The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Burger Mexicano No Mas

Related to Trump pulling out of NAFTA?
New menu; new chef; new era. 545 Flatbush, where Burger Mexicano once was.

Empire Boulevard Gets A Wee Bit Of Residential

'Member the laundromat at the NE corner of Empire and Rogers? Gonna be "mixed use," which means they're going to get as many rental units as they can out of the outdated zoning. The housing advocate in me has to remind Q readers that this could have been a larger building with 30% or more apartments renting below market (i.e. "affordable"), but NIMBY Attacktivist Alicia Boyd led the call to make sure that wouldn't happen. So...look for some unaffordable units marketed as "luxury." Could be that this leads the way to a slew of development, or...the big money will simply wait til it can build what it wants. Needless to say in the meantime those fast food places are paying the tax bills...

More from your probably-not-so-good-friends at YIMBY.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

PLeGNA Pluggin' Away - Come on Down Oct 16

There's actually no "e" in PLGNA - just giving you a hint as to how to pronounce it. Still not quite as good a name as PHLeGNA (Prospect Heights Library Gardens Neighborhood Association) or SMEGNA (Southern Midwood Gardens Neighborhood Association) or MAGMA (Montessori Anthrax Groupon and Metamucil Advocates).

I love the good people of PLGNA and have watched them weather many an outburst from local "attacktivist" Alicia Boyd, including a lawsuit of zero merit meant to intimidate and fluster and destroy. But like Elton John, PLGNA's still standing, and needs your help and expertise to lead the neighborhood at its time of widespread change and unease.

All politics is local, except when it isn't of course. See you Monday!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Risbo - Unique, Charming, Delicious

The Q's no gourmand. Fact is the Q once tried to outsource all my restaurant posts, since I honestly prefer takeout on a park bench to white linen, white wine and white white white. But being a middle-class middle-aged man who doesn't go to bars, socializing is often focused on food, and so one does find oneself from time to time bellying up to a tightly spaced table in order to spend what would have in my youth seemed an OBSCENE amount of money on nicely arranged platefuls of things that taste pretty good but not OBSCENELY good enough to match the outlay. That's why I often order the burger. At least that way I can compare it to all the burgers I've had over the course of my life. And frankly, if you can't do a good burger, why are you even in the restaurant business?

Enter RISBO. No burgers. Great vibe. Terrific layout, outstanding food. A place you want to hang for more than just a meal - maybe stick around and head out to the garden for an after-drink. Just five days into what is sure to be a very successful run, the place is oozing with cool. Not hipster cool a la Billyburg, but real honest-to-goodness-I-can't-place-it-so-it-must-be-foreign cool. European cool. South American cool. French cool, with some Caribbean cool, and a Cosmo-Euro playlist with the music just a tad too loud and yet just right to ensure your conversation doesn't travel. Sorry. I don't want to hear about your love life or problems at work. I really don't. Not that I can't sympathize of course.

Address? 701 Flatbush btw Parkside and Winthrop. I know, right?

The emphasis of cuisine is on carne of various types, but the vegetarian sides and salads are delicious as well. As in really, really good. Garlic good. If you're allergic to garlic you may struggle here. And let's talk about the super sweet ordering style that seems to have caught on Stateside. Order here, pickup there, sit wherever. Not that it feels like a cafeteria. But the kitchen is so central to the proceedings you feel like at any moment chef Boris might ask you to toss him an onion. And you would. It feels communal that way.

The deep menu of yore is replaced by a few items done well. Yesterday I got the sliced lamb and it came with (get this) FIVE sides. Perfectly spiced and complementing one another. And the complementing didn't end there. My entire group of five parents-of-a-certain-age couldn't stop complimenting the owners/staff. A complement of compliments.

Cash only is a bummer, but I'm sure they'll take cards soon. The system is still being worked out. I liked the non-alcoholic offerings, and the winos seemed satisfied with the list. For now you pay and order from the host, then you bring your slip to the bartender. I got some sort of sorrel drink called bissap that was super righteous. I feel very cool having ordered and enjoyed bissap. Bissap.

But what impressed me most was the vibe. Great mixing of cultures and people. Didn't feel too pretentious, even though every detail has been considered. Thumbs up, y'all. Thumbs up.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Are We Little Haiti or Little Caribbean?

Well, like most contentious issues, depends on who you ask. For a summary of arguments, here's a well-drawn opinion of the pro "Little Caribbean argument."

For the Q's part, I only heard a couple weeks ago that founder of CaribBeing - Shelly Worrell - had effectively worked her way through the Labyrinth of Bureaucracy to actually come away with a near unanimously embraced win for the 'hood in terms of increased recognition and maybe even a commercial windfall. Tourism tends to follow such designations, don't you know.

Ah, but then...local NY State Assemblyperson Rodneyse Bichotte smelled something rotten in Kingston, as she claims that plans have been in the works for years to get a Little Haiti designation for the same area - roughly Empire Blvd down to the Junction along Flatbush Avenue. Why not both, say some? Say what, say others? And what's with lumping Haitians and Caribbeans together in the first place? (hint: it's not just about geography, or puerto rico would be in the mix)

The Q first caught wind of this while dying his hair green last weekend, not to be left out of the fun his girls were having going pink and blue. As I waddled off to the Susie Farm cum Flatbush Market, leaving them with shower caps on to speed the bleaching, I ran into gentle bear Duane Joseph and got the whole skinny from him. Upon further examination, it would seem that the issue of whether Haiti is part of or distinct from the culture identified as Caribbean goes back a spell. To be honest, I've often wondered whether the French and English speaking countries might bear some animosity, just from things I've observed and heard through the years, but this seems to confirm that there are lingering resentments that can come into play over seemingly harmless distinctions of neighborhood identity.

Bichotte huffed a letter to the Mayor; a local activist followed with one to Bichotte. The details here.

If your lineage is comes from North of Miami, I highly suggest you do your best to stay out of the kitchen while the frying pot is still scalding hot. And don't even dream of calling the neighborhood Little Hipster.

Update: And just after I suggested that it would be wise for non-Caribbean folks to stay out of the fray, along comes this from KCP's Stephen Witt. It's comedy, for sure, but I'm guessing it'll come back to haunt him. Just a hunch.

There Are Good Reasons To Be A NIMBY

Check out this article from the Guardian.

But don't pretend it's progressive.

That's the conclusion the Q has reached after my years of community upheaval, conversation and activism. (yeah I'm an activist - wanna try me?) The people who shout loudest against the creation of new apartments buildings, even those with affordable set-asides, are the people who claim their Quality of Life will be violated. And they're not necessarily wrong about that. If you moved to a neighborhood with a certain density, a certain cultural or architectural flavor, a certain je ne sais crois, you'd like to think it's gonna stay that way. This despite the fact that no NY neighborhood stays the same for long, unless it's heavily landmarked, and even then the prices of houses just go through the roof, then the stratosphere, then into the record books. Think West Village and Brooklyn Heights and parts of the Upper East Side among a hundred others.

Finally, some folks are starting to realize that you cannot freeze the creation of new buildings and units and at the same time prevent massive displacement. The fact is, displacement has more to do with market forces AND perverse incentives for landlords to be classist and racist AND the inherent unfairness of rent stabilization (you got it or you don't). If, as in San Francisco, you add half a million new jobs but only 50,000 units of housing - yeah, you're gonna have a problem. A big, ugly problem that leads to more homelessness, no place for low-income workers to even aspire to living, and a skewing towards the creation of "luxury" units. Whatever. Either you believe in economics or you don't. That's your choice I suppose. But I'll bet 9 out of 10 of you already own, or have a decent income from which to search for a new place if necessary.

