Archive for June, 2013

Sunday Morning NYC

June 30, 2013

Even NYC mellows out on a Sunday but still, being NYC she always holds a few surprises just to keep you on your toes. Following are some images from when the day was still young.

 Armed with machine guns the hyper –militarized NYPD arrive at St Patrick’s Cathedral to greet early morning parishioners arriving for mass.


Armed with machine guns the hyper –militarized NYPD arrive at St Patrick’s Cathedral to greet early morning parishioners arriving for mass.

Also greeting them is the intrepid author and activist Nathan Schneider whom the NYPD was not pleased to see.

Also greeting them is the intrepid author and activist Nathan Schneider whom the NYPD was not pleased to see.

The line in the middle of Fifth Ave is painted purple for the Gay Pride Parade set to commence at noon.

The line in the middle of Fifth Ave is painted purple for the Gay Pride Parade set to commence at noon.

I have no idea what the New York House and School of Industry on 16th Street  actually did but they sure had a lovely building.

I have no idea what the New York House and School of Industry on 16th Street actually did but they sure had a lovely building.

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On 55 Third Street one finds St Mary’s House of the Catholic Worker, once the dwelling of Dorothy Day.

On 55 Third Street one finds St Mary’s House of the Catholic Worker, once the dwelling of Dorothy Day.

At 77 Third Street, for a touch of diversity, one encounters the home of the NYC branch of the Hell’s Angels, once the dwelling of “Tiny.”

At 77 Third Street one encounters the home of the NYC branch of the Hell’s Angels, once the dwelling of “Tiny.”

Minding the Cat.

Minding the Cat.

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The Women of the First Street Community Garden

June 29, 2013
Sojourner Truth

Sojourner Truth

This morning while strolling I came across the First Street Community Garden. Other than myself and the ghosts of the great women on its walls, the garden was completely empty. It was very peaceful there and I stayed a while looking at things and trying to see them. And then I took these pictures.

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>Harriet Tubman Harriet Tubman

Emma Goldman Emma Goldman

Susan B. Anthony

Susan B. Anthony

Jane Jacobs and Grace Paley

Jane Jacobs and Grace Paley

Dorothy Day "All of our problems stem     from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system."  our

Dorothy Day
“All of our problems stem from our acceptance of this filthy rotten system.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt

ChangetheStakes Bemoans the Chaos and Incompetence of Education Under Bloomberg

June 27, 2013
Changethestakes's Jane Maisel with parents and Councilman Robert Jackson on the steps of Tweed

Changethestakes’s Jane Maisel with parents and Councilman Robert Jackson on the steps of Tweed

The parent activist group ChangetheStakes held a press conference this afternoon on the steps of Tweed, the Department of Education headquarters to bring attention to the continuing chaos of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies and the incompetence of the DOE bureaucracy.

The parents drew attention to the fact that over the past few weeks the DOE has sent letters to thousands of students informing them that they have not been promoted despite their passing and even excellent grades. The letters have baffled and enraged parents, teachers and principals in equal numbers. As with so much of education in the age of accountability, the discussions are based entirely on standardized test scores and have no reliable protocol in place for those parents who have their children opt out of the test.

Parent after parent told of their misery in dealing with the clueless DOE and how such incompetence has utterly disrupted their lives.

Present for the entire press conference was Councilman Robert Jackson who also spoke out against the harmful dependence on standardized tests and the chaos of the DOE under Bloomberg.
Several parents pointed out the fact that, despite Tweed’s relentless championing of teacher accountability, there is no accountability measures or methods for the leadership at Tweed whatsoever, nor has their been for the entirely

New York Necro # 2

June 18, 2013

There is an eerie scene near the end of the 1972 John Boorman movie Deliverance where the character played by Jon Voight peers through some weeds and witnesses a group of men exhuming coffins from a cemetery, soon to be deliberately flooded by the construction of a dam.
The fleeting vision disturbs on some inchoate and primal level. Perhaps because it is such a mock of the idea of sacrality. Perhaps because it shows that even the dead are not free from the dislocations of time.

