Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I have had such a good time maintaining this blog over the past (almost) two years. But I find myself flagging, less because I have nothing to say than that I've found new ways to say it. In many cases, this saying involves really going out and talking to people in North Brooklyn and the wider world. In others instances, it requires tying myself to a chair and hitting my mind against words...which is to say, working on poems. In all cases, my commitment to the dialogue has not languished so much as my resolve to post conversations to the void. So, dear void, I end as I began (but with a new image, one recently pulled off the pavement at the corner of Lorimer and Withers):

My Community is Under the BQE and on either side of it, with Williamsburg to the south and Greenpoint to the north. I'm on the edge where streets that have been running nearly east-west tilt to run northwest-southeast, all the way to the East River. My community is changing like a prairie on fire, but that's okay. I'm not here to decry the new but to bear witness to the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience of living in a New York City neighborhood that is changing faster than probably any other neighborhood (at least visibly) and which has a once-in-a-city experience to transform its skyscape in a short period of time. We who live here now will never again see as much sky as we do now, or as the Italians who've been on my street for decades or the Polish who've been on Nassau for decades or the artists who've been on Bedford since the 80s saw even before the Changes started happening. We're all blessed, in this little corner of the world, on this little pinhead of time. One of my favorite poets writes,

"How wondrous strange it was at that moment
to be in the flesh."

And it is.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Notes on December

It's unseasonably warm outside (perhaps the most dispiriting weather of all), but I'm listening to Christmas carols (from the time before "Greensleeves" was "What Child is This?"), and I just was outside walking by Union Pool, which smelled of childhood campfires (ode to the amygdala!). Related to this: basmati rice smells like popcorn, cats smell like cats, and a nearby candle could be a very sweet and waxy apple pie.

Poem Interlude

Crown Heights

The bells were made
of November or it might
have been the other way
around. Perhaps both were
merely points on a spectrum
of yellow, as the tree on your
street, which, more than
anything, turned love into
something we could see.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Poem Interlude

There Is No Mountain

Heading toward the mountain:
watch for deer
watch for falling rocks
watch for school buses
watch for oversized loads
watch for chain-up areas
watch for hydroplaning
watch for historic markers
watch for sudden snow
watch for reduced speed zones
watch for motorcycles
watch for median weigh stations
watch for gas stations
watch for single-lane construction zones
watch for roadside diners
watch for crossing horses
watch for cops
watch for scenic routes
watch for birds
watch for loose gravel
watch for snow plows
watch for blind spots
watch for highway hypnosis
watch for narrow shoulders
watch for steamed-up windows
watch for low-flying aircraft
watch for log trucks
watch for hitchhikers
watch for tailgaters
watch for roadkill
watch for mist

Monday, November 2, 2009

Being a Leaf for a Halloween Marathon?*

*I did not run the marathon, but I did run by the marathon...and was inspired. I also was not a leaf, but I was a multitude of leaves, as in autumn, and I cavorted with a weight lifter and a recycled bag lady before heading into the drenched phantasmagoria of Manhattan on All Hallow's.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Poem Interlude (Draft)

On Growing Up

“Balloon lands but boy is not found inside.” The New York Times, 10/15/09

Boy lands but balloon is not found
out for its role in the adventure.
Nor does anyone ask what it saw.
Or what the boy said. He has been
afraid of becoming the kind of man
who will never use his shadow
as useful ballast. Who would be
baffled by questions like, Why is
this day special? Appointments,
possible birthdays, anniversaries,
national holidays, feasts. Never
the lift-off, never the simple sky
arching overhead. Because the sky
arches overhead, and today I may
pretend to have wings for a while.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Skills! Share Them!

The first Brooklyn Skillshare will be held this Saturday, October 10th, at the Gowanus Studio Space (119 8th Street, Brooklyn btw 2nd & 3rd Avenues) from 10 a.m. to – 6 p.m. (with free breakfast and lunch).