Ten years ago (and counting) I looked at the expanses around Empire Blvd and said to myself, harmlessly enough, "wouldn't this be a great place to build affordable housing for working people?" Now granted, I was pretty naive at the time. I figured progressives like Eric Adams and Tish James would be all over this idea. In fact, as Eric Adams came into office saying "Build Baby Build" I thought he was going to take the idea and run with it. But I saw 626 Flatbush rising and thought "whoa, new housing is great and all, but does it need to be so dang tall?" Then out came the anti-housing activists, as I've now come to see them. They don't want new buildings. "The City is already too dense. Our infrastructure can't handle it. You're stealing my light and air." How about phrase that differently - you, homeowner, are HOGGING the light and air?

None of those problems are insignificant, but with compromise and sufficient funding, they can all be addressed. That's why I so supported a neighborhood planning and zoning study that looked for new places to build affordable housing. It's why I supported Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. It's why I keep championing projects that are all or include large set-asides for means-tested housing. And yeah, we needs lots more PUBLIC HOUSING too. That's what I believe belongs at the Union-Armory project, but no one so far has ponied up the dough. It's there - the will is not.

Ah well. Maybe the City will simply exert its authority over us and do as it so pleases. After all, we gave up what little bargaining power we had when NIMBYists organized to the point of bullying. And as I've always said, there are very good reason to be NIMBY. There are never good reasons to bully, name-call and shut down respectful conversations.

True progressives understand that social progress doesn't happen without one group giving up something to help satisfy the needs of another. It's about levelling the playing field. What have you done lately to help someone find an apartment they can afford? Not just the "poor." But anyone who wants to live in our wonderful neighborhood but just can't quite make the rent?

Lastly, a word about developers. Some are assholes; some are tolerable; some are even forward-thinking. But you could say that about any capitalist industry. What's different is that you equate them with change, the kind you don't like. But guess what - that apartment or house you're living in? The result of a developer, plus the real estate industry and market through the years. My cute little house was consider the ruin of the neighborhood back in the early 20th century - the tract houses of the day.

But I'm no apologist for the development industry. Fact is, though, they're the ones that build stuff, and saying you want them to go away is to say you want the city to stop being a city. You need to work with them, speak their language, cajole with the right kind of incentives and zoning and partnerships. Or, you better just get out of their way. Ultimately they, like YOU, are out to make a buck. If you hate all Developers, then I suspect you also buy no goods from China, have no investments or retirement earnings in the stock market, don't rely on "free" offerings on internet or TV, never shop Amazon, own no cheap clothes etc. Because it's all part of the same web of supply and demand and frankly human suffering. You like McDonalds; I like Shake Shack. You like Sun in Bloom; I like falafel trucks. But thank your lucky stars that (as Tom Petty would say) "you don't have to live like a refugee." Unless of course you're broke without a home, in which case, you pretty much do live like a refugee.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

DIY Recording of Ta-Nehesi Coates Talk

Is it a bootleg if it was just a conversation?

Regardless, the venerable Bard of Brooklyn Blogs - Liena Zagare - was at last night's fully packed Kings Theater conversation between boss and star writer at The Atlantic magazine. If you want to know more about why yours truly had the great pleasure of getting personally scolded by Mr. Coates, go back into the Q archives. I'm not going to do you the favor of a link!

Here's the link to Liena's piece and recording from BKLNR.

Thx Liena!

picture by Dina Rabiner for BKLYNR

Let's Help Brian Cunningham Skewer the Lame Duck

October 21! Come on out to this, organized by a neighbor, with this David vs Goliath storyline. Let's get rid of the worst Councilman in NYC and replace him with a capable challenger, who managed to get his name on the Reform Party line for just this opportunity. Ironically, if elected, he'll be more of a Democrat than a certain State Senator around here who likes to tie his pony to the Republican hitch up in Albany! So get on out there and vote for a true Democrat! (er, but on the Reform line).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Yo Whitey - Donald Trump Is YOUR Problem

So many rationalizations of the Trump problem being bandied about. It was misogyny! Blue collars didn't come out for the Dem! Russia stole it! Blacks didn't turn out! (Really now. You expected that black voters would rally round a Clinton the way they did Obama? How much more for granted could you take their vote?) It was Sanders! It was Stein! It was Facebook and Google! It was Fox News and Breitbart!! It Not each of us, but it was us. The very folks who've benefited most from white supremacy.

Rarely do I hear anyone taking full responsibility. particularly among "whites." And I ask you, if it makes you uncomfortable to be lumped in with such a large, unruly group, imagine how it must feel to be lumped into equally unruly and wildly diverse groups like "blacks," "Hispanics," Jews, Muslims, Soccer Moms, White Collar Older Men, Red State Middle Class Professionals and others. For better or worse, you, dear Whitey (sorry to segregate this post) are a demographic, a voting bloc, and a big-ass problem in America's present and future. Nearly 60% of you (that's a fact, Monterey Jack) voted for Donald Trump. So don't go blaming anyone but yourselves for a Wicked White House.

The fact is, Trump is but a manifestation of the ugly underbelly of White America, or overbelly really. His politics - so supposedly foreign to we liberal-arts educated elites - are in reality wildly familiar. Donald Trump a/k/a Archie Bunker as Rich Snake Oil Salesman, is a particular sort of relative or family friend. You know him, but you pretend you don't. "How dare he" you say, "sully the Presidency thusly." "He has no decency" we bemoan. "He's patently racist, uncivilized, misogynistic and egad, an unbridled egomaniac!"

Yeah he's all those. But he's merely a bigger-than-life stereotypical version of the American White Male. Entitled, chauvinistic, dismissive, combative, obscenely cocksure. And other Americanisms abound. He's obsessed with image. Prone to fantasy. Ratings driven. Consumerist. Hypocritical. Surrounded by television and echo-chamber politics. He fires at whimsy with fuck-you money to boot. Even THAT he lies about - he's not nearly as rich as pretends, nor as handsome as he feels. He eats greasy junk food - he's fat and thinks he's healthy. Loves his hair and takes meds to grow it. I'm sure he downs Viagara, though he'll never cop to it. Thinks he's an ideal dad. Trusts his "instincts." Is more white supremacist than even white supremacists, because he doesn't have to hide behind radical dogma to believe it, to KNOW it, deep in his being. America reinforces his white supremacy, not so much in its laws but in its judicial nuance and police preference and tax policy.

This man, this PROBLEM, is yours white America. No influx of Puerto Ricans to the mainland, no redistricting or un-gerrymandering or motor-voter laws or "education" or party-switching or gross missteps or political intrigue is going to change that fact. Four in ten Americans, nearly all white, will continue to fight for the right to Trump, either he or another. They will bully and nag and create fake news cycles full of hatred and distrust of liberal whites (they already KNOW the people of color and immigrants will be against them) and they will twist themselves into pretzels proving themselves right, as you prove yourself right on Facebook and the Daily Outrage (sorry, Huffington Post). They're NOT going to change, anymore than your Uncle Frank or Aunt Pat. The only hope is that YOU will help them change, that YOU will marry a black man and bear black children, that YOU will foster a Syrian orphan, that YOU will live like their politics didn't exist all the while respecting their very existence to the point of forgiveness. You won't forgive the hate, but you will forgive them for falling prey to the fear, the fear of the "other," and the fear of failure and irrelevance. And you will convince every last person you can to stand up against the negativity, and vote, but you will never again try to sweep them under the rug or cast them from your awareness.

America, the political state, is gun-crazy and money-obsessed, craven and greedy, fame-fucking and at the same time, somehow, to-date, indestructible. You gotta hand it to the Founders. They wrote a prenup so tight you can't break it, not even by slavery and civil war or foreign wars or culture wars or gender wars. They wrote that document because, I think, whether conscious or not, they knew they couldn't trust you, White America, to do the right thing.

I love you, Whitey, but you've a problem and no, Donald Trump is not it. You're the problem, and Trump has woke you. The question should be what are you going to do about it? Are you really ready to fight for values, or more likely to dismiss Uncle Jack and Aunt Sarah as you always have as painfully old-fashioned and well-meaning but ignorant and misguided? You've been blessed with the benefits of Donald Bunker and Archie Trump's America, but are you willing to change, maybe get a little uncomfortable and a lot more amped? Are you willing to take to the streets with your kids in tow, and show up and pony up for candidates in other states that need your help more than New York City? And instead of simply praising diversity, are you willing to embrace it, truly embrace it, and the people all around you who are more than props in your liberal fantasy?

And perhaps most importantly, will you talk with firm compassion with your Trump-loving brethren, and tell them why you feel the way you do, and how you respect their conscience but disagree with their conclusions. It's easy to condemn, and probably right to do so. But they're your relatives and your legacy and they desperately need attention and convincing, because as the polls and blogs and Fox News keep proving, they ain't going nowhere.

But they, and Trump and his ilk are yours, and without him and his forebears, your world doesn't exist. Think about that - you are living white supremacy even as you denounce it. Ironic isn't it?

Dark Humor Is Best Political Commentary. Sometimes.

Oh, and Risbo, the French inflected community seating groovy chicken place opened Flatbush btw Parkside and Winthrop.

Monday, September 25, 2017

And There Goes the Spice Factory

One of the lingering big, big questions for the neighborhood (and yes, I include south Crown Heights and Flatbush to, oh, Church in the Q's arbitrary catchment) has been what will become of the great Spice Factory at 960 Franklin and environs.

Well, after years and years of speculation we have an answer, a supposed half billion dollar answer. Lincoln and Continuum - two huge NYC developers - have bought up enough land to build super tall and super big. Think Ebbets Apartments scale. Right on the S train, overlooking the Garden and Park, near the Q/B and best of all near a McDonalds, Sonic, Popeyes, Wendy's, Burger King and more Storage Marts than you can shake your collection of old couches at.

Basically the deep-pocket machers cobbled together a bunch of properties before going in for the kill - the big prize being the Spice Factory itself. They're claiming it'll be 50% affordable, which would be frankly (Frankliny?) amazing. Count on some locals to be pissed that it's not affordable enough, to which the Q says if you keep coming out against everything working folks'll end up getting nothing. And at this point, anything below market is a lifesaver. I suspect the required ULURP process will get ugly, but the City will continue to have bigger priorities than the needs of the NIMBYists. I say...let it rise, and let people have a few new options - hundreds upon hundred of apartments. Let's just hope it's not TOO tall and TOO ugly, and that it takes some of the pressure off rents at Ebbets. Supply and Demand still applies, don't you know.

Shockingly, the Developers are white guys with ties

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tonight: Get Engaged, Or At Least Go Steady

Every day brings further evidence that we have a madman for a leader every bit as nuts as his Korean nemesis. I'm not saying that one meeting on a Monday night is going to turn things around. My a million meetings on Monday nights and maybe we'll all start to feel empowered. This is a good one; don't miss it. Greenlight's just a hop, skip or toddle.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

It's Official - The Race Is On

Folks have been asking the Q whether 2nd place finisher Brian Cunningham will attempt to unseat much-to-long incumbent Councilperson Mathieu Eugene in November, given his place on the Reform Line ballot. To which I say - does the Pope where a funny hat? Sure he does! And he makes it look good, too.

So yes, BC is ready to roll up his sleeves and do what pretty much nobody does - unseat an incumbent Democrat in the Big Apple's November election.

Let's think about it for a minute. Is it really so quixotic? Last week Brian won approx 4,000 votes. Mathieu Eugene got around 5,500. Pia Raymond got around 3,000. Jen Berkley got just under 1,000. You gotta figure every single one of those anti-Eugene votes could potentially be picked off. Why would a voter turn back to an incumbent they've shown no enthusiasm for? Put Brian & Pia's together alone and you beat the E-man.

If voter turnout for this "off year" election stays in the range of 15,000 (painfully small, I'll admit) and a rousing campaign educates voters on their actual choice in the matter, and the energy is behind the challenger...well, it's still an uphill battle. But one Brian's ready to wage, if we help him win a historic dark horse council race. So let me be the first to make it official. Vote for this guy:

1) His name is Brian Cunningham.
2) He's running on the Reform Party line.
3) He is not related to Ross Perot.
4) He could work one day a month and accomplish more than the other guy
5) Don't vote for the other guy

Monday, September 18, 2017

Italian Joint Opening on Nostrand

"Bottle of red; bottle of white; just don't fill up on that garlic bread
Bottle of white; bottle of red; that's four full bottles time to head to bed
The primi was great; the pasta was good; you didn't even leave the neighborhood
Two bottles each; despite the good meal; tomorrow you may not like the way you feel" - BJ

I think Billy was referring to more of an Italian-American place, and this will be more authentic grub from the Boot. BUT, I never miss a chance to quote the Poet Laureate of Long Island.

Camillo it's called. Opening TOMORROW, September 19, on Nostrand near Rutland (1065 on The Nose, as everyone calls it, if everyone were the Q.)

Wanna read all about it from a proper foodie journalist? Right here.

Here's the menu from a screen shot. Couldn't be bothered to go all the way over to The Nose to inquire personally. If you happen to stop in, give us a review!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

"Caton Flats" Just Got Bigger

There will be complaints, I'm sure. But Caton Flats, at the NW corner of Flatbush/Caton, is promising to be one of the most forward-thinking plans to address the housing crisis I've seen in a long, long time. Something similar could happen at the Bedford-Union Armory, if the financing was done right.

Anyway, I'm no fan of too-tall buildings crowding the skyline. But you can't "not build" your way out of a housing shortage. If all goes according to plan, this is what you'll be looking at where now is the colorful non-housing of the Caton Market. Thx Nathan for the heads up.

Homemade Ice Cream on Nostrand

I don't get ALL THE WAY OVER to Nostrand very often, but every time I do I'm surprised by something new. Like Creme and Cocoa at 1067 Nostrand (btw Lincoln and Lefferts). You can get your homemade ice cream courtesy of longtime locals Omar and Astrid Thorpe. So unless you're the sort who says no to deliciousness for religious reasons or obesity (or both) then come on down and support your local creamery. Tell 'em the Q sent you and get a free plastic spoon with every order.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Douchebag Wins Democratic Nod - Again

How does he do it? Are we living in some sort of upside-down inverse of reality where incompetence and ignorance puts Democracy to shame? Guess so. If the Orangeneck can do it...

Look, with three challengers to the 40th Council seat in the field it was going to be damn near impossible to beat him. But he basically lost the total votes 6 votes to 4. Think about that. No other incumbent comes even close to those kind of shitty numbers. Cumbo beat back a strong challenger with ease, for instance, and she has plenty of detractors (I do not count myself among them, btw, and I get pretty tired of the nonsensical insults hurled at her, but hey, dem's the games. I happen to think she may be too smart for politics, frankly. After this term, maybe she'll get the deserved turn at helming Spelman College she's always wanted.)

