December 30, 2013

Accepting Park Slope 100 Nominations: NOW

I am now compiling the seventh 2013 Park Slope  100, 100 people, places and things that make Park Slope a special place to live. 100 Stories, 100 ways of looking at the world.

Have a look at the 2012 Park Slope 100 for an idea of what we’re looking for. Think of people you love in Park Slope who contribute in some way large or small or even teeny tiny to the greater good. Who made you feel good this year? Who did something kind, something smart, something creative, something interesting.

Help me make this a great and inclusive list. Email me: louisecrawford@gmail.com and THANKS. The deadline is TODAY. I know that’s no notice at all…

December 9, 2013

Local Clergy Demand that Cerberus Divest from Gun Manufacturer

Just days before the first anniversary of the Newtown school shooting on December 14th, a group of clergy including  Rabbi Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim (pictured above) and Minister Donna Schaper of Judson Memorial Church, took part in a solemn vigil outside Cerberus, an investment firm that profits from the sale of military style assault weapons including the one used in the Newtown shootings.

Organized by The Campaign to Unload and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, the group entered the Lexington Avenue office building where Cerberus is located, and delivered a letter demanding that the CEO live up to an earlier promise he made just after the Newtown shooting, that he would divest from the arms manufacturing companies they were profiting from.

The company, which owns the Freedom Group, the gun manufacturer whose Bushmaster rifle was used by Adam Lanza to kill 20 first graders, six adults and then himself on Dec. 14, 2012, owns $900 million worth of gun manufacturers in the United States.

All photos by Tom Martinez

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November 25, 2013

Feast: Writers on Food on December 12 at 8PM

BRING SOMETHING TO READ, BRING AN APPETITE TO FEAST

On December 12, 2013 at 8PM, Brooklyn Reading Works at The Old Stone House in Park Slope presents Feast: Writers on Food (as subject matter, as metaphor) presented by Ame GIlbert, founder of The Poetry Soup Salon, a monthly reading and dinner series.

Soup will be served.

Feast’s curator Ame Gilbert invites anyone who wants to read a poem, a short story or a non-fiction piece about food to read at the FEAST open-mic (8-minute time limit).

Ken Carlton, author of The Hunger (included in Best Food Writing of 2009) will open the event with a short reading from his new novel Food for Marriage.

Feast is a fundraiser for a local food pantry. Give generously ($10 is suggested donation). Soup, bread and dessert will be served. Plus wine. Readings are limited to 8-minutes.

When: December 12, 2013 at 8PM
What: Feast: Writers on Food Open Mic
Where: The Old Stone House, 336 Third Street between 4th and 5th Avenues. F train to Fourth Avenue. R train to Union Street. For info: 718-288-4290
What else: $10 donation includes wine, soup, bread and dessert

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November 25, 2013

Dec 7: Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair with Paul Auster Reading “Auggie Wren”

Some of you may remember the inaugural Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair last year at The Old Stone House (organized by Honey & Wax Booksellers). In the afternoon, Pete Hamill read the great O’Henry story “The Gift of the Magi” and one  of his own from “A Christmas in Brooklyn.”

On December 7th from 11AM until 5PM,  independent Brooklyn bookshops and antiquarian booksellers will fill Park Slope’s Old Stone House with rare, vintage, and out-of-print books in a celebration of the borough’s rich history of printing, reading, and writing.

Building on the success of last December’s inaugural fair featuring Pete Hamill, this year’s event includes an expanded range of local booksellers, from general-interest open shops to specialized private dealers, and will conclude with a public reading by Paul Auster of his Brooklyn holiday classic, “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story.” He will be reading at 4PM. The organizers are expecting a big crowd, so arrive early to shop and see Auster.

That’s right. Paul Auster will be reading his classic story. I’m excited. Super. Here’s a list of the booksellers included in this wonderful fair—just in time for Christmas. You know, books are so easy to wrap.

2013 participants include:

Brooklyn Books

Enchanted Books

Freebird Books

Honey & Wax Booksellers

Joe Maynard, Bookseller

Open Air Modern

P.S. Bookshop

Singularity & Co.

Terrace Books

Tom Davidson, Bookseller

Unnameable Books

Full Disclosure: Honey & Wax Booksellers is a client of my company Brooklyn Social Media. But I’d be excited about this anyway. Very.

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November 12, 2013

Help Purple Yam Help the Victims of the Typhoon

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November 12, 2013

Help Dalaga Help the Phillipines

I received this note from the owners of Dalaga, a lovely shop in Greenpoint owned by two Filipino sisters. There is an event at Jeepny tonight. But Dalaga will be accepting donations in the coming days. Dalaga: 150 Franklin St, Brooklyn, NY 11222, (718) 389-4049

Dearest Dalagas,

As some of you know, my sister and I are Filipino and this weekend a devastating typhoon hit the country. Typhoon Haiyan resembled a tsunami, leveling houses and drowning hundreds of people in one of the worst disasters to hit Southeast Asia. Thankfully our family’s area was not badly hit, but 480,000 others are displaced and 4 million more are affected by the typhoon across 36 provinces. They are expecting another storm to hit them tomorrow morning. Relief agencies are immediately calling for canned food, water, medicines and tents for the homeless.

