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June 17th, 2014

Mrs. Sizzle: Brand New Art and Dog Blog

First things first: She used to live on Park Slope’s Third Street. So that’s a lot of cred right there.

Last week Suzanne Donaldson launched Mrs. Sizzle, what she’s calling a dog and art blog, a site for dog lovers who admire art and photography. With her unerring eye, Donaldson and her team will bring you gorgeous art, leashes and pet accessories, tips on training, and most importantly: a resource for dog rescue. In fact, any photos that Donaldson shoots for the blog will be with rescue dogs in the hopes of finding them homes. Quickly.

Donaldson is eminently qualified to run a super-duper blog. She’s been a photo editor for more than 20 years and is a woman of great taste and style. She’s worked at Glamour, Interview Magazine, Robert Mapplethorpe Studio, various Condé Nast magazines, and as the director of Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York City.


Needless to say she is obsessed with dogs (has three of her own) and photography so starting a dog photography and art blog was, like, a no brainer. Yay for photo lovers, yay for dog lovers everywhere and yay for me, a new blog to have on my bookmark tab.

Check out Mrs. Sizzle for posts about Cindy Sherman and her parrots, William Wegman and his iconic Weimaraners, and a cool seventies shot of a car and a dog by the brilliant William Eggelston. Most fun of all, you can send snaps of your pets to her Snap Paws section. You just might see your shot posted on Mrs. Sizzle.

Congrats to Suzanne for this exciting venture or should I say adventure.

Photo by Ines and Vinoodh, who post their dog Leo’s pic every day at @INEZVINOODH.  Find it on Mrs. Sizzle


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November 4th, 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.


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September 24th, 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.

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September 16th, 2013

BEAT Festival: Immersive Art All Over Brooklyn

After last year’s successful inaugural season the BEAT Festival’s second season focuses on site-specific and immersive theatrical experiences in unusual and non-theatrical settings.

BEAT stands for Brooklyn Emerging Artists Theater but the BEAT roster includes a whole lot more than emerging artists with seasoned and accomplished artists like Ping Chong, Lemon Andersen, Brave New World Repertory and others. But there are lesser known groups as well like LeeSaar and the Institute for Psychogeographic Adventure.

This past Sunday night at Congregation Beth Elohim, Brave New World Repertory Theater presented a reading of reflections by those involved with the CBE Feeds initiative, which has been serving food to victims of Hurricane Sandy for the past year and intends to continue.

Also at Beth Elohim, on September 21 they will presenting Ping Chong’s Brooklyn 1963, about events connected with civil rights and the fight for freedom in Brooklyn.

There’s a whole lot more to the festival, including a performance on Saturday, September 21 of the “striking, sexy and assertive choreography” of LeeSaar, a dance company established in Israel in 2000 by  Lee Sher and  Saar Harari.

For more information go here. 

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July 11th, 2013

Salamander Salsa Celebration at Backyard Restaurant and Bar

by Matthew A. Taub

After making fresh salsas, chili and crushed peppers from the hot peppers of small gardens in Rhode Island, followed by concocting impromptu recipes while working for various restaurants in the New York area, Brooklyn entrepreneur Timothy Kavarnos decided to follow his passion and start his own sauce-making business.

Last night Backyard Restaurant and Bar in Park Slope (5th Avenue near 6th Street), helped Tim’s company celebrate its sauces and spread the word about its Kickstarter campaign with a launch party. The event included cocktails featuring Salamander Sauces and a special menu designed to be paired with the sauces.

“As an avid heat seeker, I’ve learned to appreciate the variety of flavors offered by different peppers, and the many ways they can blend with other ingredients,” Tim explains on his company’s Facebook page.” I’ve found, however, that in the majority of hot sauces the fire overwhelms the flavor.”

At last night’s shindig, employees and supporters took pictures and shot videos to help us spread the word, and there were chances win a free bottle of sauce or a Salamander t-shirt. Even if you missed the party, support the company, and get your sauce on!The result, Salamander Sauce Company, is dedicated to creating all natural sauces of distinction, and the recipes have a wonderful depth and complexity.


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July 5th, 2013

Marlene Weisman: While I Was Stuck in the Supermarket Collages

 Marlene Weisman‘s work will be exhibited at Powerhouse on 8th. Her solo show has a great name: “While I Was Stuck in the Supermarket…”

Weisman will be showing a selection of collaged homages to many great women of the 20th century. As you can see she has a great sense of humor and a zany and unapologetically surrealist style. The owners of PowerHouse on 8th, have invited her to exhibit the collages from July 10th – Sept 30th.

I’ve loved Weisman’s work since I first met her in the 1990s at the Fifth Avenue Fair where she was selling  these wonderful black zippered make-up bags that said: “Greetings from Park Slope.” No one was putting “Park Slope” on bags and other items back then and I bought one which I still treasure today.

She was a frequent exhibitor at the PS 321 Craft Fair where I admired (and often bought) her beautiful boxes collaged with images from old games, magazines, and postcards.