Brian Cunningham's on the ballot in November, on the Reform Line, his ace in the hole sensing this turn of events. Forget about Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Ralph Nader also ran as a Reform candidate. BC had the good sense not to run as a Republican. Um, it's not really their time right now.

Go get 'em slugger. But remember, there's something truly remarkably Forest Gump about this guy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

It's Simple. Vote for Brian Cunningham.

Good man, good beard, good heart, terrific listener, lifelong resident, worked in the council, knows the issues, gets how government and politics work. Is he perfect? Is anyone? I say give him a shot - he's the Q's favorite candidate for Council and I don't think he'll let us down. As for the incumbent, if the vote splits and we get him back for another 4, kiss leadership and representation goodbye til Bill de Blasé is off to serve as Sanders' Housing Secretary. (If his health holds out...Bill's, not Bernie's, who'll be here til they remove his brain and put it in a young, hunky cadaver, sometime in the mid 1920s. There'll be a constitutional crises over whether Bernie is technically in his 80's or 20's, since you need to be old enough to be President, but Justice Barack Obama will cast the deciding vote in favor of splitting the age difference. Justice Hannity will write the dissenting opinion.)

Sure Brian will be on the Reform line in November, so he'll get a second chance. But it's hard to knock off a Democrat in this town. Unless, like Jesse Hamilton, you run as one then change parties. But that's another story...

Need more reason to vote for him? Check this out:

Need more? Check this one out with his fierce wife Stephanie wearing a fetching optical illusion.

Just vote for crying out loud. Oh, and I like Eric G. for D.A. - met him, seems sincere, and he was really into Ken Thompson's reforms - plus Ken didn't fire him when he took over from Hynes - a good sign I think. 

In the other races just choose the women and people of color. You'll feel better about yourself, as if you're somehow striking back at the Bread Basket and Deep South and Big Sky Country and Rust Belt and everywhere else that prep-school redneck (orange-neck?) won the popular vote. Oh yeah, and the Republics of Texas and Northern Arizona. Geez that's a lot of places - and some of them are even in the U.S.A. God surely hasn't been blessing us much lately has she?

You Want Landmarking? Get Busy. This Thursday!

Don't miss this one, if you're interested in slowing down the speed of development outside the Historic District. Cute church too. Oh, and ever read articles by historian "Montrose Morris?" That's her nom de web. She's Suzanne Spellen, who's speaking, and don't no one know more about Brooklyn's architectural history.

Friday, September 8, 2017

More Big Buildings For the Neighborhood

So, how much do you think it costs to build that thing at 2415 Church Ave btw Bedford and Rogers that the developer wants you to believe is in Lefferts? If you guessed $20 million, well, you must be in the trade, because I probably would have guessed way lower, like $5-10 million, because I don't know jack about the trade. You could say I'm not a jack of all trades, or rather I'm not a jack of the construction trade. I am however a jack of some other trades, like the blogging trade for instance. I've been plying this blogging trade for some town, while not plying the plywood trade, meaning I'm a jack of a couple trades that have nothing to do with building buildings or putting down flooring. I suppose you could say I'm a jack-of-few-trades, but I don't want to sell myself short - these days, very few of us can rise to the level of Charles Ingalls of Little House, who really was a jack-of-most-trades, though I'm pretty sure he wasn't a blogger. A logger, sure. Are there logger bloggers? Let me go's a compendium of logging articles in Canada but that's more of an aggregator, as opposed to an aggravator, which this post most certainly is. We aggravators share many of the same traits as bloggers, though the subtle differences are known only to those who are jacks of those trades. And that's the fact Jack.

Looking Good, Risbo

Is the Q wrong, or has Risbo been taking, like, forever to open? And in a quintillion years I never would have guessed that this stretch of Flatbush on the east side Parkside to Winthrop would sport not one but two bistro type spots. But by the look and sound of things, Risbo will have that casual sophistication typically reserved for 2000s Bushwick. Or 2010s Bed-Stuy. I hear Chef Boris will have plenty of French roto-chicken on the menu, but I'd wait til the grand opening, sometime before Halloween, to get a gander at the poultry menu. Get it? Gander. Poultry. Ah forget it. Happy to see he's opening soon so we can just get on with the raves or pans.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Flatbush Market - You'll Always Be Suzie Farm To Me

If you, like me, love love love Suzie Farm on Flatbush near Woodruff, it's with sadness that I report its change of name and ownership. Yet, says Sunny, the longtime affable and charismatic cashier, all the workers have been retained. Why mess with a well-oiled machine? To a man/woman everyone who works here is terrific, helpful and warm. Who was Suzie? Sounds like even Sunny doesn't know for sure, but she says EVERYone thought it was her. And thankfully, the proud immigrant mother of a successful daughter, a graduate of the Air Force Academy now stationed in Japan - Sunny is staying put. Flatbush Market is a dull name, but they still have 10 kinds of honey, organic milk 24 hours a day, and the most amazing selection of things most Americans have never heard of, from saltfish to Ting. Rock on, Suzie, whoever you were.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Lefferts Echo Ready For Perusal

It's here! The Echo, America's greatest two or four page hyperlocal actually printed newspaper is out, just in time for the crucial election for City Council. That the incumbent has even a chance shows the power of incumbency...the guy hasn't a clue after 10 years, and a win by him is yet another eff you to the entire community. Get out the vote!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Talk About Overtime and Overkill

This is sort of heart breaking. An event of love and community spirit, and freedom from oppression, gets reduced to a bunch of blue uniforms, blinding lights and helicopters. We get it. You've got the firepower and the badges. But will all this stop some idiot from seeing red and trying to kill somebody? "You know I was going to grab that gun/knife and shoot/stab that motherfucker, but then I saw those bright lights and decided to give peace a chance." I don't know what to root for anymore. Safety, yeah, but this is ridiculous. Thx Kieran for the photos.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Flatbush Zombie House Opening

The secret is out. And of course, J'ouvert is the perfect time to open. The neon sign is ready to light up, and a full-on Tiki Bar is opening on Flatbush btw Parkside and Woodruff, two down from Peppa's famous jerk chicken.

They're having a "secret" party this weekend pre-grand-opening, but if you're chill and sincere I'm sure they'll let you in. On the Facebook invite they mention they'll have wine and "dutty wine," which is something you really need to know about if you live in the nabe. What is Dutty Wine you may ask? 

Ever seen those super-provocative dancing videos that Jamaican and Trinidadian (and others!) places sometimes show, or even on the Dollar Vans? That's usually "dutty" as in "dirty" and wine meaning gyrations. Before adapting the dance style into your own routine (Bob Marvin I'm looking at YOU!) be sure to consult a doctor and stretch before Dutty Wining. It's been known to cause serious neck injury.

I fell in love with a Dancehall song called Wining Queen when I was buying a cell phone last year, and the tune was playing. It's absolutely irresistible, if maybe a bit inappropriate to your prudish side. "Stick it, stick it, stick it" is not exactly subtle, unless you're talking post-it notes.

I highly recommend this music video - and "stick" with it, as it takes awhile to kick in.

