Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I spotted these guys walking down 33rd street in Midtown Manhattan recently. It was a hot day, so why not undress and cover up with a nice loose fitting wooden barrel!
It turns out they were heading home after doing some sort of promotion event in front of Penn Station where they were handing out free samples of something.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
It's always sad when someone you like moves away and such is the case with a neighborhood friend, Allysha, a bartender at Angry Wades. She's heading off to Hawaii to work as an anthropologist for the military. That's what she studied in college, not bar tending! Her last day was July 25th and staff and customers threw her a little going away party. In fact other bartenders volunteered to work her shift while she partied on the bar's dime. Some photos from the party are below. Best of luck, Allysha. We'll miss ya!
BYE BYE ALLYSHA!
Monday, July 28, 2008
Ellis Gallagher is an institution in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens. Once a punk graffiti artist who would "tag" subway cars, Gallagher, who is known by his street name, "Ellis G", has been chalking up sidewalks and walls for several years now with his shadow art.
Ellis G told me he started this unique type of art, after being mugged in the neighborhood a few years back. All he remembers from the attack, was the shadow of his mugger passing from his left to right behind him. Then, he turned around and a hulking figure with a machete demanded his money. A few years earlier, he had given up vandalising subway cars, after a friend was killed by an F train just as they entered the underground tunnel.
So now, the 34 year old East Village native has channeled his talents and confronted his fears in one full swoop. His art can be found all around Brooklyn, but it doesn't usually last long. A heavy rain washes his art away pretty quickly. Unlike his days as a graffiti artist sneaking around in the cover of night, Ellis G now marks up the sidewalks whenever the mood inspires him. He figures he's done it thousands of times and not just here but around the world.
Unfortunately, even though Ellis G is not putting any permanent marks on the streets, police still consider it vandalism and he's been cited and arrested several times. Most cops don't bother him, but others do. A few months ago, city officials ticketed a parent in Park Slope, because her daughter was using chalk to make a hop-scotch grid on the sidewalk. The cops backed off when the lady went to the newspapers with her complaint. After being held for 17 hours in the 76th precinct house, the Pacific Islander artist was released without being charged.
Ellis G's primary canvas is the street, but his work now appears in art shows across the country and he's been featured in just about every New York City newspaper and magazine.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
If you've ever watched MTV's "Real World." then you know the cameras follow the 20-somethings where ever they go, including the bars and clubs. But, this next season, the young T.V stars are stuck in Red Hook, living large in a big a loft on the waterfront. Unfortunately, only a handful of bars exist in the desolate Brooklyn outpost.
What I've been hearing is that MTV has been contacting a number of bars and clubs along Smith Street to see if they would permit filming. "Angry Wades" is reportedly one of the spots they have contacted. I've also heard they made contact with "Social," the hip cocktail speakeasy across from Carroll Park and the brand new "Clover Club," just a block away from Wades on Smith street. They may have contacted more.
What is uncertain is how this filming will be done. In past episodes, it appears as if the cameras just follow the kids from bar to bar, meaning they walk into already occupied establishments, rather than clearing out the bar and making it exclusive to them. These days, the cameras used to film "Real World" are pretty small and they don't need a huge crew to follow them around, so they could get away with just walking into a busy bar and filming the conversations and exploits of the cast.
It's my understanding that pretty much anyone involved in the show, and I would assume that includes bar owners, would have to sign a confidentiality contract. This insures that any behind the scenes secrets, including the location of the filming , would be kept secret until after the filming is done and the episodes begin airing.
Friday, July 25, 2008
As the NEWSGUY, I get all all sorts of email, from long lost friends, to fans, to politicians trying to get on-air coverage of their cause. But, today, I was fascinated by the email I received from my friend, Frank Morano, a producer at WABC Radio and a mucky muck with Staten Island's Independence Party.
A while back, Frank recruited me to make a donation for one of his charities, the "St. Baldrick's Foundation," a group that raises money for cancer research by signing people up to shave their heads for donations. I felt honored to help him out.
Several months prior to that, Frank asked me to help him recover his towed car at the NYPD's vehicle impound lot on the West Side Highway. Again, no problem.
For months, he begged me to go visit the legendary T.V talk show host Joe Franklin. It took awhile, but I finally sat down with Franklin at his cluttered Midtown office and I found him to be one of the nicest guys on the planet. I even thanked Frank for hooking us up.
But, today, I got this email from Frank:
"I've entered a contest. It's sponsored by Nader/Gonzalez. And first prize is a dinner with Ralph Nader. There are a bunch of other prizes. Like -- an autographed copy of Ralph's classic -- Unsafe at Any Speed. But I want to win the dinner with Ralph.The contest works this way:
The person who brings in the most e-mail sign-ups to Ralph's web site wins the dinner with Ralph. Nader/Gonzalez will set up a leader board to keep track of how I'm doing. But, I need you to sign up. And for you to be included on the list of people who I got to sign up, you have to do it in a certain way. By signing up, you will get a daily message from Nader/Gonzalez -- they are always politically interesting -- and sometimes funny. And you can unsubscribe at any time. But for me to win a dinner with Ralph, you have to sign up. So, please, do it for me."
Are you kidding me! Dinner with Ralph Nader? Hmmmmm, let me think who would I want to have dinner with? The President? The Pope? Paul Harvey? Billy Joel? Ted Kennedy?
Geez, I could think of hundreds of people I'd launch an email campaign for just to get a free dinner. Granted, the 74 year old guy is a legend.
He single handily took on the automobile industry in the 1960's and in his book, "Unsafe at any Speed," described for the first time how so many cars, including GM's Corvair, were killing machines. Actually, I'd like to have dinner with Richard James, the inventor of one of my favorite childhood toys, the Slinky.
Unfortunately, James is dead. He died in 1974 when he accidentally wrapped the slinky around his neck. (I just made that part up). Frank ends his email to me with this pathetic plea:
"I want dinner with Ralph!"
Although I will not be engaging in this campaign, fearing that I will be inundated with even more junk mail from a Presidential campaign I could care less about, I encourage you to support my friend, Frank Morano, in his quest for a dinner with Ralph Nader.
If you'd like to support Frank's effort, please feel free to click on the link below and sign up.
I WANT DINNER WITH RALPH NADER
I know my bugs. I've survived a nearly six-month ordeal with those hideous bed bugs a few years back. So, this latest infestation really was more of an annoyance than a crisis. Still, when I awoke one morning last week to find hundreds, maybe thousands of fruit flies swarming and crawling around my kitchen I was horrified.
I had a big party the week before. The back door to the deck was open most of the time. Grapes grow on vines outside the house. Crumbs of food were everywhere and some bottles of sweet liquor were still open. I'm sure one, if not all of those factors contributed to the infestation.
These bugs were everywhere, mostly though in the kitchen and back room, which connects to the deck. They covered my stove, counter top, they were crawling on the floor, stuck between paper towels, flying overhead and congregating on virtually any gadget and surface in my kitchen. Dozens of them, for instance, covered my bottles of cooking oil, which sit on top of the stove. I found 20 or 30 of them gathered around the back ends of my knives in a butcher block.
In the back room, it was even worse. I have four big windows that stretch from about waist level to about 14-feet high. Three of these windows were covered with so many fruit flies, I could barely see outside. What's amazing about these little buggers is that they tend to crawl more than fly, so when I pulled out my trusty vacuum cleaner and started sucking them up, they just stayed there, rather than scatter. So, yes, fruit flies are dumb. Good for me.
After sucking up as many as I could find, I began an intensive two day extermination campaign, starting with a simple can of RAID. I sprayed in crevices around my kitchen, around the circumference of the back door, along the edges where the walls meet the floor and below and above the back room windows. I then began a total scrub down of the kitchen, taking all of the small appliances off the counter top, using germ killing cleaning materials to wash and wipe down every exposed surface. I continued this to my butcher block kitchen island. Then, I went out to the hardware store and purchased a few of those sticky fly strips. They managed to snare any of the remaining fruit flies. I continued to be vigilant with my vacuum cleaner, walking around like a maniac searching for any errant fly that I could find. I would suck them to their deaths.
Compared to my bed bug problem of a few years ago, this took just over 24 hours to control. Suffice to say, I hate bugs. I have no tolerance for them. Forgive me for saying this, but FUCK groups like PETA (The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). Some of their more fringe members have been known to come to the defense of insects, which by definition are NOT animals.
Believe it or not, there is a group that has befriended bugs of all kinds, "The Insect Rights Association" (IRA). I'm not making this up. Here's is their stated philosophy, direct from their website:
"For earth to be a planet of harmony and peace requires a loving attitude among all its creatures. This means all, no matter how small. There are not degrees of loving kindness and compassion. Where would we draw the line? The moment we try to set parameters on regard for other beings, the lines begin to blur, and someone always gets hurt. Insects get hurt a lot, and not for any good reason.
Practice love for all beings on small creatures first, and this attitude will grow toward all of life in general."
Now how does the IRA suggest we deal with these pests. Again, a snippet from their website:
* When you find an insect in your home, hold a piece of paper nearby for it to walk on . Then carry it outside and release it gently back to nature.
* Open your door and shoo flying insects out, instead of smashing them with a fly swatter.
* Leave spiders alone. They won't hurt you. They build beautiful webs and make lovely friends.
* Let the little ants have their way. They will only explore your kitchen for a short season. They don't eat very much.
* Love the dear little creatures, and see how your whole life changes.
Let me just say this, had I not sucked the life out of those fruit flies, my whole life would have changed. I might have had to stay at a hotel, dispose of much of my food, awake in the middle of the night to bugs crawling in my nose and ears and worse yet, checked myself into a mental hospital to deal with my psychotic reaction to the flying beasts. No, I'm sorry, IRA, I believe I made the right decision and will continue to kill, in as a painful way as possible, God's annoying little creatures. I hate bugs.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hollywood loves Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. If it's not a commercial or a T.V series, a movie is usually being filmed here a couple of times a year. This week was no exception. The crew from Blue Star Pictures was back for a second round of filming for their film, "I Hate Valentines Day." It's described as a romantic-comedy with generally unknown stars like Director/Actress Nia Vardalos and actors John Corbett, Dan Finnerty and Cheryl Consenza. A check of movie web sites tells us they've all appeared in a half dozen to a dozen or so movies that you've probably never heard of.
One of the premiere movie sites describes the film this way: "A florist tries to convince a restaurant owner to date her without the fear of it becoming a full-fledged relationship." The same site says filming was supposed to have begun in 2007. In comparison to other movies filmed in the neighborhood, this would be considered a medium size crew.
Most of the filming took place in front of a flower shop on Court street. Gawkers watched from across the street in front of Sal's Pizza. Actors, Actresses and the crew casually hung around the set. Three tents were set up to keep the stars out of the burning 90-degree plus sunlight. A giant ice storage container was plopped on the set to keep everyone cool.
Unlike other movies filmed here, the crew seemed pretty low key, perhaps because the egos didn't exist, because the film lacked big name stars that carry that kind of load. There were no traffic jams, no yelling at pedestrians to stop or walk in the other direction and no obnoxious production assistants.
It's 1:00PM Saturday afternoon and the Asian lady makes her semi-regular visit to the neighborhood bar to peddle her DVD's. She charges five bucks a pop, or three for 12. Something like that. I've bought her DVD's before, knowing full well they're bootlegs and illegal. She's one of hundreds of people in New York City who sell pirated copies of first run movies. Some are better than others. I'd say one out of five will end up being blank. Three out of ten are professional quality, complete with features like bloopers, interviews with actors and cut-out scenes. Most have been recorded on video camera by someone hired to actually sit in a movie theater and record the film off the big screen. On these DVD's it's not uncommon to hear people coughing or laughing or even standing up in front of the camera to go to the snack bar.
The Motion Picture Association of America has been working with prosecutors across the country to crack down on the copyright infringement. One of the biggest busts was on Canal street in Manhattan, where cops raided over a dozen shops and booths that had been selling everything from knock off DVDs to Prada and Gucci bags and fake perfume. Their inventory was seized and the shops padlocked.
What's really amazing, dogs have been trained by local and federal authorities to actually sniff out bootleg DVD's. I'm not quite sure how they tell the difference between a pirated disc and one that is not counterfeit. But, somehow they do. Heck, several large hotels have now employed dogs to sniff out bed bugs! Go figure.
This story isn't so much about the phenomenon of bootlegging, but how quickly these counterfeiters turn their product around. Back to 1:00PM on Saturday. The Asian lady, who the locals are all familiar with, strolls into the bar with her bag of DVD's. My friend Ross and I split the bundle and start looking through the selections.
To my surprise, I find the new Batman: The Dark Knight DVD. Keep in mind this movie just premiered in a handful of Manhattan theaters only hours earlier. They had a midnight showing on Friday night. Here it is, early afternoon on Saturday, and the bootleggers already have made copies of the film. So, we actually have the flick in our hands and on DVD hours before most Americans would actually see Batman in theaters. Just as freaky was the fact that in that same bundle was the just released movie, Mama Mia. It came packaged in a nice plastic sack, complete with a professional looking promo cover.
I buy these DVD's knowing full well of the risk I take of ending up with a blank or shoddy recording. Typically, if the movie comes out the night before and they're selling it to you the next day, you can guarantee the quality will suck. I say wait a week or two to give the bootleggers a chance to make a clean copy of one of the actual promo discs that circulate in the industry. One of the other techniques used by these copyright thieves is to make friends with the projectionists at select movie theaters. Those employees are often paid a fee to allow the bootlegger access to the booth to videotape the movie from an undisturbed location. Sometimes the bootlegger can actually plug in his recorder to the audio output of the projector and get an uninterrupted, clean recording of the audio track of the movie, while the camera focuses in on the big screen.
I know this is wrong. I know authorities should continue to crack down on these knockoff masters, but you know something, they provide a service I need. I like watching videos, I don't often get to the theater and I like the convenience of having someone come up to me or set up a table on the street and sell me a bootlegged DVD at an affordable price, a DVD that features a film currently in the theaters. You pay $10 to see that flick. I pay five.
Note to prosecutors everywhere: I have destroyed all of my evidence. You will not find bootlegged DVDs in my possession. In fact, after I watch them, I shoot them from a gizmo very much like skeet machines and from my back deck shoot at them with my shotgun. This of course disturbs my Brooklyn neighbors and I am aware that it is totally illegal to discharge a weapon within city limits. But, if you believe that story, I've got some prime real estate I'd like to sell you in Florida.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Seems a deal fell apart for MTV to film the next season of it's reality series, "The Real World" at a loft building in downtown Brooklyn. The city was dragging its feet over permits at the BellTell lofts and MTV needed to start remodeling the loft before filming could begin. Instead, producers decided on a loft inside an historic warehouse building at Pier 41 in Red Hook.
Perhaps they haven't read the news, Red Hook is old news. Many of the hip shops, restaurants and bars have closed because hipsters didn't like living so far away from a subway station. The neighborhood is isolated from the rest of Brooklyn by the BQE.
Carroll Gardens would have been a better bet, but Plan B fell through to renovate a Brownstone building at 116 3rd Place. It's a tree lined block of Brownstones with large front lawns and the birth place of the "gardens" in Carroll Gardens. Prior to the MTV proposal, developers had added an ugly 5th floor to the building. They were selling them as condos ranging in price from $1,000,000 to $2,000,000 dollars. Inside you get units ranging from 1000 to 2200 square feet.
The young cast members would have a field day hanging out at the hot bars and clubs on Court and Smith streets, just blocks away. They could shop at trendy clothing stores on Smith street, play basketball at Carroll Park or grab a slice of pizza at Marco Polo's take-out.
But, this series in Red Hook could be fun, as well. There could be an episode where several of the young preppies are mugged by the inhabitants of the Red Hook Houses, one of New York's biggest public housing projects. There could be another episode, where big city implants on the show whine that there's nothing to do in "boring" Red Hook except hang out at the Bait and Tackle bar on Van Brunt street.
There could be another episode where they get lost trying to find the nearest subway station at Smith and 9th streets. Or maybe, the cast is filmed getting drunk at Sunny's Bar just a few blocks away and forgetting to pay their bill, which for years had been done on the honor system.
As I blogged before, I'm glad they didn't pick Carroll Gardens. We like our neighborhood the way it is and the last thing we need is a TV show to spend a season filming here only to popularize an already established neighborhood. The result would be more tourists, more hipsters and worst yet, even higher rents. Unfortunately for MTV, I'm afraid most of the action will take place inside the loft and not on the streets of the still fairly desolate Red Hook.
Monday, July 21, 2008
I snapped this gem at the corner of Clinton and Degraw streets in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. It's the side of a house that sits on Clinton street. The view is from the Degraw street side. I just hope they didn't have any windows on that side of the Brownstone!
Sunday, July 20, 2008
What ever you do, don't take pictures of children in parks, even your own. There have been several cases in New York City, where parents have been stopped, scolded and warned by park employees that taking pictures of children in city parks is against the law. The reason: the photographer could be a dirty old man who's looking to molest little boys and girls.
It happened the other day in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A father wanted a few snaps of his kid frolicking in the playground. Next thing you know, A park employee asks him to stop, saying it's a violation of city rules. In the end, the employee was reprimanded because there is no such law. It's a public place and arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing photographers would be a free speech violation. Seems this non-existent rule is somewhat of an urban myth. It's very much like the urban myth that taking photographs in the New York City subway system is prohibited because of terrorism fears.
The other day, I decided to see for myself what type of reaction I'd get if I started snapping pictures in Carroll Park here in Brooklyn. Not a single park employee said a thing, but within minutes, an angry parent asked me to stop taking pictures of her kids. I have no problem with a parent making such a request and I obliged. But, her anger is rooted in the fear of pedophile perverts running amok in our fine city. These people do exist, but here's where I draw the line. If a man with a camera starts engaging children in conversation, makes an attempt to touch a child, asks the child to perform for the camera, then I have a problem. This goes behind harmless picture taking of fully clothed kids.
I remember a classic photo that appeared on the front page of Time Out magazine a few years ago. It was a typical Brooklyn street scene of kids playing in front of an open fire hydrant on a tree lined street of old Brownstones. If any city were to ban picture taking in public places, they'd have a huge lawsuit on their hands. The ACLU would have a field day. It's the job of parents to make sure their kids are safe and there's nothing wrong with asking the picture taker what he or she is doing. That's the way it should be handled..
Monday, July 14, 2008
Manhattan's the Borough of Festivals, but Brooklyn's catching up. For years, Brooklyn has been home of the West Indian Day Parade and various Caribbean events, celebrating its black roots. My, how times have changed. For the past several years, Smith street in Carroll Gardens has been home to local Bastille Day celebrations. It's the day in July that the French celebrate the beginning of the French Revolution, when commoners stormed the Bastille (the prison that Kings and Queens used to lock up its non conforming citizens). It's their Independence day, if you will.
Smith street is now home to not one, not two, but, FIVE French restaurants. Half of them are near Bergen Street, where Bar Tabac holds it's annual Bastille Day event and the others are near Degraw Street, where a smaller, but growing Bastille Day is blossoming.
I actually find these events boring. Once you've eaten the food and have had a glass of wine, your done. One of the little stands was selling these colorful and I'm sure sugar loaded little treats. They reminded me of what the old lady down the street would throw in my trick or treat bag at Halloween. I passed. Another stand was selling crepes, which I love, but again....too sweet. I didn't see any French fries, but one place was selling sausages and I'm not quite sure they're very French.
One of the big attractions each year is Petanque, the French version of the popular Italian lawn bowling game, Bocce Ball. At both locations on Smith street, organizers set up their own Petanque courts, the more elaborate and quite official looking of them located near Bergen street.
"Pétanque (pronounced [pe.tɑ̃ːk] in French) is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing with the feet together in a small circle, to throw metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (jack). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass or other surfaces. Sandy beaches are not suitable. Similar games are bocce and bowls."
You know, as boring as this Bastille Day celebration was, I still love it. I love it because it's just another of the potpourri of ethnic celebrations we have in New York City. Every month, some ethnic group is celebrating something....and every month we have an opportunity to soak in their culture and understand what makes them tick. I'm sure Des Moines, Iowa has it's French, Italians, Mexicans, Salvadorans, Brazilians, German's and Russians, but their populations are so small, they never materialize into a full blown street festival. And, that's ashame, because here in the Big Apple, I'll never have to leave New York to see how the rest of you live.