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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

PhotoWedns 5/27/09 Green, Road killed.

Road killed (great street art in Williamsburg)

So delighted and intrigued by this.
For those who want to hunt it yourselves, I came across it in WillyB, near the new developments going on by the waterfront (forgive me I NEVER remember which street is which in Williamsburg)

The piece is instantly engaging, entertaining and inspired these questions in my mind:

Who's the artist(s)?
What's the mechanics involved in installing?
What's the message? Simple whimsy, typical WillyB irony, a statement about green-spaces killed by development? (it's place on the boundary wall of a construction site) or meant to be all of the above.

Overall exactly what art in general and street art in particular should be in my measure; instigation and interaction with the street and world beyond.

Happy Wednesday

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekend Update

Took some quick shots from the Memorial weekend that was around Dance Africa:

Afro Mosaic Soul @ Dance Africa Street Festival
That Afro Mosaic Soul

Mmmn Mmm Good

Afro Mosaic Soul @ Dance Africa Street Festival
First Steps


Colorful Palette @ Dance Africa Street Festival

Curried Chicken, Rice & Peas an Vegetable / Dance Africa

African Statuesque

afro-caribbean pastels @ Dance Africa Street Festival
Afro-Caribbean Colors

Williamsburg Savings Bank from African Street Festival

and for more check out the slide show

Friday, May 22, 2009

DANCE AFRICA in and around BAM! This Weekend!

Feel that 84 degree sun? Before you leap from that digital box and squeaky office chair I wanted to remind you that Brooklyn's beloved Dance Africa festival is happening inside and outside BAM this Memorial Day weekend.

Dance Africa / African Street Fair in B'klyn

Expect good looking people, performances, crafts, an outdoor shopping bizarre and a ton of island and soul food so good, best to get on line now.

Ashland Place and Lafayette Avenue outside and inside BAM.

For more info check their link [].

Below more pics from last year, don't say I didn't tell ya!

Dance Africa / African Street Fair in B'klyn
Local Colors

Food Crowds


Dance Africa / African Street Fair in B'klyn

African Street Fair in B'klyn
Rhythms for Everyone

Park Delicatessen: Skate, Hoe!
Grinding & Gardening a new path in Crown Heights

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards/Flowers/Dry Goods) - 8

I'm kick, pushing and cutting myself with the type of angst that can only be escaped by skateboard. Why because I came across an interesting story a month ago and didn't post it, better late than not at all; here's my account of Crown Height's new (and gotta be only) Skateboard/Flower/Dry Goods Shop.

Park Delicatessen before
255 Park Place near the corner of Classon Ave, in Crown Heights B'Klyn

As I was making the move from CH to CH (literally pushing a shopping cart with my things, how's that for green) I came across a cleared lot where once a funeral parlor had stood on Park Place near the corner of Classon Av. Before I could ponder where they buried the funeral parlor, I noticed something completely different, the birth of a new biz. Park Delicatessen.

Except that I already knew Park Delicatessen. Over thirty years back it was a place near and dear to my heart in the same location, same name, with a more intact version of the same sign.

Park Delicatessen aging sign

I went to P.S. 316 right across the street on the corner of Classon and Park. My grandmother lived across the street and worked at the nearby Brooklyn Jewish (Hospital, now rental units).

During the day I would literally drool at the thought of the thick full roast beef sandwiches my grandmother would buy from Park Delicatessen and the kindly lady who ran the place. When I had permission I would tear down Classon backpack flapping to Prospect Pl., run through the crowded hospital hall, take the elevator up to and wait for my grandmother to go to a lunch she delayed so she could buy me a sandwich from the Deli (as we simply knew referred to it).

It wasn't an everyday thing, on Classon Av there existed the same corner stores 30 years ago as now. The one on the corner of Prospect was most frequented by lunching hospital workers followed closely by the store on the corner of Park. Both stores' sandwiches were cheaper.

My grandmother and her coworkers would come to Park Delicatessen specifically if they wanted the choice cuts of meat, and more gourmet level of quality to their meals which weren't limited to sandwiches. The higher quality came at a higher price which their salaries as nurses, secretaries and the like couldn't afford on a daily basis. I do recall seeing the doctors making their rounds at Park Delicatessen without fail.

