Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Imagine all the people...

The Dakota Building, across from Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Bridges

Part I - 15 photos
Part II - 15 photos
Part III - 14 photos
Part V - 11 photos

I'm gonna feel this in the morning.

Okay, so, the Brooklyn Book Festival. Made it there early enough to catch the tail end of the sci-fi and fantasy authors panel. Managed to avoid buying anything at a booth selling imported pulp crime novels. Sat in on the reading with Pete Hamill and got a taste of "Snow in August." (Seriously, can I have this man as my uncle who tells stories all the time? Please?) Unfortunately, I didn't know that his time for signing books had been one hour prior, so I didn't get a chance to talk to him. ALAS. Next year, then.

However, I did stumble upon an out-of-the-way table where "Don't Call Us Molls: Women of the John Dillinger Gang" was being sold by the author herself, Ellen Poulsen. I'd been wanting this book for the longest time, and she was offering it for only $10. Awesome! She signed my copy and we had a nice little chat. I told her how I was fascinated by the era, and she said her head seemed to be stuck in the 1920s-'30s, too. It's so great to meet authors who share the same passion for this specific time period!

Then at another booth I spotted "Automats, Taxi Dances, & Vaudeville," which was a no-brainer for me. Bought it. I sat in the park and read a few pages of the chapter about the Horn & Hardart automat on 42nd Street and it really made me wish it still existed. It's now a huge tourist souvenir shop, but there are some relics, like tile mosaics and a gilded staircase that had seen better days.

After a rest, I took the 4 train over to Bowling Green to eat at the Dutch village again. Got myself a box of really good fries and a mac and cheese kroket, ate it in the park. Then I waited for the sun to start setting before I hopped the train again to the Brooklyn Bridge. Being my insane self, I walked all the way across it. Set foot in Brooklyn, wandered around the area, took some photos of the Manhattan Bridge as seen from a cobblestone street with ancient streetcar tracks still embedded in it (very cool). Sat by the riverside between the bridges while the sun went down. In all my years, I've never been there, never done that. Now I have.

At dusk the lights on both bridges turned on. It was time for me, insane me, to go walk back across the Brooklyn Bridge. This is why I say I'm gonna feel this in the morning, not just in my legs but in my shoulders, too, because books get heavy when you carry them all day in a tote bag. I took some kickass photos, though. This wasn't all just for the exercise, y'know. (LOL exercise.)

Took a hot shower when I got home, ate dinner, sat my ass down in front of the computer, typed this up, and now I feel as if I'm going to fall over.


Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009

An artist creates his own moral universe.

In bullet point form:

* I watched Bullets Over Broadway last night and adored every minute of it. I enjoyed it far more than I thought I would. I mean, come on: 1920s thespians and gangsters! It was hilarious and so smart and so quoteable, and I kept thinking, "Damn you, Woody Allen, for writing about my favorite things on a level I could never dream of getting close to." It's like I wanted to savor every line of dialogue like a dollop of chocolate pudding. The only problem I had was that it ended too quickly, with an abrupt happy-ending resolution. I'm all for happy endings but it wrapped up without much of a conflict. Other than that...brilliant. John Cusack was brilliantly neurotic; I absolutely did not recognize Jim Broadbent until I checked IMDb.com; Dianne Wiest was incredible; Chazz Palminteri, I want to have your babies; and good thing Jennifer Tilly's character was supposed to be annoying, or else I probably wouldn't have made it through the whole thing without wanting to shoot my TV. So if you like gangsters and theater, SEE THIS.

* I hadn't realized there were more pages to Penny Arcade's "Automata": 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. I love this robot noir!

* "Boardwalk Empire" behind-the-scenes photos: Steve Buscemi in 1920s garb getting out of a vintage car. And here. And one more time.

Friday, August 21, 2009

How I spent my day off.

I like random days off of work. I seem to do more fun stuff on days off than I do on weekends.