CaribBeing Founder in the News

Nicole Craine for NY Times

If you've ever wondered about the shipping container at the Caton Market (at Flatbush) don't miss this article on Shelley Vidia Worrell its founder and creator.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Getting Busy - 13 Shopping Days Left For City Council

Just returned from a strategy session at the Brian Cunningham campaign - not as a curious soul or blogger this time, though I AM blogging about it. I actually want the man to win. His Field Campaign Manager was on the ball; they seem to think they have a lot of votes in the bag through months of knocking on doors. But to get to the threshold they need a ton of door-to-door person-to-person campaigning. If you want to read more about Brian head on over to his webpage. The Q doesn't want to try to convince you if you're already on Pia Raymond's team - I get it and can appreciate your opinion. However, if you're considering voting for the miserable incumbent Mathieu Eugene or the bizarrely hotheaded under-prepared recent-arrival Jen Berkley, who called me the other day in a huff to chew me out for among other things referring to her as Jennifer, which is her name on the Facebook, and for being white, which isn't really debatable. And then she wrote some nasty responses on the Facebook to reasonable questions, and it struck me that she hasn't the emotional maturity for the office. Frankly, I think we've all learned in the past six months just how important that quality is to leadership. Regardless, if you haven't made up your mind I beg you to talk to your neighbors and friends and see if they have insights.

If you're with Cunningham and wondering how to help him win, it's really pretty simple. Convince 5 or better yet 10 people you know to vote for him. That's it. If you're feeling frisky volunteer for the campaign. In particular, they'd like to see a lot of people out on election day, passing out flyers near but not too near the polls, making it clear that he really does stand a chance. Eugene will have a couple big union machines out doing the same, basically people told to do it. But with 13 endorsements and counting, Brian's showing real strength.

The Q has sounded off on the most extraordinary ineptness of your City Councilperson for nearly 8 years now. I simply don't know how to make it any plainer! If you want a neighborhood leader, and responsive city representative, a voice from the community who's respectful and thoughtful, then you're what I would call a responsible, civically engaged person.

Let's be the adults this time and put an adult into the council chambers.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Repeat: Don't Drive Sunday and Monday

If you have a parking spot - stay put. If you were thinking of tooling around central Brooklyn, forget it. Many have driven on Labor Day Weekend, never to be seen again. They're somewhere in Paramus, the black hole of the metropolitan region, desperately seeking their way back home.

If you need specifics, here they are:

J'Ouvert and West Indian Day Parade Street Closures on September 3 & 4

On Monday, September 4, 2017 from 6 am to 7 pm, J'Ouvert and  the West Indian Day Parade will occur along Flatbush Avenue and Eastern Parkway. The celebration and parade will draw more than 150,000 participants and there will be amplified sound along the parade route. Please view a detailed list of closures below or download our community notice. We encourage you to share this notice with your constituents and partners.

Sunday, September 3,  2017 to Monday, September 4,  2017
  • Grand Army Plaza, Sunday, September 3, 11pm to Monday, September 4, 10am
  • Flatbush Avenue
    • Between Grand Army Plaza and Empire Boulevard, Sunday, September 3, 11pm to Monday, September 4, 7pm
  • Empire Boulevard
    • Between Flatbush Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, Sunday, September 3, 11pm to Monday, September 4 10am
  • Nostrand Avenue
    • Between Empire Boulevard and Rutland Road, Sunday, September 3, 11pm to Monday, September 4,10am
  • Eastern Parkway
    • Between Buffalo Avenue and Grand Army Plaza,  Monday, September 4, 7am to 7pm

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Our City Council Election Draws Nigh

Did you see it? Twice in two days pay-to-play (some-do-say) vanity rag Kings County Politics runs pieces on the two front-running challengers in our 40th District City Council race. And what do they focus on? Matching funds. Pia Raymond got them in the last round; Brian Cunningham didn't. Look for Brian to get his 6-1 matching funds at the next round, having some of his gifts kicked back not for anything truly improper - since the City takes its matching payments seriously even a small error in donor addresses or credit card authorizations can make it hard to pass on first submission. It's highly unlikely that Cunningham will miss the next batch and qualify for more than $100,000 in public funds. Will it be too late to help? Probably not, but Raymond's filing is no death blow.
What is KCP? Ask your favourite political insider or elected official - you take out ads on the site, you get puff-ball treatment and vanity interviews. The Q's heard it time and again, though even if it weren't true, the "Brooklyn Lawmakers On the Move" feature is embarrassing, as if your politicians were super-heroes for doing their job. Still, there are very few competitors. But that actually makes KCP outsize in its influence. Which is, to quote our commander in chief, sad.

First the KCP puff-blog writes this basically calling Pia the front-runner on $$ alone; then publishes this knocking Brian's first-round miss on the matching funds, which frankly come in much too late to help ANYbody in the do-or-die primary fight. Generally speaking KCP has published p.r. friendly pieces about each of the candidates, and I encourage you to check out their interviews with Raymond, Cunningham, Berkley and Eugene. But given the scant coverage of these sorts of crucial local elections, a single story can convince voters that only one candidate has a chance to beat the incumbent Eugene. Nothing could be further from the facts. BC is running a great door-to-door campaign, and doesn't need the matching funds to continue fighting hard for the all-important votes, though he'll get them soon enough. And now, some pictures:

Brian Cunningham - the Q salutes you

Mathieu "51st State" Eugene (wtf up w/that picture?)
Cool lady Pia Raymond. Might not make it in September though.
BUT (and this but is bigger than MY butt) the most interesting aspect of the race has been glossed over. What's that you ask?

Brian will be on the ballot in November. On the Reform line. Meaning even if the decade-long-serving dud Mathieu Eugene wins the primary seeking to extend his do-nothing brand of leadership (he's a "doctor" - perhaps his thing is to "do no harm?") we have a chance to vote him out in a one-on-one against him with a solid candidate with a record of policy experience and grass roots connections and political savvy.

Is Brian Cunningham a better candidate than the affable, smart but maybe too reserved Pia Raymond? I feel I have a good sense of who they are and what they stand for. And honestly I would be happy to vote for either over our current absentee-councilperson. In the end, the Q must go with his considerable gut - Brian strikes me as in it to win it, ready for the Big Leagues, honest and capable. I think he'll grow with the job, he's been a political operator for years, and I think it's meaningful that he had the good sense to find a spot on a third party line as a hedge against the big field of candidates vying for the primary nod.

Jen Berkley is also on the ballot, and while I think she does great work on housing within the community, I can't in good conscience, with where we are as a city and country, vote for the relative newcomer to the nabe who has few deep ties to the African-American and Caribbean-American community that Lefferts has long been. Okay, okay, why bullshit. You count on the Q for nothing if not bluntness. She's a white lady (sic). The time is not right for white ladies (even less so for white dudes) especially short-timers to run for positions representing a largely black quickly gentrifying district. She has a lot to offer and we look forward to her work on behalf of renters everywhere. (FYI she pretty much just unloaded on my Facebook. Another reason to question her candidacy - not because it was me, but because unloading on people is reminiscent of a certain White Dude running the country.

As we head into the final laps of the Primary Race, I hope y'all will read up on the candidates, sent their campaigns an email, check out their websites, find out where they'll be so you can talk in the flesh. It's time to bone up!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Fiction Issue

Has it really been weeks since the Q's last missive? Typically I leave a "Gone Fishin'" post and thought to do so again but figured nah surely there'll be plenty to write about while working at MASS MoCA for a residency and then vacationing with the fam at the Corner House in southern Vermont and now visiting generous friends at Martha's Vineyard. For sake of a great lady's privacy I won't mention the fact that Mrs Q took a random Sunday yoga class here on "the Vineyard" that was attended by a certain woman of tremendous renown who came with three of her girlfriends and was afterwards brisked away by three overly dressed white men driving a spit-shine clean SUV that had been parked diagonally over three parking places and left idling throughout the hour-and-a-half class. The Q saw this particular famous spouse leaving the Yoga Barn and basically broke down in tears, but luckily only the overly dressed guys saw me, and rightly so as it's their job to take note of everything out of the ordinary, like a schlubby middle-aged guy weeping in a rented Chevy Malibu with Kentucky plates. Why Kentucky? Luck of the draw, but damned if everyone with even an aunt from Louisville thinks they've been given license to strike up a conversation. Ha! License. Plates.

