"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice
Category: NYC Memories and Moments

When Godzilla Stomped on My Family Vacation

My wife argues that what I did was tantamount to deliberate sabotage of the family vacation. I disagree, but it’s a matter of degree, not substance. It’s about sorting my priorities, and I definitely put the making the finals ahead of anything else, including embarking on an important trip. For that, I deserved some heat.

The finals in question were for the 2015 Nippon Club Baseball Tournament. Mostly populated by teams representing the New York offices of Japanese corporations, we play throughout the summer, early on weekend mornings, on the nicely refurbished fields of Randall’s Island. My company’s team is decent and has made the semifinals three times in ten years, but we’ve never advanced to the final.

And what I did, or what was done to me, or whatever, was pain. It’s hard to writhe in pain on the infield dirt while also remaining still, but that was the advice raining down on me from members of both teams. Agony inspires an escape plan. Rolling around the dirt trying to crawl out of my skin was all I could come up with. That and screaming “fuck” a bunch of times. So while the not-moving advice was sound, I’m sure, all I heard was the little angel/devil voice inside my own head “Get up. Matsui is on the line. Get up.”

This was the semifinals and our chances of making the finals were in trouble. The finals of anything is usually a good place to be, so maybe that’s motivation in and of itself to get up off the ground and play. I don’t think my angel/devil’s advice would have been much different under normal circumstances, and hence my wife’s interpretation of the events gains even more traction, but this year was far from normal. Instead of facing one of the usual tournament powerhouses for the crown, we’d be facing Hideki Matsui.

“Wait, come again?” I asked.

“Hideki. Matsui.” elaborated my teammate.


He pointed to the outfield, where two centerfielders stood back-to-back, the way they do on overlapping fields without fences. This was the quarterfinals, a few weeks earlier, and our 12-run lead allowed ample time for the observation of the other games. There was no mistaking the tank standing in centerfield, wearing number 55. Two of me together might match the width between his shoulders. There stood the MVP of the 2009 World Series playing the sun field at too-damn-early o’clock on a Saturday and trying to get his team into the same semi-finals we were all but assured of reaching.

I went scrambling through the paperwork on the bench, looking for the draw and the future schedule. “Crap,” I said. “We’re on the wrong side.”

That Hideki Matsui was playing in the tournament probably should have been something I was aware of before the quarterfinals. However, I’m in a state of, if not semi-retirement, then of other-shit-to-do-ment. I coached the Little Leaguers on Saturday mornings and the Pee Wee Soccerers on Sunday mornings. Even if there were not direct conflicts, which there were, adding another sports-related commitment to the weekends would have been the last thing I did before being served with divorce papers.

The teams in the tournament occupy an athletic limbo. The overriding qualification for being on the roster is not any baseball skill, but simply a desire to play – beginning with the awareness that team even exists and culminating with the ability to drag yourself to the field for first pitches at 8:30 AM. This brings an assortment of ex-ballplayers and guys who haven’t played since the bases were 60 feet apart. I played into college, but blew my knee out in the winter of my freshman year and re-habbed on a bar stool for the other three-and-a-half years. I picked up playing in adult leagues for several years after that, but for the last decade or so, this tournament has been my only baseball. Our starting lineup features a couple of other guys who at least played in high school and a couple of guys who can most likely catch a ball thrown directly at them.

I don’t know that I can describe exactly why it was so important to play against Matsui, but as soon as I found out it was a possibility, I wanted it badly. I’ve told this story to many friends (and their friends, and their parents, and co-workers, and their dogs) and right away I can tell if they get it. Some cannot embrace the calculus that makes this awesome. The ones that do get a glimmer in their eyes.

I’m aware that you can pay to attend a fantasy camp and play against baseball legends. That is of no interest to me (well, I’d do it if you paid my freight, but I’m not writing that check). This isn’t star-fucking, well maybe, but different. This guy is coming to us. He’s coming to our tournament to compete for the same trophy we’re trying to win. He’s just having fun and trying to kick our asses. I mean, he’s a great Yankee too, and I’ve followed his career closely and all, but if it was Mike Piazza, I don’t think I’d feel much differently.