For anyone who lives in the New York metro area, Jeepny is hosting a Typhon Haiyan Fundraiser TONIGHT, 6pm to 9pm. They are accepting canned food and monetary donations for the Philippine Red Cross. If you cannot make it to the Jeepny event tonight and wish to donate, we will accept donations starting today. We will be making regular drops to The Philippine Red Cross. Please see the list of donations we will be accepting.

Canned/ packaged ready to eat food (sardines, instant noodles, shelf stable milk, rice, etc.)

Water purifier tablets

Water containers

Tents and other temporary shelters

Freshly laundered and clean blankets, pillows, sheets, towels, etc

Flashlights and batteries

Hygiene kits with personal care items-soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo, sanitary napkins

Baby diapers, wipes, bottles, baby formula

Cooking apparatus-pots and utensils

General medical supplies and over the counter medications at least one year from expiration

Mosquito repellant

At this time, we cannot accept clothing. We appreciate any support you can give and hope you’ll help to spread the word.

Thank you.

Michelle & Mary Mangiliman

Owners

DALAGA

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November 12, 2013

Thursday at 8PM: Writing War: Fiction and Memoir by Vets

This Thursday (November 14) at 8PM: Brooklyn Reading Works presents: WRITING WAR: Fiction and Memoir by Veterans curated by Peter Catapano with Phil Klay, Kevin R. McPartland, Maurice Emerson Decaul, and Lynn Hill.The Old Stone House in Park Slope 336 Third Street between Fifth and Fourth Avenues. R train to Union Street or F train to Fourth Avenue. A $5 donation includes wine and snacks.

Lynn Hill is a United States Air Force veteran, performer and poet. She is a graduate of Columbia University and served as an intelligence analyst and worked with bomber, Red Flag simulated war games and Predator drones. In 2012 and 2013 she appeared in the multimedia show “Holding It Down” with Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd. Her next project, “Lioness,” with Maurice Decaul, will debut at the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival in 2014.

Maurice Emerson Decaul served in the United States Marine Corps in the Iraq War. He is an essayist and librettist whose work has been featured in the New York Times, The Daily Beast, Sierra Magazine, Barely South Review, Epiphany and others. He is a graduate of Columbia University and is working towards his M.F.A. at New York University. In 2012 and 2013 he appeared in the multimedia show “Holding It Down” with Vijay Iyer and Mike Ladd. His next project, “Lioness,” with Lynn Hill, will debut at the Atlas INTERSECTIONS Festival in 2014.

Kevin R. McPartland is the author of “Brownstone Dreams” (Boann Books and Media), a tale of love and death in 1960s Brooklyn. A native Brooklynite, novelist and short story writer, his work has appeared in AIM Magazine, Grit Mag and in “Adventures in Hell,” an anthology of short stories by Vietnam veterans. Follow Kevin on Facebook.

Phil Klay served in the United States Marine Corps from 2005 to 2009, and was deployed to Iraq in 2007-8. He is the author of the forthcoming short story collection, “Redeployment,” and is a contributor to the collection “Fire and Forget: Short Stories From the Long War.” His work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, Tin House and elsewhere.

Matthew Mellina served in the US Army from 2002-2007, deploying to Iraq in 2006 with the 4th ID. He is working on his first novel and has had pieces featured in The New York Times, Newsweek, and Slate.

Peter Catapano (curator) is the editor of Happy Days, Home Fires, and other opinion sections at the New York Times Web site. He lives in Brooklyn.

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November 8, 2013

Happy Birthday Joni Mitchell: A Woman of Heart and Mind

Happy Birthday to Joni Mitchell who turned 70 yesterday. She was my songwriting guru back in the seventies when I played her record Blue until it got scratched and cackly and wrote songs about my own life and loves with weird guitar tunings.

What a kaleidoscopic artist. A Canadian art school folkie, she moved to Laurel Canyon and defined the Los Angeles songwriting scene at its best (she was, after all, a lady of the canyon). She painted Van Gogh-esque portraits of herself. By the age of 30, she’d written such iconic songs as “Both Sides Now,”  ”Chelsea Morning,” “The Circle Game” and ”Woodstock.” But it was albums like Blue, Court and Spark and Hejira that established her as a musical and poetic force and an artist of the highest degree. Later, smitten by the work of jazz bassist Charles Mingus, she brought the idiom of jazz into her work with serious attention to jazz modes and melodies. Herbie Hancock dedicated an album to her songs called River: The Joni Letters. 

Oh we love Joni for her strength of character, her refusal to be marginalized as “just another girl singer,” her determination  to be recognized as a major 20th century musical innovator, even her exasperating quotes and grandiosity. She IS “a woman of heart and mind” and a powerful influence on American popular music.

Poet Patricia Spears Jones writes: “You want vivid details in your poems, study the lyrics of Joni Mitchell—she can go from yearning to seduction and dejection in like a nano second. Happy birthday to the great pop music contrarian.”

In honor of Joni Mitchell, I am producing Court and Spark Turns 40 on January 16, 2014 at 8PM at The Old Stone House in Park Slope, a concert performance of the entire album with many performers. Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us will be there and will share her thoughts on Joni Mitchell and the making of that particular album.

