Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guest Artist: Jacques - Sunday Memories - Now And Then....

A series of photographs and favorite poems from Jacques, a Frenchman who wanders through Her New York, capturing little mysteries and secret corners.

The corner of 127th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue


Just the other morning

No photograph may be used without permission from Jacques. Please contact my private coney for more information.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guest Artist: Jacques - Subway #2

A series of photographs and favorite poems from Jacques, a Frenchman who wanders through Her New York, capturing little mysteries and secret corners.

Ce que les hommes nomment amour
Est bien petit, bien restreint et bien faible,
Comparé à cette ineffable orgie,
À cette sainte prostitution de l’âme qui se donne tout entière,
Poésie et charité, à l'imprévu qui se montre,
À l'inconnu qui passe.

Charles Baudelaire, "Les Foules"

"What men call love is a very small, restricted, feeble thing compared with this ineffable orgy, this divine prostitution of the soul giving itself entire, all its poetry and all its charity, to the unexpected as it comes along, to the stranger as he passes."

Charles Baudelaire, “Crowd” (translated by William A. Sigler)


No photograph may be used without permission from Jacques. Please contact my private coney for more information.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Guest Artist: Jacques - Woman In Times Square

A series of photographs and favorite poems from Jacques, a Frenchman who wanders through Her New York, capturing little mysteries and secret corners.

On est ce qu’on est, en partie tout au moins.

Samuel Beckett, "Molloy"

"We are what we are, in part at least."

Samuel Beckett, “Molloy” (translated by JB)

No photograph may be used without permission from Jacques. Please contact my private coney for more information.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sunday Memories: Broadway of The East

Me and Tillie knew East Broadway. Each block had its own story, more often than not, several.

Depending on whether you came from the east or came from the west, Zafi's was the beginning or the end. Tillie came here during her daughter's music lessons or dance lessons or art lessons at Henry Street, and here is where I bought attempts at coaxing Florence to love food again.

The mikvah Cindy raised money for, a place I never entered, we didn't observe those laws. But someone, not Jewish, not from New York, someone I took down to show what my normal was, ran up those steps as if it was a tourist attraction and threw open the door to see what was inside. That display of entitlement and disregard is still something I envy and fume at.

Down the street, PS 134's playground that once housed my father's tenement home...

The pretty Henry Street Settlement buildings... Tillie thinks this is where she took piano lessons with a horrible lady.

I always thought it was where Florence tried to live when she was studying piano, still a teenager. Gramma lived nearby, maybe Brooklyn, maybe Hester Street, but Florence missed her too much and moved back home.

Across the street, once Dry Dock Bank, now Immigrant, where I saved up all the money I earned from being a mother's helper one summer ($75) and then blew it all and bought Florence a metal cellist and flute player.
The special Senior Citizen place lives there now on the 4th floor and when Florence still could hide all that was unraveling while attending the special old-lady-exercise-in-chair class, they let me know something was wrong.

The Bialystok nursing home on the corner of Clinton, the first place I ever volunteered at age 13 running the film projector, the place Tillie's Gramma attended Yom Kippur service. It was a traditional service, the women upstairs, the men downstairs and nobody under 70. The women complaining at one another, the men shouting up to the balcony, "Sha, sha!"

It's closed now. They're making it into luxury condominiums.

The remaining Jewish organizations not yet condominiums...

And a newly empty lot preparing for something...

In the midst of all this, Tillie takes me to the plaque where remembrance stays steady in bronze.

And her Gramma.

It was a circle of friends.

And Tillie, in her Gramma's accent, an accent no one has anymore, told me everything her Gramma thought about her friends.

Her Gramma was the first resident at the then-new Edgies senior housing. In those days, across the street were benches by the Seward Park library - a row on the left, a row on the right. All the old ladies sat on the left. And all the drug addicts sat on the right. It was East Broadway detente.

We walked past the Paperbag players, still there.

And the Forward which wasn't...

Tillie's Gramma did the Yiddish crossword puzzle everyday until they went weekly, her name published because she always got them right. Now, it's condominiums, briefly famous not because of what it once was but because one of its famous tenants got busted buying hard drugs around the corner.

At the corner of Rutgers... the bridge peering through a street so secretly pretty.

We paused at the Yeshiva, a place I always knew I was not welcomed. East Broadway detente allowed both the yeshive bokhers and me on the same sidewalk. However, Tillie, with no fear, took pictures. She's from Queens so she didn't care what they thought.

It was the plastic balloon the boys had made got me to ask for a picture. Tillie quickly snapped while I marveled at an old toy I loved - a tube of plastic and a little straw - we had played with this toy for years until we found bars, boys and drinking. I hadn't seen it in years, not since video games replaced everything.

And as we headed into Chinatown, an old tenement with laundry hanging to dry peaked from behind a new condominium.

A Hasidic man, behind the wheel of a SUV filled with bouncy little boys asking me where I was from....

...telling me about his father growing up on Stanton, all the streets near by rolling off his tongue - Suffolk, Ridge, Allen, Norfolk.... all songs of place all our parents and grandparents knew.

As we crossed Allen into Chinatown and walked under the bridge my Gramma lived next to...