The Skillshare is a community-based, community-led, and community-building learning event organized and taught by Brooklyn residents. It is a one-day event of learning, making, sharing and doing, led by volunteers and supported by donations. Come for one session or all five, on topics ranging from kombucha brewing, bike mechanics, screenprinting, DIY electronic audio, cooking with raw food, burlesque, making ricotta, and more.

And speaking of sharing, I recently was given a tour of the elusive, exclusive Park Slope Food Co-Op, which was a zany experience, in that it involved seeing guys in button-downs and ties working cash registers, women in work pumps stocking vegetables, and the lowest prices ever for fine cheese, Burt's Bees products, fresh herbs, and anything else you can imagine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Civic Engagement Ahoy

The run-off elections for Public Advocate and Comptroller were held today in our fair city. In the last open Council election, only 16 percent of all eligible voters actually turned out, and North Brooklyn scrounged up even fewer. Tonight I went to the polls wagering that there would be a three percent turn-out...and found that my district's table had seen 20 people all day. A fellow Brooklyn voter said that he was voter #30 at his district's table, and a Manhattan suffragist felt that more people were working at the polls than entering them. So let's do the math! There are currently around four million voters in NYC. Of these, 66 percent, or 2.4 million, are registered Democrats. Given that there are around 6,200 election districts citywide, if the average turn-out/district today was 25 voters, then 155,000 Democrats voted, or 6.4 percent of the population. Also note that an election requires around 30,000 poll workers, which means 1 in 5 people at the polls today was...truly civically engaged.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Saturday Morning Sightings

*Jay Bakker interview in the WG
*Homemade ravioli on Conselyea
*Semi-truck repair lot on Skillman
*"Holla It's Ten Dolla" stoop sale on Metropolitan
*Grapefruit sighting on Lorimer
*Two NYC Bridge workers buying sandwiches ("You ever try the pepper jack? It's good.")
*Tabby cat in McGorlick
*Little dog in McCarren
*Photo shoot on Monitor
*Yellow flowers in Red Shed Garden
*Coney Island photos in window of Klenosky Paint
*Perfect day brunch at Enid's
*Roof workers with mallets
*History in street names: "Lorimer Street recalls the middle name of John and James Graham (after whom Graham Avenue is named), two famous land-jobbers, active in 1836 selling building lots in the area." (Development comes full circle.)
*PAC Chinese food renovations
*Strollers (Which reminds me: I would like to see a Duck stroller that can roll over the ground and also be launched as a ferry.)
*Runners (one with "Vandy" on her shorts - Nashville in Williamsburg!)
*A door
*A hall
*Another door
*A bagel

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just Got Home From Illinois

And Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Indiana. Forty-one states left to go! Thousands of words related to why I ate a head of broccoli on the drive from Nashville to Illinois (via the Patton Museum):

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Claw-Foot Tub Anyone?

If you're in the market for all manner of furniture, lamps, and assorted doo-dads, stop by this sale this weekend. Because nothing says autumn quite like a new chair.

Back to the Land

Why it means something to support local farmers, or, a letter from Hearty Roots Farm:

Dear East Williamsburg CSA Member:

It's been a while since you've heard an update directly from the farmers at Hearty Roots - unless you've talked to one of us
personally, in which case you're probably tired of hearing complaint after complaint about this season's weather!

Well, I'm afraid that we're not ready to stop complaining yet. "Merciless" is the only word that seems appropriate for the conditions that we've faced in the Hudson Valley this season. Our neighbors, who have been at it much longer than we have, are saying that it's the most difficult growing season they've ever seen. Certainly that's true for us.

We did finally have one week of summer weather just now-- warm days, and an inch-and-a-half of rain, that's just about perfect. Unfortunately, during the rest of June, July and August the skies were not so friendly. Rainstorm after rainstorm turned our normally very well-drained fields into swamps. Unending wet weather brings with it disease, which affected our carrots, potatoes, lettuce, onions, radicchio, and, of course, tomatoes. Flooding in the fields wiped out newly seeded plantings of beets and salad greens. Unseasonably cool days prevented our pepper plants from producing as they should. And muddy fields meant we couldn't get on our tractors and cultivate (i.e., weed) our crops on time, nor plant them on time.

At one point in May, I remember looking at our fields of newly planted carrots and worrying that we would have TOO many carrots this year. Then, when the floods came, the water table rose above the bottom half of all of those carrots, causing them to turn to mush in the standing water.

So we regret very much that our late summer shares, which we always plan to keep bountiful, are less than ideal this season. Please understand that we've done everything we can to keep the shares plentiful - including no longer selling any produce to restaurants, which we normally do with surplus veggies, in order to make sure that our members are taken care of first. And we've re-tasked some of our crew members, who during a normal year might be picking tomatoes right now, with planting extra salad greens for the shares in upcoming weeks.

What's the bright side? Well, the weather has taken a turn for the better, for now. This is allowing our fall plantings of cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, radishes and squash to perk up, and we have been tirelessly weeding them to keep them happy. So we're hoping to have a rebound in the coming month's harvest.

The real bright side, though, comes from you, our members. A season like this one could easily cause a relatively young farm like ours to go under. If we were dependent on farmers markets for our income, we might have ended this season in unrecoverable debt. While we are definitely taking a real economic hit this year, both personally and as a farm, the Community Supported Agriculture model will allow us to get through this season, and onto more bountiful seasons in the future. And we will be stronger for it - having learned how to deal with even the most difficult weather conditions, we will have learned
to grow even more bountifully in the future, and we promise to share that bounty with all of you. Thanks to all of you, very sincerely, for your support this season.

--Benjamin & Miriam

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Green Skies...

A North Brooklyn Story Project member, Liza de Guia, created this minimentary on rooftop farming in North Brooklyn.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fruits of Summer

Something about a hot, sticky week to inspire one to prepare things for the coming cold... Something about swiss chard stems... Something about a cat and a melon...

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Oh. My. Sakes Alive. Thanks Lady H!

August and Everything

Lovely: Miyako (Berry and North 6th) then "creme ice" at Ralph's Famous Italian Ices (Graham between Conselyea and Metropolitan). And yesterday Crown Heights: the roof overlooking what was once Ebbets Field, wine, and back to 1985 for Live Aid, whose most striking performer in my mind is the magnanimous and confident and gracefully theatrical Mr. Mercury. Anywayz. Great week in a great summer.

Poem Interlude

And Then the Rain Began

I was walking blind
through the drowned mini-universe
of summer, to the café where,
shortly, I would hear
speaking of Gospels at an adjacent
table the very punk pastor
I'd learned of for the first time
earlier in the week.

Holy coincidence, Batman!

Water will find
its level, neither better nor worse
than where it was, and it's fair
to say that fear
holds no sway, as cement
cannot make the tides come faster.
So in spite of ourselves we climb
to gods who themselves climb to seek.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Also Tonight at Pete's

Phil Cody. He plays at 8, Pree (mentioned in earlier post) goes on at 11. Singer-songwriters and those who love them, rejoice!

New Lens

I have a new camera and took it for a spin today, home to the garden and back...where I cooked breakfast/lunch with freshly picked-up vegetables.

(These semis never fail to intrigue; they are usually being scrubbed down and tuned up.)

(They've re-landscaped and made a great deal of space from very little, through windings and switchbacks.)

(From Hearty Roots: potatoes, peppers, onions, chard, cucumbers, dill; from the Greenmarket, which may be moving: milk, mushrooms; from elsewhere: eggs, vegetarian sausage, and, of course, ketchup.)

Friday, July 31, 2009

Sunny Day Music

Newsflash: there will be one day of sunshine coming to a neighborhood near you! To celebrate, come out to Pete's Candy Store Saturday evening to hear Pree, the Washington, DC-based band described by some as the lovechild of Joanna Newsom and Modest Mouse.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Another Trip Around the Sun

Here's approximately how I feel, on the eve of my 30th birthday:

And here's what I will cook for friends tomorrow:
*Wheat crackers with homemade roasted garlic hummus
*Bing cherries with stems and blue cheese
*Chilled avocado-zucchini-peach-yogurt soup
*Corn bread
*Mustard greens with tempeh, corn, and feta
*Roasted mushrooms
*Carrot, purple cabbage, and cranberry salad, with lemon and toasted cumin
*Pickled beets
*Cake (but thankfully not this one or this one or this one).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Brouhaha Brewing

Come out tonight to hear Matt Jones and others play music, screen short films, dance, and enjoy the company of other bon vivants. 7 p.m., 525 Union Avenue, #6C.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Community, Capiche?

From sundown through twilight to nightfall, I sat in the Bamonte's parking lot, chatting with Nick, his nephew Max, and the Italians who live and used to live in the neighborhood. Jimmy T was singing Sinatra at the restaurant, while sons and daughters now in Jersey and Long Island were back with dogs and flip flops, jewelry and big cars to visit parents, eat homemade meatballs, and see the Giglio lifted once again. Nicky blasting Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti), drinking beer. Max telling me about being a ninth grader. Me sitting on a milk crate, watching the stray cats, lit clouds. Feeling lucky.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Lilies in July

It's Feast time in my little piece of North Brooklyn. The bands are roving today, distributing blessed bread to neighborhood residents. Tomorrow the Giglio and Boat will be lifted, as has been the custom on this block for over 100 years.

(Parade band serenading Bamonte's.)

"In Italian Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the residents of the community look forward to the annual Giglio Feast held every July. Since 1903, when the Nolani immigrants first held their transplanted feast in this Brooklyn neighborhood, this festa has attempted to maintain many of the traditions from the Mezzogiorno, while adjusting to the new culture in America and accommodating the pressure to change."

For two weeks, a carnival spills along Withers, Union, and Havemeyer, complete with noisy rides, lemonade, and sizzling zeppoli.


"The story, which is passed on through the generations on both sides of the Atlantic, is that around 410 AD, North African pirates overran the town of Nola. In the chaos, Bishop Paolino was able to flee into the countryside with some of the children. Upon his return, Paolino learned, from a sobbing widow that many of the young men, her son included, had been abducted into slavery. Moved to compassion, Paolino offered himself in exchange for the boy and was ferried off, a prisoner of the brigands. While in North Africa, word of the courage and self-sacrifice of Paolino spread and became known to a certain Turkish sultan. Taken with the tale of altruism, the sultan intervened, negotiating for the freedom of this holy man. Through the sultan 's efforts, Paolino and his paesani, were freed.

Overjoyed by his safe return, the entire town greeted him carrying lilies, symbolic of love and purity. That joyous homecoming jubilee is considered the very first observance of what would develop into an annual sacred event. Through the years, various trade guilds (farmer (ortolamo), butcher (beccaio), tailor (sarto), breadmaker (panettiere), blacksmith (fabbra), cobblers (calzolaio), deli merchants (salumiere), and wine makers (bettoliere)) began to compete to produce the most sensational display of lilies. Over time, these displays became more flamboyant."

(Back of the 2009 Giglio, from Union.)

"Today, although still called lilies (gigli), they have evolved into huge flower-laden steeples of wood, 50 feet or more in height. In Nola, these gigli structures and a boat (la barca) are carried through the streets on the shoulders of hundreds of men, in remembrance of the return of Paolino to Nola. The atmosphere is quite competitive and each guild hires the best lifters they can secure, because the carrying of the gigli is judged. Creativity of construction and musical accompaniment is also scrutinized even after the formal competition ends, and the men of Nola carry and dance the gigli throughout the night."

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Time In Our Cups

"New bars and venues open constantly in this neighborhood - it almost feels like the community board consists of a solitary robot with a giant rubber "Approved" stamp for liquor license applications." - FREEWilliamsburg

Meanwhile, one of the FWburg featured bars, which I wanted to check out this weekend, has closed. New York City: built by the Dutch, Robert Moses, and nostalgia...

To create new cause to hearken back, come tomorrow night to Zebulon Café Concert to hear (hark!) The Shorebirds, Big Honey Mama's Psychedelic Cowboy Show, and Rescue Bird.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Better than Farm to Table

Farm at table. In New York City from August 26-30.

(Photo not mine.)

Sunday, June 28, 2009