Sunday, September 26, 2010

Saturday Evening in Dumbo: Walking Around at the Dumbo Arts Festival

Like the Brooklyn Book Festival or other gigantic events, the Dumbo Arts Festival is really too much for our age-impaired senses to take in at one time.

We have limited time this fall, what with running for Congress and teaching seven college classes (including a new class for us, Science Fiction) at four campuses six days a week, and so by Saturday afternoon when we get home from Brooklyn College, we're pretty wiped out. But we love walking around the streets of Dumbo at regular times, so we figured strolling around during the Arts Festival weekend would be fun.

We got to Dumbo around 6 p.m. via the J train from Williamsburg one stop to Essex/Delancey and the F train two stops to York Street, where we saw the folk singer Elizabeth Rogers, whose beautiful voice kept us listening through several songs from her new album, Breathe and Begin.

There were lots of people on the streets and not all the art was in the galleries, of course.

A big crowd was watching the amazing Lorenzo La Roc at this corner. We'd never seen an instrument like the clear violin he was playing.

At the foot of Main Street, by the entrance to the park, Moses Josiah was playing "My Way" on his mystical musical saw.

This band was playing "I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for Ice Cream" as we approached the corner of Main and Water Streets.

Inside the powerHouse Arena, there was a terrific juried photo exhibition, Capture Brooklyn, which had opened Thursday night.

There were about a hundred artists represented, with fantastic and diverse takes on Brooklyn.

Here, as at the galleries we went to later, there were crowds looking at the artworks.

We thought this was the best photograph of Marty Markowitz we'd ever seen.

Here is just a small sampling of the many photographs that captured Brooklyn in all its diversity and quirkiness:

It began getting too dark around 7 p.m. for us to take pics outside, and we just wanted to enjoy the festival anyway and not take any more of our crappy pics inside.

We went around enjoying for another hour or so before we finally headed to the High Street/Brooklyn Bridge subway stop to catch the A and G trains and the G shuttle bus from Bed-Stuy back home to Williamsburg. The Dumbo Arts Festival is just amazing, and we wish we'd had more time but are grateful we got to see a smidgen of it.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Richard Grayson's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp" published in THE UPPER EAST SIDE MAGAZINE

Richard Grayson's story, "I Saw Mommy Kissing Citicorp," has been published in the summer/fall 2010 issue of The Upper East Side Magazine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday Afternoon in Red Hook: The Red Hook Jazz Festival at the Urban Meadow

On this gorgeous summerlike afternoon, we were able to get our work done early enough to get over to Red Hook's Urban Meadow, the wonderful community garden at the corner of President and Van Brunt Streets, for the fun of the Red Hook Jazz Festival and some great performances by talented bands.

Because we couldn't stay more than ninety minutes, we missed some of the acts, but we got to enjoy the Latin-influenced jazz of the Willie Martinez La Familia Sextet, which features not only Willie Martinez on drums and vocals, but also an all-star crew from all over the planet: Misha Tsiganov on piano, Jennifer Vincent on bass, Cristián Rivera on percussion, Renato Thoms on percussion, J. Walter Hawkes on trombone, and Max Schweiger on baritone sax and flute.

They began with a dazzling composition by the late, great Hilton Ruiz and ended with a kind of daring reinterpretation of "Sunny," with everything in between like a fantastic cornucopia of styles in Latin-themed jazz of the past thirty years.

And we also got to hear the sparkling progressive jazz of the Dan Loomis Quartet, led by Dan Loomis on cello, with Jared Schonig on drums, Brian VanArsdale on tenor sax, and Nathan Heleine on alto sax,

collaborating on thoughtful improvisation and edgy versions of standards. They were easy on the ears on such a pleasant summery late afternoon but also challenging.

It's too bad we had a lot of work to do, and so we didn't get to hear Ideal Bread (playing the music of Steve Lacy), the Marco Cappelli Trio (who, like Willie Martinez, are local), the Ben Perowsky Trio, or Paul Kogut & Sheryl Bailey.

There was a large crowd, and it was hot and sunny enough to feel like midsummer rather than the start of autumn; in t-shirt and shorts, our preferred non-work attire after more than a quarter-century of Florida living, we were happy to keep the illusion going.

