Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday at the McCarren Park Pool: The Hold Steady

The boys are getting younger
And the bands are getting louder
And the new girls are coming up

We've just gotten back from the first McCarren Park Pool JellyNYC Sunday pool party of the season -- or at least from the last part of it. We'd attempted to get to the 2 p.m. opening, and the pool's just a few blocks up Lorimer Street from Dumbo Books HQ here in Williamsburg, but we got there on the dot and the pool hadn't opened and there was a long-ass line stretching up Lorimer to Driggs and halfway to Manhattan Avenue.

Dumbo Books don't wait on lines that long, especially when the sky's darkening fast and Zeus is starting to make himself known audibly, so we got on a B43 bus going down Graham Avenue to Metropolitan and got our aerobic workout for the week just dodging the afternoon deluge.

We headed back after yet another thunderstorm started to clear up around 5:45 p.m. and were approaching Richardson Street when we heard the announcement: "The Hold Steady!"

Since we'd enjoyed the group at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park last August (our brief take on that show was posted on our MySpace blog last year,) we were grateful we go there for their whole show although sorry we missed the earlier bands.

This is going to be the last year of the McCarren pool concerts, as the city is turning it back into a real-live pool. However, as we walked in, it was still drizzling and we noticed the southwest corner of the pool had a decent start since it was filled with about 2 inches of wet from the afternoon's substantial rains.

The pool was filled with the usual crowds -- since probably a tenth of the hipsters in attendance will either post about it on their blogs (see, e.g., Eric R. Danton's review) or throw up pics on Flickr (see, e.g., Jason Bergman), we'll confine our 57yo's perspective to stuff we know about, which ain't much.

Last year we wrote, "Craig Finn has more energy and idiosyncratic moves than just about any musician I've seen lately." He still does. From his pogo-stick jumping to his hand gestures, which always suggest that he's just remembered ten things he's gotta do immediately but can't figure out which to start with, Finn is a musical dynamo, and he's got great backup from his accomplished mates Tad Kubler, Franz Nicolay, Galen Polivka and Bobby Drake.

At the gate was a notice that the event was being taped for a documentary film so we smiled a lot. We probably would have anyway.

We walked around the pool and inside it, getting as close as we could without having to become a Beltone customer tomorrow. It was the same great scene as it's been for the last two years with the same kind of crowd. (As we crossed Bayard Street on our way over, we couldn't avoid noting that across Lorimer Street on the corner of Karl Fischer Row, some non-pool-party people had set up a speaker blasting music with Spanish lyrics. Not all of Williamsburg is represented at the pool.)

Some observations, take them for what they're worth (about ten Zimbabwean dollars): More cops this year, maybe. Less body art, maybe, but more of it is faux-amateurish, like stick figures and scrawled text. More food choices for us vegetarians and vegans, thanks to Two Boots, the same folks who cater Celebrate Brooklyn; if we're not mistaken, there was another outfit supplying fast food for carnivores the last few years. We never before saw heterosexual young couples making out by stepping on each other's feet repeatedly. And was Fuze so much in evidence before today?

Also, some middle-aged easy-to-spot tourists with their foreign kids were taking pictures and talking an indecipherable non-Indo-European language. Did the McCarren pool parties get mentioned in some trendy Old World guidebook? Were they Finns thinking the Hold Steady's lead singer was a countryman?

But some pool stuff was the same in '08. The shirtless headband boys were playing dodgeball on the southside; members of the swimsuit set were taking a flying leap into the waterslide on the northside by the VIP section just south of the stage. The cerulean Bud Light drinkie plastic bracelets looked familiar, as did some audience members' ironic T-shirts (heavy on industrial companies this time out).

The Hold Steady always (at least the two times I've seen them) put on a good show. As the Boston Herald wrote yesterday:
What makes Hold Steady leader Craig Finn so fascinating is that he’s both the Boss and the geek. Watching the 36-year-old careen violently around the stage at a packed Paradise on Thursday at a free show sponsored by and a beer company was like witnessing Screech turn in a pitch-perfect imitation of Joe Strummer.

It’s nuts to see. But for Hold Steady fans, it’s becoming less and less surprising.

For the past five years, the Hold Steady has been putting the finishing touches on its cocktail of bombastic, tight “Born to Run” rock and Johnny Thunder’s sloppy “Born Too Loose” punk.

We loved every minute until the band walked offstage at 6:53 p.m.

They came back for the encore four minutes later. Eager to avoid the caravan to the L train, after two songs we headed out under the archway, avoiding the puddles, thinking we're “gonna walk around and drink some more” (iced tea, in our case).

As we walked home down Lorimer Street (plug #3), we were just ahead of an all-in-black couple, the dissatisfied female of which went on a really loud rampage about the concert and we were subjected to a tirade of
What the fuck was that for three hours...The same three fucking chords...hasn't progressed since fucking Elvis...ooh, everyone saying, I'm sooo least Morrisey's something to say, I may not agree with him, but he's got something to say...fuckit, this shit is the state of fucking rock and roll?

Us? We didn't look back.

Like the man (Mr. Finn) says, we gotta stay positive. Isn't life wonderful!

Saturday Night at the Prospect Park Bandshell: Celebrate Brooklyn Presents The Crooklyn Dodgers Reunion!

It was raining very hard at 6 p.m. last evening, and things didn't look good as we finished our Boca burger and batata coreano, intending to leave Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg for the next hour's starting time at the Prospect Park Bandshell for Celebrate Brooklyn's presentation of The Crooklyn Dodgers Reunion.

By 6:30 p.m., things had brightened up a bit and we made our way to the park to represent BK's old white people at what sounded like it was going to be a history-making night in the annals of Brooklyn hip-hop with the return of the classic super-group.

As Wikipedia notes,
They appeared in three separate incarnations since 1994. The first two incarnations recorded for the soundtracks for Spike Lee films, Crooklyn and Clockers, respectively. The theme connecting The Crooklyn Dodgers songs, aside from the Spike Lee films which they were made for, is the topic matter, which tends to comment on the state of affairs in and around urban New York, as well as other issues affecting everyday life; as Jeru spouses "Chips that power nuclear bombs power my Sega."

Probably due to the heavy rain, the crowd wasn't big at the start of the night, but it really grew. We managed to find a close seat, thanks to the tiny blonde 7-year-old girl who took it upon herself to sponge off the water from all the folding chairs in our area.

It was an incredible show, hosted by Buckhshot and Special Ed, who showed off some of their own freestyling skills. The evening was a collage-montage of Brooklyn hip-hop, with continual shout-outs to the neighborhoods: "Flatbush!" "Crown Heights!" "Canarsie!" (When the incredibly talented Chip Fu yelled out "East 56th Street between Church & Snyder!" we shouted back, since we spent our first 28 years on East 54th between Snyder & Tilden and East 56th between O & Fillmore.)

The classic original veteran Masta Ace came on with his group eMC featuring amazing talent - Wordsworth, Punchline & Stricklin - with their rollicking signature opening. It just got better from there. As the crowds grew, arms waved, fists pumped, everyone swayed, and to us, the event seemed both Dionysian and intimate, as when Wordsworth jumped off the stage and began rapping in the crowd.

It was like being at a greatest Brooklyn house party ever. O.C., after doing some amazing stuff, sat down at the edge of the stage and began to talk to the borough's young rappers just coming up about the perils of artistic compromise and hypocrisy. "The last of my kind," O.C. didn't name names, but said "some people ain't doin' what they supposed to." Around me, audience members did name the names of some stars he was referring to.

The whole evening was curated by Danny Castro and Anthony Marshall, creators of the pioneering they-said-it-couldn't-be-done open-mic night Lyricist Lounge, who deserve much credit for putting together this defining event.

And props to their majesties DJ Premier and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, whose historic work with A Tribe Called Quest brightened our days back in the day (and made early morning workouts bearable).

