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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October 14, 2013

Oct 17 at 7PM: What Do Women Want? at Babeland

On October 17 at 7PM, Edgy Moms and Babeland Present: What Do Women Want?  Author Daniel Bergner in conversation with Babeland founder Claire Cavanah (462 Bergen Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn)

When it comes to SEX, common wisdom holds that men roam while women crave closeness and commitment. But in his provocative new book, Daniel Bergner turns everything we thought we knew about women’s arousal and desire inside out.

Drawing on extensive research and interviews with renowned behavioral scientists, sexologists, psychologists, and everyday women, Bergner forces us to reconsider long-held notions about female sexuality

Claire Cavanah co-founder of Babeland and the co-author of Moregasm, will interview Bergner about his journey into the world of female desire and ask him thought-provoking questions such as: Are women perhaps the less monogamous sex? What effect do intimacy and emotional connection really have on lust? What is the role of narcissism-the desire to be desired-in female sexuality? And is the hunt for a “female Viagra” anything but a search for the cure for monogamy?

DANIEL BERGNER is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and the author of four books of nonfiction: What Do Women Want?, The Other Side of Desire, In the Land of Magic Soldiers, and God of the Rodeo. In the Land of Magic Soldiers received an Overseas Press Club Award for international reporting and a Lettre-Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and was named a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year. God of the Rodeo was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

CLAIRE CAVANAH and Rachel Venning opened the first Babeland store in 1993 in response to the lack of women-friendly sex shops in Seattle. The store offered top quality products, a pleasant place to shop, and most of all information and encouragement to women who wanted to explore their sexuality. The store’s popularity with both women and men has led to three more stores in New York, plus a thriving and educational website.

EDGY MOMS is the brainchild of Louise Crawford, artistic director of Brooklyn Reading Works, a monthly thematic reading series at The Old Stone House in Park Slope. Edgy Moms presents smart, powerful, funny, whiny, non-sanctimonious writing about mothers and motherhood. She runs Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, a popular Brooklyn blog and Brooklyn Social Media, smart social media, publicity and special events for authors and entrepreneurs.

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October 9, 2013

Sad

Very sad news.

A 12-year-old boy in Park Slope was hit and killed by a van on Third Street and Prospect Park West when he ran out into the street chasing a soccer ball in front of his apartment building. His name is Samuel Cohen-Eckstein.

Note from City Council Member Brad Lander:

“Like many of you, I am heartbroken over the death of our neighbor, Sammy Cohen-Eckstein, a 12-year-old boy who was hit and killed by a van last night on Prospect Park West. Sammy could have been any of our kids. There are no words for a senseless loss like this, but I know our whole community is praying for his friends and family.

Condolences to his family and friends.

 

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October 9, 2013

What My Daughter Wore

 

Fashion blog meets mommy blog: What My Daughter Wore presents gorgeous illustrations by a Brooklyn mom of her daughter’s daily sartorial choices.

The drawings are simply gorgeous and the outfits are wonderful, too. To me, it feels like a collaboration between mother and daughter—but who knows. Some of the outfits feel mildly subversive on the part of the daughter, like the one where she’s wearing a colander on her head.

In a way it’s so representative of what’s interesting and questionable about a certain strata of Brooklyn at this time: the look-at-my-fabulous-kid thing; the sense of “we’re so ultra cool”; the need to shout it out.

But isn’t that the pot (me) calling the kettle black. The drawings are truly lovely and the mom and daughter are equally gifted.

As a former mommy columnist myself I wonder if the blogger’s kids are turned off by the entire endeavor. Mine certainly were. That said, this blog is done with such love and beauty. Wouldn’t anyone be thrilled to have such a record of their lives?

 

October 8, 2013

Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Washington Square Park

Friend and fellow blogger Cathryn Swan has a book coming out, an event which always calls for a celebration. Especially a book about an important New York City space.

This Thursday October 10th, Bluestockings Books hosts the official release party for Tales of Washington Square Park (and a few other places), a book/zine written by Swan, the editor of the Washington Square Park Blog.

The book includes some of her favorite stories from the blog. At the event, there will be a reading by Swan, conversation about the famous Greenwich Village park and more, and discussion of New York City’s privatization of public space.

In the book, Swan touches on the following interesting factoids and more:

Why was the fountain moved 23 feet east to line up with the Arch at Fifth Avenue after 137 years in its previous location?

Did cars really run through the Arch?

What is the story behind the “Hangman’s” elm at the park?

Why did Henry James hate the Arch?

From Eleanor Roosevelt, Jane Jacobs, Bob Dylan, Dave Chappelle to today, the park remains the heart of Greenwich Village. It is a constant reminder of the magical commons in the midst of the privatized city

WHEN: Thursday, October 10th @ 7 pm

WHAT: Reading+Discussion: Cathryn Swan’s Tales of Washington Square Park (and a few other places)

WHERE: Bluestockings Books, 172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington (which is 1 block south of Houston and 1st Avenue).

