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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Photo Wednesdays: Fort Green; what's the story for summer?

Just prior to last summer, as I recall, the area surrounding the monument at Fort Green Park was fenced off. The reason given was renovations, but a side effect of that closing, was to prevent what had been an annual ritual of summer from continuing.

That ritual was the house music sessions, that had been a lively friendly exuberant way of socializing, reclining and of course dancing.

I went up to the top of the park (located of course betwee DeKalb and Myrtle in Ft. green, and took some pictures, since thelast I heard the renovations were to be completed this summer. This is what I saw:

Doesn't look like it. And it doesn't do anything to reduce the concerns and rumors that the "renovation" was part of an effort to remove dancers and dance culture from the park.

What do you know about it?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

PhotoWed! 8/20/08 Where I Be? continues baby!

Yeh the Mighty Photo Wednesday guessing game is back again baby, yeh! I see we gots old and new friends in the house so it must be time for this week's installment:


I have to admit I don't know the total history of this piece of artwork, but I leave that up to y'all if you know help fill us all in. I can tell you I first saw it when the colors were fresh and surface was flawless. That was back around '79 but I'll drop my recollections next week when I give the answer to the question "where is this mural" Here's a hint, it's Do or Die time. If anybody has come across it, or knows of it's sibling mural (across the street from this one, another hint) feel free to drop that on us too.

Aight let the guesses flood in...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Isaac Hayes (1942-2008) End of an era?

wow I just heard...

Rest in Peace Issac Hayes.

This is the first time I'm writing in response to anyone's passing on this blog, but for me it's appropriate because much of what I write about relates to the passing of era's. I've been watching the Olympic coverage and more than once the commentators have remarked how much Beijing has changed in the span of one generation and how remarkable so much change so fast is. That comment reminded me generally of what's happening in Brooklyn these days at least in terms of what I knew growing up to what exists in my adulthood. As I watched the Olympic coverage a commercial in heavy rotation features Marvin Gaye providing soul background (for Nike propagandizing) in the form of footage from his singing the Star Spangled Banner (from the LA Forum back in '84).

What's remarkable about that Marvin Gaye performance is that it was one of the last appearances of Marvin Gaye prior to his untimely murder and arguably it's a prime example of African Americans cultural style fusing and invigorating classic Americana.

Marvin's life and music and murder has become the stuff of legend, and as I watched and thought of that I had to realize that many of the American Olympians weren't even alive when Marvin gave that performance. I found it hard to believe that I recall that period of time that some many others at this moment weren't even present for. All of this brought a thought I have considered for some time, that as much as Brooklyn, New York and the World are changing, it's really eras of time that are drifting glacier-like across a sea of time.

Marvin's end has always been viewed as too soon, before his time. But Isaac Hayes (even at a the youthful grown age of 65) seems to me more like a figure who lived a full life. And in my opinion he created and uplifted his time as an artist and ambassador as NBC News put it who "helped to invent a movement in American music".

Here in New York his distinct voice and cool flavor was no further away than a click of the radio, where he was a host for years on 98.7Kiss FM. And for me whether it was summer parties at Prospect Park, or birthday jams in the community room of the apartment building, Isaac Hayes music was another rich swatch the made up the fabric of my 1970's New York City.

I know a lot of people are familiar with Isaac Hayes as the "black dude on South Park" but if you really want to get a sense of the unique Rockstar originator and innovator he was, check this out it's the 1973 documentary "Wattstax" you'll see Isaac Hayes in his prime of creativity, fame and form. The shades, the bald-head, the chains, the swagger; watch Wattstax and you'll get a good look.

Barry White in 2003, James Brown two years ago, Isaac Hayes now. It all forces me to consider the passages of these men from our present as a sign of the shifting of eras.

Spirit be free Isaac Hayes. Check this if you're missing Isaac. Right on.

(added- If you're in the NYC area or maybe the internet provides 98.7 Kiss-FM is running interviews, songs all from the man himself intermittently today, since of course Isaac Hayes was host on 98.7)

Taxi Cab Concessions

Jeez... just a few nights ago on Thursday, I took my niece out for night on the town. She's twenty-one and I figured to improve her club knowledge. Afterward, We took a yellow cab from the city. The cab grumbled a bit when we gave the address an admittedly rough edge of Bedford-Stuyvesant. The cabbie got us there and I brought her back to my sister's apt before starting to walk home accepting that it would be a long wait before another yellow cab appeared and a longer wait before one would stop for me.