Her new work is wonderful as it highlights Gloria Steinem, Patti Smith, Louise Brooks and others juxtaposed with the signage and shelves of supermarkets. And who can resist the name of the show? Powerhouse 8th is on 8th Avenue between 11th & 12th Streets, in Park Slope. (Subway: F train to the 7th Avenue stop, use 8th Ave exit). And there’s an opening on the evening of July 10th, at 7:00pm – 8:30pm.

“It would mean a lot if you can join me and some of the most celebrated women of the 20th century, writes Weisman. There will be wine & cheese.

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July 3rd, 2013

OTBKB Asks: 5 Questions for Bill de Blasio

by Matthew A. Taub

Bill de Blasio, Democratic candidate for NYC Mayor, sat down with Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn’s Matthew A. Taub for a few questions.

Bill de Blasio is currently New York City Public Advocate. A graduate of NYU, he also studied at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. His first political job was in David Dinkin’s administration. He then moved on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, working as Regional Director under then-Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo. In 2000, Di Blasio managed Hillary Clinton’s successful campaign for the U.S. Senate. From 2002-2008, he served as New York City Council member for the 39th district, which includes Park Slope, Sunset Park, Boro Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Red Hook, and Kensington. That seat is now held by Brad Lander.

MAT: With Christine Quinn in Chelsea, Anthony Weiner having moved to Gramercy Park and Bill Thompson de-camping to Harlem several years ago, you’re one of the few remaining “outer-borough” democratic mayoral contenders in this race. How does your history and commitment to the borough impact and influence you?

DE BLASIO: 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.

MAT: How does your position on the City Council’s recent modifications to the stop-and-frisk program differ from your fellow candidates, and how, if at all, has your family, influenced this position?

DE BLASIO:  The overuse of stop and frisk is putting our officers, our children, and our neighborhoods at risk.

I am the only candidate who believes we need an independent Inspector General and a strong racial-profiling bill. I encourage the City Council to stand strong against Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to subvert the democratic process and intimidate people into changing their vote. Weak-kneed reactions to the Mayor’s mistakes will only guarantee the next four years are like the last 12.

 As Mayor, what plans do you have to hold developers to a commitment to affordable housing? To what extent are you hampered by actions like this in the legislature in Albany, and in what ways can you (and the city) still prevail?

DE BLASIO: I have a detailed, comprehensive plan to create or preserve nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. We must end giveaways for big developers and enact mandatory inclusionary zoning, so that when neighborhoods are rezoned, which tremendously increases property values, developers are required to build affordable housing for low- and middle-income families in return. These efforts should create 50,000 new affordable housing units over the next decade.

Another example in my plan is to encourage development on vacant properties by eliminating a tax loophole that incentivizes real estate speculators to leave lots vacant. By applying the same tax rate to big, vacant lots that we do to commercial properties, we would spur a wave of affordable housing construction and create more tax revenue to fund the creation of 4,000 new affordable housing units.

As far as Albany is concerned, we need to take control locally of rent stabilization laws, which help keep rent under control for millions of New Yorkers.

MAT: In contrast to the breaks begot by developers, you claim small businesses are feeling the squeeze. How are small businesses targeted, fined, and harassed in ways that make it difficult for them to conduct operations, and what reforms do you propose?

DE BLASIO: As Public Advocate, I issued two reports documenting, for the first time, the incredible burden on small businesses from the rapid rise in fines. After suing the city to obtain never-before seen data, I discovered that, starting in 2010, City Hall implemented an unannounced revenue-driven enforcement campaign, which has led to a dramatic increase in inspections and nuisance fines on small businesses, particularly in the outer boroughs, to plug gaps in the city’s budget.

I’ve proposed a five-point plan for small business fine enforcement, based on public safety and not the need to pad the city’s budget. First, we need to eliminate outdated and abused regulations using a Regulatory Review Panel that includes small business owners. We also need to increase small business owner’s understanding of these rules, so the first time they learn about them, isn’t when they get fined. We also need to create a tiered classification system for fines, so that business owners aren’t punished unnecessarily harshly, and enable business owners to contest violations online, or by phone or mail, so they don’t have to take time off of work. And, finally, to ensure this abuse doesn’t happen again, we need to require each City agency to report the amount of revenue raised through fines, and we need to create a group of Red Tape Cutters, whose responsibility it is to track trends in the City’s enforcement of business regulations and collect input on ways government can help businesses add jobs.

MAT: Rather than hiding or concealing your motives, your campaign is quite candid in asking the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a bit more in taxes to support certain programs. What are the additional programs you propose, and what is your message to wealthy New Yorkers as to why they should be willing to accept such an increase?

DE BLASIO: The logic is pretty simple actually: as one city, we rise and fall together. While nearly 400,000 millionaires call New York home, almost half of our neighbors live at or near the poverty line. Our middle class isn’t just shrinking; it’s in danger of vanishing altogether. This income inequality affects everyone through rises in incidents of crimes, a decrease in affordable services, and quality public schools. Addressing the crisis of income inequality isn’t a small task. And if we are to thrive as a city, we’re going to need the help of every citizen. That’s why I’ve asked the wealthiest New Yorkers to pay a little more in taxes so we can fund universal pre-kindergarten and after-school for New York’s children. This is essential for our city’s future.

