Nathan's Famous frankfurters. 1310 Surf Avenue. Coney Island, Brooklyn. NYC.

Monday, June 23, 2008

summer in the city

And the summer came, the New York summer, which is like no summer anywhere. The heat and the noise began their destruction of nerves and sanity and private lives and love affairs. The air was full of baseballs scores and bad news and treacly songs; and the streets and the bars were full of hostile people, made more hostile by the heat...
James Baldwin, Another country.
Photo: Flanders. Angel of the Waters Fountain at Bethesda Terrace. Central Park, NYC. Summer of 2007.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Between 1880 and 1920 most of the two million Jews from Russia, Poland, Austria-Hungary and the Balkans who arrived in the United States settled in New York and made their homes on the Lower East Side. They lived in the thousands of tenements thrown up cheaply and quickly by small builders. They were usually five stories tall, with four tiny apartments on each floor. Large families and their borders were squeezzed into the ill-lit and crowded rooms. With little fresh air and minimal plumbing, sanitation was inadequate and health inevitably suffered. High infant mortality rates and widespread tuberculosis testified to the shocking conditions. Nonetheless, Jewis culture and religion flourished. Hundreds of synagogues and religious schools were established, ritual baths built, and religious goods manufactured. There were Yiddish theather companies and literary societies, Yiddish and Hebrew publishers, and Yiddish newspapers: the most famous was The Jewish Daily Forward. Jews who had emigrated from the same village or town or city in europe set up landsmenschaften, social and mutual aid groups which provided insurance, burial benefits and even cemeteries. New arrivals in the Lower East Side settled into their new lives with the assistance of Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
Jewish immigrants earned their living in a variety of ways. They sold goods from pushcarts, operated restaurants, and small retail shops and a great number worked in the garment industry. Children and adults often labored from dawn to dark in their small apartments doing piecework, paid by the number of items they had completed... They also worked in sweatshops-workshops that were squeezed into tenement apartments or loft buildings- and were crowded, poorly-lit, stifling in summer and cold in winter. Wages were low and hours long. ..Real progress was not made until the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist Company factory fire on March 25, 1911, when 146 immigrants, many of them Jews, died. Their deaths eventually led to many reforms in both buildings and fire-code safety regulations.

Nevertheless, Jewish immigrants were eager to be assimilated into American life. Some of them too quickly. If you can, read Yekl. A Tale of the New York Ghetto, written in 1896 by Abraham Cahan's , Russian-American novelist emigrated to the United States to escape the mass roundups of revolutionaries following the assasinations of Russia's tsar Alexander II. Yekl is the story of a callow young immigrant who sloughs off many of his Old World values while adopting superficial aspects of the new American life, ending with an uneasy feeling about his future...
Source: The Historical Atlas of New York City: A Visual Celebration of Nearly 400 Years of New York City's History, The Encyclopedia of New York City, Wikipedia and Ned Flanders.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Saturday, June 07, 2008

It was all sort of easy, it had all come and gone, the snowstorms, the street lamps telling us there was no school at midnight, the couch, the heater with all of us rolled up beside it in the thick blankets, the dogs, it was lovely,... studying the cub scout handbook, playing Ping-Pong, reading National Geographic. Mickey Mantle was my hero and Joan Marfe was the girl i liked best. It all ended with a bang...

There was a song called "Runaway" by a guy named Del Shannon playing one Saturday at the Baseball field. I remember it was a beautiful spring day and we were young back then and really alive and the air smelled fresh...This song was playing and I really got into it and was hitting baseballs and feeling like I could live forever. (Ron Kovic, Born on the Fourth of July)

Let your innocence fly -part 2-

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

that's gonna be the end ... of everything

God bless my underwear,
My only pair.
Stand beside them,
And guide them,
Through the rips,
Through the holes,
Through the tears.
From the washer
To the dryer,
to the clothesline in the air.
God bless my underwear,
My only pair.