Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sunday Morning in Hunters Point: Breakfast at Gantry Plaza State Park

On this gloriously warm and sunny Sunday morning of the long Thanksgiving weekend, we took the G train to its terminus at Court Square, where we could now make an indoor Metrocard-free transfer

to the 7 train two stops to Jackson-Vernon Avenues just before it entered Manhattan and walked to the gorgeous Gantry Plaza State Park

with the Sunday Times and our bagel and iced tea from Dunkin' Donuts on Vernon to sit and enjoy the view of the United Nations and the buildings around it from a bench on the park's Pier 1

just west of the giant towers of Queens West.

Walking back to the subway, we spotted this tree with fiery red leaves at one of the Queens West playgrounds.

It really is a pleasure to be able to transfer from the 7 train

to the faithful G train heading back to Brooklyn. And we like the escalator view of Long Island City's Citicorp Tower, the only skyscraper we can see from our bedroom window as we wake up or go to sleep.

The Gantries are not an iconic view of Manhattan like the Brooklyn Heights Promenade but they are just as beautiful.

It was a great morning to be alive in Long Island City.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Friday Afternoon in SoHo: Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir and Picture the Homeless Occupy Bank of America to Protest Foreclosure Policies

Early this afternoon -- Black Friday to some, Buy Nothing Day to others -- we joined with the New York City community groups Reverend Billy & The Stop Shopping Choir and Picture the Homeless for a protest action at the Bank of America branch at the corner of Houston and Lafayette Streets.

On this day when so many around us were shopping, we occupied the bank in the heart of chic, fashionable SoHo (okay, technically just over the border of NoHo) to sing and pray and have a dinner, courtesy of the kitchen of Occupy Wall Street, in honor of Kendall Jackman,

who just two years ago was living an ordinary life renting a brownstone in Brooklyn but who today is homeless,

the victim of one of millions of home foreclosures across the country.

We walked over from our organizing point at the corner of Crosby and Jersey Street, across from the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, around 1 p.m. with chairs, a table, dishware, silverware, the delicious dinners, and two nice paintings donated by the late Kurt Vonnegut and Reverend Billy Talen to make Kendall feel at home in the bank which foreclosed on her landlord and forced her to leave the still-unoccupied building that BofA foreclosed upon.

For us, the most moving part of the creative protest was when Reverend Billy & The Choir sang their beautiful song "We are the 99%" (as we gather together)"

The occupation of the bank lasted about twenty minutes after we entered and set everything up.

Apparently at least one police car drove by and looked in and decided just to move on. Beforehand, Reverend Billy said this was not going to be "an arrest situation," and with no cops around or interested in interfering, it didn't turn out to be.

We were incredibly impressed with the efficient planning that went into this action, which itself reminded us of the "zaps" of the Gay Activist Alliance of the 1970s and ACT-UP in the 1980s and some of the more imaginative Vietnam war protest we were involved in.

Savitri D and the other members of the group are extremely competent and amazingly savvy.

People were assigned individual tasks, and they seemed incredibly determined and dedicated.

The group had its own media people, and someone from WNYC covered the event.

Everything seemed to move with the proficiency of some kind of Navy SEALS covert action as the group moved from Crosby Street

with all the food, furniture and props.

Like us in Arizona, Bill Talen ran for political office as a candidate of the Green Party. He won about 8900 votes for Mayor of New York City in 2009.

The takeover of the Bank of America branch made a serious point about the need for financial institutions to take responsibility for their role in creating the crisis of the past few years and the continuing vast inequalities that have spurred the Occupy movement.

It was nice to see Reverend Billy's own father, above, at the event. We're very grateful to everyone who made it possible, and we know they'll keep fighting the good fight.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Early Thanksgiving Morning in Downtown Brooklyn: Breakfast on the Fulton Street Mall and ESPO's "Love Letter to Brooklyn" at Old Macy's Parking Garage

Up at 4 a.m., we left the house early, taking the G train to Fulton Street at Lafayette, getting a muffin and iced tea at Connecticut Muffin, and taking a leisurely Thanksgiving morning stroll down the Fulton Street Mall, which has so many memories for us, as ESPO's (Steve Powers') "Love Letter to Brooklyn" on the vintage Macy's (A&S) parking garage reminded us.

We're going back to Arizona in a month, but we'll long remember our trips from Williamsburg to Fowler Square. We call this side of Flatbush Avenue Fort Greene, but neighborhood boundaries are so indistinct.

A liquor store was decorated for the holidays with Santa and Snoopy.

Brooklyn Tech and its radio tower.

People were working out at Crunch even early on Thanksgiving morning.

You can't beat St. Felix Street.

BRIC's Media Center is getting a new house soon.

We've taken pics of this ghost sign before but we can't resist: parking for a quarter!

Duane Reades are everywhere. And they're owned by Walgreens.

Long Island University was the first college we taught at, from March 1975 (English 11, freshman comp) until August 1978 (English 22, we think, in that summer session: The Novel).

There were about ten courses in between those. The view looking north up Flatbush Avenue Extension to the Manhattan Bridge didn't have those luxury housing skyscrapers till recently.

Looking south on Flatbush from DeKalb, the Williamsburg Savings Bank building (One Hanson Place) is still there. Until our friend Linda visited from Los Angeles last month, we didn't know anyone had ever called it "the penis building" as she said she and her friends had. (She worked across the street teaching swimming at the YWCA when we were in college. We briefly worked there at Midtown Florist.)

We started eating alone at the counter of Junior's back in the 1960s before we could drive. We remember one happy Saturday afternoon when we ate there after seeing The Graduate at the Albee Theater up the block.

We were carnivores till the 1980s, and possibly the burgers still had the same letters. We swear we used to order the "E." One Southern waitress called everyone "dollin'" and we had a special unspoken arrangement with a young African American waiter, George: we'd overtip him and he'd underbill us.

Sometime in the late 1970s, we interviewed the Rosen brothers, owners of Junior's, for some Brooklyn newspaper that our friend April Koral was the editor of. (She and her husband Carl Glassman publish the great Tribeca Trib.) The Rosens weren't very friendly even though it was basically a puff piece to publicize their restaurant. Maybe they figured they didn't need the publicity -- and they were right.

So it's hard for us to remember it's called "the Fulton Mall." We always said "Fulton Street" and in our family, "Fulton Street" meant only the stretch that is now the Fulton Mall: the place where people shopped and we had our first retail job.

Speaking of retail, on the upper right quadrant of that pic, there's an ancient sign on the building for the old J.W. Mays department store, which closed in December 1988, while we were up from Florida living in Manhattan and working under a New York State Council on the Arts grant as writer-in-residence at the Rockland Center for the Arts. Our pic is blurry, but maybe you can make it out vaguely.

The Albee Square Mall replaced the Albee Theater, but it didn't last long, at least from this alter kocker's POV, just long enough to be remembered in the legendary rapper Biz Markie's "Home, Sweet Home." Some giant development called City Point is coming to the site.

It's heartening to those of us who remember the low point of downtown Brooklyn in the 1970s to see these shiny new towers going up.

"All I need is you . . . and new shoes." And a luxury highrise in back.

We hope gentrification doesn't make places like Sneaker Point run away.

The Fulton Mall Christmas tree is up! And Christmas music started being piped in yesterday!

As a little kid, we were impressed with the majestic interior of the old Dime Savings Bank of Brooklyn (later Dime Savings Bank of New York, later Washington Mutual, now Chase). We miss our passbook savings account and our Christmas Club account.

Although a couple of stores were open, the Fulton Mall was mostly deserted so early.

It made seeing ESPO's "Love Letter to Brooklyn" that much better not to have crowds around.

We, too, grew up in Brooklyn's arms.

Life is a fight for life.

We copped futures here, too.

ESPO's "Love Letter to Brooklyn" seems outstanding to us, a great work we're grateful we finally got to see. Steve Powers is a brilliant artist even if he's from Philly.

We continued on Fulton Mall, past Hoyt

further down Memory Lane.

I won't go to Macy's anymore, more, more
There's a big fat policeman at the door, door, door
He'll squeeze you like a lemon
A kalatchgezollenemon
No, I won't go to Macy's anymore

Back in the day, the Brooklyn Macy's was at Flatbush Avenue south of Church in Flatbush, and starting in 1970, a few blocks from our house at the Kings Plaza mall (a real indoor mall). Abraham & Straus -- A&S -- on Fulton Street seemed classier and less middlebrow. But of course now so many great department stores we loved -- the astonishing Marshall Field in Chicago, the great Burdines in Miami, Strawbridge's in Philadelphia -- are just Macy's, with maybe a plaque like this as a reminder.

On Fulton Street, we miss Mays, E.J. Korvette, and . . . oh, baby boomers are so annoying.

We took this pic in the early '70s while driving on Fulton Street on a Sunday, when the stores were closed. Our uncle Matt Sarrett's Slack Bar, which sold pants (including those manufactured by our father and grandfather Nat Ginsberg at Art Pants). We worked in the store with our grandfather Herb Sarrett, Carlos, Joe Ford and Marty starting in the summer of 1965, when we turned 14. (We wrote about it in The Boy Who Could Draw Dr. King).

Today the two little stores are combined into a store that sells something we couldn't imagine in 1965. Or 1975. Maybe in 1985, when we were taking grad classes in computer education at Florida International University?

Hey, back in the 1960s, credit cards like BankAmericard and Master Charge seemed like the latest thing.

We kept walking west, past the construction by what was Loew's Metropolitan, where we went to movies as a kid and in our early twenties,

checking out the side streets where cars can drive and park,

wondering if Fulton Mall can really be a pedestrian mall with so many buses.

Our fingers were cold from taking pics with our crappy dumbphone.

Finally we got to Jay Street. Further north, we taught briefly at New York City Community College, now City Tech, and went to our psychologist, Dr. Robert Wolk, whose apartment and office was in Concord Village the other side of Tillary Street. You don't want to hear about how we used to put our car in the parking lot across from where the Myrtle Avenue el ended, do you? (It's MetroTech now.)

Everything is different but still the same. We're always thankful we grew up in Brooklyn in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, and we're grateful we got a chance to come back for the past five and a half years.

Happy Thanksgiving!