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June 10th, 2013

On a Park Slope Stoop: Elmer Rice’s Street Scene by Brave New World Rep

This is a must-see and I for one can’t wait. I so enjoyed B rave New World’s production of The Crucible at The Old Stone House. Now Brooklyn’s acclaimed Brave New World Repertory Theatre is taking Elmer Rice’s 1929 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Street Scene to the streets–literally…on the stoop of a Park Slope tenement.

The site-specific production will spill out the front windows and onto the front stoop and sidewalk of a tenement in Park Slope, which will serve as the stage with the audience seated in the street, which will be closed to traffic for the day. Brave New World’s multicultural production of this classic masterpiece reflects the full urban melting pot of New York City.


Park Slope, Brooklyn

5th Street between 8th Avenue and Prospect Park

(Directions: F/G to 7th Ave, D/N/R to 9th St, 2/3/4 to Grand Army Plaza, B/Q to 7th Ave.)


Saturday, June 22nd. Two performances: 1pm and 5pm.

(Rain-date: June 23rd)


Director Claire Beckman says, “With 20/20 hindsight, Brave New World’s site-specific production seeks to capture the restless summer of 1929… and the sense of unease that comes-especially for those at the bottom of the pyramid like the working class people in the play-when everyone is living beyond their means. These are the people, who a year or two later, will be jobless and penniless. Now living together in cramped sweltering apartments, they spend their summer days out on the stoops… Gossiping and fretting about any impending trouble, as titillated by, as they are terrified of the big domestic drama unfolding in their own building… An infidelity…and worse.”

Elmer Rice won the 1929 Pulitzer Prize for his Broadway play about a New York City “village” rife with domestic quarrels, racial and ethnic tensions and economic anxiety. Street Scene was made into a movie in 1931, produced by Samuel Goldwyn and directed by King Vidor, and into an opera in 1946 with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Langston Hughes.


FREE (no reservation necessary) seating as available; unlimited standing room.

RESERVED FREE seating available in advance for elderly and disabled – limited.

RESERVED seating available: with online donations of $75 or more- limited.

For further info and reservations, visit:

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June 10th, 2013

Le Pain Quotidien Opening on Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue

Seems that Le Pain Quotidien, a cafe chain with 185 branches arond the world,  is opening on Fifth Avenue  and Carroll Street. Not only that: it’s opening in the space that was formerly Moutarde. And we all remember Moutarde’s claim to fame: it was the location used in Julia and Julia to impersonate a real Parisian cafe.

I for one like Le Pain Quotidien and have frequently frequented the one on Madison Avenue and 83rd Street, the one in Tribeca, and the one in ABC Carpet and Home and Lincoln Center (they really are ALL over the place). The communal table is a nice concept and the atmosphere and decor are very appealing. The curried egg salad sandwich is excellent, as are the quiches, soups and the baked goods, including deliciously authentic French Croissants.

Welcome to the neighborhood: Le Pain Quotidien

The photograph is from a blog called Brooklyn Home Experts. 


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March 2nd, 2013

Susan Steinbrock Design: Brooklyn Garden and Floral Beauty


Just when I was feeling really fatigued by  winter, Susan Steinbrock Design sent me an email about her new garden and floral design website. The  photographs on the site of arrangements of colorful wild flowers grown in a Brooklyn lot made my day.

Spring is afoot and I am grateful to Susan for reminding me.

Brooklyn-based gardening business, Susan Steinbrock Design will plant and maintain perennials, annuals and flowering shrubs. SSD will select plants to create a continuously blooming garden, from spring bulbs through fall asters, yielding personally designed bouquets, directly from your garden to table.

“I believe in environmentally sound practices, using compost to enrich soil that is often depleted of nutrients. I choose flowering perennials native to our region as well as other plants that encourage pollinators and benefit the overall health of our Brooklyn neighborhoods,” Susan writes on the website.

Whether you are looking for a complete design and renovation of your current garden space, a new window box or container, or just advice in choosing plants that will thrive in your garden’s light and shade, Susan can work with you to make something beautiful.

And that is beautiful.

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November 22nd, 2012

Last Night at the Bell House: Rosanne Cash

I arrived late for the Musical Extravaganza to Restore Red Hook (presented by Jalopy) at the Bell House but I didn’t miss Rosanne Cash.

And that’s a good thing.

At 10PM, Brad Lander, the respected City Council member for the district that includes Red Hook, Gowanus and Park Slope, took to the stage to introduce the legend who had arrived from Manhattan to pitch in for a Red Hook devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

Rosanne brought incandescent star power to the stage. But her cred doesn’t just come from the fact that her dad is Johnny Cash, who made her a list when she was 18 of 100 essential country songs. She is also a smart songwriter with a flair for the well-chosen word. She’s got a very generous and inclusive stage presence and a husband, producer John Leventhal, who is one hell of a guitar player.