As I walked down DeKalb Avenue at 2 in the morning (easily more than a few miles from my apt) I thought as I do about some notion of equality. Basically I just wanted a cab to drive me home and was annoyed at the thought of the sea of yellow cabs that I knew were on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg at that moment huddled up like goldfish at feeding time.

My thoughts grumbled with recollections of drivers who wouldn't drive me and of me stopping for taxis that wouldn't stop, and I tried using that to fuel my 2am walk home.

So just now I saw the news; that some time later that night, one of three women riding another yellow cab to DeKalb and Franklin pulled a gun and shot the cabbie in the face.

The accused shooter is in custody. The cabbie is alive though probably blinded. I can't imagine he'll want to pick up a fare going to Bedford-Stuyvesant any time soon and for a moment I wondered who to blame for the problems of our world.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

PhotoWedns: 8/6/08 "Where Am I?" Quiz 01 (Answered)

So after much delay and little fanfare I present to you the answer to last week's "Where am I?" question.

It's the "Plaza"! which was the name of the theater that used to be center in this photo. The Plaza movie theater became the Plaza (XXX) theater, which became non porn Plaza Twin, which became the Flatbush Pavilion which somehow became an American Apparel store standing at the intersection of Park Slope and Prospect Heights, Brooklyn.

I've seen a lot of good history here.

Besides the Plaza/Flatbush Pavilion and it's triple X days, There is another neighborhood mainstay Antonio's Pizza (which I promised myself to make a feature of this blog) where I remember being able to get a slice of pizza and a cup of soda for 75¢. The pizza was the same size as the slices that go for $1.75 today. Out of view of this picture is the latin restaurant on the corner of Park and Carlton which until the mid 80's was a hamburger/hotdog joint called "A La King" where all the high school aged kids hung out, boom boxes in tow, breakdancing and playing pinball games which (when I was a kid) transformed magically into arcade games.

One block north on Flatbush between Park and Prospect stands a silver clad condo, with a WaMu bank below. That structure was built about a year ago, before it was the Brooklyn Tabernacle, a church who's choir scored several grammys and before that, in the 70's it was the Carlton Theater a movie house and performance space. I just remember my aunt or dad wanting to see some soul acts perform there.

When my dad and uncle were kids they'd see action films and later blaxsploitation films at the Plaza. My earliest recollections of the Plaza theater was in it's 1970's porn house incarnation, which is ironic considering that being taken over by American Apparel for the last three years I'm sure some would say the same flesh is being peddled now as before. But not me I got's little problem with porn-chic!

Looking up the history of the theater building which stands above the 7th Avenue Q & B subway stop I found many entries that suggest it dates back to the turn of the century. Several writings imply that it may have been called the Bunny Theater in honor of John Bunny a silent era movie star big in 1915, (who almost immediately vanished into obscurity) but while there is a Bunny Theater in Washington Heights that has Bunny accents and the word "Bunny" written on it, there is no similar detail on the old Plaza theater.

The fact that the two buildings looks similar and power of confusion that emanates from the internet, make me doubt that the plaza and bunny theaters have much in common besides being smallish theaters of the same era.

For those keeping score, the street location is Flatbush avenue at the point where Carlton Avenue sprouts headed down into Prospect Heights and Fort Green (although currently it has been unfortunately divided by attempts to build the Atlantic Yards monster which has reduced ease of travel through these neighborhoods). Park Place bisects Flatbush directly in front of the old theater going from Park Slope on one side of the intersection and entering Prospect Heights on the other, as Flatbush is the boarder between the two neighborhoods.

I thought this location was a great place to start the "Where am I?" series because of how dynamic it is. If you look at the photo it seems plausible that once upon a time the entire building top and bottom was part of the theater. Considering the age of the building, it could have housed early nickelodeons, if the whole structure was once one.

And in keeping with the secondary point of informing the subway rider to be, this station is between Atlantic Avenue (headed to Manhattan, or "uptown" as the we locals say) and Prospect Park (headed to Brighton Beach and Coney Island or "downtown")

Tonight after 9pm I will reveal the next "Where am I?" image. Same bat-channel!