The night featured great freestyling and amazing rapping, some of it BK-centric. "Why do we gotta live in this environment?/Your grandpa done drank up his retirement" reminded us that we were really, really tired and maybe the second-oldest human we spotted in the by-now humongous (we're bad at estimates, everyone who took our 30,000 at the Met Opera seriously!) peaced-out crowd. Anyway, it would have taken a nation of millions to hold us vertical for very much longer.

Blaming our fatigue on not old age but severe jet lag (we were campaigning in Arizona all week), we left a bit after 9 p.m. for the return trip home (the F was running funny, taking over the G route to Queens, causing confusion but making this a one-train trip back to the Burg), so we missed most of the show after intermission: Chubb Rock, the incredible Jeru the Damaja, etc.

But we've got The F$%K it List's great coverage:
We had missed a few performances but none that I really cared about. O.C was performing when we got there and I remembered his one song and that was nice background music to set up the chairs and get the chicken and fruit out. Special Ed and Buck shot were the Masters of Ceremony.

* Next up DJ. Premiere, he did his thang on the one and twos and he made sure the music was bumping (gently reminding the folks that Hip-Hop was to be played loudly). His set went on for a few minutes and ended with a too long speech about loving ones self! A good speech just too long.

* Chubb Rock RIPPED the stage up! He played all the old reggae joints and did the song from my soundtrack "Just the Two of us" (by this time CJ was sleep in the stroller) and I danced like I was in my living room alone. Then he said something about wearing out his welcome and the crowd booed. So he asked "how could I have worn out my welcome and not have done hip-hop?" Now old school hip hop and of course the joint that made him famous "Treat me right". Chubb let it be known at the end of his set that he never said the B word once, and so in his eyes those words just seem unnecessary. PREACH CHUBB!

* Jeru the Damager was next, to which I promptly planted my butt in the chair. I only really remembered two of his songs and I was never that big of a fan. Besides the cursing he had a great show and Brooklyn responded. He also bought out Sadat X from Brand Nubians, who did his verse from "Punks jump" Would have preferred "Slow down" but I guess I can see that when I go see them next week.

* Special Ed decided that he wasn't going to let everyone else shine and did "I got it made" Mrs M. Ramirez jumped out of her seat so fast and started dancing. My little niece turned to me at one point during my break it down break it down dance and rhyme the she didn't know any of these songs but she was having fun. I told her well now she is a real hip-hop head and can brag to all her friends.

* Not to be outdone, Buckshot shorty came out and rocked the mic, before all of the Dodgers came back on the stage to sing that's right "Crooklyn Dodgers" from Crooklyn and "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers" from Clockers.

This show was so worth my whitney houston frizzy head (That I promptly washed and blew out at 12am when I got home).I danced, and laughed with my sister, bond with my fellow brooklynites and true fans of hip-hop. But more importantly I was able to share with another generation of my family the goodness that hip-hop use to be and why I love it so!

And here's Kevin's report:
One highlight of this evening was going out with a post-party crew of stoners (Jon Good, Jesse, other Jesse, and Daniela) to dew-damp Prospect Park to catch the tail end of a fucking huge (and completely free) hip-hop concert, featuring the reunion of a moderately successful '90s rap group called the Crooklyn Dodgers. I usually go to small underground shows, so this enormous outdoor bandshell venue, with thousands of screaming fans, backup dancers, stage lighting, the whole shebang. And the artists, though icons of the hip-hop underground, were more professional than anyone else I've ever heard. That's the great thing about Brooklyn--a local concert, with local artists celebrating the history and culture of the neighborhood, is going to have world-class talent. Some of the lyrics were a little blingy and whut-whut for my tastes, but for the most part the rhymes were tight, the beats were solid, and the Scene was Real. And their lyrical talent was astounding. The distinction between rap and poetry is usually pretty controversial but there is no questioning that what I saw and heard tonight was poetry. These guys know their neighborhood, they know their culture, and they know life in Crown Heights, and they managed to tap that zeitgeist like a keg of ass.