Even as I could find no historical account of such a thing anywhere, sometime in the late 1890’s something akin to that strange scenario in Deliverance must have taken place at St Luke’s Place in the West Village. And it was precisely such a scene that allowed the metamorphosis of what was St John’s Cemetery, burial ground of Trinity Parish, into what is now James J. Walker Park. (The park is named after the notoriously corrupt if charming Jimmy Walker. Walker, a lawyer turned songwriter turned Tammany politician turned charming scoundrel, who was mayor of New York from 1925 till he was forced to resign in 1932. Walker’s family lived across the street at 6 St Luke’s Place. )

I have no idea how peopled the cemetery was – information is not easily come by and why would it be? — but I imagine there must have been quite a crowd as the land served Trinity Church from 1812 to 1895. It must have taken many men making a Herculean effort to dig them all up and move them from there to wherever it was they reburied them.
At any rate, there is but one extant memento to the park’s former existence as a graveyard: a nearly 200 year old marble sarcophagus containing the remains of two firemen who died in the line of duty in 1834, the year the monument was dedicated.

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Appropriately, two small fire helmets sit atop what looks like a child’s coffin.

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The monument was donated by the Eagle Fire Department, one of the several competing fire departments (a competition that provided the initial ladder for the rise of Boss Tweed) that served the city before the creation of FDNY.

One side of the marble is inscribed with these words:

HERE ARE INTERRED / THE BODIES OF / EUGENE UNDERHILL / AGED 20 YEARS 7 MONTHS AND 9 DAYS / AND FREDERICK A. WARD / AGED 22 YEARS 1 MONTH AND 16 DAYS / WHO LOST THEIR LIVES BY THE FALLING OF A BUILDING / WHILE ENGAGED / IN THE DISCHARGE OF THEIR DUTY AS / FIRE MEN / ON THE FIRST DAY OF DUTY / MDCCCXXXIV /

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On another side is inscribed the following:

THIS MONUMENT IS ERECTED / BY THE MEMBERS OF / EAGLE FIRE ENGINE COMPANY / NO. 13 / IN CONNECTION WITH THE FRIENDS OF THE / DECEASED / TO COMMEMORATE THE SAD EVENT / CONNECTED WITH THEIR DEATH / AND THE LOSS / WHICH THEY DEPLORE /

“And the loss which they deplore. ”

I do not think I have heard the word “deplore” used in that sense in all my life.

Addendum: I have long read about the Potter’s Field that somehow became Washington Square Park but this took me by surprise. It also makes me wonder what and who else we are cluelessly strolling on.

Spending Bloomsday with Ms B./ Molly Bloom’s Soliloquy Read by Eunice Wong

June 16, 2013

Nora Joyce, the inspiration for Molly Bloom

Nora Joyce, the inspiration for Molly Bloom

Today is Bloomsday, the day lit lovers the world over celebrate James Joyce’s massive masterpiece Ulysses which takes place on June 16, 1904. It is on that same Spring day that the novel’s anti-heroic hero Mr. Leopold Bloom, he “who ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and fowls, ” leaves his modest Dublin home for a walk and some kidneys and encounters, among other things, just about everything.

One of the few things that Bloom does not encounter (even if his thinking returns to her continuously) is his wife Molly Bloom. Molly, for her part, is to cuckold Leopold that very afternoon with one Blazes Boylan, a Dublin dandy, (even as her thinking continuously returns to her husband.)

In between these two events just about everything in the world except the end of it takes place. Some of it is very, very sad. Much of it is very, very funny.

Structurally, Joyce designed Ulysses to contain every literary form in existence but he saved the one that is arguably the most intimate – the soliloquy — for Molly, to whom he gives the last 30, 000 or so words.

This Bloomsday my wife and I had the joyfully exhausting experience of hearing Molly’s soliloquy read by Eunice Wong at the Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project on Bleeker Street. Wong’s performance was nothing short of magnificent.

The soliloquy, on one level a stream of consciousness recapitulation of Molly’s day, and on another an endless riff on sex, death, menstruation, politics, theology, the female body, the male body, faith, betrayal and, above all, love, is nothing short of symphonic and as such demands an interpreter of enormous emotional courage and breadth to do it justice. Wong, as Molly, pondered, exclaimed, wept, laughed, whispered, whistled, sang, farted, giggled, danced, cooed, and much more throughout, did it justice. She also displayed Olympian level stamina in the process. An Asian American, Wong chose not to employ a Dublin accent, but rather than take away from Molly’s Irishness, her performance heightened the universality of Joyce’s monumental creation: the sublime Molly Bloom.

Wong was humbling to watch. And also hilarious. And also beautiful.

In short, her rendering of Molly Bloom’s soliloquy was art of a very high order and we were grateful to have experienced it.

Mr. Joyce and his  guitar

Mr. Joyce and his guitar