The dream scenario for how it would play out is vague in my mind. Is it hitting a long blast over his head and earning a tip-of-the-cap when he spots you standing on third? Is it robbing him of extra bases with a sliding grab? Is it watching him tattoo our pitcher with missile after missile? Is it just the thrill of competition to test yourself against the limits of your ability and shake hands when the dust settles? I guess that’s why I needed to play that game. Something’s going to happen, and whatever it is, I’m going to tell the story of that something for as long as I can summon the spit. And really any way it goes is going to be epic in the re-telling.

But, OK, I concede, give me the tip-of-the-cap.

There was some good news on the schedule, the semi-finals were on July 11th and our family vacation didn’t start until the 12th. We’d be going to visit my wife’s family until the 19th and given they don’t live next door, the kids getting to spend extended time with them is the whole point. The finals were also on the 19th so that would be a problem. And in between us and the finals was Mizuho Bank, a team we’d never beaten, and their star pitcher, ex-minor leaguer Rich Hartmann.

We had only four guys in the lineup that stood any chance against Hartmann. I was swinging the bat well in the tournament, and I’d had some success against him in the past, but that was long enough ago not to matter. I hadn’t seen a pitch at his speed in three or four years – the pitcher in the quarterfinals might not have registered on a JUGS gun.

First pitch of the semis was on a Saturday at 8:30am. This was too bad for us, as we learned Hartmann was suffering from a very painful case of gout and was unable to put any weight on his foot right up until midday Friday. His medication kicked in just in time.

There was not a cloud in damn sky. I cuss because I was leading off and the sun was right in my face. The ball came out of his hand, low-80s, just below the life-giver. I didn’t see any white, just a dark grey oval humming at the plate. I got one pitch to hit, couldn’t catch up to it. Fouled off one of his out pitches on the outer edge and geared up for another when he came back over the inside corner and caught me cheating. I don’t like striking out, and take great pains to avoid it, but this one… I had no chance.

The good thing about that sun though, it was just as much a bastard for them. Through two-and-a-half innings, the pitchers allowed two base runners, a bloop single and a walk, against double-digit strikeouts and zero well-struck balls. Before striking out yet another hitter in the third, our pitcher smiled at me and pointed to the other field where the other semi-final was taking place. Matsui was pitching. The whole infield just turned and stared. It reminded me of the scene in Eight Men Out when the plane flies over head and drops the dummy on the infield. We had to win this game.



The next time I got up with two outs in the bottom of the third, the sun was mercifully higher, still no help from the clouds though. I laid off a couple of loose breaking balls and found myself sitting fastball when he had no good reason to throw anything else. He obliged with a get-me-over-fastball, not his hardest by a long shot, belt high and inner third. I smoked a one-hopper to the right of the first baseman. He dove but couldn’t reach it. The ball skidded off the dirt and off the tip of his glove and caromed toward an empty second base. Given the pitcher was gout-ridden, even if the first baseman made a miracle stab, I was winning that foot race. I was relieved to notch the hit, but there was also a nagging feeling that I needed to do more damage with that one if we wanted to get some runs on the board.

I got ready to try to steal, but this guy had a pick-off move and the catcher could reach second. I could steal at will off the lesser teams. Before I could get on my horse, we were out of the inning. And two batters into the top of the fourth, we were losing. Double and single, both smacked and we were down a run. It looked like a massive run, even then.

But the inning wasn’t over there. Mizuho was finding the soft spots in the outfield – and there were many. Luckily, we were able to force the pitcher at second base from right field (the gout, again) to give us a shot at getting out of the jam.

