Saturday, January 29, 2011

Early Saturday Afternoon in Bushwick: Start of Idiotarod 2011 on Grattan Street

We thought we came across the end of the 2011 Idiotarod around noon today in Bushwick but later learned it was actually the beginning. We were walking down Bogart Street to the L train when we saw what seemed to be a snowball fight between contestants in the shopping cart race on either side of Grattan Street.

People were being told not to go into the gutter (street for non-native New Yorkers), which hadn't at all been plowed.

The south side of Grattan Street seemed to be lobbing most of the snowballs over to the north side.

The race's start and route are always mysterious. We got a better look four years ago, when we were near McCarren Park in Greenpoint.

Last year's race was, according to Carts of Brooklyn, supposed to start at Socrates Sculpture Park, but apparently this year everyone knew it would be in Brooklyn. As our friend Aaron Short wrote in The Brooklyn Paper, the Idiotarod is "the famed third jewel of the hipster Triple Crown (after SantaCon and the No Pants Subway Ride)."

We had business in Fort Greene this morning and when we got home at 11:40 a.m., we read on Gothamist that the race was starting in Maria Hernandez Park.

We took the L train to Montrose Street and moseyed about and had already given up when we heard the noise.

Obviously there are non-crappy actual race pics elsewhere. Por ejemplo, this Yfrog pic by esbcivic of a team psyched up for battle at Maria Hernandez Park

or this great photo by Gemini_Scorpio at Twitpic.

All we could get was a shot of one of the Team Monster Mash team looking lonely in the snow.

And this weird pic looks like a female cosmonaut is about to be menaced by something other than a snowball. We heard someone ask, "How are you?" and another person answer, "Drunk."

Sorry, we're not a real photographer! We teach them at the fabulous School of Visual Arts, but only things like Antigone, The Inferno and Twelfth Night.

And we're sure there'll be more coming from the official Idiotarod 2011 press photographers. Check out the great Anna Fischer.

All we saw was what we first thought the end of the route, with the what we assumed was the after-party at the Pine Box Rock Shop about to begin. We were too cold and too old for this, so we returned to Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg. Only later did we realize that we saw in fact not the ending, but the start of the race, which went on to Greenpoint (as we assumed it would -- they were just ten times slower than we would have believed).

So the Pine Box Rock Shop was the first check-in point, and the after-party was at Coco666 around 4 p.m. Still, it was a colorful enough part of the race in disgustingly snow-ridden Brooklyn for us to enjoy.

Like we said, this winter will happily be our last in Brooklyn. Next year, we'll be a sexagenarian enjoying watching the Phoenix Idiotarod (scheduled this year for next Saturday) in 70 degree warmth amidst the palm trees.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Morning in Williamsburg: Conselyea Street After the Latest Snowstorm

This will be our last winter in New York. The last five winters have been hard for someone who spent the previous twenty-six winters in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, Gainesville (go Gators), Phoenix or Silicon Valley -- but last one was really hard and this one has been worse. Here's Conselyea Street after our latest snowstorm. We're posting these pics mainly as a reminder to ourselves that we will not be missing Brooklyn come next January when we're living in a warm, snow-free place -- like our wonderful former neighbors two houses down.

No more shoveling for us after March! (Unless April is really, really weird.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

"BREAD LOAF DIARY: The 1977 Writers Conference" by Richard Grayson now available at Amazon Kindle store

Richard Grayson's BREAD LOAF DIARY: The 1977 Writers Conference is now available at Amazon's Kindle Store for 99¢ from its publisher, Art Pants Company.

Here is the promo material for the 41-page $5.99 paperback edition from Superstition Mountain Press:
In 1977, Richard Grayson, an aspiring writer from Brooklyn who had published a few stories in little magazines, got a scholarship to the venerable Bread Loaf Writers Conference in Middlebury, Vermont.

That year's staff included Toni Morrison, who read from her then-forthcoming Song of Solomon; John Irving, who read from his manuscript for the unpublished World According to Garp; John Gardner, celebrated for his philosophical novels and his advocacy of "moral fiction"; the poets Maxine Kumin, William Meredith and Marvin Bell; Geoffrey Wolfe, unveiling his forthcoming Duke of Deception; a young Tim O'Brien; the comic, sardonic novelist Stanley Elkin; the warmly sympathetic Hilma Wolitzer; and others.

Grayson's fellow attendees included a number of writers who would go on to fame, such as Ron Carlson and Leslea Newman, and many who probably published nothing. Somewhere in the middle, Grayson here records his observations and thoughts in the daily diary entries he's been writing for over forty years.

BREAD LOAF DIARY originally appeared online at Edward Champion's Reluctant Habits and was previously collected in Sixteen Attempts to Justify My Existence.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

East Flatbush University Press publishes Joseph Conrad's THE NICE GUY OF THE "NARCISSUS" in print edition and as ebook available at Amazon Kindle

East Flatbush University Press is proud to announce the simultaneous publication as a print edition and as an ebook at the Amazon Kindle Store a classroom-friendly version of Joseph Conrad's classic novella THE NICE GUY OF THE "NARCISSUS." The Kindle ebook is available for 99 cents.

Edited by Richard Grayson, who previously produced the acclaimed THE HIPSTER HUCKLEBERRY FINN by Mark Twain and THE FASHIONISTA MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare, this new book is yet another revised and updated text of a venerable work of literature, only without offensive racial and religious slurs.

As the description for the $9.99 print version notes,
At one time, this brilliant novella was one of Joseph Conrad's most frequently read books. However, due to its unfortunate title, it has been unfairly shunned in classrooms for decades. Now, thanks to editor Richard Grayson and East Flatbush University Press, we have a new, non-offensive edition of Conrad's thought-provoking "tale of the sea" that is totally student-friendly. Every instance of the N-word has been scrubbed from the text and replaced with "nice guy" - which is just what West Indian sailor James Wait really is. A classic work of literature is now available for a new generation!

Joseph Conrad's THE NICE GUY OF THE "NARCISSUS" is also available as a free download at Lulu.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Morning in Downtown Brooklyn: Free Shuttle Bus MTA Sightseeing Tour for F/G Train Riders from MetroTech to Kensington

Every winter, the MTA offers G train riders free sightseeing tours of Brooklyn and sometimes Queens on weekends. Last year we greatly enjoyed trips from downtown Brooklyn through Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy and Williamsburg, and on another day, a trip from Williamsburg through Greenpoint to Long Island City and the Queensboro (Ed Koch) Bridge. This morning we again went on one of these shuttle bus tours that start outside the Jay Street-MetroTech subway station in downtown Brooklyn.

These G train shuttle bus tours have become so popular that they were expanded this weekend to include riders of the F and R trains, which also were not running normally. With a panoply of various tours offered outside, and with limited time, we opted for the nonstop trip to Kensington's Church Avenue subway station with great views of New York Harbor and the skyline.

The R train shuttle buses were elsewhere (only a month ago did the Lawrence Street R stop join the A/C/F Jay Street-Boro Hall stop to become the Jay Street-MetroTech stop with free transfers), and presumably the F/G shuttle buses making all the stops at subway stations were going down Smith Street, across 9th Street, by Prospect Park Southwest, Fort Hamilton Parkway and McDonald Avenue or something.

We went down Jay Street and turned right on Livingston Street, passing one of the old Board of Ed buildings and other stores

and onto Boerum Place, passing the New York Transit Museum

and then we quickly went across Atlantic Avenue to its end (we get carsick if we try to take pics while moving, at least if we're looking at the phone) by the piers.

The bus wasn't very crowded, and everyone seemed in a good mood despite what must have been an inconvenience for some. We were going to ride on the highway!

Except when we're in Arizona where our 2000 Chevy Cavalier is, we don't get to ride on highways much, so we were glad for the chance to get on Sufjan Stevens' favorite expressway, the BQE.

Lately we've only seen the road from Brooklyn Bridge Park or the Promenade, but we drove this stretch regularly in the 1970s in our '69 Pontiac Custom S and '73 Mercury Comet.

There were no traffic delays at all, so we whizzed by

and before we knew it we were high up on the elevated Gowanus roadway where you have to get over to the left to take the Prospect Expressway or the right to stay on I-278 and go to Staten Island or on the Belt. In the fall of 1979, when we had only about an hour to go from teaching at the fabulous School of Visual Arts (where we have been teaching again since 2006) to a class at the wonderful Kingsborough Community College, we used to hesitate here. Go with the Prospect and Ocean Parkway down to Brighton Beach or take the Belt? The next year, in his Kissinger-hating novel Good as Gold, Joseph Heller examined the same dilemma.

Of course today the bus was taking the Prospect Expressway and turning right on Church Avenue before the road turned into Ocean Parkway proper. But before we did, the tall overpass provided a nice view of the harbor, the Bayonne and Verrazzano Bridges, and the Statue of Liberty. On the other side, was the F/G track over the Gowanus Canal and the poor, high Smith-9th Street station, which won't be fit for humans for a while.

We also sped like wildfire on the short Prospect Expressway, which to us as a kid never seemed to get any respect (faring worse, in our adolescent imagination was only the Interboro -- now the Jackie Robinson -- which was reviled for its twists and turns and blinding spots of sun glare). We were stuck here on this highway in the summer of '77 ("summer of Sam" and the blackout) when the asphalt buckled in 100-degree heat. Today was a lot cooler.

We liked looking out from our dirty right-side window at Bishop Ford H.S. and the houses and stuff.

The bus was making incredible time, but we got slightly backed up at the first light at the end of the highway, at Church Avenue where Ocean Parkway begins. In the fall of '79, we looked at renting an apartment on this street, but eventually we took one in Rockaway.

We made the right turn onto Church Avenue by the landmark giant yeshiva or whatever it is. We were almost at our destination. Ocean Parkway is where East 6th Street should go

and McDonald Avenue is really East 1st Street and here, the end of the East nth Street grid and the start of the grid with numbered streets and avenues in western Brooklyn.

When we rode the B35 bus on Church Avenue three years ago from Brownsville to Sunset Park, we traveled this route in Kensington, and we've done it since. We like it around here.

We stopped just across McDonald, at Kabir's Bakery. It's one of three in Brooklyn, and the veggie samosas are to die for, and the little Bangla pastries are sweet sweet sweet.

Well, we had no business in Kensington, so we crossed Church when the light on McDonald turned red

and got on the express shuttle bus back downtown. We figure the ride here was maybe 17 minutes, not bad in comparison with the subway that would make eight stops.

We again got a seat on the right by the window. It's funny, but we lived in and drove around Brooklyn for years, but only in 2007 did we realize that Church Avenue breaks the grid and starts going diagonally southwest/northeast west of Flatbush Avenue and especially after Ocean Avenue. Here Church Avenue intersects the start of Beverly (or Beverley, take your pick) Road, which runs parallel to Church for several miles in Flatbush and East Flatbush.

We left McDonald and the subway station just at 9 a.m. There was more traffic going east on Church Avenue this time, but not much,

and we made the light for a left at Ocean Parkway to get on the Prospect Expressway again.

The bus driver seemed like he was trying to break his own record, because we just whizzed along until we were again on the high overpass. We exit the Prospect on the right, so it's easy to turn back onto the BQE.

We took some photos without looking at the phone to avoid carsickness on the BQE. We don't know why we have this problem; we are among the few that cannot read on the subway, either, without immediately getting queasy.

It's only one exit to Atlantic Avenue and with no traffic, we were at Long Island College Hospital before we knew it. Sometime in the late 1980s our grandmother spent a week or so in the psych unit here, where they got her started on the Prozac that quelled her depression for the rest of her life.

This time we were able to snap some pics on Atlantic Avenue. We spent tons of time in this neighborhood in the 1970s and in summers for much of the 1980s. Several of our friends lived here, as did one of our shrinks, a social worker we call Mrs. Ehrlich in our diary books, and we had lots of stores that we went to.

This is Hicks Street. Boerum Hill is to the south of Atlantic, Brooklyn Heights to the north. One store remember for some reason now is The Warlock Shop, run by Wiccans, we guess, between Hicks and Henry in the early 70s. We bought sandalwood here once from the warlocks, and when we left the store, our girlfriend said, "They were looking at your crotch the whole time." We guess we would have been flattered had we hadn't assumed she was mistaken or kidding.

We passed the new Barney's Co-op and the bank Trader Joe's and turned left on Boerum Place.

It was a straight ride up to Morton's, where everyone on the sightseeing bus got a free steak lunch, courtesy of the Transit Authority.

No, actually, we all walked in that little alley between Morton's and its building and the Brooklyn Marriott back to Jay Street.

Most people got on the subway to Manhattan or Queens, but we headed for some oatmeal and iced tea at the NYU/Poly Starbucks. The sections of the Sunday Times that came early this morning were with us, still in their blue plastic wrapper. There was plenty of time to waste. In two weeks, when we start teaching on Sunday afternoons and evenings, it won't be like that.

But we're grateful to the MTA and the work on the tracks and stations for our little excursion this morning.