Last night she did a few songs from The List, her album of contemporary interpretations of her dad’s list, including to-die-for versions of Long Black Veil, Heartaches by the Number by Elvis Costello and Motherless Children. She also did Etta’s Song and Modern Blue, two new songs from a forthcoming album about the South.

She opened with the rocking Radio Operator from her 2006 album Black Cadillac, which she made after her father, her mother Vivian Cash Distin, and her stepmother June Cash all died within a span of two years. Later she treated the audience to her big radio hit, Seven Year Ache. The arrangements of all the songs by John Leventhal betrayed a  delicious roots, country and twangy blues sensibility.

The audience screamed “one more song” when the band left stage and she obliged with one more. Her depth of spirit was clearly on display as she thanked the audience in return and urged the crowd to give generously to aid the restoration of Red Hook.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun performing in New York City.”

Photo by Tom Martinez


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November 2nd, 2012

News Helicopters Overhead

You probably heard them, too.

News helicopters are flying over Park Slope this morning as they circle over the Atlantic Center capturing aerial images of the morning commute on the second day of minimal subway service in New York City.

Yesterday, commuters waited on extremely long lines to catch buses at the Atlantic Center and Fulton Street to ride across the Manhattan Bridge to working subways in Manhattan. So the Brooklyn commute is this morning’s news.

Those news helicopters have been circling since five or six in the morning (or earlier) which seems awfully early. It certainly woke me up earlier than I wanted to be.

A friend writes on Facebook: “Relentless helicopters overhead…reminiscent of another apocalyptic event.” I know what she means.

Helicopters hovering overhead.


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October 30th, 2012

Message from Brad Lander: Picking Up From Sandy

Here is an update from City Councilmember Brad Lander who also serves Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Borough Park and Kensington. He included the photo above by Conor O’Donough.

I hope you and your family made it safely through the storm. Mercifully, the damage in the neighborhoods in this City Council district was not too bad. I’m sure you’ve seen pictures and heard about the heartbreaking fires and widespread flooding elsewhere the city.

Volunteers Needed

I was heartened by all of the emails I got yesterday from people who wanted to help. There are two shelters in the 39th Council District, John Jay High School and the Park Slope Armory, that need volunteers. You need to be willing to work an eight hour shift and cannot bring your children. The Armory is sheltering people with additional medical needs, so volunteers should be comfortable working with the elderly, disabled, or others who may need extra support.

While those are the two shelters in my council district, there may be other shelters closer to you. Enter your address here to find the closest shelter to you and reach out to see if they are also in need of volunteers.

You can sign up to volunteer during future emergencies at the City’s service website.

Reporting Damage

If you see any downed trees or other debris from the storm, your first call should be to 311 (If there is an immediate danger to life, call 911 right away). Make sure to write down the tracking number from your 311 call.

We should remember that the effects of this storm are being felt across New York City, and agencies will rightly be prioritizing trees on power lines and other especially dangerous situations.

My office is also recording damage in the district and following up directly with City agencies. You can report storm damage on my website (make sure to include the 311 tracking number).

More News Coming Soon

Mayor Bloomberg is expect to give a press conference shortly with updates on the City’s response to the the storm and updates on transportation and agency closures. I will send out another email later today with additional updates.

Gowanus Canal

Many of you contacted me yesterday with concerns about the Gowanus Canal, a highly polluted waterway, which flooded neighboring streets. I have communicated with EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck and NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Carter Strickland. Thanks to both of them for making the time, and communicating quickly (with each other, and with me) about our concerns at the canal.

If you live near the canal, do not touch standing water in the area, or any sediment or debris left by Gowanus flood-waters.

After the storm, the EPA and DEP are committed to work together conduct any sampling needed to address potential issues of toxicity created by the flooding.

Prospect Park

We checked in with Prospect Park staff this morning and learned that the park was hit hard. They are still assessing damage, but will be reaching out in the coming days for donations and volunteers to help put the park back together.

I look forward to seeing many of you – and working with you – in the coming days as we clean up from the storm.


PS: If you are looking for something inspiring after this brutal storm, check out this picture of an amazing rainbow above the Gowanus Canal this morning.

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October 30th, 2012

Gowanus Badly Hit

Pardon Me for Asking has pictures of the Gowanus area at 9PM Monday night. A friend of the blogger took the picture above and wrote: “the water down the street was a few feet deep, and very toxic. It smelled like oil and sewage.”

Very scary.
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October 29th, 2012

Park Slope’s Freddy’s to Stay Open Come Hell or High-water

Seems that the folks at Freddy’s Bar & Backroom have nothing better to do, and no place better to be, so they’ve decided, to keep their doors open in case Sandy wants to stop by for a party. Also if anyone needs shelter, food, assistance of any sort, or some cheep whiskey.

Where: Freddy’s Bar 627 5th Ave Brooklyn NY 11215

When: Now and forever

Once again, Freddy’s Bar has proven it is not easily scared, time and time again. We survived Bruce Ratner and an illegal relocation, last year’s Hurricane Irene (we stayed open for that one too – But she never showed up,) a bad economy and worse politics, so No Blow Hard named Sandy will close our doors.