With first and second and two outs, they tried for the double steal. Let’s review the situation as this daring play went into effect: I’m left-handed, I was playing well in front of the bag at third-base to compensate for the torn labrum in my throwing arm and the catcher can’t throw either. I hightailed it back to the bag, got in decent straddling position and looked up to see the catcher uncork a spectacularly awful throw, more in the general direction of shortstop than the third base bag. I instinctively lunged out towards the ball. The glove on my right hand came nowhere near the ball hurtling into space, but the action dragged my right leg directly into the baseline where a not-small, not-agile, 40 plusser was bearing down. He never really intended on sliding, I guess, but when he saw me block the bag, he went into a duck-and-cover pseudo-roll which planted his helmet just below my right knee.

One of my (many) flaws is that I don’t suffer injury quietly. I can play hurt, I can endure pain over long stretches, but at the moment of injury, I’m prone to dramatic reactions. So there was a lot of concern due to this particular reaction which was one of my most dramatic. The Nippon Club Tournament director didn’t even get mad at me for yelling “fuck” so many times. My reaction may have also caused everyone else on the field to ignore the fact that I had obstructed the runner, and as in the 2013 World Series, if he had made any attempt at home plate, he would have granted free passage there, scoring a run we could not afford to give up.

And then we had the yelling, the writhing and ultimately only these facts remained: it wasn’t broken and if you come out of the game, you can’t go back in.

There was nothing noble about staying in the game, as the guys on the bench didn’t wake up at 6:30am on their Saturday to watch me gimp around the field. This was a selfish thing and a deluded, though possibly accurate, back-of-the-napkin calculation that even with one leg, I was going to be better than any potential replacement. I’ll give you three guesses where the next ball was hit and the first two don’t count.

Low running grounder to my left, a play of moderate difficulty, but of course, everybody was holding their breath to see if my leg was going to come flying off. I leaned over, snagged it, took an impaired shuffle and slung some side-arm slop over to first and that was the inning.

Adrenaline is a hell of a thing, but apart from being fairly certain my leg was not broken, I had no idea about the extent of the injury. It was bad – the worst I’ve ever been hurt in a baseball game by far. Sitting through our at-bats getting stiff didn’t help. And we didn’t score.

They, however, tacked on another in the 5th when our left fielder turned a can-of-corn into a double. That’s not fair. There are no easy plays in this league. He was playing a little too shallow, got the wrong read on the ball, and then instead of turning and running back to where the ball was lazily drifting, opted for the back-pedal of death. He fell down over ten feet from where the ball landed.

I fielded one more grounder to end the sixth and came up to bat with one out and nobody on in the bottom of the inning. By now, the sun and clouds were far from my thinking as all I wanted to do was crush a fly ball so I could limp to first. He figured out his breaking ball, unfortunately, and dropped the first two into the zone, low and away. I swung at the second one, and it was not a swing for the archives. I tapped it straight into the ground and it hopped up over the pitcher’s head and settled on course to the charging shortstop.

I guess I could have just accepted this as an out but…no, let’s sprint-limp to first and try to beat this out. Somehow, there wasn’t even a throw. The shortstop didn’t handle it cleanly, but I’m pretty sure that was not required to throw me out. Anyway, that was the end of me. I well overdrew the account with that maneuver and couldn’t even get a first step toward second when the next pitch went to the back stop. Two outs later I took myself out of the game.

The tournament director brought me some ice. That was nice. I needed bacta. Back on the field, we continued to play well, but not well enough. Our pitcher went all nine frigging innings and held them at two runs. My replacement fielded two balls cleanly and when my spot in the order came up in the eighth, he got a hit. Damn, I would have given a lot to stay in, but he did more than I probably could have done.

We couldn’t score though. We put one more base runner on in the ninth, but yeah, this isn’t a happy ending. We lost 2-0, both pitchers throwing complete game gems.

Our game was over so quickly, that even after the ceremonial bows and team photos, we had time to catch the end of the other semifinal. I set myself up on the ground behind third base with the ice bag and watched Hideki Matsui in the on-deck circle. This was as close as I was going to get, so medical attention for my knee would just have to wait.

It was the top of the eighth, and the game was tied 1-1 and Team Matsui (that was literally their name, which is awful, but at least transparent) had two runners on base. The pitcher on the hill was struggling and fell behind, but no, this couldn’t be happening. He walked the hitter. In. Front. Of. Hideki. Matsui. So bases loaded, 1-1 tie, and the owner of 507 professional home runs stepped up to the plate.

Matsui batted right-handed. I mean, it makes sense and all, but sheeit. He felt it would not be fair and honorable to bat lefty in the tournament, but I can tell you not one player on any team wanted him to bat right-handed. So shove the honor and hit a bomb, please.


No matter though, because their pitcher beaned him on the first pitch. The go-ahead run crossed the plate. Beaned Godzilla. Team Matsui weathered a rally in the ninth and won. I watched Matsui jump four feet in the air celebrating during the 2003 ALCS Game 7 rally, so I can tell you that, apart from a minus-three feet off the jump in intervening 12 years, he celebrated pretty damn hard for that final out.

You can read about the final here. It was a doozy.

The end of my story is that I could not really walk or do anything that required any more than the crudest, slowest limping for the next three days. So packing the bags? Packing the car full of those bags? Driving four hours? Doing anything with the children in a haze of painkillers? Nope. I received as much sympathy from my wife as if I was badly hungover from a night at the strip club. Your call on whether or not this was sabotage, but it certainly screwed up her life for reasons that aren’t readily apparent to her.


At first I tried to argue with her. But it’s a loser. Injury is not the freak accident I pretend it to be, but rather the logical conclusion of continuing to play baseball, basketball and soccer at an advancing age. I’ve had three knee operations, the torn labrum, a broken nose and all of them put together were a picnic compared to the herniated disc and nerve impingement that screwed up our 2014. If I continue to play, I will continue to get hurt.

My father plays tennis often, and he’s in his mid-60s. He recently carried his doubles team, and his tennis club, to their league championship with a particularly awesome match. It’s probably the happiest I’ve seen him, maybe ever. A few years ago, his doubles partner died on the court next to him. And last week, another partner passed away the day after they played together.

We play the games of our youth to halt the passage of time and experience the thrills and joys only found on those fields. Yet playing, especially as we age, also contributes to the rapid deterioration of our physical selves. I guess some would look at our fragile mortality and say stay the hell away from those fields and crashing bodies. But if you do decide to play, it would be best for everybody if you’re able to get in the car and drive for four hours the next morning.

Where & When: Game 35

Hello again! What, are you up for another adventure with Where & When? If not, come back in a few minutes for the answer, because our regulars would actually give Joseph Tacopina an ounce of shame (it is possible).  Today’s gambit is sponsored by my nephew Isaiah, who slept over last night as I wrote this post. He may or may not appear in future posts as I bring more areas to bear for your scrutiny (in the present, of course).  Meanwhile:

Where & When Game 35

click on pic to enlarge

Ah, another break from the classics; and I bet this one has Fearless Leader very interested.  But I’m not going to make this one too easy. You can probably tell where this is, especially if you were around town in this era, but how many of you know about any of the other features in this picture? There’s quite a bit of interesting history contained here, so I’m looking for at least three features in this pic that have either a back story or something interesting going on today. The bonus question is what you know of regarding one of the features here that’s also become an institution in it’s own right.  You have thirty seconds, no, you have all morning and afternoon to figure it out and post your answer in the comments. I am curious to see how long it takes to find the Easter eggs in this one.

Again, full credit and a full mug of contraband to the first one who finds the proper names and history or current aspect of significant features in this picture (hint: there are three that I’m most concerned with).  The rest of us get a bowl of chicken noodle soup.  The bonus will get you a shot of contraband in your chicken noodle soup >;)

So, I’ll try to be back in the evening to sort out the mess here.  Good luck, and if you have any personal stories about this area, please feel free to share! And don’t peek at the photo credit or you’re fired (that’s nephew’s two cents).  Enjoy!

[Photo credit: wavz13

Where & When: Game 28

Hi folks, and welcome back to another rousing version of Where & When.  The year is coming to a close soon, which means I have some calculating to do; in the meantime I must warn you that the games may be slowing down soon for the holidays and for the fact that I need to find more places to cull challenges from; harder to find challenging pictures than you would think.  I also did promise some expansion of territory and insight on certain places; don’t think I forgot about that, but it does require time to do and this might be the best time to do such a thing.

With that in mind, let us glance thusly at this edifice:

Where & When Game 28

Imposing. Scary looking, in fact. Maybe not so much now; this is not the original version of the edifice, nor is it the current version (some modifications in the 60′s were made to conform to the contemporary standard policies on appearances), but interesting for two reasons: it is the first of its kind in this particular borough, and it’s located a half a block away from my first residence in the city; in fact my little strip of a street was an anomaly of sorts in that it had no true origin; at the least it was probably wiped out by urban planning and development in some years prior.

So there is a name and address for this building since it still exists, however since this pic is undated, I will ask that you give dates to when the original structure was actually built as well as the year of this redux and subsequent renovations.  I would offer a bonus, but it would be a dead giveaway, so I’ll just tell you that there is a bit of trivia connected to this place that might interest certain people; I in fact have at least one thing in common with the subject of this info.  That, or name the other street I referred to in my description above. Have I got some stories about that…

So, that’s rather vague, but this one is not really hard.  A tanker of Duffy’s Rowdy for the first with the answers, and a Foxon Park for the peanut gallery. Enjoy the game, I’ll get back to you soon and don’t click on that photo credit!

[Photo credit: Patheos.com]

Where & When: Game 20

Welcome Back to Where & When.  This will be a special edition to highlight the recent loss of a cultural icon.  For several generations and cultures who inhabit the city, this was their Penn Station. I present this without further comment, but feel free to post thoughts.

Where & When 20-1

New York Graffiti Landmark 5 Pointz Continues To Appeal Demolition

Tuesday, November 19, 2013:

Where & When 20-3 111913

Where & When 20-4

 Here is a Google Gallery of what was 5 Pointz. 

Here is a little history.

Where & When: Game 15

Welcome back to another challenge with Where & When, where you follow sketchy trails to get finer details when you have the time to do so.  I have to admit, the last game was pretty interesting and generated a bit of feedback, so I’m inclined to keep that same format for the time being and hope that it will attract new players and get more people talking.  We’ve got a long, long winter ahead of us, so why not at least make it interesting?  Natch.

Oh, and speaking of sketchy, here’s an interesting sketch:

Where & When 15

As I’ve mentioned before, this could be pictures of any type; this is probably the first time that I’ve had a drawing to use for a challenge, but the good news is the structure is still standing and in fact was landmarked within the last decade.  It is within city limits, so you don’t have to scramble too far for clues.  One last clue: there’s been a sort-of battle of wits with the community and a well-known business intent on setting up shop in the area that would likely prefer not having to deal with this structure, but is obligated to restore it under their present agreement with the owner.  They’ve done some work on it already, which is not half-bad, considering.

So as with last time, I am allowing answers to be posted in the comments so that we can generate a hearty conversation about the general area.  What I’m looking for is the name of this building (original or according to the landmark commission, which are fairly the same) and the date it was built, which I’m sure you will find if you know what the name of the building is.  An Appalachian for the first person with both answers and a Goose Island for the followers. Enjoy the game, I’ll try to hit everyone up this afternoon.  Oh, and by the way…

I’m introducing a new feature to the game that’s not necessarily part of the game, but an additional topic of discussion.  I hinted at it from the last game, but I’ve realized that time constraints have forced me to table this feature until later. However, that does not mean that you can contribute or anticipate it’s coming (the nature of my field predicts that I’ll have time in the winter season to fully introduce this part), but as a teaser, I will give you a sampling of what is in store. Again in the last game, the town that was spotlighted was Sleepy Hollow, NY, a place I am intimately familiar with.  I intend to feature places up and down the Hudson Valley (on both sides of the river, of course) to relate some interesting tidbits, history and points of interest.  Sleepy Hollow, in fact, has quite a lot of each; so much so that it would be impossible to do a quick post in just one game.  But I could highlight a particular feature and come back at another time…

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow includes references to quite a few real places and people from Washington Irving’s time; the church, the bridge, Van Tassel and so on.  The route that Ichabod Crane traveled on during his ride with the Great Pumpkin, er, the Headless Horseman, is highlighted as a walking tour through the Tarrytowns (Tarrytown and North Tarrytown as it were) along present-day Broadway, which also includes a few other historic markers and locations related to the American Revolution and Hollywood royalty.  Then there’s also the waterfront, which also features interesting stories of it’s own.  I’ll get to all of these stories over time, but if you have any particular stories relating to those points of interest, feel free to share them below.  There will be more of these types of stories in the future. Talk with you all soon!

[Photo Credit: Pardon Me For Asking]

New York Minute

Seen. Sticker on a muni-meter on Bleecker Street, two nights ago.

That’ll Be the Day

Dig this New Yorker “Talk of the Town” item (May 1, 1943) by Joseph Mitchell.

It’s a perfect miniature of his work–a poem, really–his book of revelations:

An air-raid warden we know, a young woman who holds down the desk in her sector headquarters in Greenwich Village twice a week from nine to midnight, is occasionally visited by the policeman on the beat. This policeman, who is elderly and talkative, dropped in the other night, sat down, grunted, placed his cap and nightstick on the desk, and said, “I’m a man that believes in looking ahead, and I been walking around tonight thinking over the biggest police problem this great city will ever have; namely, the day the war ends. I got it all figured out. I know exactly what’ll happen. Half an hour after the news gets out there won’t be a thing left in the saloons but the bare walls. Then the people will tear down the doors on the liquor stores and take what they want, a bottle of this, a bottle of that. Then they’ll go to work on the breweries; they’ll be swimming in the vats. Old ladies will be howling drunk that day. Preachers won’t even bother to drink in secret; they’ll be climbing lampposts and quoting the Bible on the way up. And some young fellow will trot up to the Central Park Zoo and break the locks. The elephants will be marching down Fifth Avenue, and the lions and the tigers, two by two; we’ll be six weeks getting the monkeys out of the trees. And they’ll ring all the church bells until they crack; they’ll jerk the bells right out of the steeples. And you know that big sireen in Rockefeller Center; somebody will get hold of that, and he won’t be torn loose until they shoot him loose. And they’ll unscrew the hydrants all over town; the water will be knee-deep. And people will be running around with their shoes off, wading in the water and singing songs. I can see the whole scene. And the ferryboat captains will give one toot on their whistles and run the ferryboats right up on dry land, and the bus drivers will run the buses right into the water. And the passengers will take charge of the subway trains, and they’ll run them right up into the open air. You’ll hear a racket and a roar, and you’ll look around, and here’ll come a subway train shooting right through the pavement. And husbands will be so happy they’ll beat their wives, and wives will beat their husbands, and the tellers in banks will gang up and beat the bank presidents, and and the ordinary citizens will tear down big buildings just so they’ll have some bricks to throw.” The policeman laughed and slapped his knee. “What a day of rejoicing!” he said. “What a police problem! I hope to God I live to see it!”

New York Minute


I’m on the train the other day on my way to work. A woman I worked with almost twenty years ago gets on and stands in front of me. She doesn’t see me and I look down at my book because I don’t want to make conversation.

We weren’t friends but worked in the same restaurant for about a year.  Well enough to remember, long enough ago to forget. I read my book and then looked up, her crotch a foot-and-half away from my face.

We got off at the same stop. She didn’t look at me and I didn’t get the satisfaction of her seeing me but not being able to place the face.

[Drawing by Adrian Tomine]


New York Minute

Last night I was waiting on the uptown platform at 103rd Street. There was a kid playing the guitar across the tracks and at first I didn’t notice him but then I couldn’t help but listen. He wasn’t playing a song just jamming. I waited for him to finish so that I could applaud. He was good. But he didn’t stop. So I saw that my train wasn’t coming yet and ran up the stairs, crossed over to the other side, ran down the stairs and threw a dollar in the kid’s guitar case.

“You are doing work,” I said.

When I got back to the uptown platform I was able to capture this just before my train rolled into the station.

Soul Surfer

Listening to that dude play made my day.

[Photo Credit: Frederick JG]

New York Minute

My grandparents lived across the street from the Museum of Natural History and my brother, sister, and I visited them almost every weekend. They weren’t the kind of grandparents to get down on the floor and play with children so when they wanted to get us out of the apartment they took us across the street. It got so the museum was like an extension of their place–over-heated and boring. That’s what I remember of it, anyhow. We had to be well-behaved. Man, it was tedious.

I stayed away from the museum for years and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I went back. And I realized it was a great, mysterious place. I especially loved the scenes like the one pictured above  and recognized then how big an impression they’d made on me as a kid.

[Photo Credit:  Joel Zimmer]

New York Minute

Waiting to cross the street last night in my neighborhood, guy walks up next to me, late forties, early fifties. We see a car nearby looking to park. Guy says to me, “He’s not going to find a spot. I just came around the block, nothing, drove around again and found one. I always have luck since I came here.”

I ask where he’s from and he says California.

“I always find a spot and after the hurricane people would be waiting hours for gas, I went, twenty minutes I was done.”

He was bragging. The light turns and we cross the street.

“Well, it’ll come around and even out,” I say. “Karma does that.” I don’t mean to use to word Karma but that’s how it comes out.

“No, I’m a good person so I’ve got nothing but good Karma. That can never touch me in a bad way. Just remember if you are a good person you’ll always have Karma on your side”

I thought of saying something else but let it and him go.

[Photo Via: Eye Heart New York]

New York Minute

When I was growing up my father told me that the best hot dogs in New York were from Nathan’s. The real Nathan’s he said was out in Coney Island and he even took my brother, sister and me out there a few times. Mostly, though, when he was inspired to treat us, he brought us to the Nathan’s in Times Square.

Remember the spot?

[Photo Credit: Retro New York]

New York Minute

I’ve talked a lot about The Ginger Man, my old man’s bar of cherce when I was a kid. Well, one of the coolest things about that block, 64th Street just off of Broadway, was this:

I found this picture at The Time Machine, a cool, though defunct site by Neil J. Murphy. Worth poking around.

Thanks to the consistently stellar Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York for the tip.

New York Minute

There used to be a cop that stood on the corner of 103rd Street and West End Avenue when I was a kid. Early 1970s. His name was Wallace. He had a nightstick. We stopped and said hello to him every time we saw him. He always had a smile and it never dawned on me that cops were just cops, men without names, because of Wallace.

[Photo Credit: Dick Leonhardt]

New York Minute

Sunset in Manhattan. I remember walking up Broadway during the summer as a teenager. As I crossed each block, I’d look down past West End Avenue and chart the sun lowering in the sky until it had disappeared beyond the Hudson River and the sky was pink and orange. It was like a walking flip book. Then the lights from the stores and traffic signs and cars popped on the city street. Magic hour, that surreal moment between night and day when everything seemed like it was out of a movie.

[Photo Credit: Atenacius via This Isn’t Happiness ]

New York Minute

From Charles Simic:

No city displays its mixture of beauty and ugliness as brazenly as New York does. It’s one thing to see a city with cathedrals and other church towers from an approaching train as one does in Europe and another to see Manhattan with buildings of every size thrown together more or less haphazardly and its streets packed with humanity all coming into view simultaneously. I still can’t believe my eyes every time I see it.

[Photo Credit: A crowd watching the news line on the Times building at Times Square, NYC, on D-day, June 6, 1944. Large-format nitrate negative by Howard Hollem or Edward Meyer, Office of War Information…via New York History]

New York Minute

Nothing says New York, or at least Manhattan, like a water tower. I remember looking out of the window at my grandparent’s apartment as a kid. They lived on 82nd street between Columbus and Central Park West. On the ninth floor. I’d look north at the cityscape and I knew why I liked Edward Hopper’s paintings. I’d see the brownstones and on the top of them the water towers. I never understood what they were for, how the water got in or out of them.

Today, I just know that I feel comforted when I see them.

[Photo Credit: The Great Retro New York]

New York Minute


Man, just another great shot from the New York Times‘ tumblr site. I remember this Times Square ad well. Actually gave me the chills seeing it again.

I had the King Kong lunch box and thermos when I was in first grade. Dag.

New York Minute

A friend of mine sent me this New York Times piece by Corey Kilgannon the other day:

Thirty-three years ago, an office worker named Ludwika Mickevicius left her native Poland and became Lucy the bartender in the East Village.

Her proletarian toughness and heavy Polish accent played well with the punks and rebels at Blanche’s bar on Avenue A, near Seventh Street. Ms. Mickevicius became so synonymous with the place, the owner renamed it Lucy’s and then sold her the business 15 years ago.

As the East Village cleaned up around it, Lucy’s remained the prototypical dive bar: a comfortable cave bathed in low red light, with a dingy dropped ceiling and worn linoleum on the floor. One arcade game, one jukebox, two pool tables, two small drinking tables, a dozen stools and a heavy oak bar. All are steeped in the character of Ms. Mickevicius: straightforward and practical. No frills, no nonsense, no whining.

“Many people hear about me and they come in and say, ‘Lucy, don’t change anything; we like it like this,’ ” she said. “Plus, change costs a lot of money.”

The story would have made Joseph Mitchell smile.

My friend used to go to Lucy’s years ago. He told me:

A past relationship of mine, we were a pair of heavy users, and recognized that we were in love. We hung out  at Lucy’s, never called it more than that, in the bag, leaning on the bar making sure we continued the “feeling better” part. We squeezed each other and made out. We loved to scream at each other.  Lucy had to break us up or shut us up. Her advice: “Why don’t you both get married”! Stoned and drunk we looked and said “why not?”

From that point forward we were going to get married. Started speaking to each other about living together. But within two weeks, I could not find her. I spoke to a friend of hers who had told me that she couldn’t handle it and just got in her car and drove west, ending up in San Francisco. She cleaned up and I finally heard from her, apologetic. She ended up marrying another artist/grease monkey out there and seemed happy.

Within a year I got a call, Her husband dryly stated that she died of an overdose, in a corner of a room with the needle stuck in her arm. He sent me her driver’s license and her death certificate along with one photo I always loved of her.

I still miss her, or maybe I really miss what could have been.

[Photo Credit: Robert Simonson]

New York Minute

Found on the walk between uptown pre-schools a few weeks ago: one of New York City’s greatest mysteries.

To me, anyway. The first time I remember seeing sneakers strung across telephone wires I was in the Bronx around Yankee Stadium. I asked why, and I’m sure I received an answer, but the answer didn’t have sufficient tack to stay with me.

Here are a bunch of theories, though not exclusive to New York. I like the idea that when you get a new pair, you throw the old ones up there. And since my wife snapped this pic on a block between my kids’ schools, let’s be tooptimistic and rule out the crack, murder and gang-related explanations.


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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver