Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Monday, August 29, 2011

Irene's Aftermath ~ Summer's Last Kiss

After the worst of it yesterday, I biked out to Coney Island and found the boardwalk closed. I took a few pictures and headed back. This week always makes me wistful. Going into Labor Day, thoughts of the beach over the summer roll through my head like a series of rough waves.

This week I'll put up a lot of photos from the beach. Today, a few of Irene's aftermath at Coney, some art on the walls and the sun going down along the Bay's seawall.

Goodnight, Irene.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Hawk Guards the East River

Yesterday, I biked the southern half of Manhattan. Working my way north on the lower East Side I saw a hawk watching over the river.

See all pix from the trip here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Ghost of the Third Avenue El

Pictured here is the eastside of Third Avenue between 82nd & 83rd Street in Yorkville. My interest in this block front is these unrenovated buildings were built in the 1800s. They faced the Third Avenue El before the track was electrified in 1905 (approx.). That means every few minutes on a work day, a steam engine train rumbled pass your window with dark soot flying and the pictures on your wall shook like a 5.9 earthquake.

Next time you walk this stretch, imagine that El there and what it felt and sounded like inside your front facing apartment.

There is an amazing Third Avenue El book, "By The El ~ Third Avenue and its El at mid-century."

Lawrence Stelter took his father, Lothar Stelter's photographs of the Third Avenue El and lovingly put together a book of every station up to East 129th Street. If you are interesting in New York's transportation history get this book.

Under the Third Avenue pictures are two cool cars I saw parked off 84th Street & First Avenue.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly on 78th Street

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, one of my favorite film theme songs. I still own the 45.

The Good, the Bad & the Ugly lurk on East 78th Street.

The Good: a yellow clown circus car with the license plate “Parkable.” Saw this shrimp parked catty corner off York Avenue across from P.S. 158 exactly 15 feet off the hydrant and an inch off the crossing line. As a former alternate side victim I paid my respects.



You can still get a $12 haircut on the block.


Two windows gussied up with red flowers.



The Bad: Another tenement bites the dust right off 78th Street on the west side of First Avenue. Robert Kennedy stumped for the U.S. Senate on this corner in September 1964.





The Ugly: in front of 409 is a three foot high, one foot thick, concrete planter painted forest green with 500 pounds of dirt in it and a small embarrassed something. Following a nuclear attack on New York City this will be one of the few things that remain standing.




Friday, August 19, 2011

My Spauldeen & Me

The rare time I had enough money in my pocket as a kid to cause a dilemma over what to buy, the same three items recurred in my mind. Our Town & The West Side Spirit published my column on this situation titled, "My Spauldeen & Me."

Yesterday, I strolled through Central Park. Resting on a bench in front of the Delacorte Theater, I turned my eyes to the center of the Great Lawn. I saw myself lying face up on the grass at 9 years old, throwing a ball up in the air as far as I could, never letting my back lose contact with the ground.

Summer 1963: “Mom, please give me a quarter, I’m dying, come on, give me a quarter, I really need a quarter, I’m on my knee, Uncle Mommy, I want a quarter!”

Mom gave me a dime and spun me toward the door out of the apartment. I’d already had six cents. Walking up 83rd Street, I went through everybody’s garbage and found five soda bottles. That made 10 cents. When Murray Parker passed me the deposit money, he made a face because I didn’t buy anything from him. I had my quarter plus a penny. The quarter triggered my dilemma: three of my favorite things cost 25 cents.

My first consideration was crap. My favorite crap combo was a 16-ounce Pepsi with Yankee Doodles, three to a pack. Brilliant! That gorgeous, swirled bottle—what a grip! I never dropped it, and I dropped everything. If other kids had 12-ounce sodas you’d torture them, finishing the 16-ouncer real slow with sound effects, “Hmmm,” “Oh my God, that’s good,” “Oooooh!” The third Yankee Doodle was a gift. You never got three things. After the second doodle, your mouth would calm down, disappointed nothing further was going in it. Then, all of a sudden, your mouth is being stuffed for a third time with fluffy chocolate cake and cavity-causing vanilla crème. If you’re lucky, a gob of crème stays on your upper lip for a while and you don’t realize it’s there until your tongue goes out for a walk and brings it back into your mouth. The third cupcake went down your throat like a royal coach.

Occasionally, I’d ignore my stomach and consider choice number two: a balsa wood glider. They all had names—“Hornet,” “Mustang” or “Scout.” The aircraft’s propeller was powered by a rubber band. In a classroom, you could make a plane out of a sheet of loose leaf and, at best, clock a kid in the noggin four or five rows away. With a propeller on your plane, you were going places. Exotic flight plans danced through my head before the first journey. Sometimes there was no second flight. The plane was fragile. This was a short-lived toy, like having a butterfly for a pet.

