Friday, May 29, 2009

Railroad Rentals and Factory Ghosts

The Times in Greenpoint.

Bing and Signifying Nothing

Thank heavens it's passed, but the BQE found me feeling what can only be described as malazy yesterday, current pet neologism that perhaps succeeds more than Microsoft's latest futile run on Google. Says Peter Sealey, former marketer to the gods of Coke, "Bing has no equity; it signals nothing. It is going to be an enormous expense to create an image for this thing called Bing.” This thing called Bing. What would Don Draper do? Perhaps he'd climb to the top of a building and watch a movie!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Poem Interlude (Draft)

Not Forgetting Cedar, White, Little Missouri, Milk, Raccoon, and Middle

You’ve learned to give
when the giving comes
back. The rivers showed
how the giving comes
back, the glaciers to
the river to your eyes,
your eyes to the trees,
trees’ breath to the sky,
the sky to the rain to
the river, and the rivers,
their waters changing as
their names, showed
how the need for home
is eternal in a way that
home does not need
to be, how home has
flowed through the
Mississippi but also
the Iowa, through
Big Sioux, James,
Missouri, it’s fed
orchards along
Columbia and brush
on the Snake’s
liquid twist, it’s
called down the
clouds from Malad
to Wind to Powder,
and knows Cheyenne
as well as North Platte,
and loves Yellowstone,
Marias, Bighorn,
Niobara, and Skunk
as much as the taste
of the iron in its own
homeless veins. You’ve
learned to give when
the giving comes back,
and you’ve finally
found that even the
East flows in every
direction, inward
too, as in the park
a bagpiper’s mournful
triumph unwraps dusk.

Send in the Clowns

While Ringling Brothers seeks new talent, Brooklyn's 33rd District continues our own search for a City Council member who can listen to the crazy-quilt community's needs and effectively advocate on our behalf at City Hall.

Tuesday found 100 or so people, including J and I, at a New Kings Democrats candidates' debate ("laugh about it, shout about it..."), listening to the seven candidates discuss their stances on topics ranging from the fate of the Broadway Triangle and ways to plug the City's $5B+ budget gap, to favorite restaurants and current reading material. All told, Aaron Short and Sabrina Gates of NKD did a great job of moderating, and we had a taste, if not of how these folks would actually effect change in office, then of how their personalities might hinder or aid them along the way.

Since the essence (and partial transcript) of the debate has been well captured, I'll do a more poetic encapsulation, with a couple of pieces of baseball card-like information on each of the players. My real goal on Tuesday was to collect all seven.

Isaac Abraham: Has served the district for 35 years in one capacity or another, including once-upon-a-time as paramedic. Enjoys Peter Luger. Kindly wrote down some of the questions for the hard-of-hearing Ken Baer.

Ken Baer: Could not seem to hear a single question, and might have had cartoon butterflies flitting about his head. Longtime contributor to the Sierra Club's efforts. Vegetarian.

Doug Biviano: A free-thinker who believes in the city-state. He's sailed across the ocean in a 27-foot boat. A civil engineer (and "engineers build civilizations").

Ken Diamandstone: Endorsed by Norman Siegel, and therefore automatically associated with key social justice issues. Can speak loudly without a microphone. Suggested that a funding stream be created so that tenants can have the right of first refusal when commercial space is for sale.

Steve Levin: Cat-owner. Looks a little mouse-like. Didn't make much eye contact with the crowd. Reading Howard Zinn. Most articulate/practiced of the bunch. Lives in Greenpoint.

Jo Anne Simon: Endorsed by many state and local politicians. Articulate.

Evan Thies: Sits on boards of Newtown Creek Alliance and NAG. Lives in Williamsburg. Believes in mandatory inclusionary zoning (as opposed to Yassky's belief in voluntary). Believes schools should offer ROTC. Quietly earnest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Open for Debate

Come out tomorrow night, 7:00-8:30 p.m., to hear all the contenders for David Yassky's 33rd District (that's us!) seat talk about what they would do if elected to our splendid little City Council.

The candidates are...drum roll please...Isaac Abraham, Ken Baer, Doug Biviano, Ken Diamondstone, Steve Levin, Jo Anne Simon, and Evan Thies.

They'll be duking it out at Harry Van Arsdale High School's auditorium, at North 6th and Roebling.

People are, of course, talking about the competition (and have been for a while), and we'll just have to wait to know the certain outcome until it's cold again and Brooklyn craving pumpkin pie.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Carrying One Away

“Night was a wonderful time in Brooklyn in the 1930s. Air conditioning was unknown except in movie houses, and so was television. There was nothing to keep one in the house. Furthermore, few people owned automobiles, so there was nothing to carry one away. That left the streets and the stoops. The very fullness served as an inhibition to crime.” So says Isaac Asimov, one of the science fiction greats. Brooklyn itself was alien to my eyes on Thursday night, when I docked again on Withers Street after sailing a westward sea of tumbleweeds, rockpowder blued lakes, towering granite, heartbreakingly green trees, pheasants, sloping desert, pronghorn antelope, and a million other sights that set my eyes roaring for 10 days, six new states, and 5,600 miles.

Last night, wending homeward after a John Prine concert (opened by the lanky and talented Justin Townes Earle, who looked like he stepped out of the radio Appalachia of O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Williamsburg was a carnival of laughter, jibes, drunken posturing, and other martian exhibits. If Tony in Glasgow, Montana, thinks Missoula is the big city, Brooklyn is certainly an intergalactic stop. You can't hear the Macks' Deadwood, South Dakota, windchimes. You can't hear the wingbeats of geese following Route 12 through Packwood, Washington. But...there's the newly leafed tree feathering the expressway, there's the good Settepani coffee, there's the man on the bicycle with a cat on his shoulder...yes...home, circus, and universe at once.

The amazing thing is that we don't live toward the future, as Asimov might have thought. We bend toward the past, seeing its light in stars today and burning its variously hard and liquid black life to fuel our lives. The former sparked the quiet canopy over Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, and rushed overhead as I wound through the Cascades toward Sisters, Oregon. The latter manifested itself as I ran among pick-ups rigged for the oil fields surrounding Williston, North Dakota, and raced a fully loaded coal train between Lusk and Van Tassel, Wyoming, hauling its sooty cargo out of the Powder River Basin to light up the East.* Journeylong, glaciered crevasses and crests reminded me of what was and what is to come, with humankind an impressionistic fleck on a fathomless canvass.

So. There are a lot of ways to measure a trip: miles, rivers, pie, native reservations, highways, mountain ranges. Mostly, though, there's the way you live when you come back.

*In a brilliant 2005 article, the New Yorker's John McPhee describes the coal industry's inexorable erosion of Wyoming, and revels in the particulars of the rails: "Run a coal train out of the Powder River Basin and down to Kansas and Arkansas and across the South into Georgia. The steepest grade you encounter is 1.5 percent, on track that to the eye seems close to level. You can discern that it is going up or down, but it will not remind you of Crested Butte. It will seem less steep than the East Pacific Rise. Yet a loaded coal train running wide open in Notch 8 can attack a 1.5-percent grade and soon be beaten down under ten miles an hour."