This was a real family-centered, kid-friendly event,

but there were people here of all ages, from the elderly to young childless couples and middle-aged singles. It was typically diverse for Brooklyn.

We were so impressed with this Piece Out, Arizona t-shirt designed by Miss Wit (Deborah Goldstein, who kindly allowed us to take a pic) that we used it for a poll on the website of our current campaign for an Arizona congressional seat.

One of our friends from Brooklyn College who long ago decamped for out-of-state suburban boredom expressed surprise that there was something like this in Red Hook, since the last time she was here was over 35 years ago, when she tutored a little girl in what was then a really rough place.

In our more than four years back in Brooklyn, we've come to love Red Hook, and today we didn't even get lost for a minute, getting the G train to Carroll Street and walking into the neighborhood across Union Street over the BQE. Every time we come to the Columbia Street waterfront district, we wonder why we don't get out here more often.

The Urban Meadow, next to Mother Cabrini Park, mostly a playground, is a beautiful community garden run completely by volunteers under the auspices of the New York City Parks Department Greenthumb Division.

It's hard to believe that such a pastoral space was once a garbage-strewn vacant lot covered with tall weeds and junk. They're currently involved in keeping as many of the wildflowers there as possible

while adding shrubs, small trees and hardy plants like daylilies, echinacea and black eyed susans, sedum and sage, grasses, etc. -- all with the aim of keeping a meadow-like garden that's not dominated by mugwort and ragweed.

We had to get going before 4:30 p.m. but we're grateful for this event to the folks at the Urban Meadow and the Red Hook Jazz Festival, whose leaders are the hard-working Mike Golub and Paul DeLucia.

It was a nice afternoon to walk across Union to Clinton and then up to Bergen to get the G train back to Williamsburg at the corner of Smith.

Early Sunday Morning in Union Square: Setting Up "Sukkah City" at Union Square Park

We got to Union Square at 7:45 a.m. today to see Sukkah City, an astonishing display of innovative, radical and imaginative takes on the sukkah unlike anything we've ever seen in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Borough Park or Miami Beach

- and way more interesting the sukkahs we've been in, like the one from our childhood at Flatbush Park Jewish Center in Mill Basin; the one from the 1970s outside Whitehead Hall at Brooklyn College; the one we saw in Fort Lauderdale outside the law school at Nova Southeastern University, where we were an administrator for years;

or the primitive but functional one we helped Rabbi Elena Kanter and students build in 2005, when we taught at Jess Schwartz Jewish Community High School on the grounds of Temple Chai in Phoenix.

Over 600 designers in 43 countries, entered the competition to create a new kind of sukkah, and setting up at Union Square this morning were eleven of the twelve finalists selected by a distinguished panel of judges. (One finalist, P.YGROS.C, by the Brooklyn architecture and design practice THEVERYMANY, fell apart trying to get here on the BQE.)

Some of the Sukkah City sukkahs were already in place when we got out of the L train, but others were still being constructed by the teams who designed them.

All the entrants had to conform to the requirements of the sukkah structure laid down in Jewish law (though as secular atheists, we're not sure if the rules are stricter the more frum you are).

In the brochure, the Sukkah City people wrote:
The sukkah invites us to think, to feel, and to remember. It asks us to confront the impermanence of our lives, to reconnect with an agricultural past, and to experience for a week what it means to live without a solid roof overhead.

So you don't put up a mezuzah on a sukkah doorpost, we're guessing. Maybe because there isn't a doorpost?

These sukkahs had names like "Star Cocoon," "In Tension," "Fractured Bubble," "Log," "Sukkah of the Signs," "Time/Timeless," "Shim Sukkah," "Blo Puff," "Repetition Meets Difference," "Gathering," and "Single Thread"

- all of them created by brilliant design firms or individuals. You can learn more at the Sukkah City website and vote for your favorite at New York Magazine, although you really need to see them in person because the representations don't do justice to the real things in Union Square, which will be gone soon.

In keeping with the themes of the sukkah, these structures will be auctioned off by Housing Works, with all proceeds supporting homelessness initatives in the city. Thanks to the folks who developed Sukkah City, and there's going to be an even bigger Sukkah City 2011, we hear.