Winding the propeller up, I’d send her off. The glider sailed passed the German butcher. narrowly missing the store’s awning. Climbing to the second story it veered left, hitting a wall of wind, did two quick loops and landed on a fire escape.

The painful memory of these lost aircraft led me to door number three: a Spauldeen. A high-bouncing, reject tennis ball. You tested its quality by dropping it from shoulder height—the one you picked must have superior bounce.

In Joe’s Candy Store, I’d proceed with my ritual. During a test, you developed immunity to being shooed away.

“Pick a ball and get out of here.”

“That’s what I’m trying to do.”

“They’re all good.” He grabbed one and squeezed it. “See?”

He almost smiled. This frightened me.

“Yes,” I said, “but one of them is better than all the others.”

“You just tried that one,” he said.

“Not true. I have a system. I repeat no ball.”

“I repeat: Pick a friggin’ ball. Now!”

I found one, said, “Bye, Joe,” and left a quarter on the counter.

Working my way down my street, I joined games in progress that moved me:Ace, King, Queen, and then some Off the Point. Finally, I’d run over to Central Park and find a perfect spot in the middle of the Great Lawn, lie on my back and toss the ball as high as possible, over, over and over again. Nothing eased loneliness like a game of catch—even when it was just my Spauldeen and me.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Boxer Shorts Suicide Dives Off the Woolworth Building

In 1992, on the top floor of the Woolworth Building, I took a medical exam for employment with the New York City Housing Authority. The final step was the urine sample. The doctor handed me the cup. It didn't go well.

Mr. Beller's Neighborhood literary journal published my account, "I Can't Go!"

"Jeez, I hope he hurries." The doctor said to his nurse. "I don't want to miss my train."

"Me, too. I've got to get my kid by five thirty." Her answer tinged with aggravation.

Hearing this exchange through the bathroom door, my bladder shut down. I was on the 60th floor of the Woolworth Building, the world's tallest building from 1914 to 1930. My medical exam for the New York City Housing Authority hiring process was concluding with the mandatory urine sample.

"Everything OK in there?"

He didn't care if everything was OK. He was telling me to get out of there, ASAP, so he could escape his eerie dark office. I stuck my head under the sink's spout and began drinking lots of water. Flushed the bowl a few times, and took off my shirt and pants for good luck.

"I hope he's not pee shy," came loud and clear through the door.

I couldn't believe she said it.

The pressure already peaking, I drank more water and opened the small window, high over the sink to let in fresh air, and started pacing the tiny bathroom in my bare feet on the checkered marble floor. The socks followed my pants.

"For Christ's sake, it's been twenty minutes, did he die in there?" she said. Then one of them fell dramatically into a chair based on the sound I heard of a sizable ass hitting a seat.

I couldn't possibly drink more water, and I couldn't go. My last recourse was sticking my head directly out the window over the sink. I figured I'd rock my bare belly on the ledge, while the rarefied air hit me in the face.

Climbing on the sink, I got most of my upper body through the petite opening. Once I got my arms through, I leaned on my elbows and looked left and saw the beautiful Hudson River all the way up to the Bridge. Then I looked right, and screamed like a girl, "Aaaaaahhhhh!"

Face to face with a stone gargoyle, not a funny gargoyle, a hideous gargoyle that comes to you in a nightmare after eating Mexican food way too late. My scream made me lose my footing and I fell forward. The snug window and my chubby stomach kept me from falling all the way out. The cars below looked like toys. I saw tomorrow’s New York Post's headline, "Boxer Shorts Suicide Dives Off Woolworth Building!"

Hyperventilating, stuck in the window, I heard, "Hey, what the hell is going on?"

"Nothing, nothing..." I lied, pulled myself out of the window, got off the sink, went over to the toilet and peed like a horse. I got dressed and came out of the bathroom with the specimen cup, refused to make eye contact with my medical providers, somehow found one of their hands to pass it off, and ran out the door and down twenty flights of fire stairs before I felt the urge to pee again. Popped the emergency door and took the elevator to the lobby with my legs crossed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Storytelling Soothes the Soul

Hi Folks, Murt here. Just want to let you know, I had a lovely time at Cornelia Street Café last night taking in “City Stories: Stoops to Nuts” storytelling show. Just what the doctor ordered, along with the wee bit of Bushmills that helped calm the tickle in my throat. The stories and songs were like bread and honey. I teared up twice and almost swallowed my upper bridge laughing myself hoarse.


No slouches on stage, all top notch. The Amygdaloids, Lindsey Gentile, Rachel Pertile Goldstein, Jed Parish, and Andy Ross. Tommy thanks all his guests, said it was an honor to have them share the show, he loved each one, and that they all would back next year to tell at Stoops to Nuts. We'll, that's just fine with me. A good story soothes the soul.

May none of you ever pay too much for a cow, Murt