So instead of blogging I've been reading, you know, books. And let me tell you if you hadn't heard - books are awesome, and way more rewarding to read than blogs. With that in mind, I decided to usher out the season with the first ever Q at Parkside "Fiction Issue." Out of the many, many entries I chose a terrific story by an up-and-comer named t.t. cummings. Okay, I'll admit it, that's a nom de plume. This is his first effort at fiction in about 30 years, so I guess you could call it a debut. It's called...


Nearly all of the headstones in the Danforth town cemetery have born-on and died-on dates, with one notable exception being the slab of gray granite bearing the name Esther “Etty” Stiles. Etty's text ends at the hyphen, a hyphen awaiting letters and numbers to make its sentence complete. And that's not even the headstone's most remarkable feature.

The tax logs at Danforth Town Hall list 438 current residents, give or take in the summer and winter, the winter being the take and the summer the give, this being New England, but the town cemetery counts 884 dead folks resting interred on the picturesque mossy green hill just past the Danforth United Methodist Church – the only surviving Christian congregation within seven miles. As a result its become fairly more ecumenical in observance and outlook than its name might imply. Three years ago a Jewish family from Boston attended without incident.

The cold hard facts on view at the Town Hall reveal that the dead of Danforth outnumber the living two to one, though just 50 years ago the ratio was reversed, and 100 years prior a whole industry of shoe peg manufacturing and logging had led to 12 separate schools, three hotels, two taverns and even stiff competition in the hardware and farm equipment businesses. Currently there is no storefront business in Danforth, ever since the Ormsbee feed store closed. That was winter of 1983, and the store building has since been removed by the current owners, summerers from somewhere in Canada, who favor privacy to commerce.

For more than fifty years a person has had to set foot outside of Danforth town lines to purchase even a loaf of bread or the county newspaper, the Stanton Wind. The paper's circulation is just under 6,000 and dwindling, though the uptick in online readership holds some promise for the future of the Wind's operation and the mortgage payments of publishers Jane and Jim Starkweather, self-acknowledged hoarders whose absurdly long ranch home lies at the 90 degree bend in the Rootkill River favored by young swimmers and partyers drawn to its seclusion and unusual depths and a 20 foot long rope swing that had claimed the life of (just) two teenagers in its roughly twenty years of thrill-serving.

Danforth is a small town in a sparse county in a mostly rural state in the northeastern region of the America. It has no special properties or industry, no claim to fame, no tourist attractions or specialty cuisine. It is as one summering regular calls it a Historic District without the sign or designation, and even the residents knew they were holding on by sheer will to an agrarian and stubbornly seasonal way of life. You were either poor and scraping by, or you had plenty of money but preferred to live like you didn't. No one drove a fancy car. It would look ridiculous, even comical, and anyway most fancy cars weren't very practical in frequently perilous winter weather.

As with other towns in rural New England, many of the surnames on the headstones match those of the living – Skinner, Harrison, Utley, Thompson and Thomson, so one could be forgiven for not remembering which relatives of which family were dead or alive at any given time. Walking about the cemetery offered a glimpse into the past embellished by the present's rumors, weddings, mischief and tragedies. One could almost imagine the ghosts of ancestors weighing in on the day's events and the exploits of descendants.

Etty herself often took note of the ages of various Danforthers at death, figuring how long the living Utleys and Skinners and Thompsons and Thomsons might reasonably expect to live. She had even written down her guestimates and kept the paper pressed in a book of proverbs, but had recently decided to destroy it lest it be found on estate sale and the town's estimation of her character suffer for it. She could keep the information in her head anyway, and referenced it frequently.

Midway through one particularly cold winter it became clear to Etty that she might very well become number 885 on the mossy hill due to a bout of influenza, then walking pneumonia and a persistent cough. Everyone knew that Stiles' lived long, so despite the arthritis, bad back, overweight, acid reflux and the more acute ailments only Etty seemed concerned with her possible demise. Despite the physical hardships, she still made it to church on Sunday, the Ox Roast each August, and continued to make twice daily trips to the Wayside General Store in Grisby – coffee and newspaper in the morning, various and sundry late in the afternoon. One always needed something, she observed, and 4:30-5:30 pm seemed a good hour to get it, after nap and before supper, and the Wayside was just a five minute drive. The weathered flyer in the window of the Wayside accurately reads “if we don't have it, you probably don't need it” so there was rarely a need to drive the extra 6 miles to the Stop 'n' Shop in Bristol. Plus, Amazon Prime delivers all the stuff she doesn't really need anyway.

Ben Ruscher drives the signature brown UPS van up Three Corner Road somewhere from 3:15 – 4 every weekday, and Etty listens to hear if he takes the sharp right at Utley Drive, and if he does she rises or pivots, grabs a glass of water, puts on her yellow Crocs and steps onto the back porch to receive him, and she hands Ben the glass of water as he hands her the package and once in a blue moon he drinks the whole glass, but usually it's just a sip and frankly out of respect not thirst, as Ben is more a seltzer guy and always has a cold one in the truck. He's usually got a half-pint of bourbon in the glove box too, but as a general rule that stays in the box til after the last delivery of the day.

Etty's two grown children live within an hour but in opposite directions. Charley (Etty hates the name and wish he'd stuck with Charles) fixes cars and Judy (a better fit than her birthname Judith) manages a breakfast place. Both are divorced and both are friendly with their exes, a fact that Etty is proud to have modeled for them, as their father Ray wasn't really so much a bad man as a dreamer, and a piss poor gambler, and when he died it was his ex-wife Etty who gave the eulogy that brought tears to the entire crowd of 50, a pretty sizable crowd for a man who'd never met a bet he wouldn't make or a debt he could fully repay. Ray always told a mighty fine joke though, and that has always counted for a lot at the Wayside, and often would earn him a free refill on a cup of coffee. Or a rolled eye and hand gesture from owner Nancy Wilcox. Or both. Usually both.

The tombstone was Etty's idea alone. Always frugal to a fault and quick to pounce on a bargain, Etty had noted the business struggles of Arthur Kaster, seller of monuments in Roscoeville just over the state line, and without mentioning to Arthur the remarkably accurate rumors she'd heard at the Wayside about his financial position, she offered Arthur half the cost of a mid-priced stone that had been slow to move anyhow, and if she were willing to pay cash, might he just happen not to mention it to “the Governor?” That was her way of respectfully protesting sales taxes, which Etty found egregiously excessive, and that firmly held opinion was pretty much the primary reason she'd been an unaffiliated voter in the past several elections, siding more often than not with the Republicans, though she really didn't care much for any of the Republicans serving her currently, on down from president to state representative to county comptroller who she knew to be a weasel of man both a drunk and dating a much too young waitress in Canton. Etty asked Arthur if he'd accept her offer and complete the task by Easter. And she told him that in the next few days she would decide what he should engrave on her headstone, preferably something to match her personality and dry wit.

Arthur agreed to the price and took half of the agreed to cash on the spot, though he ultimately missed the Easter deadline by more than a month. Still, before Memorial Day the finished headstone was loaded on the back of Cal Kindred's pickup truck and hauled to the top of cemetery hill and placed next to Etty's mother and father's joint tombstone, but far enough from any of the Utley family to help ensure the continuation of a decades-long feud over a farm accident well into the afterlife.

The exact cause of the accident with the hay baler was in dispute, but there was no denying that Junior Utley bore the brunt of the deal, having broken his back and lost everything from the elbow down on his left arm. And while no one was laughing that day or for weeks after, Junior was soon quipping that the Good Lord must have been smiling on him that day not to take the hand he wiped his ass with. After hearing that joke a dozen times, most locals just ignored it, but visitors always got a chuckle and probably took the line home to add some local flavor to their vacation stories.

The stone itself was low to the ground – stocky you might say – as was the case with most of the stones from the last 40 years or so. Early in Danforth's history – late 18th and early 19th century – the graves were thin and tablet-like, sort of how you'd imagine Moses with his commandments, though if those tablets were truly made of limestone there's little chance Moses would have been able to lift even a single tablet, even if he'd been buff, and Etty thought to herself that there's no mention in the bible of Moses being ripped or even particularly strong. The tablet-like gravestones must have seemed immutable in their day, but after the first hundred years, most had fallen or broken in half due to one storm-of-the-century or another or to the general clumpiness of the soil, or maybe bugs and worms, but anyway it was clear that a modern tombstone should be prepped for the elements, with its center of gravity as low as possible.

Neither Etty nor Arthur tipped anyone off, but within a couple days the whole town had seen the picture, emails flying back and forth just hours after Sue Rickles took it. Etty had chosen to forgo words on her headstone altogether, and instead opted for an engraved picture of her greatest and most prized possession – a gray GMC Sierra 4x4 with extended cab, a truck she bought the month of her retirement from Grant Guthrie of Guthrie & Sons. Grant's youngest son Bentley (after the car, though he goes by Benji) served ably if drunkenly as best man at Etty's son's wedding, and the elder Guthrie promised to add a few extras to sweeten the deal, at no cost of course, as the Stiles' were like family and “you don't charge family for leather upholstery, you just tuck it into the sales price.”

She'd had her eyes on this truck for years, though another similar American model would've done in a pinch, and in a rare burst of spontaneity she splurged the next Monday after her last day at the Tindex Apparel factory came and went. She'd spent the weekend forecasting the rest of her life and it was clear she had little use for her pension and social security money besides necessities and occasional splurges on her grandkids. She was too old (in her estimation) for traveling the world and frankly a little nervous about planes and foreign languages anyway. The party for her retirement had been a subdued affair on the account of the accident in the finishing department just three days prior, when Anne Graybald had essentially sewn her hand to a blouse after suffering a stroke. Her hand would be fine, but she was unlikely to regain her full range of speech, and there was a chance that she might have lost more than that. Anne was well-liked, never had a harsh word for anyone, and the consensus was that there was a certain injustice that such a terrible thing hadn't happened to someone less agreeable, like maybe Libby Stanton or the new girl.

Etty absolutely loved that truck the minute she drove it off the lot. A great feeling of power and prestige came over her, riding high with her gaze a few inches above the farming men in their much smaller pickup trucks and a couple feet above the Bernie Backers and ex-City ladies in their Subarus, and she took particular pleasure in looking down on the “Mayor” of Danforth, Judge Rickles (he wasn't a judge; that was his name). And it wasn't long before Etty started calling her truck all manner of nicknames, assigning the truck the sort of anthropomorphic qualities usually reserved for dogs and cats. Most often she simply called her Old Lady, or The Old Gray Lady, a reference she recognized but couldn't place until she met the unexpectedly nice family from Brooklyn who'd Airbnb'd the Junior Utley place after he died and they noted that the Old Gray Lady was another name for the New York Times. This ticked her off for at least a week or two, since she was no fan of the NY Times, though she had been known to borrow the Sunday crossword from the recycling box at the Wayside and occasionally cheat by looking something up in her 1979 or 1984 World Book Encyclopedias. In the end, she decided, the reference to the Times was ironic, and she didn't care if anyone took it the wrong or the right way.

Increasingly this was how Etty viewed the world – amused indifference - and it may explain why she felt more content and comfortable in her own skin that she had since her youth growing up less than half a mile away. In a manner she'd replaced her old skin with that of her truck, and the Old Lady was a roomy and warm skin, even if the bed of the truck hadn't seen so much as a fishing rod or bale of hay since she bought it. It was always good to go if needed though, and that's what really mattered. There are times when only a truck will do.

It was on one of her morning trips to the Wayside that Etty first thought of getting Arthur Kaster to engrave a picture of her truck on her tombstone. That was also the first time she'd thought the word “tombstone” in reference to herself. The thought of the truck on her tombstone tickled her silly, though she slept on it for three straight nights just to make sure it wasn't a passing fancy. During those 72 hours she also toyed with the idea of engraving a favorite saying on the stone instead. One in particular made the top of the list - “nothing is written in stone” - and she got many a silent chuckle out of that one. She figured she'd seen it somewhere before, on a stone undoubtedly, but there was nothing on the cemetery hill that even hinted at humor, let alone something as funny as that saying or the image of a prized automobile.

So just after lunch on the fourth day Etty had called Arthur, on a landline as there still wasn't much cell service in the hills and valleys of southern Vermont and Middle Eastern Upstate NY, and Arthur said he loved the idea and told her to drive down the next day so he could sketch it for her. It was rare he got to use his true artistic talent, and anyway he needed the sale in order to meet alimony to wife Number 2, who was now dating the Sheriff, meaning the law was less inclined to let it slide each time the bill came and went due. It irked Arthur to no end that Sheriff Bates might occasionally end up the recipient of some of his alimony money that had gone to buy items in Number 2's refrigerator, like maybe a six-pack of Michelob or a half-dozen eggs and hunk of cheddar. Number 2 was one of the great omelet makers in the county, as most folks knew, or at the very least her ex-husbands and boyfriends who rightly considered an omelet to be the best possible cap to a night of drinking, love-making and sleeping all tangled up with a sweet-smelling – or in summer sweat-smelling – woman. After six years of marriage Arthur had grown tired of the first three of those activities, but the omelet still appealed, and that's what he decided he missed the most about Number 2 – the omelets and the $150 he was out each first of the month or thereabouts.

Once the headstone had been placed, and Arthur and the town's cemetery fund and the casket company had been paid, and everyone at the Wayside had had a great laugh over the engraved truck, Etty felt a wave of contentment envelop her, and it stayed right through summer and the following winter. In fact, she hadn't felt so good in years, maybe ever, and the fact that she would cause no financial burden to her heirs made her beam with pride as she sang hymns of praise at the Methodist Church each Sunday.
Life was good, and death wasn't looking so bad either. It was that balance – an appreciation for life in the present and the lack of fear for the future - that was the secret to life she thought, and she'd stumbled upon it.

It was almost three years before Etty noticed just how hard it had become to climb into the cab of the Old Lady. Three unhelpful trips to Doctor Walden convinced her to try acupuncture, which seemed to work a couple times and provided all manner of great stories for her Wayside afternoons. But things were getting worse, not just in her legs, hips and back but also in her hands. By the time she could barely hold the plastic digital pen to sign for her packages from Ben Ruscher, her spirits had sunk and she had come to dread pulling herself up into the cab of the truck each morning. The following spring she had a knee replaced. That summer it was the hips. And then that winter her back hurt so much that even sleeping was impossible. A special orthopedic chair from Amazon Prime brought her some relief, but now she had to take most of her sleep in the sitting position, with a heavy dose of Tylenol and maybe even one of the pain killers she'd swore she'd never take after hearing one too many stories at the Wayside about cousins, aunts, uncles and high school buddies who'd become addicted to the heavy stuff.