Click on the link below for more information about this incredible event: https://www.facebook.com/events/536216586463886/?ref_dashboard_filter=calendar

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November 7, 2013

Dear Investors Bank: Turn Down the Lights!

 

Dear Investors Bank,

When you move into a new neighborhood it’s nice to be respectful of the people who’ve been there for a long time. We hope that you will look around you and notice that a big, bright, inappropriate lighting scheme doesn’t really fit into a historic neighborhood like Carroll Gardens.

For goodness sake, your bright lights are keeping people awake.

We know you don’t want to make bad with the neighbors. You’re new and probably want to make a nice first impression. That said, you really don’t need to show off with all your big, bright light. Trust me, we’ll notice you without it.

Truth is, we’d like to bring the welcome wagon by but its hard to do that when we feel like you’re not respecting what we’re about—visually, culturally, community-wise and even historically.

Take a look around and TURN DOWN THE LIGHTS.

Sincerely,

Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Below is the petition. To sign it get in touch with lkentgen(at)gmail(dot)com

Carroll Gardens residents are concerned by the amount of light pollution coming from the new store front, Investors Bank, on Court Street between 3rd and 4th Place. There is also opposition to the bright awning that extends into the street. The new business has not used nearby financial businesses and banks as a model for its design. The other businesses do not disrupt the residential atmosphere that is highly valued here.

We, the signed residents of Carroll Gardens and its Brooklyn neighbors, are requesting that Investors Bank:

1) remove its awning

2) Dim its lights.

We are requesting this in the spirit of Investors Bank’s willingness to become a part of the neighborhood instead of standing out in a way that is unattractive and disruptive to the neighbors.

Obviously, Investors Bank, a New Jersey-based financial institution, has little sensibility for our brownstone neighborhood. Let’s hope that they wise up quickly and realize that this sign and the bright lights are not appropriate for Brownstone Brooklyn.

Sincerely,

Your Neighbor

 

 

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November 7, 2013

No Words, Daily Pix by Hugh Crawford: Two Boots Panorama

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November 5, 2013

Matthew Mellina Added to “Writing War” Program at The Old Stone House

Brooklyn Reading Works is pleased to announce that Matthew Mellina, who served in the US Army from 2002-2007, deploying to Iraq in 2006 with the 4th ID, will be joining a terrific roster of writers at Writing War: Fiction and Memoir by Veterans on November 14th at 8PM at The Old Stone House in Park Slope (336 Third Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues).

The reading is curated by Peter Catapano and will feature writers Phil Klay, Kevin R. McPartland, Mauric Decaul, and Lynn Hill. Mellina is working on his first novel and has had pieces featured in The New York TimesNewsweek, and Slate.

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November 5, 2013

The City Votes

Today I will vote for Bill de Blasio for mayor of the city of my birth. He resides with his family just a few blocks from where I live, and we share many of the same values. I know this is a tough city to govern but I have high hopes that he will hold fast to his vision, and do the right thing.

Can he manage this city? Can he stay on track and not succumb to its political forces with the same discipline he brought to the campaign? That will be the true test of his character and his leadership abilities. We have learned that it takes a tough and determined mayor to get things done. Bloomberg was a mixed bag but he achieved much of his agenda and much was brilliant: 311, bike lanes, smoking bans, restaurant grading, traffic slowing, waterfront development, a long-term plan to protect against effects of climate change, Brooklyn Bridge Park, green infrastructure plans and more.

I am fascinated and delighted by De Blasio’s rise from underdog in the mayor’s race to number one. He ran a brilliant campaign, while the other candidates floundered and in some cases flailed. He found his message and stuck to it. A tale of  two cities, end stop and frisk, affordable housing for all, universal pre-K by taxing the wealthiest, education. He was disciplined, focused and smart.

And it seems that some of what he had to say struck a chord, as he is set to win by a landslide. His tale of two cities resonated on many levels. It is felt in every neighborhood, by many different kinds of people. New York has become a city of the rich and it has become harder and harder to rise up in it.

I think this city needs a humane mayor who understands that if the most in need are  provided for, the rest of this city will flourish. He understands that New York City must not just be a city of the wealthy  because all of its character will be siphoned away. He understands that New York City gathers  its strength and distinction from its artists, its activists, its outsiders and its subway population, not just from those who ride in limousines.

Today I vote for Bill de Blasio, who at one time represented my neighborhood in the New York City Council. I have seen him more times than I can count at local civic gatherings, school events. I believe he has the capacity to be a great mayor if he can guarantee that the under-served, the undervalued, the underachieving and the underemployed will have an advocate at City Hall. That is my hope anyway.

Back in July, De Blasio answered questions for OTBKB. Here’s his answer to one:

The idea that every kind of person can make a life for themselves and their family is supposed to define New York. But over the past 12 years of Bloomberg, we have seen New York become a tale of two cities. We’re living in a reality where the focus of the city’s resources and development has turned disproportionally to lower Manhattan. My experiences in Brooklyn as a resident, a City Council Member and Public Advocate have shaped my vision for what kind of mayor this city needs. As mayor, I’ll spend every waking moment fighting to bring opportunity to every New Yorker, whether that be through expanded affordable housing, police reform, or an economic strategy that brings jobs to all five boroughs.

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November 4, 2013

Outrageously Bright Investors Bank Sign Must Go: Sign the Petition

A friend writes that an outrageous and inappropriately bright sign and awning for the Investors Bank that took over the old Italian grocery store space at 81 Court Street is causing consternation among Carroll Gardens residents.

As you can see from the picture, the wattage coming out of their signage is like something that belongs in Times Square. My friend is hoping to gather 100 signatures requesting that the bank show regard for the other signage of the neighborhood, take down the awning, and turn down the lights in the evening.

You in? Email lkentgen(at)gmail(dot)com to sign the petition and for more information.

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November 4, 2013

A Trip Through Time at Two Boots in Park Slope

This was originally published in the Brooklyn Paper in 2007:

Saturday night, Smartmom, Hepcat, and OSFO found themselves at Two Boots, Park Slope’s beloved Cajun pizzeria known for its tolerance of unruly children.

For a frigid January night, the restaurant was moderately crowded and the maitre d’ told them it would be three minutes until their table was ready.

“This is way more than three minutes,” OSFO whined as her parents sat at the bar drinking Turbo Dogs for 15 minutes.

Finally, the maitre d’ gathered up menus and took them to their seats.

“I’m very sorry,” she said. “I had a bunch of tables that looked like they were ready to leave…” Like most of the staff at Two Boots, she was charming and full of spunk (you have to be to work in a restaurant where the children run wild with small balls of dough while their parents zone out on peach Margaritas).

As they walked toward the pizza window, Smartmom noticed a long table of teenagers eating an interesting assortment of appetizers. At another table, a kid blew straw paper

“Oh sh—,” Smartmom said aloud. The maitre d’ was making a beeline for the table near the pizza window — aka the Second-Most-Dangerous Table in the restaurant. It’s the same table where a dough ball once landed in Smartmom’s Margarita, tossed by an unrepentant 4-year-old.

The most dangerous Table, of course, is the one next to the pizza window. When there are too many kids at the pizza window, they use that booth as a kind of off-ramp. At one dinner, Groovy Grandpa got many an Elephantan shoe on his thigh.

As Smartmom perused the familiar menu, she found herself overwhelmed with remembrances of things past. She was unable to imagine ordering anything other than what they’d ordered so many times before.

Pizza face for OSFO; goat cheese and andouille pizza for the grown ups; a small house salad and an order of calamari for the table.

And with each menu item, she saw a picture of herself and her children at various stages of their lives.

On a cold January night in 1989, Hepcat proposed to Smartmom in the East Village Two Boots, which was their favorite restaurant back then. They’d usually eat after 10 pm and were barely aware of the restaurant’s status as child-friendly. As far as they were concerned, it was hipster cool.

“Will you marry me?” Hepcat purred as he offered an empty white porcelain coffee cup as an engagement ring.

You know the answer to that question (even though a busboy whisked the “ring” away with the other dirty dishes).

Fried calamari from Two Boots was baby Teen Spirit’s first solid food. Or so they like to say. He was a regular at the restaurant by the time he was 2.

OSFO’s first meal at Two Boots was in a Baby Bjorn. Smartmom splayed the napkin over her infant’s head and gorged on pizza as the tot slept. As she grew, it became a family tradition to celebrate her birthday there.

Despite these crusts of memory, Smartmom longed for something new. “How about the Sophia, the special pizza of the day,” she blurted out. Red pepper, spicy Italian sausage, Vidalia onion, and fresh mozzarella.

Sound good?

Hepcat made a face. A creature of habit, he had his heart set on the usual. But with that passive-aggressive flair, he left it up to Smartmom.

“We’ll still have the house salad and the calamari,” she offered. He forced his lips into a smile. Smartmom hoped the Sophia pizza would make him forget this change in the routine.

The teenagers at the table nearby looked like they were having fun. They looked so comfortable in their seats — like they’d been there a million times before. And they probably had.

In different incarnations of themselves, of course.

Once upon a time, they were carried in by Bjorn. Or wheeled in by single or double Maclaren.

Later, they were one of the doughboys and girls at the pizza window. Perhaps they were one of the runners, a kid who nearly trips a good-natured waiter, holding a tray full of Sangrias.

Smartmom wondered how they perceived the place. Was Two Boots the fuddy-duddy place their parents always took them to? Or the childhood restaurant they remembered most fondly?

Would this be like the restaurant on Fire Island that sent plates from the kitchen by electric train that Smartmom never forgot? Or was it like the Great Shanghai, the cavernous Chinese restaurant on West 102nd Street that she was dragged to every Sunday night for years?

Smartmom watched as Hepcat bit into her steaming hot Sophia pizza slice. “How do you like it?” she asked hopefully, her mouth full of savory, succulent pizza.

“It’s OK.” Hepcat is known for his pathological understatement. “OK” is actually a compliment in his lexicon.

But then he made a face. “I don’t like this sausage as much as the andouille. And the fresh mozzarella — it just doesn’t compare to the goat cheese.”

You just can’t win. Still Smartmom enjoyed her Sophia pizza and OSFO, after she removed the olive eyes, the broccoli nose, and the tomato slice smile, was thrilled with her Pizza Face.

“Why do they put all this stuff on it that kids don’t eat?” OSFO yelped.

This is Park Slope. Kids DO eat vegetables here. And they love it.

At that moment, a waitress bolted out of the kitchen with a slice of cake with a single birthday candle. The kids at the teenager’s table sang “Happy Birthday” to a very embarrassed birthday girl.

Soon the entire restaurant was singing along. Out of the muck of discordant voices came a gorgeous operatic soprano, from a cheerful woman sitting at the Most-Dangerous Table.

Her soaring voice rose above all the rest. It was clear as a bell, deep and full of ebullient feeling. Her son hid under his shirt clearly embarrassed by his mother’s artistry.

The crowd applauded. Smartmom shouted, “Bravo.”

As the Park Slope diva exited the restaurant, customers thanked her and shook her hand. She stopped at the teenager’s table and wished the birthday girl a happy day. Smartmom overheard that she was chorus singer at the Metropolitan Opera.

Done with her food, Smartmom asked the busgirl she’s known for more than 10 years to pack up the remnants of the Sophia pizza.

It may not be as memory full as the goat cheese and andouille, but it would certainly taste great for breakfast tomorrow morning.

For research purposes, Smartmom asked the waitress what the most popular topping is: “Hmmm,” she thought for a moment. “Andouille. With goat cheese,” she said assuredly.

Hepcat smiled. Vindicated at last.

 

November 4, 2013

Two Boots Brooklyn is Closing Only to be Re-Born

I’ve had this story, in rumor form, since Saturday. But I couldn’t bear to share it until I’d confirmed it. I guess I felt sad, disappointed, and angry that a true Park Slope institution was moving on.

And I dragged my feet confirming it, I hoped to get to it today. To ask my friend Pastor Daniel Meeter of Old First Dutch Reformed Church, what he knew. I knew he’d know something. But I didn’t get around to it.

And now it is confirmed. Effed in Park Slope has word that it is true. Indeed, Two Boots is closing. One of the original owners, John Touhey is moving on. So Andy and Piper Wandzilak will stay in the space and try something new: a new concept, different food, a wholly different approach? We shall see.

It’s actually a much better story than I imagined. The space will be renovated and they plan to keep much of the staff on. Will it still be child friendly? Well, that’s a very good question. I’m guessing it will still have the same great bar up front.

Here’s the note on Andy’s Facebook page.

After 24 years, Two Boots Brooklyn is coming to a close; our last day will be November 10.
It’s been our very great pleasure to have been a part of your lives, and to have had you in ours.

Piper & Andy Wandzilak, the current operators, will be continuing on in this space as their partner, John Touhey, Two Boots co-founder, retires.

Piper & Andy will be renovating and making big changes over the next two months and are hoping to re-open sometime mid-winter.

They plan on having the same warm welcome and relaxed party atmosphere, with much of our same happy staff and management.

We all thank you for your loyalty and support all these years.

For us, this place has been like a second family and a home away from home, and we know it’s been the same for many of you.

We’re heartbroken to be saying goodbye, but we hope to see you again for our re-birth!

Most sincerely and gratefully,
Piper & Andy & John

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November 2, 2013

Nicole Krauss, Author of Great House and The End of Love, Moving from Park Slope

Nicole Krauss, the author of Great House and The End of Love, two novels that I adore, is moving away from Park Slope She and her husband Jonathan Safran Foer are selling their great Park Slope house and heading to points unknown.

I remember seeing her read and discuss Great House at Congregation Beth Elohim quite a few years back. I admired her intelligence, her quiet strength and her grace. She said that a desk that came with their Second Street house inspired the novel.

That house must be very inspiring because it inspired a brilliant tale about (and I quote from her website here because the book, something of a long shaggy dog tale, isn’t that easy to describe, “a reclusive American novelist, who has been writing at the desk she inherited from a young Chilean poet who disappeared at the hands of Pinochet’s secret police; one day a girl claiming to be the poet’s daughter arrives to take it away, sending the writer’s life reeling.”

This is indeed a loss to Park Slope as it was wonderful to have two such fine writers among the many writers in this neighborhood. They made us proud, they illuminated us (pardon the pun), they were among our literary stars. I wish them the very best and much great writing in the future.

Here’s a quote from Great House, which is well worth a read.

Ten days together in this house, and the most we’ve done is stake out our territories and inaugurate a set of rituals. To give us a foothold. To give us direction, like the illuminated strips in the aisles of emergency-stricken planes. Every night I turn in before you, and every morning, no matter how early I rise, you are awake before me. I see your long gray form bent over the newspaper. I cough before entering the kitchen, so as not to surprise you. You boil the water, setting out two cups. We read, grunt, belch. I ask if you want toast. You refuse me. You are above even food now. Or is it the blackened crusts you object to? Toasting was always your mother’s job. With my mouth full, I talk about the news. Silently, you wipe the sputtered crumbs and continue to read. My words, to you, are atmospheric at most: they come through vaguely, like the twitter of birds and the creak of the old trees, and, as far as I can tell, like these things they require no response from you.

 

November 2, 2013

Anne-Katrin Titze: Interview with Barbara Kopple about Running From Crazy

 

Anne-Katrin Titze writes about film for Eye For Film. She also writes about Prospect Park and is a passionate Park watchdog. Gothamist called her a “wildlife rehabilitator” and had this to say: “If you read about a dead animal discovered in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, see a photo of an injured swan caught on fishing line, or hear commentary on the mass Canada goose slaughters in the area… it’s most likely coming from Anne-Katrin Titze.”

This week she did an interview with the great documentarian Barbara Kopple (pictured above), who won an academy award for her acclaimed documentary Harlan County USA. Her new film, Running from Crazy, is about  Mariel Hemingway and the other Hemingway women.

“Running From Crazy, Barbara Kopple’s intimate and revealing portrait of the Hemingway women – Ernest’s granddaughters and great-granddaughters, and the men in their lives – is a documentary on American royalty. The uniqueness of the film consists in the combination of frank interviews with Mariel Hemingway, who has been running from the crazy stigma all her life, and never before seen footage presented by her sister Margaux, who committed suicide in 1996.

“When I arrived at Kopple’s office in New York City to discuss her film, the news had just broken about shootings at LAX airport. Barbara left a message for Mariel inquiring if everything was okay at her end and we spoke about Julian Schnabel’s dream. The name Hemingway, like Kennedy, triggers immediate emotions. Running From Crazy is less interested in the myth than the traumas, fears and internal demons that haunt the clan.”

You can read Titze’s interview here:  http://www.eyeforfilm.co.uk/feature/2013-11-02-interview-with-barbara-kopple-about-running-from-crazy-feature-story-by-anne-katrin-titze

 

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November 1, 2013

The Cohen Eckstein Family at City Council Hearing

I am so moved by the fact that the parents and sister of Sammy Cohen Eckstein, the 12-year old boy killed by a van on Prospect Park West, testified at a City Council hearing yesterday in support of a bill reducing speed limits in residential areas to 20 mph. From all reports there was not a dry eye in the house. Here is a quote from Sammy’s mother Amy Cohen Eckstein:

“Our family has suffered an unspeakable loss. Every day is filled with pain so deep we are not sure we can bear it. But the world too has suffered a great loss, for Sammy could have really made a difference. He would even have been an excellent Council member had he had the chance.”

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November 1, 2013

Happy Day After Halloween

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November 1, 2013

Goodbye to Park Slope’s Sweet Melissa: So Sorry to See You Go

I am so sad about the closing of Sweet Melissa. Where oh where will my sister, her daughter and I meet every Saturday morning at 10AM? That’s been our routine for years now. We love it. They let us sit there as long as we want. We order coffees, oatmeal, waffles, toast. And we talk.

And talk.

This is where we catch up on the events of the week and welcome the weekend. The staff is wonderful. They know us and treat us so well.

Yesterday, there was a handwritten note on the door of Sweet Melissa, written by Melissa, who has to be one of the best bakers in New York. She said that shop has been struggling for quite some time, since the economic downturn. All of their shops are now closed and they are rethinking things. They may reopen in New York City or in New Jersey where they live now.

What a loss to Park Slope. What a loss to me. Those Saturday morning with my sister mean a lot. Such special times.

And it’s not just the restaurant that we’re losing, we are losing a WORLD CLASS PATISSERIE with sublime offerings: bread pudding, glorious cakes, beautifully decorated cakes, cup cakes, cookies, patisserie items, special items for the Jewish holidays. Below is the post I wrote in 2006 about Sweet Melissa when it was brand new:

Sweet Melissa, nice to have you on Seventh Avenue. Everyone is buzzing about you. You’re the talk of Seventh Avenue as in “Hey, the New York Times had something about them yesterday” or “It’s very pretty.” “It’s really big.”

I’ve been and I like it. Actually, it’s my new hang — no, I’m not abandoning my seat at Conn Muff. Diaper Diva, OSFO and I just like to try new things from time to time.

It’s a bit more serious than Conn Muff. You need a little bit more time for the waiter service. It’s not your quick let’s meet for a latte kind of place. It’s a more formal: “We need to talk. Do you want to meet at Sweet Melissa?”

It’s a perfect place to have a elegant treat with a good friend on her birthday.

Tea with one’s mother, sister, or friend is a must. It’s a bit pricey. But we really needed a place for high tea.

I plan on visiting Sweet Melissa with a notebook or writing paper. It looks like the place to go for writing letters or thank you notes. Good for writing poetry, or notes for my Smartmom column.

I predict it will be the cafe of choice for those serious friend-to-friend chats (“You’ve been acting weird. What’s going on?”). The tables are close, though. It’s not ideal for telling a friend you’re cheating on your husband or something equally confidential.

I can confirm that Sweet Melissa truly was my “go-to” place. There were years when I felt like I was there every day of the week: meeting with friends, meeting for work, meeting for interviews, meeting about the PS 321 Yearbook, meeting with PS 321 moms and later meeting nostalgically to catch up with PS 321 moms…there was no end to the coffees I had at Sweet Melissa. And the conversations.

No wonder I felt maudlin yesterday after seeing the note in the window of Sweet Melissa. It was Halloween, which always makes me feel nostalgic for all the Halloweens with my son, now 22, and my daughter, now 16. And I felt sad about a favorite place closing.

Thank you Sweet Melissa for being our favorite place to sit, to sip, to eat and to talk. And talk we did. End of an era, I guess. Best of luck to you.

 

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October 30, 2013

Nov 14: Writing War, Fiction and Memoir by Veterans at The Old Stone House

 

Brooklyn Reading Works presents WRITING WAR: Fiction and Memoir by Veterans curated by Peter Catapano of the The New York Times with Phil Klay, Kevin R. McPartland, Maurice Emerson Decaul and Lynn Hill. This is the third time we are presenting this event and we always get a huge crowd. As always, it will be at The Old Stone House, 336 Third Street between Fourth and Fifth Avenues. A $5 donation includes wine and snacks.

The drawing is by Jess Ruliffson, who wrote about last year’s WRITING WAR event on her blog Calling the Dog: 

 ”I had the pleasure and good fortune to meet Peter Catapano at the Joe Bonham Project exhibition reception this past weekend and he told me about a reading he was co-hosting at The Old Stone House. Presented by Brooklyn Reading Works, the reading showcased the incredible writing talents of several young writers who are recent alumni of the NYU Veterans Writing Workshop and have been using their war experiences to inform their creative writing. It was an incredible evening and I am looking forward to hearing more from this group of great writers.”

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October 28, 2013

Mike Sorgatz; One of a Kind (and Affordable) Monster Prints

Mike Sorgatz, artist and founder of the websites Art in Brooklyn and Art in New York City is selling these wonderful prints of Frankenstein and other monsters.

Of the print above, Mike writes: “He’s simply called “The Monster” in Mary Shelley’s classic horror novel Frankenstein, but you can call him Frank. Wanted by angry villagers everywhere, this adorable face can now be hanging on your own wall. Printed with a ghoulish green on a pumpkin orange background.”

Mike started Art in Brooklyn in 2008 as a way to make art more accessible to the public. As an extension of this mission, he’s been creating a series of handmade prints at extremely affordable price.

All of the works are made from original drawings and printed individually from blocks carved by hand. Each piece has unique characteristics created during the printing process – no two are exactly the same.

Works are printed on high quality, acid free paper and signed by the artist. More designs will be added to the collection over time.

Mike lives in Brooklyn with his wonderful wife Eleanor (who runs a blog called Creative Times). He works at an art studio in Red Hook. His paintings, which I love, can be seen at www.MikeSorgatz.com.

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October 22, 2013

Park Slope Author Cliff Thompson Wins Whiting Award

I’ve been a fan for quite some time. I loved Cliff Thompson’s novel Signifying Nothing, which he read at the Brooklyn Reading Works event called Young, Gifted and Black Men curated by Martha Southgate a few years back. And when Love for Sale, his award-winning collection of essays from Autumn House Press came out I was over the moon.

I guess you could say I feel good about the Whiting Award coming Cliff Thompson’s way.

The Whiting Writers’ Awards is given annually to 10 writers who have “exceptional talent and promise in early career.” The awards were announced Monday. Each writer receives $50,000 from the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, established in 1963 by Flora E. Whiting. The awards honor fiction, nonfiction, poetry and plays and are intended to identify writers, the foundation says, “who have yet to make their mark on the literary culture.” The 2013 winners are Hannah Dela Cruz Abrams (“The Man Who Danced With Dolls”), Amanda Coplin (“The Orchardist”), Jennifer duBois (“Cartwheel”), Virginia Grise (“Making Myth”), Ishion Hutchinson (“Far District: Poems”), Morgan Meis (“Ruins”), C. E. Morgan (“All the Living”), Rowan Ricardo Phillips (“The Ground”), Clifford Thompson (“Signifying Nothing”) and Stephanie Powell Watts (“We Are Taking Only What We Need”).

Yay.

 

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October 21, 2013

Oct 30 at 9:30: Zipper at Nitehawk (Buy Tickets Now)

One night only. On October 30th at 9:30 catch Zipper at Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg.

Zipper, directed by Amy Nicholson,  is a tale of Coney Island told through the story of a small-time ride operator Eddie Miranda who operates a  carnival contraption called the Zipper in the heart of Coney Island’s gritty amusement district.

When his rented lot is snatched up by a real estate mogul, Eddie and his ride become casualties of a power struggle between the developer and the City of New York over the future of the world-famous destination.

Be it an affront to history or simply the path of progress, the spirit of Coney Island is at stake. In an increasingly corporate landscape, where authenticity is often sacrificed for economic growth, the Zipper may be just the beginning of what is lost.

See more at: http://www.nitehawkcinema.com/movie/zipper/#sthash.W3sG2nn7.dpuf

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October 20, 2013

Red Bows for the Teddy Bears on Prospect Park West

I  didn’t know where they came from: the identical teddy bears that appeared on lamp posts on Prospect Park West after the death of Sammy Cohen-Eckstein, the 12-year old boy who was run over by a van a few weeks ago.

I’d seen the make-shift memorial for Sammy. Flowers, notes, stuffed animals at the entrance to Prospect Park on Third Street. Heartbreaking.

Then I heard that it was a student at Park Slope’s MS 51, an eighth grader like Sammy, who put up the bears. Alison Collard de Beaufort bought forty of them to put up as a way to remind drivers to slow down. She also wanted to remind people about the senseless loss of her friend and fellow classmate.

On Saturday, a friend of mine decided that the teddy bears needed bows. Red bows. She asked my sister and her 9-year-old daughter to help her place handmade ribbon bows on twenty of the bears on Prospect Park West. I thought it was a beautiful gesture, one that perfectly compliments the initial gesture by Alison, as it honors Sammy with love, beauty and a message to us all to slow down.

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October 18, 2013

Oct 22 at 7PM: Literary Heroes of New York at KGB Bar

On October 22 at 7PM at KGB Bar, three successful writers who give back by teaching workshops through the New York Writers Coalition, will be reading from their recently published works. The special workshops they teach are for at-risk and disconnected youth, the homeless and formerly homeless, the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, war veterans, people with disabilities, cancer and major illness, immigrants, seniors and others. These workshops are led by wonderful writers, a few of whom will be at KGB this Tuesday night.

Ben Dolnick will read from his novel At the Bottom of Everything. Avra Wing will read from her award-winning new young adult novel After Isaac, and Judy Chicurel, will read from a forthcoming book.

The event is called NYWC Inside Out, a benefit reading and artist round table at KGB Bar (85 E. 4th Street, Manhattan), featuring a few of the talented poets and writers that make up NYWC’s arts and social justice circle.This is a small benefit for the Coalition, with a suggested donation of $10-$20.

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October 17, 2013

Bianca Stone: Elegy with a Tiny Darkness in my Palms

An excerpt from Sink Review

I feel no sense of religion except this.

Each hand like

a bastard on my lap.

I am thinking of the size

of a tiny darkness

in my palms

that shake out verse

like emerald hummingbirds.

I keep thinking of the word Rhododendron.

In my mind there is only this word

in different sentences.

I plant a rhododendron where your head should be.

It is Christmas Eve in Brooklyn.

I peal an orange in the nebulous vapor

and everything is quiet.

I take toast to the window

and throw the rind at the moon

that recedes into the clouds

like an iridescent testicle into the holy lap of the atmosphere—

I am thinking of the body again.

Tonight at 8PM: Poetry by D. Nurkse, MRB Chelko, Bianca Stone and music by Caitlin Claessens at The Old Stone House (336 Third Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope).

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October 17, 2013

MRB Chelko: Manhattations

An excerpt from Pool Poetry

I get it Big City; there’s no end

to your street light, what

lies beyond (nothing) lurks

out there, but now you must wait

(forever) until morning as I have waited

(forever) to fall asleep, and wait

still and wait now and wait just

a second. It takes two of me to screw

in a light bulb: one to keep my eyes closed

(forever) and one to be open eyed and

satisfied when the switch works just fine.

Now look how the apartment becomes

a box of light; it burns like the others.

Be (forever) grateful. It takes each photon

1 million years to escape the sun.

Tonight at 8PM: Poetry by D. Nurkse, MRB Chelko, Bianca Stone and music by Caitlin Claessens at The Old Stone House (336 Third Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope).

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October 17, 2013

D. Nurkse: The Dead Reveal Secrets of Brooklyn

An excerpt from A Night in Brooklyn (Alfred A. Knopf)

We are frequently asked, What is death like?

Like tossing a frisbee in Prospect Park,

making sure the release

is free of any twitch or spasm—

any trace of the body’s vacilation—

will the disc to glide forward

of its own momentum never verring,

in a trance of straight lined.

Like waving in traffic at Hoty-Fulton

waving away the squeegee man

with his excessive grin and red-veined eyes.

 

Tonight at 8PM: Poetry by D. Nurkse, MRB Chelko, Bianca Stone and music by Caitlin Claessens at The Old Stone House (336 Third Street, between 4th and 5th Avenues in Park Slope).

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October 16, 2013

October 17 at 8PM: Dennis Nurkse and Other Poets at Old Stone House

On Thursday, October 17 at 8PM, Brooklyn Reading Works presents Holiday in Reality, an evening of poetry curated by Patrick Smith at The Old Stone House (336 Third Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, F Train to Fourth Avenue, R Train to Union Street).

Smith is thrilled to present Dennis Nurkse, the acclaimed author of A Night in Brooklyn (Alfred A. Knopf) a magical and haunted collection of poems, that is something like a love letter to our fair borough. Brooklyn Poet Laureate Tina Chang wrote of the book:  ”…as much a celebration of the borough as it is a meditation on history, time and the furious love of the places the poet inhabits.”

Sensual, urgent and fierce, Nurkse’s language evokes a white alley cat that mysteriously survives a Bensonhurst winter; the narrow bed where young love took place; the wild gardens behind tenements. In the title poem” We undid a button, turned out the light and in that narrow bed/we built the great city—/water towers, cisterns, hot asphalt roofs, parks/septic tanks, arterial roads, Canarsie, the intricate channels…

Nurkse is the author of numerous collections of poetry, including The Rules of Paradise (2001), The Fall (2003), and The Border Kingdom (2008). His parents escaped Nazi Europe during World War II—his Estonian father worked for the League of Nations in Vienna, his mother was an artist—and moved to New York. Nurkse’s family moved back to live in Europe for a number of years, returning to the United States around the time of the Vietnam War. Nurkse lives in New York and teaches at Sarah Lawrence. He was at one time Poet Laureate of Brooklyn.

Also reading on Thursday night: MRB Chelko, Bianca Stone and Pat Smith. Music by Caitlin Claessens. A $5 donation includes beer, wine and snacks.

Highly recommended.

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