Isn't life wonderful!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Richard Grayson's "WHO WILL KISS THE PIG?: Sex Stories for Teens" now available on Amazon


Dumbo Books is happy to announce that Richard Grayson's Who Will Kiss the Pig?: Sex Stories for Teens is now available on Amazon.

It is 160 pages, 8.6 ounces, 9 x 6 x 0.4 inches and contains versions of some stories previously published by webzines, such as:

"This Person Is Already Your Friend" (3:AM Magazine);

"Sex Stories for Teens" (retitled from The Angler version);

"Life With Libby" (Blithe House Quarterly);

"Albertson's Pulls Out of New Orleans" (Spillway Review);

"Talking to a Stranger" (retitled from Fiction Warehouse version)

"Hey Jude" (Pindeldyboz);

"My Seventies Stories" (Storyglossia);

"Who Will Kiss the Pig?" (retitled from Six Little Things version);

"The Life of Katz" (High Contrast)

"Rampant Burping" (Juked);

and other swell teen sex stories published online at other webzines, in anthologies such as The Avery Anthology, and in literary magazines such as Bellingham Review, Brooklyn Literary Review, California Quarterly and Washington Review and Hanging Loose.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday at Danny Simmons' Corridor Gallery: Artist Reception & Opening for POSITIVITY, Curated by Jamel Shabazz

Late this afternoon we left Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg, taking the very reliable weekend G train to Clinton Hill for the opening reception of POSITIVITY, a collective photography exhibition curated by Jamel Shabazz at Danny Simmons' Corridor Gallery.

A few years ago, the gallery opened in the buff-colored Grand Avenue brick carriage house of owner Danny Simmons, the ubiquitous abstract-expressionist painter, Def Poetry Jam producer, art collector, author, and philanthropist.

(His little brothers are no slouches, either: world-famous hip-hop impressario Russell Simmons and rapper Joseph - "Rev Run" of Run DMC - Simmons.)
(Alessandro Simonetti, Five Boros)

The POSITIVITY exhibition, which is on view till July 26, is curated by documentary photographer Jamel Shabazz, a Brooklyn native who first picked up a camera at 15 and now is widely known for his pioneering documentation of New York’s street culture. In the PR stuff for this, Jamel explains:
Art and photography are universal languages that transcends race, color, and creed. POSITIVITY is...created for the purpose of bringing young photographers together from diverse backgrounds and cultures. This project allows them to share their interpretation of POSITIVITY, something we so urgently need... Historically, art has been used to address social activism and bring about awareness.

There was a sizable crowd on the street in front of the gallery, and it was pretty much an overflow crowd all the time we were there. When Jamel cried out, "Show time!" and we all gathered into the main gallery space, it was kind of hot, but we were all glad to stick it out to give him, Danny and the photographers props for a really resonant collection of work.
(Atif Ateeq)

Jamel had the artists stand up in front of the crowd, introduce them, and also introduced Danny -- who seemed shy about coming up and who Jamel referred to as one of his mentors, inspiring him to become a mentor too. (Last year in Toronto, Jamel founded Project Positivity, a community based project designed to teach documentary photography to what we Brooklyn natives call ute.

Among those photographers in attendance were Sara Shamsavari, who came all the way from her home in London for the opening, and Che Kothari, who took the exhibition's fantastic signature photograph, Telling the Children the Truth - Ziggy Marley, top. Most of the artists are emerging or midlevel, with some exhibiting their works for the very first time.
(Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Trifecta)

For the past couple of years, we've been teaching photography students on Wednesday morning at the fabulous School of Visual Arts, so we feel well-qualified to review a photography exhibit. Um, actually, we teach Literature and Writing I and II, so we'd be on firmer ground evaluating the artists' critical essays on Candide and Beowulf...

So we'll just say we were really impressed with all of the works shown and we'll single out just a few of the great photographers with some selections of their work posted here (ones we could find online; other standouts include Nsenga Knight's "As the Veil Turns" series about black Islamic women, Natasha Daniels' photos of Indian Dalits, Kalalea's wedding photographs and Corren Conway's "We Are Sean Bell") to avoid a really long-ass blog post. (One of the talented artists, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, has posted some pics of the reception at Flickr.)

You've got to see POSITIVITY for yourself, and we plan to come back. It's an upbeat exhibit and of course it really did help us get through the rest of the day.
(Akintola Hanif)

Por ejemplo, we made it to the Classon Avenue subway station when the huge thuderstorm was just starting, before any rain had fallen, and thinking positively, we knew our reliable weekend G train would take almost an hour to come and take us the five stops back to Williamsburg so that by the time we emerged from underground, inshallah, the downpour would be over and the sun would be shining again.

Positivity works! Isn't life wonderful!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Saturday Afternoon at the After The Jump Festival: papercranes, Alex and the Horribles, The Bloodsugars, Lissy Trullie, Dinowalrus, etc. etc.

We had a great time this afternoon and are grateful for After The Jump. Isn't life wonderful!
After an early lunch today, we walked over to the After The Jump Festival, which all day was featuring -- for free -- about ten zillion bands out on the closed-off North 6th Street between Wythe & The Edge, uh, we mean Kent Avenue. Two stages were set up in Galapagos (Williamsburg will miss it, we who've performed there will miss it, but the Dumbo space is incredible), one stage in the Music Hall of Williamsburg (some of the climactic scenes in the title story of our And To Think That He Kissed Him on Lorimer Street, versions of which appear here and here, take place at a punk show at Northsix, the Music Hall's former incarnation), and one stage out in the street.

Although we know about as much about indie bands as we do about opera or any other genre of music (notwithstanding our old story from the 2000 collection The Silicon Valley Diet, "Boys Club," about the queercore scene), we went from one venue to another, seeing some incredibly good bands. Among them:

Outside, we first saw papercranes, a band from Gainesville whose vocalist, Rain Phoenix, was a little girl when we last saw her at some alt-music event during our years as a UF law student and staff attorney in Hogtown. The band plays some really sweet, subdued, sophisticated pop-rock. They're now in New York a lot and you should try to catch their nuanced, translucent sound.

Alex and the Horribles, a quintet of Rutherford, NJ, high schoolers whose influences range from The Pixies and Nirvana to Weezer and The Ramones, played early at the Music Hall to a sparse crowd. They deserved a bigger audience, as we were very impressed with "Eskimo Girl" and some of their other songs. Alex, the vocalist, is poised and earnest without being pretentious, and the others know what they're doing. At home, we listened to the CD they gave us and we didn't have second thoughts.

Performing on the street stage, Lissy Trullie was truly outstanding. Lead vocalist Lissy Trullie, with her celebrated boyish and pixieish swagger, and stunning bassist Harley Viera-Newton ("Marry me, Harley!" and "I love you!" were cries from people standing near me) aren't just pretty faces. The band backs up any hype with jewels like "Self-Taught Learner," and the drummer, Josh, is one of the best we've seen lately. Next to us a toddler in diapers was dancing with his toy truck. We were really sorry when their set ended and hope to see them again.

At Galapagos' main room, we liked what we saw of The Bloodsugars, a sweet but not too sweet Brooklyn synth-pop/garage-rock band that plays stuff that's both intelligent and danceable, bouncy and soulful. We liked their "Breakfast on the BQE" an awful lot: Jason Rabinowitz's Costelloesque vocals are flawless, eerie and haunting. We came in somewhat late on their set and would have liked to hear it all.

Dinowalrus, another smart local Brooklyn band, performed at the Music Hall, and they showed off an incredible range in their instrumentation. A drum-and-drone trio that wickedly employs self-sustaining electronic devices like the optical theremin and G-d knows what else they have up there to expand their sound, Dinowalrus' improvisational-sounding riffs kept us curious waiting for what was coming next.

After the Jump is the joint effort of 20 New York City music bloggers whose sites attract over one million readers a week. Founded last year in support of underfunded city school music programs, After the Jump has planned and staged concerts in association with the massive South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin and the CMJ Music Marathon here in New York City as well as the all day and night festival last summer in Brooklyn. Today's events are a terrific reprise of that event.

Those of us born in the Truman administration got the benefit of a superb public-school music education (Miss Ferrara at P.S. 203, Mrs. Sanders at J.H.S. 285, and a Midwood High School teacher who told us about this kid Bob Dylan) that's been decimated in recent years. You can support music education in city schools by checking out After The Jump and going to this evening's benefit show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg, starting at 7:30 p.m. and featuring Health, Titus Andronicus, Pattern is Movement, Mixel Pixel and lots more.

We had a great time this afternoon and are grateful for After The Jump. Isn't life wonderful!
Health performing "Crimewave" at After the Jump (courtesy Baeble Music)

Friday Night at Prospect Park: The Metropolitan Opera with Angela Gheorghiu & Roberto Alagna

We left Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg well after 7 p.m. last night and so were a little worried about getting to the Met's only summer concert in the park this year, with the magnificent Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna. The Times had suggested the crowd might be over 100,000. But the G and F trains got us to Bartel Pritchard Square and the park entrance by 7:50 p.m. with a whole lot of other folks. Police were everywhere from the subway platform to every few feet in the park. As we got to the meadow, we could hear the bombastic voice of our friend Borough President Marty Markowitz, and we knew he'd speak long enough for us to find a place to put down our blanket before the music started.

Back in the 1970s, when we lived in our childhood home, we attended the summer Met performances at nearby Marine Park. Our friends the literary agent Linda Konner and the sculptor David Devrishian would arrive with a picnic basket filled with Zabar's goodies. It was in our old neighborhood that we learned about opera from Joe the barber on Avenue O and East 55th Street, where we got our Beatles haircuts and listened to Puccini, Verdi and Rossetti. We didn't find out opera was a gay thing till much later. Still, our knowledge of opera is pretty limited; we just know what we like.

Anyway, a friend estimated the crowd at 30,000, far from what was expected, though we don't know how he reckoned this. Still, lots of people there: kids running around, old people in wheelchairs, young couples and friends with munchies and wine, at least one guy selling marijuana, and a number of women who resembled Ruth Messinger. It was a beautiful night, and summer had just begun at 7:59 p.m. We could really see only on the two giant video screens but we could make out people onstage.

Conductor Ion Marin and the orchestra began the concert with the overture to Verdi's La Forza Del Destino, and then the married team of soprano Angela Gheorghiu and tenor Roberto Alagna came out and did their magic. We knew a couple of the pieces they sang, individually and together, but mostly they were unfamiliar to us barbarians. Yet they were all beautiful, especially for us Angela Gheorghiu's rendition of that desperate aria from Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Roberto Algana doing an aria from his brother David Alagna's Le Dernier Jour d'un Condamné. The Met's Chorus sang that thing from Verdi's Il Trovatore that we know from the Marx Brothers movie. And in the encore we got "O Sole Mio" plus "It's Now Or Never"! And lots, lots more good music. The stars seemed to enjoy the evening, and each other, a great deal.

We and thousands of others left Prospect Park in a great mood. Isn't life wonderful!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iris Owens, RIP

We are sorry to hear about the death of the brilliant novelist Iris Owens, who in After Claude (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1973) created a wonderfully lively voice and a book, given to us for our graduation from Brooklyn College, that we will always remember fondly.

As Eleanor Rackow Widmer wrote in her review in Arts in Society (Spring/Summer 1974):
The authenticity of [the protagonist] Harriet's character and her curious plight as a victim of cultural shock after a five year sojourn in Paris, strikes the reader as at least partially autobiographical. But to characterize After Claude as the inevitable lightly veiled autobiography of a "first" novel is to deny Ms. Owens her due both as a savagely accurate reporter of the current Greenwich Village-Chelsea Hotel scene, and as a gallow humorist of major order. It is not so much what happens in After Claude as the way it is said, with biting verve and accuracy for New Yorkese that Mary McCarthy and her reliance on "facts" would well envy.

In the May 27, 1973 issue of The New York Times Book Review, Leonard Michaels wrote:
After Claude is a very funny book saved from off-putting vulgarity by an exhilirating talent and intelligence. It is written with high-quality logical English, flexible enough to mimic the idiom of idiots, even to relax into triteness, without bringing the author's power of mind or feeling in doubt...

I haven't read a more wittily offensive serious novel recently...

Four days later, Anatole Broyard wrote in the daily New York Times wrote about the novel's protagonist, Harriet:
The antihero has been hanging around in fiction for quite a while, but the antiheroine is just now making her is impossible to exaggerate the importance of this discovery.

Miss Owens has created a new kind of monster for your compassion. And isn't that, after all, one of the classical functions of contemporary fiction?

Iris Owens made us laugh. A lot. She will be missed.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday Evening at Desert Island: Johnny Ryan & Angry Youth Comix

This evening, on our way home to Dumbo Books HQ from dinner in Astoria, we got out of the G train at Metropolitan Avenue and stopped by Desert Island, our friendly neighborhood comic book store, to catch part of the party for the brilliant Johnny Ryan, who was signing copies of his newest Fantagraphics Books release of Angry Youth Comix #14.

We first discovered Johnny when giving a reading at Chicago's Quimby's Bookstore almost exactly seven years ago, when we were publicizing the Red Hen Press-published The Silicon Valley Diet. As a honorarium, we were given a $20 gift coupon, which we used to purchase . It had a wonderful story featuring a disgusting protagonist, Loady McGee, whose even more disgusting roommate, Sinus O'Gynus, invents many unneeded devices, such as an electronic Jew-detector.

However, we left our copy at the Ragdale Foundation's library for future artists, writers and composers at that artist's colony to enjoy, and in our mind the title somehow morphed to Angry Teen Comics. So we made a boo-boo when we published the last line of the preface to Dumbo Books' WRITE-IN: Diary of a Congressional Candidate in Florida' Fourth Congressional District.

If you wish to see our error in the WRITE-IN preface, a version of it is here.

Anyway, we were too embarrassed to mention this to Johnny Ryan or to tell him tonight that we didn't even remember the name. We will now. He's a talented artist and writer, and Desert Island has been a wonderful addition to our neighborhood for the crowd at the party tonight. They were all very nice, very hip and the most unatheletic group of people we've seen in a long time. Isn't life wonderful!

Thursday Evening in Flatbush: Brooklyn's Fifth Annual Children of Abraham Peace Walk

We were a bit tardy yesterday for the 6 p.m. start of Brooklyn's Fifth Annual Children of Abraham Peace Walk, which got started at the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church on the corner of Church and Flatbush Avenues, on whose steps we used to hang out as junior high students (next door was a tiny bookstore, The Bookworm, where we got out under-a-dollar paperbacks of Franny and Zooey, God Bless You Mr. Rosewater and The Crying of Lot 49). Blame the B48 and B41 buses for the long trip from Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg.

We hadn't been inside the church since about 1968, when we attended one Sunday service as our 17-year-old self decided to explore the borough's various congregations before choosing atheism. Throughout the evening the crowd on the Children of Abraham Peace Walk ranged from about 150 to 200. We'd missed the words of welcome from Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, the much-admired Debbie Almontaser, Carol Horowitz and Rev. Tom Martinez, and found ourselves listening to Dr. Kurt Johnson, scientist and co-founder of the Coalition for One Voice, who discussed a recent meeting with the Dalai Lama and his call for the biggest movement in world history, to go beyond interfaith cooperation to achieve "the essence of religious experience, love."

The ActorCor Chorus, "New York's only choir of 100% actors" (maybe some are 95%?), sang prayers in English, Hebrew and Arabic, and then the church's pastor gave a brief history of the church. Built in 1796, it is the successor to a church that was
built in 1702 and which in turn is successor to a church that was built in 1654 by special order of Gov. Peter Stuyvesant, back when Flatbush was farms and wilderness.

George Washington marched by just before the Battle of Brooklyn (he should have stopped in to pray and maybe would have done better). The cemetery in the back is one of the area's oldest. We also learned about the history of the Dutch Reformed Church in general and its successor church. Today the congregation are mostly of West Indian and West African descent and they stopped holding services in Dutch about a zillion years ago.

After acknowledging the help of Deputy Inspector Ralph Monteforte, Commanding Officer of the 70th Precinct, Detective Nasser and other members of the NYPD, the walk began after we lined up, water bottles and lime-colored flyers in hand, behind a large banner held up by half a dozen little kids. The banner had the Children of Abraham Peace Walk logo with three colorful doves, "peace" written on each in Hebrew, Arabic and Latin (English on the bottom of the banner).

We marched on the south side of Church Avenue west, past the great West Indian fruit stores and other emporiums and the Brighton line Q/B station (M/D in our youth). The last time we marched for peace by the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church was on October 15, 1969, for the Vietnam Moratorium.

As we walked, an evangelical truck slowly made its way following us. We assume it was an uninvited guest, since its calypso music was loudly proselytizing. At Temple Beth Emeth on the corner of Marlborough Road at the start of Prospect Park South's Victorian homes, all of us sat in the pews and listened to a talented singer and guitarist and heard a talk from Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger, a member of the congregation on the history of Beth Emeth.

The synagogue got started in 1911 and moved to the present location three years later; in the 1990s, after many of the area's Jewish residents had moved (along with us) to what Mr. Schweiger called "that new New York City suburb, South Florida," Beth Emeth merged with two other nearby Reform temples and now has about 100 families and a very long official name.

As in the church, a rabbi explained the basics of the congregation's mode of worship. Interestingly, the churchlike stained glass panels featuring Moses and David are not traditionally Jewish practice, but they did serve as backdrops to episodes of such TV shows as "Law and Order" and Richard Dreyfuss's short-lived "Education of Max Bedford."

Behind a police officer and the kids with the banner, we all marched south the one block of Marlborough Road (some purple-robed Buddhist monks waved to us from their house) and west on Albemarle Road to the Albanian American Islamic Center at the corner of Rugby Road.

Taking off our shoes and leaving them on the porch, we all went inside to the mosque, where we learned that the Albanian American Islamic Center started in 1963 and bought the house here in 1971. Naji Almontaser introduced an imam who discussed some of the basics of Muslim worship and the way in which Islam mixes faith with practice in dealing with others. He also discussed Islam as a global religion, with the Albanian Americans being of European descent while others are not only Arab but African, South Asian, East Asian and people all over the globe.

(Photo courtesy of Kate Anne's Flickr photostream of the Children of Abraham Walk)

Thanks were given to many people who worked on the march, including other clergy members of all three faiths, as well as Mohammad Ravi, director of the Council of People's Organizations (COPO), which has done such good work since 9/11 in the community here, especially with the businesses on what the New York Times called Brooklyn's "highway of tolerance," Coney Island Avenue.

After assembling on the porch for some delicious food and thanking everyone for the Peace Walk, we walked on Albemarle Road toward Coney Island Avenue, passing the home and office of our friendly neighborhood child psychiatrist from the mid-1960s, Dr. Abbott A. Lippman, M.D., F.A.C.P., whose faded sign is still up

on the office attached to the once-grand dwelling that housed his collections of African art and rare orchids. For some reason, the site of our adolescent encounters with Freud is in horrendous state of disrepair.

We know the rabbi talked about tikkun olam - "repairing the world" - but someone's fixing up 929 Albemarle Road would be a good start.

However, as we made out way to the F train, we were really glad we went on the night's Children of Abraham Peace Walk. Isn't life wonderful!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summer in Brooklyn

Dumbo Books author Richard Grayson has a new blog, Summer in Brooklyn.

Monday, June 2, 2008