Today started off with an early visit to the NYC Fire Museum. Finally! It's a quaint little museum housed in an actual former firehouse, just like the NYC Police Museum is in an actual former police precinct. It's only two floors but it's crammed with antique fire trucks and carriages, loads of photos and portraits, tons of vintage firefighting gear, badges, clothing, etc. I would have tried on a bunker jacket (which was heavier than you'd think) but didn't, but I did try to pick up an air pack and breathing mask but that was 30lbs. so yeah, thanks, that's staying right there on the floor.

Then there was the 9/11 memorial. It's a sculpture in the shape of a wall with two rectangular bits cut out of it to represent the Twin Towers, or basically an "E" on its side. This was covered on all sides in tiles of photos of the 343 firefighters that died. It's under a slanted skylight, so on a clear day the sun shines through and the tiles gleam. Some flowers, candles, and mementos have been placed by family members around it. The room itself is lined with photographs of that day and the aftermath. Glass cases display FDNY wreckage: damaged equipment, half-melted helmets, twisted metal still caked with concrete dust. There was even a camera from an FDNY photographer -- he'd taken pictures from the ground right under the Towers before he fled and lost his camera. Three weeks later it was found in the rubble with the film still intact, and the photos from that fleeting moment were astounding.

It was difficult for me to distance myself emotionally as I went around the room and I thought I was doing a pretty good job of keeping it in until I saw the photos of firefighters' faces during memorial services. That hit me hard. But what finally triggered it was the half-empty box of Kleenex that was kept near the guestbook. People cry in here. I had to take a moment.

Probably my favorite artifacts were the metal stovepipe helmets that were used in the late 1800s -- seriously, stovepipe-hat-shaped helmets. They were pretty awesome. And I adored the photos of the firehouse dogs (there was even a taxidermied mutt that was quite a heroic -- he saved some cats! -- loyal, and obviously beloved firehouse dog from the early 1900s, I think), which were first "employed" to run alongside the fire horses to keep stray dogs away and clear a path toward the fire. And the fire horses themselves were incredible. There were some great action shots of teams of horses hurtling down streets, pulling engines behind them, and damn, they even looked like they knew they were doing their duty. Even the first FDNY ambulances were created soley for them, not the firefighters! The department stopped using horses in 1922, and that year they had a grand ceremony ushering out the last horses from service.

After that, I grabbed a quick lunch and made it over to the Film Forum a few blocks away in time to catch a Brit Noir double feature of Hell Drivers and Never Let Go. So, so good. These two had a theme: driving. Or vehicles in general.

Hell Drivers was a fast-paced, rip-roarin' adrenaline-fueled thrill ride that involved lots of speeding trucks and an awesome fist fight. Peggy Cummins was really tarty! But in such an innocent and cute way that she was still appealing. There was William Hartnell, in a very pre-Doctor Who role as the boss of a shady trucking company, and even Sean Connery in a blink-and-you-miss-him role as one of the truckers. My favorite character of all was Gino the Italian who I fell in love with. As soon as he said he wanted to take Lucy (he pronounced it "Lucci") back home to Italia to make-a the bambino, I wanted to squish him with hugs. What I liked most was that his accent wasn't exaggerated or caricaturized, and plus the character was the sweetest guy in the entire movie. He and the main character, a Welshman (yay!), were best friends, and the antagonist was a belligerent Irishman named Red. I'd definitely rent it and watch it again.

The second film was Never Let Go in which Peter Sellers was cast against type and played a used car salesman, Meadows, who had an incredibly smarmy, violent side to him. So smarmy that it was almost uncomfortable, so violent that it made people in the audience (and me) gasp. So this wishy-washy makeup salesman gets his brand new car, a Ford Anglia, stolen -- turns out that Meadows paid a bunch of punks to do the job. But now he's down on his luck and really wants his car back but the police aren't doing much about it. He takes things into his own hands as he becomes almost hysterically obsessed with getting it back. It was all about MY CAR, MY CAR, MY CAR, and it sent giggles and snickers through the audience. Even the detective assigned to the case basically told him to sit down and shut up, but in that very English way, of course. His obsession puts him on the trail of Meadows and brings him closer and closer, and no matter what sort of threats and violence Meadows flings upon him, he's all about OMG MY CAR. It comes to a point where a completely enraged Meadows, stretched to breaking point, screams: "If I see him again, I'm gonna KILL him, put the body in his precious car, SET IT ON FIRE, AND DUMP THE WHOLE LOT." I don't think Peter Sellers meant for this to be funny at all but we were all laughing because it was an amazing delivery and YES, KILL HIM ALREADY. It all ended in a fantastically violent fight. The entire film was satisfyingly pulpy and I'd watch it again just for Peter Sellers.

When I exited the theater, the humidity in the air had finally broken! Apparently there was a rainstorm of some degree while I was inside, so that helped. There was a nice breeze, so I decided to walk all the way down Varick Street toward City Hall to get the subway there. The breeze didn't last very long, but at least the heat wasn't as oppressive any more and I felt okay walking.

Good thing, too, because lo and behold, the Ladder 8 firehouse was open. I crossed the street and made my way to the open garage and saw three firefighters chatting. I stepped inside (I actually set foot inside a real firehouse!) and asked if I could take some pictures, and they all said sure. So I snapped a pic of the Ghostbusters sign and the lockers. I didn't take any more because I'm a moron, so I basically waved BYE and fled. There was a collection of melted phones on the wall. MELTED PHONES. Why did I not take a photo of that?

Anyway. Before taking the subway home, I stopped in a Tasti D-Lite for a cup of pecan butterscotch ice cream. It was also one of those Tasti D-Lite stores that sells candy and Beanie Babies, so much to my d-lite, I found a Diego Beanie Baby from Ice Age 2 and bought it. Then as I ate my ice cream outside City Hall Park, I saw the most demonic-looking black squirrel I have ever seen. I think that was a great way to end the day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

East side, west side, all around the town...

Well, actually, just the East Side, specifically the lower bits. I don't know why, but I suddenly had the urge to find this iconic view of the Manhattan Bridge. That one's from 1936, this one's from 1946. Also, if you've ever watched a movie that takes place in downtown NYC, you've probably seen it.

So I googled the streets and headed on down after work. It's an area of the city that I don't think I've ever set foot in before. It's on the very edge of Chinatown, and just beyond the trendy streets where all the hipster bars and clubs are. So in all actuality it's pretty bleak. There are housing projects, dilapidated buildings, empty lots, litter everywhere. It's not horrible now, but I'd hate to see what it looked like for real in decades past. This neighborhood was even noted in Jacob Riis's "How the Other Half Lives," a study of poverty among immigrants written in 1890, and one of the most depressing books I've ever read.

So yes, I took a bunch of photographs to compare and contrast and be all artsy-fartsy. I found a skate park, and a real alley! AN ALLEY! Contrary to popular belief, alleyways are scarce in New York City. If you're watching a movie or TV show in which the setting is NYC and the characters suddenly duck down an alley, chances are it's on a set, filmed in another city, or on location specifically in downtown Manhattan (i.e. Chinatown and below), where the streets and buildings are the oldest -- and therefore they had more space to build buildings back then, so they could leave gaps between them. Presto: alleys. You'd be hard pressed to find a stereotypical alley with fire escapes in midtown and upwards.

But anyway. What I wanted to also say was that my FIREMAN MOJO was workin' like a MOFO. In the space of like five minutes, I saw three fire trucks. One of them was Engine 8 from the firehouse on Varick. It was obviously on its way back to the house as the sirens weren't on and it wasn't careening down the street (and it was one of those rigs that needed a driver in the back). Then I saw Engine 10, followed shortly by Ladder 18. Both of these trucks were headed toward a Pathmark.

The firemen were doing their Friday evening grocery shopping.

This amused me because: 1) firemen shopping for groceries is strangely adorable and hot; and 2) next week's episode of "Rescue Me" will feature the crew shopping for groceries.

I was seized by an impulse quite unlike any other impulse that had seized me before. Across the street in the Pathmark parking lot were two firetrucks, with two potentially hot crews. SHALL I APPROACH? YES. YES, I SHALL. Unfortunately, the firefighters were all inside the store; but fortunately, the firefighters were all inside the store. I say this because I probably wouldn't have been able to function properly if they were around. However, I was not going to go inside to follow the firemen around as they shopped for food, because that would have just been creepy of me.

I went up to Ladder 18 and there was a lieutenant (at least I thought he was a lieutenant, he had the seniority and was wearing a blue shirt, and he looked like Peter Tolan, WTF) sitting in the cab reading a newspaper. So I got up the nerve to politely ask in a voice that was at least three octaves above normal if I could take some photos of the truck. The guy was so mellow and soft-spoken that it threw me off, but he said sure, go ahead, and I chirped a thank you and snapped away, trying to contain my excitement.

There was a pair of boots and bunker pants strapped to the front of the engine. I didn't ask who they belonged to, as I already figured they once belonged to someone the crew had lost. I took a photo and tried to be as respectful as possible.

Then I went over to the other truck, Engine 10. There was a gray-haired lieutenant and a senior firefighter (maybe a captain in casual gear?) with a salt-and-pepper mustache chatting by the cab, so I approached and twittered, "Hi, excuse me..."

The firefighter turned to me and said, "Yeah, babe, what's up?"

Note: I have fulfilled an unexpected Life Goal: to have a firefighter address me as "babe" in a casual greeting. I win over all of you.

So, yeah, I asked them if I could take a few photos of their truck. They were also completely fine with it ("Sure, do what you gotta do," said Salt-and-Pepper Mustache) and so I got to snapping. As soon as I was done, the crew came out of the store. MUST FLEE, FOR THEY WILL BE YOUNG AND HOT. There was a huge babyfaced firefighter getting into the driver's seat. Eeek! I doubled back around the truck, said thanks and bye to the Lt. and Salt-and-Pepper Mustache, and promptly ran into two young firefighters...pushing fully-loaded shopping carts. I was sure they were probies because the probies do all the humiliating grunt work, and they didn't seem to want to be pushing shopping carts. I let them go through the narrow passage between the curb and the truck before I made my escape. But shit yo, they was hot. One of them had a shaved head and the other one reminded me of Mike Lombardi, the guy who plays Mike the Probie on "Rescue Me," complete with metrosexual hair. My cackling: internalized.

Well, then. I fairly skipped back up Pike Street. When crossing over on E. Broadway, I passed a Chinese grocery store, backtracked, went inside and bought two bags of wasabi roasted peas and shrimp flavored chips. And thus my evening was complete.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In tears now.

Angela's Ashes Author Frank McCourt Said to Be Near Death

Frank McCourt, the Brooklyn-born, Ireland-raised author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1996 memoir Angela's Ashes, is in a hospice, his brother Malachy McCourt said Thursday.

Frank McCourt, 78, who recently battled melanoma and contracted meningitis about two weeks ago, "is not expected to live," his younger (by one year) brother told Reuters. The author is in a New York hospice, "his faculties shutting down," according to his sibling.

I won't lie, I am crying now.

I barely knew who he was when he came to speak at Brooklyn College when I was a student there, only that he'd written a memoir called "Angela's Ashes." I can't remember exactly why I went to see him speak -- I think at the time I was already sort of interested in ordinary people's lives as history, childhood experiences from the 1930s, all that. Plus I think my professor was a fan, and she'd done some work regarding children in literature. Anyway, the entire room was filled when I got there, and I had to stand at the side with other latecomers because there were no seats left. But when I saw Frank McCourt, with his white hair and bright, smiling eyes...and when I heard him, his gentle Irish accent lilting and musical...I could have stood there for hours just to listen to him tell his stories. He told anecdotes about growing up in Ireland, which were hilarious and poignant, and read some passages from his book. I thought his writing was magical. He talked about having been a high school teacher in Brooklyn and New York, and I remember feeling jealous that I hadn't been his student. At the beginning I didn't know who he was, but it didn't take very long for me to wish I'd known him all my life. Unfortunately, I had another class and had to leave before the session ended, so I didn't get to meet him and thank him. He'd gained a new fan that day.

Over the years he's done book signings and speakings all over the place, often at local B&Ns, and I'd always meant to go. Now that his final days are suddenly here, I can't even express how incredibly sad it is that he can't share his gifts anymore.

ETA: Huffingtonpost.com article with a slew of comments that are just making my heart ache.

Stuyvestant High was pretty much my high school's (Midwood) rival, which is why I had a sort of envy for not having that connection. Look at him!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009

Graveyards, Firehouses, Grand Central Terminal

Part I - 20 photos
Part II - 20 photos

Okay, the hole in the ground is a tourist attraction, I get it.

Like an idiot, I didn't even check when the FDNY museum was open, because I discovered today that it's closed on Mondays, ahahahah. Oh well. This resulted in meandering around lower Manhattan; passed the Ghostbusters HQ; passed the firefighters' memorial at Ladder 10; explored the Trinity Church graveyard; went all the way uptown and wandered around Grand Central; went to the Mid-Manhattan Library and picked up the complete series of "The Black Donnellys"; then went back downtown and had dinner and dessert at Live Bait. I am all walked-out.

My favorite photo that I managed to snap: Engine 10 as it screamed around the corner from the firehouse just as I was approaching. I kinda like that you can only see the firefighter's sleeve (although I'm sure he was hot).

Thursday, March 26, 2009

He'll go for any ol' bag.

A few thoughts on Smart Money, starring Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney in the only movie they were ever in together.

Robinson has the bigger role, as Cagney's is a smaller, supporting character. I'm not entirely sure that the summaries about their characters' relationship are correct. Unless I missed something, they're never actually referred to as brothers. Robinson plays Nick Venizelos, and Cagney plays Jack, and I can't remember if he shared the same last name. Nick refers to Jack as a "friend" more than once, yet there are other times when he jokes about his brother owning the Mint, and I'm not certain if he was talking about Jack. In any case, it's evident that whatever relationship they have, it's a very close one. Almost to the point of...well, subtext. ...It was actually kind of cute. *cough*

It's a gambling story and if you don't understand playing dice or poker or whatever else involves cards and chance, it might seem tedious at times. Also, hello racism! Seriously, it was just completely unecessary. Well, yeah, duh. Unless you count rubbing a black man's head for good luck (like, three times! cut it out already, it didn't work the first time!) necessary to the plot, "suntan" and "boy" notwithstanding. It's those kinds of things that make watching movies from this period -- in this case, this movie came out in 1931 -- really uncomfortable.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Times Square.

Only eleven American dollars.

I watched Kansas City Confidential, a movie that I thought I hadn't rented before but one that happened to be in my Netflix queue and one that I'd happened to bump up. Turned out that I had seen it before, but a rewatch couldn't hurt, because I was fuzzy on the details of this one. And even though it was 2:30 in the morning, it kept me awake and glued to the set. At one point I said aloud, "Damn, this is one hot movie."

It starts out pretty much the same way Reservoir Dogs does: a Boss gets a team of criminals together to pull off a bank heist. They don't know each other's names, and in this case they're all wearing masks, too, so they can't ID each other if anybody gets caught. After the job's done, the Boss keeps the stolen money until things cool down, then sends for everyone to pick up their share.

But enough about the plot. I want to talk about the poor schlep who gets caught in the crossfire and is blamed for the heist. He used to be a criminal but he's just a working stiff now, but because of his record he's detained and guilty until proven innocent, as the cops try to literally beat a confession out of him. Once he does get released, oh, this man is gonna get himself some revenge. So he sets out to track down the people responsible for ruining his life.

The actor's name is John Payne. And from the moment the cops sat him down in the interrogation room, I thought, who is this guy? Because he reminded me, almost to the point of distraction, of Kevin Spacey. He was a really good actor as well, so natural in his intonations and reactions, like I think Kevin Spacey is. His eyes, the way his mouth is set, down to the cleft in his chin.

To prove it, here are a few screencaps! The closest resemblance is Kevin in L.A. Confidential. ...Which also has "confidential" in the title. ...Which takes place in 1952, the year Kansas City Confidential came out. All coincidences, I'm sure.

First, Kevin:

Now, John Payne:

Do you see it? Tell me I'm not the only one who sees it.

And just for kicks, have a really smarmy but smoldering Lee Van Cleef: