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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Outsidah Brooklyn: Florent Closes. Forever

outsidah brooklyn:06/29/08
Restaurant Florent waiting for the end

Florent a restaurant of French and flamboyant charm opened in a raw and rough tumbled Meat Packing District in 1985 and for the first time since then the 24 hour source of life will close it's doors. Tonight and forever.

I enjoyed myself there for years and especially these last mondays where there have been a series of performances in the restaurant as a tailored presentation of the five stages of grief. I got to see "Bargaining" and "Depression". The place at these last sessions was as packed as ever but aside from the great and congenial staff, it wasn't the place I remembered patron-wise. It became demise as dinner theater. Which I guess is to be expected.

To be honest I can't remember when I first went there(and Florent would probably say, "good!". I know I became an infrequent regular in the late ninties, but I can't shake the feeling that in my illicit days as a highschooler incredulously sneaking into clubs, I was probably brought by friends to Florent sometime in the late 80's.

Florent Menu Board

You can read alot of history about how this area of Manhattan was breathed new life (which now it now chokes on) all over the internet and in the press. However Florent Morellet (the owner, spiritual force and namesake of the restaurant)has specified throughout the monthlong process of closing the restaurant that we all refrain from nostalgia. So I will skip the parts about unique, eclectic city life not to be found elsewhere, and the part about cutthroat capitalist destroying the golden geese of culture and I will abide by Florent's request by saying only if you experienced Florent count yourself fortunate and if not, then at least appreciate whatever remains.

If that's not enough for you then go ahead read the many articles (like this,this, this, this, this, this, or even this) written about the past, google "Florent" or click this. I can say and do no more to foster nostalgia without dishonoring the wishes of a true New Yorker.
Morellet Florent
Thanks for sharing your imagination, Florent.

impromptu BK Weather report

a gentle rain is falling in Brooklyn
chaperoned by an intemperate lightning
(for the moment I can't find my camera)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Go Chasing Waterfalls (sorry Olafur Eliasson, thx TLC)

How could that not be a headline? I ask you.

Well last night was the first night of Olafur Eliason's public art project "NYC Waterfalls" and before you go in search of..., all the while humming 90's R&B, lemme tell you like a good lemming I made the trek out to sea last night and well the Waterfalls are alot less than Waterfall fantastic and a little more more than a big splash.

First of all after seeing them day and night I have to say there's no point to even thinking of them during the day. It makes no sense for them to be on during the day because they are totally upstaged by all the truly magnificent things the city's waterfront has to offer.

For example in daylight there's
Brooklyn Bridge for extra interest try checking out the Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage, orOutrigger Boating from D.U.M.B.O.

So pretending that the publicity stunt cum art project old occurs from sundown to near midnight is your best bet.
Olafur Eliasson's NYC Waterfalls photo by Gemini-J
At night the cascading water under the brooklyn bridge is very pretty engrossing and a spectral piece of upliftment. With my faithful companion I pushed through the South Street Seaport's masses, (and I've never been big on the Seaport because it's Lame) and when we reached the suggest these as prime vantage points for viewing Olafur Eliason's new public art project of cascading water.

Also I want to be the first to say that the most mindaltering-unbelivably-spookey element experience I had as a result of the "Waterfalls" was standing on the walkway of the brooklyn bridge exact above the waterfall tower and looking through the wooden slates of the walkway down to the falls below. They were illuminated and gave me a sensation of wonder, falling, emerssion and life and death, kid you not. take a look at my pics and try that for your self, IMG_3978.JPG
just don't feel the need to chase after the experience it'll be up til October.

Update: New York Times has a whimsical article about other local waterfalls, natural and otherwise, some how they missed one of my favorites, which is located in Prospect Park near the Empire Boulevard entrance. I'll get over there and snap some shots asap.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Photo Wednesday 6/25/08

Arugh... I really thought it'd be easier to post one photo each and everyweek...
yet with 75% of the day gone I'm just getting it up... ; )

Today's Photo Wednesday comes from one of my favorite Brooklyn streets because of the amount of time I played (and crashed into cars) there as a kid. One day I'll tell stories...

For now here it is: Vanderbilt Acapeligo!

It seems ( guessing ) for reasons of environment or cycling or just plain quality of life, the Dept of Traffic is building Islands down Vanderbilt Avenue just down the hill from Grand Army Plaza. I am shocked to see this type of progressive city service in Brooklyn (there are several Traffic islands like this recently built on Broadway in Soho) and I know I should expect this type of service since gentrification spurs city government. But these islands actually look really functional (there's spots for trees which are probably planted by now) and this may succeed in making Vanderbilt less of a through way and more of a boulevard.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ikea Explored!

View from the new Ikea in Brooklyn as sun sets, Sweden's most recent American beachhead set's sail.
Is it a new day for Red Hook?


Well, if you call exploring the new Ikea over at Red Hook:

Sampling the various Ikea funded means of transport, shuttle bus
(no air conditioning?!? Hot!)

and Water Taxi (common refrain: does anybody know where this boat is going?)

and walking the waterside promenade newly built by the hands of tiny Swedes (I like to pretend)

then yeh, I explored the new Ikea at Red Hook on it's opening weekend.

I have to say, and there are no pictures to support this, it tickles me near to death to watch everybody board their buses and water taxies, with their giant proportioned blue bags in tow, cause it totally makes me think all us kids are leaving the field trip to the dentist (or something) with our oversized bags of educational giveaways (dental floss, pink tooth tabs!?)

Silliness mostly aside, I have to say as industrial renewal and repurposing goes, I don't feel affronted by what Ikea has wrought. Granted of the many Brooklyn neighborhoods I have lived in Red Hook is not one of them, but my feeling overall was Ikea took a sow's ear and made a non offensive purse. Plus so far no Hopen in the waters.

Below are more pictures taken and now also presented in a positive light:


New Brooklyn promenade built by Ikea, no screwdriver required, but for some, suggested

Putnam Parade: A real life BK Drumline
the written account

I'm frequently lucky enough to fall into interesting things which is one of the main reasons I created this blog. My favorite of these experiences are the kinds of things that can only happen in Brooklyn. For example;

It was late, near midnight and I was making my way home, down Fulton St. Seemingly out of nowhere I heard a series of booms. I couldn't decide whether the sounds were thunder or yet another hyperactive set of car speakers. Although there were clouds in the night sky, there was a syncopated flow to the pounding percussion that suggested another sonic source. Ahead of me at an intersection stood a group of teenaged girls. They were standing, jabbering and alternating between looking at each other and pointing across the street toward something I couldn't see. As soon as traffic cleared the girls, giggled and sprinted across the street. By now I was at the intersection too, and that's when a series of "BOOMs" exploded.

What I saw was a crowd of people standing in a bumpy semicircle around the corner store at the intersection of Putnam and Grand Avenues (basically several inches away from the corner of Putnam and Fulton streets for those any trying to picture the location) And I have to say with a little embarrassment that my comprehension of the scene were totally confused. It was night near midnight to be exact. The focus of the crowd gathered seemed a corner store of the type familiar to anyone who's experienced New York city streets on a more than few occasions.

With its solid loud san-serif lettered awning whose primary colors (mostly yellow) express their inventory of unfortunately frequent street staples of beer soda and cigarettes, it's bulletproofed 24 hour service window and outer walls covered in weathered ads for Newports, these types of corner stores are far from upscale markets and at the same time they are vital spots in many neighborhoods that don't have better options. Also unfortunate is in many neighborhoods, these stores are the backdrop for street drama and street crisis often resulting in street crimes.

I have witnessed scenes with crowds like the one I was watching half circle the corner store on Putnam and Grand, and usually when I've these scenes have played out, there was no reason and nobody to smile.

So I was confused because because as I looked around at the faces gathered, everybody was smiling, and the booms were now vibrating over all of us. And I thought,"is that a helmet on that kid? Is he, wait, are all of these kids in uniform? Then the symbols hit me. Not actually, but crashing symbols will snap the presumption out of almost anything. And just like that it became clear. Dressed in silver helmets with blue plumage the style of Roman Centurions, instruments and dancers to boot; the assembled crowd was watching a group of Brooklyn teens performing as a fine marching band and they were putting on a show.

The marching band is called:The Approaching Storm
"The Only Southern Style Band in the North/East"
I hung out for about thirty minutes. It was marvelous, really.
The kids went through their routine with one break that I saw.
Their Band leader, a brother I later met by the name of Sergio (above in red) conducted their music while giving them instruction executing their choreography.
When I asked Sergio why his band was out in the streets near midnight, he explained that the had just come from a meet where they won yet another title, this one in North Carolina. (Their charted bus was parked across the street) Sergio was from the area and wanted to bring the kids back to share their music and victorious mood with the block. As Sergio told me, "People don't think anything good comes from these kids and I want these kids to show what they can do." IMG_3825.JPG
The kids looked coolly focused one moment, silly and laid back the next, and overall when they looked at their audience of happily surprised passersby the marching band seemed highly amused and reveling in their spotlight such as it was. Thanks to a constant barrage of camera flashes (mine included) the band's motions were momentarily illuminated and then lost in the alternating street shaodws to dance-clubesque strobe lighting.
But in addition to the impromptu audio visual sensations, what was just as marvelous was to see the crowd of obvious brooklyn new-comers (flip-flops!) crowding elbow to elbow with seasoned block elders and corner kids. Everyone was so enwrapped by the unlikely magic of a full marching band owning a Bedford-Stuyvesant street corner at midnight that they seemed sincerely unaware of how their own often unrelatable lives had converged happily into a magical mutual experience.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ikea and photo wednesday cometh together!

Ah today's the day, ikea comes to the city proper, specifically to Red Hook Brooklyn.

I gotta be honest, I am of the fickle set of likes and dislikes that drives me to protest a Wal-Mart but welcome an Ikea. Which I guess means I like swedish meatballs more than corn.

Anyway, today wednesday june 18th is opening day so couch hungry brooklynites; run out and get yo'self some, cause they're giving them all away. Okay they're giving like, one away, but it's one more than anybody else, and after you scarf down those cinnamon buns you'll need somewhere to rest your buns, right?

Today's Photo Wednesday
I call this one: "The shimmering clash of human industry and nature."

Gowanus Slick & Clouds
Which is why today's photo in keeping with the Red Hook theme, comes from the Gowanus Canal which flows around Red Hook and on into Brooklyn's Gowanus / Carroll Gardens neighborhoods.

This pic is also an attempt to spread the wealth of photo wednesdays further around this great city of Brooklyn and to remind us of Red Hook/Gowanus's recent past of industrial abuse. Now that the Ikea's here, let's hope we don't find any "Hopen" floating in the canal.

Friday, June 6, 2008

RedHook Arts Fest this Weekend in B'klyn & Photo Wednesday(on Friday)

Just got this email and passing it on to you:
It's the 15th Anniversary Red Hood Water Front Arts Festival

It's a packed event and it's free happening tomorrow June 7th and sunday June 8th.
Just another reason to checkout pre-Ikea Red Hook (for those who care of such things)

Also here's Wednesday's Photoday today a little cresent moon rising appropriately over Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn