On my way to work each day I walk by a post office in my neighborhood. I’ve gotten to know a few of the women who work there. Today, I see one them–a sports fan–quick-stepping through the cold to the deli.
She says to me, “Super Bowl this weekend?”
Yes, I tell her and then she said, “Oh, I’ll need to get some frankfurters.”
And it occurred to me right there that I couldn’t remember the last time I heard someone say frankfurters and that it might be some time before I hear it again.
[Photo Via: Found Shit]
I was in my Bronx apartment on the morning of September 11, 2001. I watched on TV like the rest of the country. Eventually, I don’t recall if it was later that day or the following day, or the day after that, I got on the subway and went as far south as I could go–14th Street. I felt the need to get closer. I couldn’t go further downtown so I turned around and walked up 8th Avenue. As I passed the bus terminal at 40th Street I saw Joe Franklin talking on a pay phone. He was alone, a pregnant briefcase resting between his feet. I had been in a daze and the sight of Franklin snapped me out of it for a moment. It was comforting to see him.
“Hey, Joe Franklin” I said to nobody in particular and kept walking. Franklin, a New York fixture for many of us, died the other day. He was 88.
On the FDR Drive overpass by lower Manhattan’s Houston Street, a group of men begins assembling an hour before nightfall one steamy Thursday in late June. Some come from security, construction, or livery jobs, others from long subway rides or carpools from the Bronx or Spanish Harlem. A few have brought wives and children.
Ranging in age from 19 to 51, short and wide to superbly conditioned, they seem a ragtag group, but for the cleats around their necks, the footballs a few carry, and the insults, bro-hugs and daps they exchange as their number swells to a dozen and they head into the Baruch Projects and its 75-year-old playground. More than 90 minutes of grueling calisthenics and sprints in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge, it’s clear this is an elite, disciplined group: These practices are every Tuesday and Thursday night it’s not raining or snowing, 40-plus weeks a year. As twilight falls, passersby ogle the regimented testosterone on field, though not for long: The spectacle of men bonding to face the realities of barrio life is fairly common, and it rarely lasts.
These guys do, because they’re Carver Mobb — the name from Spanish Harlem’s George Washington Carver Projects, where the core half-dozen grew up in the 1970s. A team for 21 years, they’ve been the powerhouse of New York’s half-dozen seven-on-seven rough-touch football leagues for a decade. Essentially two-hand-touch taken to bloodsport level, with two 25-minute halves, a mostly running clock, and referees to nominally control the mayhem, it’s the closest these weekend warriors will come to professional sport, though many are high-caliber athletes. Most played high school ball, but only a half-dozen of the 200-plus devotees I’ll meet made it to college; two were walk-ons for the New York Giants or Jets, one played semi-pro in Coney Island, another plays Arena football.
[Photo Credit: SB Nation]
Over at New York Magazine, Christopher Bonanos has a nice feature on the Strand:
Why is there still a Strand Book Store?
In large part because of Fred Bass. He’s pretty much the human analogue for the store’s gray column. His father, Ben, founded the Strand around the corner in 1927, and he was born in 1928. Ask him about his childhood, and he recalls going on buying trips on the subway with his father, hauling back bundles of books tied with rope that cut into his hands. (“Along the line, we got some handles.”) Ask him about the 1970s, and he’ll tell you about hiding cash in the store because it was too dangerous to go to the bank after dark. He’s 86, and he still makes buying trips, though mostly not by subway. “Part of my job is going out to look at estates — it’s a treasure hunt.” New York, to him, “is an incredible source — a highly educated group of people in a concentrated area, with universities and Wall Street wealth. The libraries are here.” Printed and bound ore, ready to be mined.
Four days a week, he’s on the main floor, working the book-buying desk in back. Stand there, and you’ll see the full gamut of New York readers. Critics and junior editors, selling recent releases. Academics. Weirdos. “Book scouts,” who pan for first-edition gold at yard sales and on Goodwill shelves. They walk in with heavy shopping bags and leave with a few $20s. Usually fewer than they’d hoped: The Strand rejects a lot, because unsalable books are deadweight. Whatever arrives has to go out quickly. “Our stock isn’t stale,” Bass says. “You come in, and there’ll be new stuff continually.” Slow sellers are culled, then marked down, then moved to the bargain racks outside, then finally sold in bulk for stage sets and the like.
[Photo Credit: Sebastian Bergmann]
The train wasn’t crowded this morning, the day after Christmas. But that didn’t stop two women from yelling at each other in Spanish. They sat to my right and one of them must not have said “excuse me” or something when she sat down and boom, they was arguing.
Felt oddly comforting. Merry Christmas indeed.
Happy Holiday Season and welcome once again t0 Where & When! Our random scheduling has swung around to catch us up in its web (random vacation time), so I have time to post a new one for you to look over and talk about. So here goes!
I was trying to decide between two pictures for this location because both were interesting and historic, but this one won because I didn’t have to manipulate it to make it presentable and it’s a little more of a challenge. I ask you all to figure out where this picture was taken and when; the challenge is more in the when because the clues in the picture indicate a somewhat historic event. Plane aficionados will likely get the reference and of course the bonus questions of what kind of plane that is and who it belonged to, which would certainly indicate when this picture was taken (wowzers, a hint! It was for the second occurrence of the use of this plane connected with this location.)
So there you go; a big warm mug of hot chocolate with whipped cream for the winner and a half-pint carton of chilled chocolate milk to share with the rest for the stragglers. And how about a warm plate of brownies for the bonus questions? That might help us welcome in the official start of winter (yesterday), and keep the hot stove season hot (I’m intrigued so far), so you know how the game goes and have fun. Happy Holidays!
Photo Credit: Geocitiessites (pend.)
Check out this great photo gallery of Chinatown in the early 80′s at the ever-amazing blog, In Focus.
On Saturday mornings, Tom’s restaurant in Brooklyn is so popular that people line up outside just to be served old-fashioned diner cuisine like chocolate egg creams and all manner of pancakes. It’s been that way for years, and until the owner, Gus Vlahavas, died this month at 76, the patrons’ patience was rewarded with the free coffee, cookies, sausage bits and orange slices he handed out while they waited.
Mr. Vlahavas started working at Tom’s, which opened as an ice-cream parlor under a different name in 1936, when he was 9 years old. He stayed for more than 60 years, lovingly molding it into a homey Brooklyn family institution before retiring in 2009.
He died of respiratory complications on Nov. 4 at Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan, his daughter, Beth Vlahavas, said.
Changelessness was the stock in trade at Tom’s, right down to the décor, including a half-dozen American flags and bright plastic flowers on the tables. It has had only one address since it was opened by Mr. Vlahavas’s paternal grandfather: 782 Washington Avenue.
[Photo Via: City.se]
Q: Let’s start with the shop. It was your father’s shop, but it wasn’t a record store until you got involved in it, right?
MG: … My father’s store was on Third Avenue between 41st and 42nd streets at that time. He had a radio and electrical store, a supply shop. Originally he was a hardware man, and when electrical stuff came in, he took that in. Then at the end of World War I, my Uncle Sid, my mother’s younger brother, talked him into putting in radio parts and stuff like that, and they opened their radio department.
Later, a store became available between Lex and Third Avenue on the downtown side of the street, at 144 East 42nd Street, a little nine-foot store. Sid talked my dad into opening a radio shop exclusively on 42nd Street, to be nearer to Grand Central and get the flow of traffic when people walked to the Third and Second Avenue El. They had elevated trains in those years, although the Lexington Avenue was below ground.
Radio was coming in by ’26 and ’27, especially ham radios. Everybody built their own sets in those years. You bought kits, or you bought parts. You got these radio magazines and learned how to put together a crystal set or a one-tube set. And we sold batteries and aerial wire and all that kind of stuff.
I, of course, went with Sid to the 42nd Street store, and would wait on customers. Acetone speakers came out . . . Cone speakers were invented in those years, where you would get, like a wooden frame and you would stretch airplane cloth that they used on the wings of the airplanes in 1918, like the Wright Brothers and all. You stretched it over this square frame. They had magnetic coil and stuff with a stylus coming out of it, and a gimmick for putting the hole in the cloth, and then tightening on with a thumb screw, and pulling it back. Then you bought this stuff that kids used to sniff later, the glue, and you poured it on the cloth and it would shrink and become taut, and you would have a cone. Now they’re made out of paper, but then you did it with this airplane cloth. And we sold all those kits and everything. It had a better sound the little magnetic thing, like a more sensitive earphone in your telephone. Those were the first loudspeakers with a cone on them, a cone diaphragm.
I used to eat here all the time. The food wasn’t great but it was more than tolerable and the prices were right. When I worked in the movie business, Cafe Edison was a go-to spot for lunch.
This is a few weeks old but check out Nick Paumgarten’s long New Yorker profile of the piano man:
Billy Joel sat smoking a cigarillo on a patio overlooking Oyster Bay. He had chosen the seating area under a trellis in front of the house, his house, a brick Tudor colossus set on a rise on the southeastern tip of a peninsula called Centre Island, on Long Island’s North Shore. It was a brilliant cloudless September afternoon. Beethoven on Sonos, cicadas in the trees, pugs at his feet. Out on the water, an oyster dredge circled the seeding beds while baymen raked clams in the flats. Joel surveyed the rising tide. Sixty-five. Semi-retirement. Weeks of idleness, of puttering around his motorcycle shop and futzing with lobster boats, of books and dogs and meals, were about to give way to a microburst of work. His next concert, his first in more than a month, was scheduled to begin in five hours, at Madison Square Garden, and he appeared to be composing himself.
“Actually, I composed myself a long time ago,” he said. He told a joke that involved Mozart erasing something in a mausoleum; the punch line was “I’m decomposing.” He knocked off an ash. Whenever anyone asks him about his pre-show routine, he says, “I walk from the dressing room to the stage. That’s my routine.” Joel has a knack for delivering his own recycled quips and explanations as though they were fresh, a talent related, one would think, to that of singing well-worn hits with sincere-seeming gusto. He often says that the hardest part isn’t turning it on but turning it off: “One minute, I’m Mussolini, up onstage in front of twenty thousand screaming people. And then, a few minutes later, I’m just another schmuck stuck in traffic on the highway.” It’s true: the transition is abrupt, and it has bedevilled rock stars since the advent of the backbeat. But this schmuck is usually looking down on the highway from an altitude of a thousand feet. He commutes to and from his shows by helicopter.
Joel was wearing a black T-shirt tucked into black jeans, black Vans, and an Indian Motorcycle ball cap. The back of his head, where hair might be, was freshly shorn, and his features, which in dark or obscure moods can appear mottled and knotted, were at rest, projecting benevolent bemusement. To prepare for the flight, he’d put on a necklace of good-luck medallions—pendants of various saints. The atavism of Long Island is peculiar. Though Jewish, and an atheist, he had, as a boy in a predominantly Catholic part of Hicksville, attended Mass, and even tried confession. His mother took him and his sister to Protestant services at a local church; he was baptized there. Still, a girl across the street said he’d grow horns, and a neighborhood kid named Vinny told him, “Yo, Joel, you killed Jesus. I’m gonna beat your ass.” Vinny did, repeatedly. Joel took up boxing to defend himself. The nose still shows it.
There was a rumble in the distance. “That’s my guy,” Joel said. “He’s early.” A helicopter zipped in over the oystermen and landed down by the water, at the hem of a great sloping lawn, where Joel had converted the property’s tennis court to a helipad. He’d recently had to resurface it, after Hurricane Sandy. Joel often attempts to inoculate himself with self-mockery. “Oh, my helipad got flooded,” he says, with the lockjaw of Thurston Howell III.