So with all that in my mind imagine my surprise at seeing the door open to the old place for the first time in years. There had been a West Indian restaurant in the space back in the 90's but they didn't last long. This particular space was a bit enigmatic because there seemed to be few attempts to rent it ( I don't recall any window signs) and I couldn't tell you when the Deli I knew and the woman who ran it closed shop because her hours of business simply became shorter and shorter until the store just didn't open anymore.

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards/Flowers/Dry Goods) - 1

I looked into what had become of the space and the first thing I noticed besides the Shawn White stunt double sitting outside, were the orange walls which were like tropical punch bubblegum, day-glo-ing in the afternoon sun in a smack in the face way that said clearly this is not my nostalgic deli. So I entered and got, well confused, because in addition to tricked out, glossed up hyper designed skateboards on the walls, there were all these plants and planters all around. The interior was a mix of antique and ultra-antique. The counter as I recall seemed from another era as well and in back, holy shit in the back were the original giant fridges! (or an amazing facsimile there of).

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards/Flowers)

The stored seemed to be still setting up (this was over a month ago) and I took in the scene like a blog troll; a baseball capped dude talking up a customer a young mother with baby in tow, kids interested in browsing boards while flawlessly looking bored.

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards) - 5

In instant contrast I thought about the old Black woman who ran the deli I had known. (yeh it weirds me out too, when Black people make a point to describe people in anecdotes as being "black" but that woman was like a kindly old character out of Toni Morrison's fiction as I recall her) Meanwhile, back in the shop, I looked around at the re-contextualization I was in the middle of and I thought.., how f*cking cool is this!!

I was so overwhelmed standing in the humble store experiencing my past and suddenly present in Park Delicatessen, I decided to ask for the owner Mike, about the place, and it went like this:

BrooklynBornBlog: How'd you find the space?
Park Delicatessen: My Wife and I were looking for a studio to share to make room in our house for the baby. We were looking for something cheap, and with some character, but that we could put our mark on. We live on this block, and saw this little spot just sitting, we asked a few questions and found the owner working nearby.

BrooklynBornBlog: What's been the most challenging part of the start up?
Park Delicatessen: The biggest challenge of starting up was dealing with all the problems of an old building, try to change the sink and the hot water shutoff is busted, Try to patch the ceiling, but the toilet upstairs is broken. Things like that, you have to do 6 things before you can do the thing you originally set out to do.

BrooklynBornBlog: Is this you're first skate shop or store?
Park Delicatessen: This is my first store. Val's parents owned a restaurant in Oakland for 20 years. Both of us had our own Biz before we opened the shop, I have a Creative services company called Dukes Place, and Val, has a woman's clothing company called Valentine.

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition - Shaun White stunt double

BrooklynBornBlog: What inspired the skate shop?
Park Delicatessen: I think the amount of skateboards in the neighborhood, and the lack of places to buy flowers. On a few occasions I need some flowers and there was nowhere to get them!

BrooklynBornBlog: What kind of skater were you?
Park Delicatessen: I got my first real board in 7th grade, and skated on and off since then. Graffiti, art school, career etc. took over at different points. But I think my first trip to SF a few years back got me hyped on skating all over again. I Enjoy it more now then ever before, because its all about the feeling I get when I land a trick. I sort of relate it to the guy who plays golf on Sundays with his friends, only I skate.

BrooklynBornBlog: I noticed what looked like refrigerators in back, were they in the space when you got there?
Park Delicatessen: Yes the walk in fridge was there. It can be repaired but I'm going to wait to see if it's necessary. For now it it keeps the Delicatessen theme on track. Even if I wanted to get it out, I would need a bulldozer. They don't make things like that anymore.

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards) - 5
BrooklynBornBlog: Any plans on working with the Afro Punk Skate events?
Park Delicatessen: I would love to get involved with all the local skate events. I think because we opened only 1 month or so ago, alot of events were planed already. But we hosted our first event last Sat, and it was a huge success*. We plan on doing one a month till it gets to cold. (*seems to me I recognize skaters who attend Afro Punk last year in pics of Park Deli's skate event this month, link below, you make the call)

BrooklynBornBlog: What's the best selling item?
Park Delicatessen: I think the flowers on the weekend work well for us. Its tough to pin down, because or inventory is constantly changing on both the skateboard end and the antiques side. I think people appreciate our selection of flower pots as well. No matter how many we find, there are usually gone by the end of the week.

