Monday, June 27, 2005

Six Feet Blunder


So, I am officially SICK OF NATE.

Whatta PRICK!

Why'd you have to be mean to the nice blue bird???

And why did you have to co-opt the Arcade Fire??


Friday, June 24, 2005

With Friends Like These ...

So I'm in the Korean deli in our neighborhood at midnight tonight and I hear someone screaming at the owner. Why don't you carry any organic fruits maybe some of us care about our health how can you sell us this genetically modified poison? And I see some crazy white woman with wild eyes wielding an orange. It seems her problem is that the orange is seedless. I point out gently that seedless oranges have been with us for generations, as a result of mutation and not of genetic engineering.

But maybe I ought to have said what I was thinking, and that was: You stupid fucking moron. You're in fucking BROOKLYN. It's MIDNIGHT. You're buying an ORANGE. Don't you have any idea of what a fucking miracle that is? In most parts of the world food is hard to come by at all, never mind at midnight. In most parts of this country food not manufactured by Frito-Lay is hard to come by at midnight. And you are fucking complaining about your ORANGE in BROOKLYN at MIDNIGHT being seedless?? You narcissistic, pseudo-educated git. And how dare you fucking scream at a man who emigrated to this country and struggled to learn a new language and works 8 bazillion hours a week so you can buy your fucking ORANGE at MIDNIGHT in BROOKLYN.

Lillet would have said that. I ought to have.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Well, well, well.

Why am I not surprised?

Scroll down to the e-mail exchange the "Operation Yellow Elephant" operative has with one of the Gonzaga College Republicans.

Always a joy to see "conservative students who are truly committed to principles and values."

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Way Things Go Here

As alienated in affection as we have become, I will always have a deep appreciation for the (small-d) democratic spirit of New York and its, well, randomness.

Last week, Lillet and I met with a caterer in a midtown boutique hotel. This is odd enough. Although Lillet works in this neighborhood, she's conscious of being in a different world whenever she's there. For us to have anything like a social engagement here — in this world populated by suits and secretaries from the suburbs and gawking tourists — isn't off-putting, but it is different; the feeling that we've gone somewhere else is palpable. We've sat in far more luxurious hotel lobbies, but on this evening I was hyper-aware of being the only man not in a suit. And I'm sure that I will never get used to the sight of Brioni-clad brokers quaffing Amstel Light.

So, we are listening to this very nice man who is built like an NFL running back describe to us how he obtained at auction for a little soirée in Greenwich a case of 1987 Cheval Blanc (magnums) and one of 1983 Chateau d'Yquem. Lillet explained that we are by inclination and financial constraint more likely to want to reproduce the sort of meal we had on our first date, which was a $20 bottle of cru bourgeois Bordeaux and lots of tapenade.

Suddenly, the running back jumped up.

"Mr. Barak!"



I turned and saw the caterer greeting a beefy but clearly fit man, solid, clad despite the early summer swelter in the very best that Wilson's House of Leather and Suede had to offer, a substantial man with a quiet you do not want to fuck with me air about him. I took him at first to be perhaps the owner of a string of Persian carpet galleries. But no. This was Ehud Barak, former Prime Minister of Israel. The running back had only days earlier catered a luncheon in his honor.

For one quick second I thought, Oh come on. Is this the best you can do? Ehud Barak? Had he wanted really to
impress us he'd have arranged for Anna Karina or Jacques Rivette or Eddy Merckx or David Foster Wallace to "coincidentally" wander through the lobby. Johnny and Vanessa at the very least.

But that's just the way things go here. Your chat with a caterer is interrupted by the most decorated soldier in the history of the Israeli Defense Forces.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Le Roi de la Colline

Has no one yet pointed out that Lance Armstrong was obviously the model for Boomhauer?

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


An article in this past Sunday's New York Times documents the growing gap between the super-rich and everyone else, including the merely-rich. This gap has not been so wide since — can you guess? — 1928.

At the article's end come the usual bland reaction quotes. Someone at the Heritage Foundation thinks that this is great, just terrific. The Times then reveals its liberal bias by allowing well-known Communist Alan Greenspan to express an opposing view. Greenspan suggests that maybe a big gap between the rich and the rest isn't the best thing for what is supposed to be a democracy.

The final quote is from Bruce R. Bartlett, who worked for Reagan and for Bush I and says more than he likely meant to.
As long as people think they have a chance of getting to the top, they just don't care how rich the rich are.
That's right: as long as they think so. There needn't be genuine opportunity. Illusion will do.

Keep buying those powerball tickets, suckers.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Neighborhood #2.1 (Swimming Pool)

In the final photo in the preceding entry — the view from the Aurora — you can see a red structure in the distance. This is the old McCarren public swimming pool, now grown over with weeds and surrounded by do not enter signs and razor wire.

The excellent Forgotten NY site has the history of the pool, including a photograph of opening day in 1936.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Neighborhood #2 (The Dawn of Luxury)

I've always been fascinated with New York neighborhoods, their identities and borders and names, and how these have changed or been maintained over time. Henry James' Washington Square, for example, was not populated by purple sweatpant-clad undergrads, and I doubt that Belgian frites were then so readily available as they are today. My grandparents grew up on East 12th Street and referred to this until the day they died as the Lower East Side, when everyone (everyone my age, anyway) knows this as the East Village. This sort of change in nomenclature I count as organic. "Lower East Side" meant to them and to me that lower right-hand corner of Manhattan that was home to new and recent immigrants. When that immigrant community contracted, the area between Houston Street and 14th Street was subsumed into the East Village. Other changes in neighborhood names and identities are not so organic. Anyone who says with a straight face "NoHo" or "Clinton" (bonjour, M. H.K.!) or "East Williamsburg" probably holds a Real Estate license and also uses the word "character" in suspect ways.

Yet when I am asked where it is that Lillet and I live, I lie. I say, "Williamsburg,"
knowing very well that this is not true, or at least is inaccurate. Our neighborhood is properly known as "North Side," but I am uncharacteristically willing to give everyone a break in this case, because even historically the neighborhoods of "North Side" and "South Side" were almost unknown outside of North Brooklyn.

You may have seen our neighborhood, at least in the movies, because North Side is where Donnie Brasco was set and filmed, and while it is today not nearly as gritty as it was thirty years ago it is still very much Italian — every day we hear at least some (heavily dialected) Italian spoken.

Did you know that Tom Cruise was originally
to play the Johnny Depp role?
It's also still very much a neighborhood. We know most of the people who live on our block. Our landlord (who lives above us) was born on this block more than 75 years ago.

On the South Side, Graham
Ave. is Ave. of Puerto Rico

The photos I blogged yesterday are of Greenpoint, the neighborhood immediately to the north of ours. And I mean immediately — those photos were taken on a street that is literally a three-minute walk from our apartment, a street on which one will hear no Italian and can buy no smoked mozzarella.
In Greenpoint, Polish is not only a first language, but for many it is their only language.

The Italy/Poland border
When Lillet Capuletski started dating Trey Montagulio, she lived in Greenpoint and he on the North Side.

As you can see from the map,

McCarren Park
McCarren Park is the hub of several North Brooklyn neighborhoods. As urban parks go, it is not very attractive, but Lillet and I are very fond of McCarren Park and stroll there often. On a typical Saturday afternoon you are likely to see Dominican and Polish kids with no common language playing soccer together, long-time Italian and Polish residents feeding pigeons, and more than a few hipsters experimenting with exposure to daylight.

Concrete ball field with Manhattan skyline

The hipsters are inevitable, for the western side of the park abuts one of the trendiest
neighborhoods not only in Brooklyn but in all of New York. Technically, this is still North Side, but it is known to its newer residents and to Ken Firpo and his ilk as Williamsburg, even though Williamsburg proper is some two miles away. When someone tells you that Interpol is from Williamsburg (they're not — they're not even from New York) this is the neighborhood denoted by "Williamsburg."

What is it that makes a neighborhood like this so trendy, you ask? Is it the art galleries, the

Native habitat
hip restaurants and bars, the music venues, the record stores, the boutiques? No, I don't think so. I've lived in several trendy neighborhoods and they all have only two things in common. One is the easy availablity of very strong coffee. The other is the unavailability of groceries. Here it is easier to buy a $300 pair of shoes than it is to buy a quart of milk.

Continuing counter-clockwise back to our neighborhood we pass through a bit of no-man's land. This little stretch between trendy Bedford Avenue and where Lillet and I live was until recently mostly industrial. There were and to some extent still are auto body shops, mattress warehouses, tool and die shops, and some kinds of
businesses you just didn't inquire about. A few weeks ago, walking along the southern end of McCarren park, I passed by the building you see pictured here. You're to be forgiven if you took this to be an abandoned building, a bit of urban blight. It does look like that, and — take my word for it — it smells worse, like the Knicks have been storing their dirty uniforms in there since they last won the NBA title. It turns out that it is no such thing at all. This is — or soon will be — THE AURORA ... THE DAWN OF LUXURY.


I should apologize for my silly reality-based photographs. Here you can see the Aurora in its true glory.

(Bullshit) Artist's rendering

I want to make it clear that I am not one of those idiots who fetishize poverty. I think that abandoned, burnt-out buildings are not good things. I don't think that living in poor neighborhoods is glamorous or edgy or arty or in any way helps the poor. I like nice, clean things.

(Bullshit) Artist's rendering
I think that everyone should get to live in safe and well-kept neighborhoods. But I think that if you're going to live in a city you ought to live in a neighborhood. Urban life makes sense only if you embrace the idea of living in close proximity to people — to lots of different kinds of people — and want to interact with them. The Aurora brings suburban fortress-style living to an urban neighborhood. My generation, whose parents and grandparents fled the cities for the suburbs, is returning to bring suburban life to the city.

View from the Aurora

I think its a shame that urban neighborhood culture is disappearing. It's gone from Manhattan and is now being chased out of Brooklyn. I don't think it's a universal Good, but it's a Good. I like it, as do others. It has as many advantages as it does drawbacks. I'm sure that suburban life does, too, as little as it may appeal to me. I just don't understand why it is that suburban life has to eradicate urban life.

Only I do.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Neighborhood #1 (Greenpoint)