We are located on 5th Ave between 17th & 18th Street in the South Slope of Brooklyn, 1 block into the safe zone; 1 block from Zone C of the NYC Hurricane Evacuation Map.

To celebrate this Natural disaster, our specialty cocktail will be the 16oz Hurricane Sandy: The recipe is Vodka, White and Dark Rum, Amaretto, Triple Sec, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice in a pint glass with ice topped with grenadine. Cost is what ever the bartender can get out of you or $10.00. Tonight in the Backroom there will literally be an Open mic, in case anyone wants to rant. We will stay open as long as need be.

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October 5th, 2012

Get Fleeced at the Fiber Arts Festival in Park Slope

On Saturday, October 8 from 10AM until 6PM, Stitch Therapy and the Old Stone House (Fifth Avenue and Third Street in Park Slope) present the Kings County Fiber Arts Festival this weekend at The Old Stone House, a festival of natural fibers for spinners, knitters and crocheters, offering handspun and painted yarns and rovings of many varieties. Handcrafted knit, crocheted and woven clothing, hats & scarves for the family.

The following artisinal fiber artists will be on hand at the festival: Artikal Handcrafted Millinery, Bay Haven Short Tails, Bittersweet Ridge, Brooklyn Crochet Collective, Cobblerock Ridge Farm, Compassioknit, Crochet shirret Rag Rugs, Decadent Fibers, Fish Hollow, Full Moon Farms, Hellomello Handspun, Humdinger Alpacas, Juliet Martin Designs, Lilac Hill Farm, Looliemom Fiber Arts, Loop of the Loom, Okos Farm Fiber, Pollywogs, Queen Bee Fibers, Utopia Bath, Winter’s Past Farm

Here’s a schedule of activities to expect:

11 am: Pop-Up Yoga NYC: An Ergonomic Stretch for Crafters

12 pm: Finger Knitting Demonstration for Children

12pm – 6 pm: Fabrications, an exhibit by Gail Rothschild in the OSH Great Room

1 pm: Finger Knitting Demonstration for Children

2 pm: Spinning Wheel and Drop Spindle Demonstration by NYC’s Spin City

3 pm: Music by the Famous Accordion Orchestra

4 pm: Fleece Talk – identification and Characteristics w/ Kris Brynes, Winter’s Past Farm

6 pm: Exhibit Reception: Fabrications by Gail Rothschild



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October 3rd, 2012

If You Had a Million Bucks What Would You Do?

Councilmember Brad Lander truly wants to know: What would you do with $1 Million?

Tonight in Park Slope, residents are coming together to tell City Councilmember Brad Lander how to spend $1 million of City funds on projects in their neighborhood.

Next spring, their votes will choose the winning projects. The process, called “Participatory Budgeting,” gives New Yorkers a chance to vote on how some of their tax dollars are spent.

WHAT: Participatory Budgeting Neighborhood Assembly

WHEN: Wednesday, October 3rd, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

WHERE: Greenwood Baptist Church, 461 6th Street (at 7th Avenue), Brooklyn

Last year’s ideas ranged from the kooky to the sublime: a Gowanus Canal Gondola (aka a “Gowandola”), filling potholes, renovating schools, and building parks. I wasn’t there, but I hear that the conversations were sometimes heated (what do you expect?) but creative and inspiring.

Participatory budget meetings are going on all over the city. This meeting is one of five in Councilmember Lander’s district in September and October, and one of more than fifty city-wide.

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September 18th, 2012

The Hundred Story House in Washington Park

Heather O’Donnell has a sweet story on her blog Honey & Wax Booksellers about the Hundred Story House, which was in Park Slope’s Washington Park yesterday.

The Hundred Story House is the brainchild of Julie Marchesi and Leon V. Reid IV (illustration at left is a rendering) who organized a Kickstarter campaign to get the project off the ground and managed to raise an impressive $13,502 last March.

The One Hundred Story House is a miniature lending library and installation that was designed for Cobble Hill Park but is evidently going to other parks, too .

In  fact, the House opened in Washington Park in Park Slope on September 8th. I guess it’s going to be there for a while (I will check with Kim Maier at the Old Stone House for further information).

Marchesi and Reid wrote on the Kickstarter site: “Brooklyn is very bookish. If you walk the streets on a fair weathered weekend in certain neighborhoods, you will notice a system of informal and anonymous book-sharing. You will see piles of paperbacks and hardcovers lying on sidewalks or stacked on brownstone steps, available to any passersby looking for a good novel, or a cookbook from 1972.”

Ah yes, I did find Secrets of La Bonne Table a 1970’s French cookbook by Jeannette Seaver on the street once. Marchesi believes this tradition speaks to limited space in our too-small apartments ” but also to the distinctly Brooklyn spirit of small-scale community interactivity that can be possible in a huge metropolis. It also speaks to a shared love of the written word — as do our many bookstores, public libraries, and coffee shops filled with famous (or soon-to-be) writers at work.”

Lovely idea. I can’t wait to see it.


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September 4th, 2012

Honey & Wax: A Different Kind of Rare Bookseller in Park Slope

It was only a matter of time before the first indie rare book dealer arrived in Park Slope. Sure, Brooklyn has always had great used bookstore like P.S. Books, Unnameable, Book Thug Nation. Park Slope used to have quite a few before high rents got the best of them. But Honey & Wax Booksellers, founded by Heather O’Donnell, is truly something new.

A Park Slope resident for 15 years (and a PS 321 parent), Heather studied English at Columbia and Yale, where she worked as a curatorial assistant in the Beinecke Library. After three years teaching at Princeton, she left academia for rare books, learning the trade in the flagship gallery of Bauman Rare Books.

In other words, Heather has major cred.

Last fall, she left to launch Honey & Wax out of her Park Slope dining room. She specializes in surprising copies of classic literature, “books with a social life and a secret past.”

“It’s a risk, but there’s a real opportunity now for a different kind of bookseller. I say this because all around me, I see the emergence of a different kind of collector. Digital text has made everyone newly aware of the qualities of the printed book,” she writes in an email. “Some people don’t miss those qualities, but others really do, and seek out printed books by choice.

On September 23rd, Heather will be the first rare book dealer ever to exhibit at the Seventh Annual Brooklyn Book Festival, the largest annual literary event in NYC. There she will be handing out the first Honey & Wax catalog, which features eighty books photographed in a friend’s Ditmas Park home, at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

She’ll also be displaying a wonderful selection of books, including some of her favorites: Walker Evans’s copy of The Waste Land, Graham Greene’s copy of George Eliot’s letters (with his handwritten indexes in each of the seven volumes), a signed first edition of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a first edition of Countee Cullen’s Color, an inscribed first edition of Truman Capote’s Tree of Night and even a signed first edition of Maira Kalman’s Max Makes a Million. 

Full disclosure: Honey & Wax Booksellers is a client of Brooklyn Social Media, my new PR and social media firm for entreprenuers and authors.

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August 30th, 2012

Paul Ryan’s Playlist: What’s the A-Z of Your iPod?

Last night at the Republican National Convention, GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan compared his iPod playlist to Mitt Rommney’s.

“We’re a full generation apart. And, in some ways we’re a little different. There are the songs on his iPod that I’ve heard on the campaign bus and on many hotel elevators. He’s actually urged me to play some of those songs at campaign rallies. I said, I hope it’s not a deal breaker, Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and ends with Zeppelin.”

I looked at my playlist this morning. Mine starts with Adele (and then Adrian Hibbs) and ends with The White Stripes and Yo La Tengo.

What’s the A and Z of your playlist? And what does or doesn’t it say about you?

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August 24th, 2012

80 Park Slope Artists Participating in Go Brooklyn

There are 1,814 artists participating in the Go Brooklyn Arts massive open studio weekend on September 8-9, 2012. Eighty of them are in  Park Slope.

That’s a bigger number than I expected. There are a lot of artists in and around Park Slope but most of them don’t have their studios in Park Slope, a neighborhood made up mostly of apartment buildings and brownstones. We don’t have much in the way of loft or industrial buildings.

Go Art Brooklyn is a crowd -curated, crowd-sourced open studio extravaganza backed by the Brooklyn Museum. As an art appreciator, you can sign on as a visitor and actually vote for the artists you like best during your studio visits.

Of the eighty Park Slope artists, I know a few including my husband Hugh Crawford, who will open his photography studio right here on Third Street. “The last few years I have been making photographs I describe as “tangles”. They are of rose bushes, ocean waves, the banks of the Gowanus Canal, amusement park rides, trees, and distressed ground. What I am trying to capture is “the act of seeing.” Since mid-2011, my work is multiple exposures reassembled into single compositions with some of the work printed as large as 20 feet long,” he writes in his Go artist statement.

Also, Bernette  Rudolph (above), whom I consider the elder goddess of Park Slope artists, will be showing her prints and mixed-media work in her Third Street studio, as she’s been doing since 1985. “I work in my art studio with music or silence depending on what I am creating. I have been a working artist over fifty years exhibiting in museums and art galleries thru the United States. My current inspiration is photographing the people I see on the streets of New York City and the vast variety of people who ride the New York subways. I use photo shop to turn the photos into works of art,” she writes in her Go artist statement.

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August 20th, 2012

Paul Auster’s New Memoir Out Tuesday

Last week I reported that Amy Sohn’s new book was out in bookstores. And now for something completely different. Park Slope’s elder literary statesman has a new book coming out

Did  I just call Paul Auster an elder literary statesman?

Well, he is probably one of the best known authors in the neighborhood and certainly one of the most important in the world. Some of his books are considered the most influential books of the late 20th century. It must be said: the  man has major cred.

On Tuesday, his new memoir, Winter Journal will be coming out. Today there’s an interview in Salon Magazine where he shares his thoughts on his work, writing and the political climate in America.

He and Salon executive editor David Dailey met in Park Slope: “We met at a Park Slope cafe not far from his Brooklyn home on a recent rainy afternoon, where the conversation skipped easily from his new book to the New York Mets, and from literary politics to the presidential race,” Dailey writes.

The interview is very interesting and you should definitely read it. Auster talks  about his decision to write another memoir. He’s already written three: The Invention of Solitude, the Red Notebook and Hand to Mouth. Now this one. Auster is only 64 and he looks wonderful when I see him on Seventh Avenue. It’s hard to believe that I’ve been seeing him in the neighborhood for twenty-one years, since he was in his forties.

Sure he looks a bit older now, but very dignified. He walks with the weight and intensity of someone who writes every day. He always looks lost in thought. Deeply. Every time I see him I wonder, what has he written today in his writing studio? In the Salon interview he talks about why he felt compelled to write this book:

“I don’t know. As I’ve said, I can never answer why. I wanted to do it, so I did it. Was it the idea of, you know, reaching the age I’ve reached? I don’t know. I’m not sure. I do know that, oddly enough, all these 40th anniversaries that were taking place in the last few years have been throwing me back to the old days a lot. I’ve been speaking about things that haven’t been preoccupying me a lot, and maybe haven’t spoken about. “Invisible” really goes back to Columbia in the late 1960s.

“So, you know, I’m living in the present, thinking about the past, hoping for the future. And then too, there’s another thing I’d like to say: Most of the time, the way I seem to generate books is to bounce off the one I’ve done before, so to negate it, to do the opposite, to reinvent it. The book that came before it [“Sunset Park”] is the first book that consciously I wrote in the now, capital “N,” and it was also immediate, all so much about our present moment, that the impulse was to go back afterwards.”

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August 19th, 2012

Pork Slope Offers Tasty Food and Fun for Good Prices

Those are the boar’s heads that are now on the wall at Pork Slope.

Last night I ventured into Pork Slope, Top Chef Dale Talde’s new classic American restaurant on its opening night and found it to be fun, friendly and inexpensive. It’s so not kosher and it’s so not P.C. It’s actually a welcome—if  bawdy and slightly unhealthy—change from the vegan/veggie/healthy/locavore sanctimony of  many Park Slope restaurants.

Saturday night, opening night, was noisy and crowded and everyone was in a good mood. Strangers at the bar talked to each other: What do you think? Did you ever go to Aunt Susie’s? We’ve been waiting for this to open. Do you mind moving one seat so my husband, who’s waiting on line, can sit next to me?

A young woman even offered me tastes of her tater tots. Friendly!

Oh, and for the opening, you had to stand in line for twenty minutes or more to order your food.

But it was fun.

I think that was just an opening night thing. I’m guessing there will be waiter-service in the future. The man taking orders at the end of the bar was friendly and eager to explain the sandwiches like the Porky Melt, which is a pork patty with cheese on pumpernickle/rye bread.

Remember pumpernickle/rye bread?

While standing on line, the bartenders were friendly and helpful.

“Hey, can I get a drink for anyone standing on line,” I heard one of the bartenders say.

“I know you left an empty drink glass on the bar. You want something else?” a friendly bartender said to me.

“How much is a PBR,?” I asked a female bartender using the acronym for Pabst Blue Ribbon.

“Three dollars,” she said.


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August 17th, 2012

Pork Slope Officially Opens on Saturday

When Pork Slope officially opens on Saturday, you just might get a chance to taste what all the hype is about. Dale  Talde’s new Park Slope outpost with the truly great name is more fun and folick than Talde, his elegant, delicious and somewhat pricey “Asian-American” eatery on Seventh Avenue.

With 25 beers on tap and more than 100 whiskeys, Pork Slope is ready for the Fifth Avenue crowds. And the crowds, I’m guessing, are ready for it. There’s brisket to be had, as well as ribs, po’ boys, pulled pork sandwiches, country ham ‘n biscuits, and fried chicken.

The price point? I’m hearing that most dishes are below $15. Pork Slope is located on Fifth Avenue between Carroll Street and Garfield Place. Heck, it’s in the space that used to be Aunt Suzie’s, Park Slope’s red sauce Italian powerhouse, co-owned by Irene LoRe, president of Park Slope Fifth Avenue BID.


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August 13th, 2012

Scottish Travel Reporter Loves “Buzzing Brooklyn”

In Sunday’s Scotsman, a Scottish news website, Lee Randall, a travel journalist travels to Brooklyn and lives like a native. His father was born in Brooklyn and the reporter found plenty of things to love about the borough, including the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and Park Slope’s Al Di La.

“Forget hotels and live like a native in buzzing Brooklyn, suggests Lee Randall

“Wandering around Williamsburg, the hipster capital of Brooklyn, brings to mind my late father, who was born in this borough, which was an independent town before its engulfment by New York City in the late 19th century. Dad wouldn’t recognise the place. In fact, even I don’t recognise it. The last time I ventured to this part of my native city was in the 1980s, when we’d joke that you needed to pack heat to get in and out alive. Now – all joking aside – I’d advise you to pack a Mac computer, a trilby, and a refined palate for artisan beer and coffee, else die of shame.”

“Also notable was lunch at Al Di La Trattoria (248 Fifth Avenue;, where they offer a local, organic, sustainable take on Italian food, in a sweet little room overlooking a Park Slope corner.”

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August 13th, 2012

Aug 16: Dolly Parton Cover band at Union Hall

Doll Parts calls itself Brooklyn’s premiere Dolly Parton cover band. I think that probably desribes them to a “T”. I don’t think there are any other Dolly Parton cover band in Brooklyn but I could be wrong.

I’m psyched because I happen to love Dolly Parton’s songwriting (Coat of Many Colors, Jolene). A lot of people probably think of Dolly as an icon of country kitsch but I think there’s a lot more going on.

The five member band will play Union Hall on Wednesday at 7:30 PM. Gentleman Callers is also on the bill.

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August 4th, 2012

Motherland Vs Triburbia: The Buzz Begins

Amy Sohn’s Motherland will be out next week but already the buzz begins. Today in the New York Times, Ginia Bellafante’s article For a Spicier City, Turn the Page?, bundles Sohn’s sequel to her bestselling Prospect Park West with a first novel by Karl Taro Greenfield called Triburbia.

According to Bellafante, “each of the two books revolves around the broader community of a highly ranked public elementary school: P.S. 321 in Park Slope and what is obviously P.S. 234 in TriBeCa, places so readily linked to an image of concerned liberal affluence that to a certain kind of New Yorker they hardly require annotation. Here the image of family wholesomeness gives way to a picture of acute marital anomie and rampant infidelity. Stereotypes endemic to the city populate: the entrepreneurial chef, the yearning screenwriter, the drifting vintage clothier, the gay father desperate for a second child, all of them sharing an aversion or mounting indifference to the partners with whom they’ve purchased their co-ops, renovated their kitchens and shared the enervating burdens of modern child rearing.”

A book that will surely inspire conversation, debate and even secret late night reading Motherland comes out on August 14th. Mark your calendar.

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August 2nd, 2012

You’re Nothing Special: Tales from a Generation Unfulfilled

Yesterday, I met blogger Daniel Levin at the Tea Lounge, which was full of people staring at their laptops, sipping coffee and, ostensibly, working or trying to get work. We were introduced by my friend Paula Bernstein, author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

Truth be told, Levin is nothing special. In fact, he writes a blog called Nothing Special(Tales from a Generation Unfulfilled) dedicated to people who suffer from “specialness,” something he deems akin to a long-term medical disorder. “We are bitter, jealous people with few practical skills and lots of gold stars. There is no known cure. But this blog is the first medically proven* site to help sufferers,” he writes.

Levin, a graduate of Yale University, a playwright and lyricist, ponders what happens to all these special people? Do they go on to fabulous jobs or are they sitting in the Tea Lounge trying to get ahead in the world?

Nothing Special is a blog for people who believe what they’ve been told all their lives by parents, teachers and college acceptance letters. When they finally go out into the world, they realize that the world is actually filled with a lot of special people (and not all of them went to Yale).

“Our parents thought we were special and saved all of our artwork,” he writes on Nothing Special. “Our teachers told us we were highly verbal. Our movies told us we could win a karate tournament from six months of training with a handyman, and make our family hot by going back in time. From Mr. Rogers to Stuart Smalley, we were assured that always, no matter what…we were…(stage whisper) special.”


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August 2nd, 2012

Strollers Welcome in South Slope’s Greenwood Park

You all remember the No Stroller Manifesto at the defunct Patio Lounge on Fifth Avenue and the No Strollers policy at Union Hall. Well, Greenwood Park, a new 13,000 square foot bar in Park Slope with a huge outdoor space, decided that strollers are not only allowed they are welcome.

But do people who hang out at bars really want kids around. The City Room blog at the New York Times revisits this issue once again.

“I arrived around 6 PM with friends and showed my ID to the doorman. OH YEAH, time for a laid back and relaxing time with some frosty beverages and bar food! WRONG, welcome to Chuck-E-Cheese in South Slope,” a Yelp reviewer, John H., posted on July 3.

If you’re interested in the history of the Park Slope babies in bars/no strollers issue, read my essay The Park Slope Stroller Wars in Make Mine a Double: Why Women Like Us Like to Drink.

Photo from:


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August 2nd, 2012

Video: Why John Hodgman Did Not Invest in Talde (Skip the Ad)

In this hilarious interview with Park Slope’s John Hodgman, the resident expert on The Daily Show, the PC in Apple commercials and the author of The Areas of My Expertise and More Information Than You Require, Hodman explains that Justin Long, who plays the Mac in the Apple ads, suggested that he invest in Dale Talde’s restaurant in Park Slope but he decided  not to.

The hosts of this interview show ask him why and he confesses that he thought it might be a sham (despite Talde being a Top Chef contestant) and because 80% of restaurants fail. He lives around the corner from the restaurant and can never get in because “it’s a huge deal.”

Oh well. So much for a regular table at a crowded restaurant and the cash rewards of a good investment.


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