...I showed Tillie the spot where once beautiful lettering in the sidewalk said The Florence Theater. Every Friday night my father would stop us on our way home from Gramma's and point out how Florence had her own piece of sidewalk.

Later I read the theater had secret passageways to buildings in the neighborhood so the gangsters could avoid enemies. It now is an entrance to an underground mall.

The food markets....

The shoe stores.....

the familiar wooden steps....
And the store that used to be the Chinatown 5&10 that the parents of Tillie's friend owned.

And then at the end of East Broadway...
...we headed back into what life is now.

Photos by both Tillie and C.O.

Special thanks to Tripping With Marty

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Before The Witch The Wardrobe And The Lion...

... it was the Bench the Lobby and the Boy Next Door.

Dana sends her bench to a new home.

All of a sudden another door opened, not into the lobby where almost four decades of neighbors often gathered, but into another home, left behind many years ago when it was necessary to return to Her New York.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Song Remains The Same

Nicer, neater, way more modern and faster than past visits, Sunday afternoon was spent as quietly as if we had just parked ourselves in a suburban living room filled with soothing pictures and muted surfaces.

What hadn't changed was that choral piece floating over walls made of cloth, constant contrapuntal words from elderly patients, investigating doctors, dutiful daughters, tired nurses....

"Do you know where you are are you home Poppy, let her do that NO! I'm not signing that I'm going for a cigarette and then I was here a couple of years ago so when I stabbed myself I came back here fill this out was there pain pee into this cup you want to read my book what have we here the test showed that..."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Encore Sunday Memories: A CowGrrl Grows In Brooklyn

She is the rare bright moment in a long, bad memory.

Florence had just gotten sick and days and weeks were scrambled into bloody battles of panic and fear that felt like driving down a treacherous mountain road in a hurricane with your eyes closed.

Somehow in the midst of our lives shattering, I got out for a free evening. I remembered I wore something pretty and even took a pretty handbag. I was determined to reclaim some part of something called 'hope' or 'I do have a life' or anything but what I did day in and day out.

There was a barbecue/fundraiser for some radical literary magazine in the backyard of some one's 20-something street studio apartment. The old school of writers were there and many were old. I knew no one except one person and she was busy either panicking about the reading or honing in potential sources of nourishment both living and dead.

In my rush to wear different clothes than the ones I wore taking care of Florence, I had forgotten how much I hated parties and how painfully inept I was at speaking to strangers.

I grabbed a soda and out of the corner of my eye saw a woman so open and self-confident, she seriously had it going on. I thought "she's the coolest person here." But couldn't ever imagine getting to know her. She was, in friends-ville, out of my league.

I decided to be zen-like in the hell I suddenly found myself in. I sat down on a rock in the tiny backyard and pretended to just be. How or why she sat down next to me I don't know but sometimes the universe is kind.

It wasn't just the flattery that she knew my work or even liked it. It wasn't just the delight in finding a writer who could carry on a conversation about writing with enthusiasm and clarity. It wasn't just the surprise of hearing interesting ideas about cowboys and westerns and all that American stuff I was clueless about. It was the delight and joy of finding unexpected connection in a time nothing connected.

Years later, she had a barbecue in her own backyard. All the worst things that could have happened since that day have happened. But one or two really wonderful things have happened as well.

Meet Bucko.

Saturday, April 14, 2012



Save St. Mark's (Again)

Save St. Mark's (Again)

After tens of thousands of petition signatures, after protests, letters to Cooper Union, visits from Michael Moore, banner book-buying weekends, and celebrations of great success, St. Mark's Bookshop is back on the ropes.

Reports Publishers Weekly today:

"'We’re hanging in there, barely,' says co-owner Bob Contant. 'It’s a difficult April. Traffic is down. Without an increase, we can’t rebuild our inventory. We’re 20% short of where we need to be.' The store is on hold with a number of publishers, including Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Perseus, for relatively small sums between $500 and $2,5000. "It’s a catch 22," says Contant. 'We can’t buy more books. Up until this month we thought we were out of the woods.'

A few landlords have come forward offering the store lower rent, but moving would be costly and the store’s business credit cards are already maxed out. 'We would like to stay where we are, even at the high rent,' says Contant, 'unless an angel comes along.'

What would help, he says, is if everyone who signed the petition came in or called in and bought a book."

We've had two great "Buy A Book" weekends, and I encourage you all to visit the store again this weekend to buy some books--and keep buying books. But in this anti-book era, in this iZombie culture, what St. Mark's Bookshop needs most is a powerful new business plan--something that will sustain them in the long run, something that will keep attracting book buyers, day after day.

In Brooklyn, bookstores like Word and Greenlight are thriving in this e-book economy. What's their secret? I'm calling on them to step forward and offer their assistance and know-how to St. Mark's Books. I'm calling on the owners of St. Mark's Bookshop to follow their example and make the vital changes necessary to stay afloat. I'm calling on successful authors to show up with donations in hand.

We need St. Mark's Bookshop--now and for years to come. But it's going to take a village.

*UPDATE: #cashmob St. Mark's Bookshop, Sunday April 15, at 1:00 pm. Spend $15 on a book. Spend your tax refund! Then go drink at Bar 82 (136 2nd Ave.) Please re-tweet...spread the word.