Park Delicatessen 2009 edition (Skateboards/Flowers/Dry Goods) - Mike - 1
(The new) Park Delicatessen (Skateboard/Flower/Dry Goods Shop) owner Mike

BrooklynBornBlog: What's you're history with the neighborhood?
Park Delicatessen: Well, My wife has lived on this block for the last 12 years, me the last 3. We met out in Davis Park Fire Island 4 years ago. and after a year of living at my place in the city, we decided it would be better for us to start a life together in Brooklyn. But I have a older connection to Crown Heights. My dad's father owned a fish store on Kingston (Ave.) and Lincoln (Pl.) for 30somthing years, and my dad was a fireman on St. John's and Utica Av* through the 80's. So even though I never lived here when I was a child I felt connected to the neighborhood when I moved in.

(*that's Engine 234, Ladder 123 - as a kid I loved that it was numbered that way-BBB)

Park Delicatessen aging sign

BrooklynBornBlog: Will you do anything to the (nearly destroyed) sign above the store?
Park Delicatessen: No the sign is staying exactly as it is. there's perfection in age.

It was great meeting Mike and I think the shop's great. Why not a skate/flower/dry goods shop? Why not take a space that actually HAS been underutilized, despite what it had been, and make it something entirely new in context while working within the existing space. Re-purposing at it's finest in my opinion.

It doesn't hurt my opinion that on those very streets nearly thirty years ago I got my first skateboard, and besides rattling my teeth on some of the very same sidewalks that were cracked and shattered back then, I also heard other kids calling me white boy and asking why I wanted to ride that big plastic orange thing. And all I could think was, "why not?" who does it hurt?

It's awesome, I have no idea if it will work, but it's awesome. Seriously. I always look at these unused store fronts, especially in areas like Crown Heights, Flatbush, Bedford-Stuyvesant and think why can't we have an shop that isn't the bare minimum in terms of it's offerings? Why not a book shop, or a toy store or a skate shop in these areas. I understand how much these same neighborhoods need supermarkets but your not going to put one in a small space so then what? Why not something imaginative?

Some of you may want to dismiss what I think is a great change in the neighborhood, that's your choice but I think there is greatness in doing something eclectic in business in communities like Crown Heights. As much as the evils of gentrification sicken me, this is not that. This is an example of the goodness in gentrifying. And not simply because I like the offering. I believe many communities need offerings of new ideas that demonstrate respect for the past rather than co-opting nostalgia for street cred, working within existing structures, bonding with the community. And these are not simply my assumptions.

Mike an I chatted about the previous life of Park Delicatessen and he knew of the woman that had owned the earlier shop and then he did me one better dropping the name of the German owner who opened the store originally and sold the place to her. Mike learned the history in part from the landlord. So that covered my need for historical awareness and for community outreach how bout a free skate event? My lateness in posting meant I missed getting this out before the Park Delicatessen Skate Park event they held in the school yard of ol' PS 316 across the street. They built ramps invited kids and were grindin' all day (pics on their blog) As mentioned he hopes to hold Skate events monthly through the summer.

See that's what's up on Park Place, in Crown Heights (Yeh it's a block from the "border" of Prospect Heights but I'll address broader border issues next time).

I wish them success and you should visit when you're near. Park Delicatessen; back in business, choice cuts on board, now with a new flavor.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Photo Wedns: 5/20/09 a Bump in the Brooklyn blog

best Bump Sign

On many one-way streets in Brooklyn you'll find mounds of asphalt and gravel marked "Bump". The reason for this is so motorists (who for a variety of debatable reasons began especially in the 90's, speeding down residential roads like a starship warping out of a movie's climax) would be forced to slow down. Personally I wonder how many times drivers have ignored the warning to heed the bump and plowed right ahead. Probably didn't turn out well.

Which brings me to today's photo Wednesday; Basically I moved, recently.

My head, My spirit, My residence have all been in transition for the last two months. It's been tough to write in this blog, because I've wanted to maintain a safe distance between my personal life and my concept of this blog, which is meant to be a unique voice about Brooklyn; past, present and speculating on the future.

Somewhere in my recent experiences I'm sure is a metaphor for what interests me most about Brooklyn specific and the nation as a whole. The idea of place is so important because it's tied to identity, of course. And identity, etc, shapes how we see the world around us. So the conversations raised on the issue of what a place is now compared to what it has been, and who is mainstreamed and who is marginalized, those issues and arguments are shuffled and shifted by something as simple as who moves where and why, clearly.

And I was still unprepared for how my recent move has effected perceptions of self-identity despite the small physical distanced I've traveled.

Although I still want a comfortable distance between my private life and my blogging I can say I've been living in Clinton Hill since before the start of this blog (which you may have guessed by my posts) and I've moved to Crown Heights.

That was my third or fourth or fifth time living in Clinton Hill depending on how you draw the boundaries and this is my fifth time living in Crown Heights again, depending on the boundaries. CH vs CH (...fight!)

The distance according to my iPhone is 1.6 miles and should take 30 minutes walking (accurate!) and 5 minutes by car, and yet it is, like the space between many Brooklyn neighborhoods, some worlds away from each other.

The last time I lived as deep in "the heights" (which was what I recall people referring to it as when Prospect Heights wasn't an all embraced/known moniker) it was the mid 70's when I was a little kid living on Union St and Troy (very different from Union and 7th Ave worlds away in Park Slope).

I've been reacquainting myself with the area (I have friends spread all over so I never really left) but in the process I am finding places and things I somehow never saw or paid enough attention to.

My current residence doesn't change the focus of this blog very much. In my three decades I've lived in over 50% of this borough, and shopped, dated and hung out in another 30% at least, so for what it's worth my focus will still be on all things relateable to Brooklyn. Of course personal discoveries and my usual past/present comparisons will guide and mix in with many of my posts in the weeks to come so keep on coming back I've already started writing and there will be a lot to see and hear, with the same personal/historical on things like:

Why there's no cafe's on Nostrand (although there is a great natural juice spot nearby)

Why Hasidic popcorn is my current favorite

What it's like to see the place you grew up hollowed out and re-inhabited

When gentrification is and isn't in the interest of the neighborhood

and of course,

Where to get the best curried goat Roti dinner in Crown Heights.

stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Law and Order grows a fly on the wall in Brooklyn

I watched Law & Order, the "SUV" edition of NBC's long running multi-generational cop ensemble and they did Williamsburg tonight.

Sooo silly. A caricature only slightly more ridiculous than the real thing. Fave quote,"sometimes I think I should move back to Wisconsin"

That and the debut of Jeff Goldblum as a potentially new-agey genius cop character.
It's a guilty pleasure that answers my question of why these shows are still on. No clip, they don't need my pr.

The investigative drama even managed in the recent bedbug epidemic, must felt (complained about?) by hipsters, in the episode bedbugs become a DNA bank as a lab tech says "we can extract the blood they ate for up to two months". eww.

Photo Wed: 5/13/09 : Pratt's Graduate Show

Brooklyn's own Pratt Institute, and my Alma-sumthin, debuted their soon to be Grad's works at their annual show. Pictures aren't allowed and yet somehow a photo of said event is this week's Photo Wednesday.

Pratt Annual Show

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Green Fill for Tues May 12th

Moving Sucks.

Public Art meets Greening Space, Falls in Love (CU)

I don't care if it's furniture, clothing, pets, mountains or digital files it's all a less than royal pain.

Now that I've vented assume that as the reason most posts of late, have been few and far between.

All I will add is it boggles my mind when I realize that most of the work and time I've burned for the last four weeks has been aimed at dismantling and reassembling my physical and virtual life, so that in the end I can actually do things in said life.

Enuff rambling, this just in:

Assembly Member Letitia James's office would like you to know that at 2:30 pm today a press event was held to discuss the importance of reducing our community’s contribution to global warming, as well as our use of non-renewable resources.

Council Member James joins Jed Marcus, coordinator of the Fort Greene Association’s Green Fort Greene & Clinton Hill (GFGCH) spring greening initiatives, for a press event on Tuesday, May 12th, at 2:30 pm, in front of Marcus Attorneys, located at 13 Greene Avenue (near Fulton St.) "

Topics covered were:

Recycling in parks: this project is taking place on a pilot basis in Fort Greene Park, Cuyler Gore Park, as well as Underhill Playground. Bins will be placed first for paper, and then for bottles and cans later this month.

Lawn Litter Act signs
: GFGCH is distributing free waterproof signs to prevent unwanted paper waste and to encourage businesses to promote themselves in a more green way, such as through their websites.

Tree bed expansions: in order to maintain the health of trees that line the streets of Fort Greene/Clinton Hill - GFGCH with Council Member James want to expand tree beds to 50 square feet. This project called Take Back the Pavement will create longer living trees and more shade, safer sidewalks, as well as jobs for the community.

Who: Council Member Letitia James, Attorney Jed Marcus, and Academy for Young Writers students

What: Press Conference highlighting the Green Fort Greene & Clinton Hill spring greening initiatives

When: Tuesday, May 12th at 2:30 pm, in front of 13 Greene Avenue - near corner of Fulton Street

Contacts: Amyre Loomis at (718) 260-9191, and Jenna Payne at (718) 643-6555

Photos courtesy of me (as usual) location Myrtle Avenue Near Cumberland

(I love this entire deal the public art, the myriad readings one can make into the art, the technical craft, I've just been to busy to post about it. I've added these photos to this post because they are suitable for expressing how much I long for the sensation of creating and how much I want to be devoting my time to doing more creating.
Just like these trees and tree folk seem to be expressing the moment of leaving and/or reconnecting and how much emotional energy is bound up in that action. Le Sigh.)

Friday, May 8, 2009

I heart Rosie Perez

credit: wikipedia

I bumped into Rosie Perez twice in my years in Fort Greene/Clinton Hill, and even though I think I once scared the holycrap out of her (I got caught in a early-morning bleary-eyed stare at a giant canine that turned deer-in-celebrity-headlights moment) she was always cool.

I missed commenting in the moment about the brouhaha that erupted around her comments on "entitlement" in gentrification. But she brought an equal mix of common street sense and philosophical social concern to the conversation and for that I heart Rosie.

Basically here's a follow-up where she straightens records, and gets heads to nod to the Brooklyn beat.

Plus I still think she was robbed an Oscar nomination for her role in "White Men Can't Jump" For reals.

I went to the 2009 Brooklyn Blogfest, few words, pix

I attended the 2009 Brooklyn Blogfest at powerHouse books in D.U.M.B.o.

Brooklyn Blogfest 2009

Besides the sticker-shock at seeing people who I had unconsciously created mental images for materialize in the flesh, it was a great opportunity to find out what the grassroots on the otherside looks like. All sincerity it looks like sweet creativity.

I don't have much of a post, getting busier these days still moving(within B'Klyn of course), more to come on that but here's what stood out to me:

The celebration of what I'll call "everyarts"; the expressions of personal often unrefined but deeply personal perspectives and aesthetics which are the center of what any artwork is, that is what I say on display at the Brooklyn Blogfest. I thought it was empowering in the way the cliche'd siblings organic and grassroots are truly meant to be.

Also I dug what seemed to be a spoken uninhibited stream of consciousness displayed by Jake Dobkin. When the guy has a point, believes in it, he makes it.

Dobkin on personal blogs: "we all have to accept... that we're really not that interesting"

Here's a few pix of what I saw:

Brooklyn Blogfest 2009
Brooklyn Blogfest 2009
Otherwise I was too busy listening to the speakers, watching great photos and poignant videos and otherwise being informed to take more pics. And I left the evening without any snark on mine or anyone's parts. Impressive.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Photo Wed: 5/6/09 : Big Gulp! 7-Eleven come to Bed-Stuy!

Now this is gentrification I can believe in:

Big Glup! 7-11 in Bed-Stuy! 2

Bedford-Stuyvesant has joined the ranks of communities nation-wide that can take a short drive to a long list of heart stopping guilt snack attacks.

That's right 7-Eleven has heard from friends that it's not so bad in the 'hood and decided to move in. And it's not one of those wack KFC/BaskinRobbins/7-Eleven Combos, naw, 7-11 was all like,"I feel safe on these streets, I don't need no roommates to walk me from the A train".

I don't know how long it's been there, but um loving it.

Matter a fact, I like the idea of being minutes away from slurpies and homies so much, I've decided to create a new feature of this blog, contrasting my previous "When Gentrification Attacks" feature.

Yep, "Gentrification I Can Believe In" will be a feature that shows I'm neither bitter renter or blissful owner(I'm both). As I've posted I likes my Habana Outpost and never-ending bicycle lanes, but I'm not feeling 50 story glass towers in 4 story neighborhoods and gross appropriations of culture or as is said in Flatbush, "Faking Flags".

And so I raise my Big Gulp and $1 Hotdog, to you 7-Eleven and say ”どもありがとう” (domo arigatou) you great big shadow Japanese company that keeps a never closing light on for us all, even in the 'hood.
Big Glup! 7-11 in Bed-Stuy! 3 wide
For those looking for this all hour high-calorie oasis it's on the corner of Brooklyn Av (natch) and Atlantic Ave on the boarder of Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights.