Saturday, July 31, 2010

I coulda been a contender

I went to Admiral's Row today. So surreal. I turned a corner, followed a tall red wall topped with barbed wire, and when the wall ended and turned into a rusty spiked fence, there they were, the houses. It was like visiting a forgotten graveyard, so overrun with vines and trees and trash that you can barely see anything. As I made my way down the block I would come across a gap in the foliage and see a broken door, a glass-less window like an eye socket, crumbling bricks, weathered wood. There was a children's playground and pool right across the street, full of laughter and shrieking and glee, yet there I was peering through flaking, wrought iron bars that could give me tetanus at these sad and depressing relics. An older man on a bicycle passed by me as I was taking photos and he muttered, "Shame." If the houses are still up by winter when the greenery dies, I'm going back to get more pics.

Here are the 29 photos I took at Admiral's Row.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard is a forbidding place, and I didn't feel comfortable snooping around the gates, so I went in the opposite direction, back toward the bridges and the waterfront. I'd actually been down there before, but I hadn't fully explored the area. So, I went up and down the unfamiliar cobblestone streets that criss-crossed just as confusingly as they do in lower Manhattan. This is an old neighborhood rooted in shipbuilding and industrialism. If not for the trendy/indie shops and cafes popping up, this place would remain bleak among the projects and half-constructed/deconstructed buildings.

The weather was okay. I would've preferred it to be cooler. Luckily I slathered my arms in sunblock because I knew that shade in midday would be minimal. I tried finding shade under the Manhattan Bridge, but an ideal little nook right on the water's edge contained a DECAPITATED PIGEON, most likely killed by getting hit by a subway that regularly roared overhead, so I moved out of there quickly.

I did a lot of wandering, and of course I placed the importance of popping into a bookstore before popping into a restaurant. It was an indie place near a power station and thus called Powerhouse Books. Like most every workspace in the area, it was in a loft-like converted warehouse. I thought I was doing well resisting buying anything, but they had a little pocket journal with a vintage mugshot of some fedora'd petty criminal, so I had to have it. Then I hit the New York/Brooklyn table and I was doomed, because I saw the cover of My Ears are Bent and had to have it as well. It's a collection of pieces by a reporter who covered offbeat stories in NYC during the 1930s. Seriously. How could I not get this. It would be against my nature to not get this. So I got it. Rule of Thumb: If you want me to buy something, put a man in a fedora on it.

Oh, before I forget -- there was a SURPRISE CAROUSEL in an empty gallery on a street clogged with construction work. The carousel will be part of the Brooklyn Bridge park and recreation area that will be completed some time next year. A guy inside saw me peering through the window like an awestruck 6-year-old and he said, "Go in and take a look!" Some staff members were giving the carousel a test run without the music. It was pretty but all the static horses were on the outside while the jumpy ones were on the inside, and I prefer it the other way around.

Well, more random wanderings made me tired, plus it was hot, plus I still had to work at the shop in the evening. So at about 3:30, I took the F train back into Manhattan and switched at 34th St. to a local N back to Brooklyn. And for the next hour and a half or so, I napped on the subway in air-conditioned bliss like a freaking hobo. Rode that N to nearly the end of the line, then transferred to a Manhattan-bound one and slept some more.

It was great.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

crumbling city

On Monday evening I attended the first Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn class at Brooklyn Brainery, and it was pretty cool. Just a bunch of NYC history geeks sitting around a huge map, eating cookies and drinking wine and talking about old neighborhoods and Dutch villages. Also it wasn't even a surprise anymore that less than half of the 20 or so people there are originally from somewhere else. That's just the way it is.

If anything it inspired me to learn more about my own borough of Brooklyn, and go out there and explore it. Next week we're going to take a walking tour of Crown Heights. And we talked about something I had never heard of before, Admiral's Row, which is a street of dilapidated houses by the Brooklyn Navy Yard dating back to the Civil War. Most of the houses are going to be demolished soon, so I want to get out there and see what I can see before they're all torn down. Take a look at these photo galleries, and some haunting interior shots.

I've gotten myself seriously lost in that blog.

I want to be this photographer when I grow up.

Let me try and pick my favorite photo essays: (I actually passed by here the last time I was at Coney Island)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Ground Zero ship

Something I didn't have the time to post about last week: an 18-century wooden ship was unearthed at the World Trade Center site. How awesome is that? Check out those photos and this AP footage. (My otherwise dormant archaeological inner-self cringed a bit when that worker knocked the edge of a plastic bucket against one of the wooden beams.)