to mind it. They haven't flown off to roost on McCondo. They may be flying rats to some, but they can't be called narcissists.


Last night I was sitting at the kitchen table taking notes on things that have been on my mind, or just below the surface of my mind. I was going by theme.

The main theme was Afghanistan, because a few nights ago I had a dream in which I saw death to the left of me in the form of pieces of bodies in the sand and a man sitting in a chair looking like he had burned to death. Some measure of lucidity allowed me to remember that I had heard the word Afghanistan in the dream.

As I sat last night, I was feeling haunted by this dream and wondering why these images had appeared on my left.

It seemed I kept hearing about Afghanistan for the last week or so, but all I could identify was an article that I had seen in the NYT Sunday about the struggles of the inadequately outfitted Afghan police force, and another piece I found looking through an old National Geographic while I held my sick child, an article from 1972 called Winter Caravan to the Roof of the World by a french husband and wife team, Sabrina and Roland Michaud. There is a picture of the grizzled couple wearing enormous fur hats. In another image, a bundled infant sucks a porridge mixture out of a lambskin sack. I've been finding phrases in the article like "Hindu Kush," a phrase I can't really get over for some reason. I've been wandering around the house amidst children sick with this stomach virus we are weathering muttering "Hindu Kush, Hindu Kush." I asked my son what he thought of the word kush. He didn't like it much, it reminds him of stepping in dog poop.

Another phrase from the 1972 article which stood out was "heart-stopping immensity." How often can I imagine how truly big the world is? And how amazing would it be if some random person like me would have a premonition of trouble far away on the globe, and for what reason would that happen? Doesn't it sometimes seem like the code of the entire world is in us, but for the most part, only a tiny fragment of it is being read at any one time.

But then again, if I'm going to have a premonition, why not a close range one, perhaps that a construction worker from Brooklyn is going to fall to his death? I wonder if anyone saw that coming.

Views from the Roof of 68 Jay

Monday, January 14, 2008

Karaoke at Timboos

Did anyone go to this bar for karaoke Saturday? I have the impression that karaoke is a rarity in Brooklyn, am I wrong? I've only heard of one other place that offers it, I can't remember the name, but it's a bar on Columbia St. in the North part of Red Hook.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Russo Realty and Notary

Savoring the moment. How much longer do they have?

Corner of Smith and 9th

From the 3 blocks of cement piled in front of this door I would guess that no one has entered that way for a while.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Citgo on 4th Avenue

Not only is my lifestyle petroleum dependent, but this logo is crack for my eyeballs. What am I gonna do?

The arrangement bears some similarities to this Marsden Hartley painting from 1914, Berlin Abstraction.

Puppets Jazz Bar

Has anyone ever visited this place on 5th Avenue? What's the story? What does it have to do with puppets? I don't understand.

Richard Grayson is a Good Teacher

I just want to reiterate that I am really really happy that Richard, a teacher and writer who left a comment on this blog the other day, is not dead, so happy that I want to let his comment float to the top of Brooklynometry for a minute as it contains a great deal of sanity and balance. And I need sanity and balance. It's a little alarming I suppose that my rancor was so extreme in Freedom for Spellers that someone would think I actually wished anyone harm. I don't! I just don't want the attacks of a sanctimonious hegemony to sway people from their attempts at self expression and their right to free speech.

Anyway, here are Richard's words, I hope he doesn't mind.

"...Apostrophes are a fairly recent development in the English language; however, as I said, it's (!) hard for me to not get annoyed when I see "its/it's" misused.

Perhaps it will cheer you to know that I have just stopped correcting this error because it is so prevalent. I have to fight my ingrained tendency (reinforced by three years of law school and another seven years of working as a law school faculty member and administrator) to hyper-correct.

Students often misspell my name, their own names, the names of the authors they are writing about (at Borough of Manhattan Community College last semester our English 101 final was on readings by Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X, and most students spelled at least one of the three names incorrectly -- clearly understandable given the sound of "Fredrick," "Douglas," and "Malcom" but it's a carelessness that still manages to annoy me).

Many of the rules of grammar I learned are arbitrary. Bishop Louth was, in many ways, moronic in his prescriptions. There is no logical reason to avoid double negatives, as other languages do it without "two negatives making a positive" (an inapt analogy derived, obviously, from mathematics).

A generation ago I used to correct things that have stopped even bothering me. I used to worry about the who/whom distinction because it was stressed on us as early as fourth and fifth grades; now I correct only a mistaken use of "whom" as a subject pronoun. I used to correct students who wrote, "Everyone needs to watch their language." Now I assume it's correct (though of course their is usually spelled there or they're).

These are trivial issues, actually, in teaching composition today. Conveying meaning, organizing and developing ideas, and avoiding egregious syntax errors or choppy, simplistic prose are far more important than "error correction."

I sometimes have to explain to students that a paper without grammatical errors is not necessarily an "A" paper.

I blame that on the same kind of "gotcha" grammar mentality that was decried in this post.

But there are many ways people try to show their superiority over others. Mean people suck."

By the way Richard Grayson is running for Congress in Arizona. I hope he makes his campaign slogan "mean people suck."

Lava Soap at Met Food

The Met Food on 5th Avenue in South Slope sells this Lava Soap, which stands out because it's rare for red to be used in soap packaging, it doesn't scream "clean!" But it does say "hot," and I'm wondering if the soap can make me hot like lava. That would be so much cheaper than surgery. Can soap do that? And can soap really come from a volcano, which I associate with things that aren't water soluble? Why, yes, yes it can. It can because of the exfoliating properties of the floating wonder rock we call pumice.

I'm sure Brooklyn residents will be very happy to note that they can choose a beautifully packaged bar of Lava soap with or without the Nascar endorsement.

Here's what Lava used to look like.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sky Friday

Relief: finally, the sky bares some blue.

68 Jay St. Lobby

It takes dedication to fashion the words "Trade Mark Registered" in tile work. These days you never even see that in print. This must have been made back in the days when dedicated labor, taste, pride and skill went into buildings. If this building were constructed today, I wonder what the floor would look like.

I wonder about these companies, the ETA, Grand Union and Jones Bros. The ETA logotype looks a scale.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Lake thick with Fowl

When the little one and I dropped by last week to kill some time feeding the ducks, a birder told us there were at least ten kinds of birds on the lake, including duffle-heads, shovelers, koots, ruddy ducks, mallards, swans, geese, farm ducks, among others, some of them regulars, others recent arrivals from the North. Many bills to feed.

And people like to feed them. I think it was very therapeutic for us and it seemed to be for others. By the time we left we were covered from with dust from the cracked corn we bought at Key Food, which wasn't cheap but we were trying to stick to the recommended diet. While we were there, someone came by and fed them a large bag of some kind of generic fruit loops, so now I'm wondering if our efforts are worth much anyway. And I envied the ducks, the fruit loops looked good.

Don't you think male mallards look dapper because of those fabulous green heads and the little ascots around their necks? It's a good look for an art opening. I just read that Salvador Dali dressed as a chicken for his.


Koots have really groovy feet. Please double click image for a better view.

Ugly Duckling

Aw. This too shall pass...

Icky in Brooklyn says Goodbye

Just like that, he's gone. Hey Icky, I'll really miss your posts. You have definitely left a mark. But maybe not this one, which I found on Bartel Pritchard Square.

If you get tired of shingles and stains and stuff, I'm sure a great many BK people would love to resample your particular discernement. Have fun!

Scary Dreams

Last week as I was walking down 14th St the intensity of the morning sun reminded me of some things that happened last year. My son had a dream that terrified him, he woke up telling me he had a "lightmare." In his dream, a cabinet in our house was emitting rainbow light and for some reason this really scared him.

I brought this up while talking to some friends of mine at lunch and my friend told me that she had dreams of light that terrified her. In them she'd find herself overwhelmed by bright light that filled her field of vision. It reminds me of how eventually we will all have to face the overwhelming experience of facing justice and truth, which reminds me of the judgement I brought on my self for writing the post called Made Mommies. I really thought it was clear that I was seeing this other random mommy as a mirror for myself. Then I went on to talk about some people whose attitudes of superiority bother me, and I said that. But that little word seemed overlooked by most everyone who responded to the story. some. some. not all. not at all all.

It's for good reason though that people have attitudes about parents who are unwise. It reminds me of the feeling of seeing a little kid at the mercy of an adult who is making terrible decisions. That's terrifying. It's like watching an animal being abused. Alas, we have high expectations for parents, but nature doesn't.

Labels I accumulated as people reacted to the post on the curbed comment thread included lame, lame-o, illiterate, random, cliched, mediocre, bearer of inferiority complex, victim. There were others. Personally, I would add schizophrenic to that list but I am not a psychologist so who am I to make that diagnosis. For some reason, I am delighted by the word random.

I'm random.
Are you?

The word reminds me of how many people there are in the world. I am one of how many billions of random people like dust motes flying around in the air. Cool. I feel so free!

Someone used the word crotchfruit, that's always amusing. The last person to post on that thread said something like "What's all the hating about? I think Park Slope mothers are kind of hot." (yes, I was reading closely...) I was glad it ended that way, with some words that ran as sweet as milk.

Weird to read Gowanus Lounge last week and see the story Blinded By the Light, about people on 16th St. who've been kept awake at night by high intensity lights put up by the builders of the VUE building. Are the developers sadists? This will be a happier hood when people get their nightly melatonin. Please Sara Gonzalez? Please Bill Deblasio? Can you rev up like a deuce (?) and end their lightmare? I want happy neighbors!

Update: Thanks Daniel. Now I know what a deuce is. Or is it know i now? Whatever... time to ride!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Brooklyn Royals

On the corner of 15th and 8th you find the Royal businesses, the Royal Deli on the South East side of the intersection and the Royal Supermarket on the North East.

The Royal Supermarket was just gutted and revamped, it is now brighter, cleaner and more spacious inside. The people who work their seem a little more cheerful, I hope they are enjoying the overhaul.

The new awning went up recently. I'm not sure how it is that the Royal Supermarket crown looks like a chef's hat and the Royal Deli crown looks like a really nice crown I would like to wear if I were the Queen. Or is it a king's crown, I don't know the difference. Was it on purpose that the newer one looks like a chef's hat?

I wonder who Nida is. That's a nice name. There's an eyeball sticker affixed to the pinnacle of the crown that says Nida's, perhaps to ward off evil. Curiously, that eye faces the armory directly, as if they are seeking protection from some of the energies carried by the more desperate people living in the shelter. I was in the deli once when some of the armory denizens started fighting with each other. My kids and I hunkered down in the back of the store until they craziness ended. (cue giggles from PS mommy haters)

But fights happen all over the place. Even in my hometown of Arlington VA you can get beaten up at the 7 Eleven if you are there at the wrong time. I'm hoping the Royals get the protection they'd like and the desperate people find whatever support they need so they don't have to act like that. I wonder if that would be possible.