By Train/Bus: Take the F train to 2nd Ave, come above ground at 1st Ave, and walk one block south along Allen Street. The Delancey-Essex JMZ stop is also nearby, and the M15 bus has a stop on Allen at Stanton.

The event page is here: http://washingtonsquareparkblog.com/official-release-event-for-tales-of-washington-square-park-at-bluestockings-books-thursday-october-10th-reading-discussion-with-cathryn/

Photo by Ron Saari

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October 4, 2013

Park Slope’s Chris Hennessy: I Ride with MS

Here’s a big shout out to Park Slope’s Chris Hennessy, who has Multiple Sclerosis. This weekend he will be riding his bike along with nearly 5,000 people from the tri-state area, up to 100 miles to raise money for support programs, services and research sponsored by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

This year for the first time ever, riders with MS, such as Chris, will be provided extra support during the event through a program called “I Ride with MS,” a bike series designed specifically to empower cyclists with MS by providing visibility and support tailored to their needs.

You can donate to “Team Hennessy” and help those with MS

Many people with MS experience a temporary worsening of their symptoms when the weather is very hot or humid, or they get overheated from exercise, the program will provide body-cooling neck wraps for these riders to use throughout their journeys, as well as special jerseys that identify them as “I Ride with MS” participants.

Good luck, Chris. Park Slope is rooting for you.

 

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October 1, 2013

October 17: What Do Women Want AND Holiday in Reality with D. Nurkse

On Thursday October 17, Brooklyn Reading Works present TWO events:

WHAT DO WOMEN WANT? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire. A conversation with author Daniel Bergner and and Babeland co-founder Claire Cavanah (author of Moregasm). Presented Babeland and Edgy Moms.

Where: Babeland, 462 Bergen Street in Park Slope at 7PM

HOLIDAY IN REALITY: An evening of poetry curated by Pat Smith with acclaimed and award winning poet and former Brooklyn Poet Laureate D. Nurske, author of A Night in Brooklyn (Knopf) joining a fabulous and festive roster of poets and performers, including MLB Chelko, Pat Smith, Bianca Stone and  Caitlin Claessons.

Where: The Old Stone House, 336 Third Street in Park Slope at 8PM.

Do them both! A Lit crawl from Babeland to The Old Stone House.

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September 24, 2013

Birth, Death, Repeat: A Website and An Exhibition by Gail Ghezzi

It’s funny what grabs me, what inspires me to post on this old blog. I got an email this morning and it intrigued me. The subject line was: “Meditations on mortality: Shadow boxes by Gail Ghezzi…

Well, I have no idea who Gail Ghezzi is though I am fascinated by GH last names because my maiden name, may father’s family name is Ghertler.

Meditation grabbed me, too. Then I saw mortality. Then I saw shadow boxes… Click. Reader, I opened the email.

Below is a description of Gail Ghezzi’s artwork that looks very interesting. She collects things—records, artifacts, pop culture odds and ends—and turns them into shadow boxes a la Joseph Cornell but with a different kind of attitude. Way different.

The point of the email was to announce the debut of a website Birth, Death Repeat and an exhibition at Jalopy Tavern through October 12th. The details are below. I’m sorry I missed the opening on Saturday but I was in the thick of the Brooklyn Book Festival so I probably would have missed it anyway. But it’s not too late to see the show, or to check out the website. Ghezzi’s artwork sounds interesting and very interactive. Read ahead and you’ll see what I mean:

“Birth, Death, Repeat…” is an art/writing project featuring the shadow boxes of the Brooklyn designer Gail Ghezzi. Ghezzi’s shadow boxes are meditations on mortality that use antique artifacts and found objects she acquires at antique fairs, online and on her sidewalk. Each box imagines the final moments of a fictional character, and then surrounds that character with the detritus of a life. These lives are captured in short paragraphs attached to each box to make this the first collaboration between the artist and her husband/author Ben Greenman since the births of their children.

Anyone can participate by submitting a short story at birthdeathrepeat.com

Ghezzi’s art  was debuted at Jalopy Tavern on Saturday, September 21 in Brooklyn. After the opening, the party continued next door at Jalopy Theater  with live music by Lara Ewen . Ewen performed from her new record “The Wishing Stone Songs,” which features package design by Ghezz

September 24, 2013

Brownstone Dreams: Love and Death in 1960s Park Slope

What was Park Slope like before it became the affluent Brooklyn neighborhood it is today? In the Park Slope of Brownstone Dreams, a new novel by Kevin R. McPartland, there are no cappuccino cafes, Bugaboo strollers or real estate offices selling million dollar apartments. Author McPartland spins a tragic tale about the mean streets of 1960’s Brooklyn, evoking the sights and sounds of tenements, bars, and schoolyards that comprise the battleground of warring teenage gangs.

The year is 1962. It’s early summer and it’s already a hot one. 19-year-old Bobby Dutton, street tough and gang member, is in a state of turmoil, after stealing the gun of local wiseguy Vincent Casseo. Still high on glue and beer, Bobby has to figure out how to get the gun back to crazy Vincent, without getting himself killed.

“The next morning Bobby sat leaning on one elbow on a cluttered kitchen table. He sat watching his grandfather go about his morning ritual of drinking tea by the fire-escape window while he shaved and complained. ‘Someday you’ll know what this is all about, Bobby-boy. It’s not fuckin easy makin’ a buck in the world. Look at me, other men work on ships that go to sea. I work on a stinking barge in a filthy goddamn canal called Gowanus.”

But Bobby isn’t interested in how hard it is to make a buck in the world He is much more concerned about Vincent Casseo and his missing gun.

Brownstone Dreams is a gripping thriller about fear, anger and revenge. It is also the story of a Brooklyn neighborhood where drugs and alcohol take control of people’s lives; where working-class immigrant families fill tenement buildings; where hardworking men drown their disappointments in seedy pubs, while their sons fight each other with sticks and bats in Prospect Park.

Bobby, forever the dreamer, believes he can get the gun back to Vincent without incident. But that is just the first of many miscalculations that makes Brownstone Dreams such a compelling—and heartbreaking read.

Born and bred in Park Slope, McPartland writes about the world he grew up in with the eloquence and grit of Pete Hamill and Malachy McCourt. “McPartland’s is as authentic a voice from New York City’s streets as you’re ever likely to hear.” write Peter McDermott, Deputy Editor of the Irish Echo.

Bobby’s story comes to a head with the savage beating of one of his best friends by Vincent. That’s when Bobby’s game plan changes and he goes on the offensive, unafraid of Vincent’s reputation or his threats, determined to avenge his friend’s beating.

So begins a downward spiral from which Bobby will never return. Even the love of Cathy, a good neighborhood girl, can’t save Bobby from his inevitable trajectory. “Before Park Slope became the trendy family neighborhood of New York’s wealthy elite, it was the home of Bobby Dutton, an Irish-American teenager growing up in the cockroach infested flats of McPartland’s Brownstone Dreams,” writes Marian Fontana, award-winning author of A Widow’s Walk: A Memoir of 9/11. “The book captures a bygone era with a voice as fresh as it is engrossing,”

Brownstone Dreams will engross fans of Pete Hamill, Joe Flaherty and Frank McCourt, who will discover in McPartland a brave and bold writer with an urban story worth telling.

About the author: Kevin R. McPartland is 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.

September 24, 2013

Forever Brooklyn: A Short Film by Francesco Paciocco

Forever Brooklyn from Francesco Paciocco on Vimeo.

September 20, 2013

Columbus Day Weekend: Artists Open Up Their Studios

Do you know this woman hiding half her face behind her fingers? That’s Bernette Rudolph, my neighbor and a wonderful artist who lives on Third Street in Park Slope. She is also one of the organizers of the Park Slope/Windsor Terrace Artists Open Studio Tour this Columbus Day Weekend (October 12-14, 2013).

At their website,there’s a map, studio addresses and information about the exhibiting artists. It’s a wonderful group of artists including Tom Keough, who does wonderful and mysterious night paintings of Brooklyn Streets. The other artists are Phillip de Loach, Joy Walker, Bernette Rudolph, Janie Samuels, Lloyd Campbell, Bob Hagan, Robin Epstein, Darcy Lynn, Grace Markman  and David Listokin

At her studio, Bernette will show what she’s calling “Master Paintings in Three Dimension.” By that she means 3-D treatments of Chagall’s wedding couple flying off the surface, Picasso’s Guernica, and other master paintings.

I think it sounds fun.

Below is a painting by exhibiting artist Joy Walker:

 

 

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September 19, 2013

Bklynr: Stories about LICH, Crown Heights and Marine Park

As you know, Brooklyn is one heck of a BIG and complex place.  And while there’s ample media coverage of selected aspects of Brooklyn life, news about certain issues and certain neighborhoods is limited.

 Hello BKLYNR, a  bi-weekly that is now releasing its 12th issue This journalistic endeavor tells in-depth stories about all of Brooklyn, and it tells them in innovative and interesting ways. Best of all, if you subscribe, it will magically appear in your inbox every two weeks for only $20 per year. Good deal I say.

In Bklynr Issue 12:

Fighting for Life: A doctor at Long Island College Hospital on the battle to keep the lights on. by Douglas Sepkowitz.

One Block in Crown Heights: Stories behind the buildings we walk past, an interactive panorama by Albert Sun, Zachary Friedman, and David Lei

In the Weeds: The derelict majesty of Brooklyn’s Marine Park, photo series by Will Ellis

You can also get a limited edition print of the map pictured above of every block in Brooklyn for $39.

 

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