And then one freezing cold day, Etty fell backwards into the snow as she tried to pull herself into the cab of the Old Gray Lady. It took her half an hour to right herself, and the fact is had she been unable to do so, first on her knees and then ever so slowly back to the house, she would have frozen to death, unless by chance Ben Ruscher had brought a package that very afternoon. Such was the very real consideration of every older person living alone in the country anywhere on earth. Dying on the floor of one's own house was not unknown to the people of Danforth, and several of the 884 on the hill had passed in that manner.

Etty's children finally convinced her to give up the truck, though she half expected it was because Charley wanted it for himself, and in fact he did end up taking it off her hands never offering to help buy her another more sensible car. Etty never mentioned it, but she made a mental note to go light on Charley's Christmas gift that year. The envelope was thin, he noted at the time, and not because the bills inside were of higher denominations.

From the near freezing scare forward, Etty drove a used AWD Subaru, bought from one of those summer-only Bernie backers who'd politely agreed to remove all the political stickers for her before transferring ownership; she liked Bernie fine but would rather walk into the Wayside in her underwear than sport political slogans on her primary form of transport. It was three whole years before the thought occurred to her to call Arthur Kaster one last time and ask him how much it would cost to add a line of text near the bottom of her monument. He offered to do it “at cost,” which seemed a bit silly since all you were paying for was the labor anyway. Cash of course; no need to tell the Governor.

The phrase “Nothing Is Written In Stone” was added to Esther Stiles' headstone, in a font that looked like Olde English. Etty never did drive up the hill to see it and give Arthur compliments on his work, but her spirits rebounded quickly, and endured.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Little Bit About A Lot Of Things

Most fascinating and freaky story of the past week? Queen sized beds. Yep. Tons of 'em. Unloaded and de-sheathed within the mysterious Moses Fried owned building at 205 Parkside Avenue. It's been nearly 2 decades sitting vacant, with rent-paying squatters covering the taxes, since this building was used for anything more than speculation. A few years back, plans were filed to build a "hotel" here, which, given Fried's less-than-savory reputation, fueled fears of drugs, prostitution and hourly rentals. Not so sure that scenario is still relevant, but Fried and his grandson Alan Tepper don't seem to care much what you or I think about them or their enterprises. Stay tuned. Real tuned. As in keep your eyes peeled like Idaho potatoes at a Knish Kontest.

The scaffolding came down on Lincoln Road and you'd think God had parted the Red Sea, what with the Hall Lay Lou Yah that erupted on the social media. It's meaningful to have a sidewalk back in the hands of the people, and folks are going to need some time to heal before embracing this new slice of gentrifier gold. (right next to park, right on top of the train station, next to the day care, and soon another gourmet grocery on its first floor, swank wine store around the corner, coffee and juice shops and cocktail lounges and micro-brews...hard to imagine just a decade back the nabe was thrilled just to have a single homey coffee and pastries place known as K-Dog.

Speaking of bagels (Nagle's is also right across the street), did you see that Bergen Bagels is coming to the NE corner of Maple and Flatbush? Google is no longer satisfied to provide current and historical information. It is now a fortune teller, and has Bergen Bagels on Google Maps even before it opens. Don't believe me, map it out yourself. Bergen has the real deal NY bagels and fixins you've come to expect.

An Italian place of some renown on Nostrand? It don't take Nostrandamus to predict anymore, just your handy cellular device. God knows blogs are hardly the place for breaking news. The soon-to-open Tiki Bar and rotisserie Risbo on the lower 'Bush, something or other by the Parkside Pizza folks on the NW corner of Westbury and Flattie Bush, record store, wine stores you name it. Can't keep up really, and who needs to when they come so fast and furious, with fairly predictable pickins'? And yet at least a dozen prime locations sit vacant along the 'Bush, just waiting for the "right" business at the right price.

Speaking of Nostrandamus, a certain prognosticator took a look at the entrance to the new building on Lincoln's OTHER entrance on Flatbush and noted the institutional look to the lobby. Could this be a separately configured building to house, say, homeless folks or social needs population? The City can set up these sorts of shelters wherever it wants with just a minimum of warning, like on Crown and Rogers. We shall see, friends, we shall see. And please, if it does come to pass, don't pre-judge. Folks of all stripes need a place to hang their hats and charge their cellulars.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Culture Shock In New England

 Lest I lose you, dear reader, for going away and astray, here's the latest on the psycho squirrel of Prospect Park  and also in neighborhood news the scaffolding on Lincoln Road has finally come down from the Tom Anderson building - after nearly 4 long years. A certain prophetic gentleman whom I've tagged Nostrandamus has noted the bizarrely institutional look to the lobby of the Flatbush entrance, leading us to wonder if half the building might end up being used to house homeless folks? Were it to be so, the term "poor door" would be very much apt. Now on to the middle-aged musing...

It happens every year, with alarming regularity now. 12 years n a row to be precise. The Q pulls up stakes and heads for the hills of Western Massachusetts, to the home of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), now the single biggest museum in the country having nearly doubled in size this past year alone. It's a remarkable place, full of twists and turns and surprises at every twist and turn. Most all exhibits (save the Sol LeWitt) switch-out each year, so it's never the same. I'm ostensibly working for these two weeks, though my job seems constantly shifting and now that I'm Social Media voice I find that I'm stuck in a persona of my own making, a voice much more optimistic and utopian than the one I betray here, so I'm never entirely comfortable even in the acres of air conditioning. Such are the angsty travails of the middle-aged, middle-class, liberal arts educated white man left-leaning "cool" dad. I'd like to think I'm archetypical rather than stereotypical, and that my sense of humor distances myself from the crowd, but even my sense of humor was honed in the same DLetterman/SSilverman/LCK/LDavid/Coco stew as the rest of them, so truly there's nothing original about me at this point, not even the dogged Doubting Thomas Devil's Advocate (DTDA) air of superiority that permeates every breathing thought. I could just off myself now and save the world another mansplainer, but I want to stick around and see how this Trump thing plays out and I really do love hanging out with the family and traveling and watching the world through kids' eyes and helping the occasional fellow drunk get back on his feet. That's not to say I'm depressed. Quite the opposite. Know thyself, and you might just save yourself, since acceptance is the key, and ice cream alone is worth the price of admission to this sorry catastrophe we call modernity.

As I was saying it happens to me every damn year, all through my 40's. As soon as I leave the Bronx, and this time it was just me with the girls heading through lyme-riddled Connecticut, stopping off at friends for a dip in a refreshing private pool the comfort of which most New Yorkers will never enjoy, then on to the Berkshire hills and a bit of soft-serve from one of those ma & pa ice cream and fried clams places that stink up every northeastern town worth its Main Street and Village Green. Why clams and lobster roll anyway? We're four hours from the ocean and sorry folks it's comin' outa the freezer in a bag. Soft serve, that genuinely innovative product that launched a thousand Mr. Softy's, is a true economic leveler, as only the haughtiest of the haughty of gourmands (or lactose intolerant) could refuse its tongue-chilling goodness next to godliness. Like at interstate rest areas, the rich and poor find themselves cone-to-cone with one another, odd benchfellows to be sure, and of every political and philosophic bent to boot. Preppies and yokels, Trumpers and Bern-feelers, architects and grease monkeys, meth-heads and potheads, the Farmer and Cowman CAN be friends, and black and white rest in equal proportion and integrated on a wafer cone in a twisty confection.  Not racial black and white of course - there are precious few folks of African descent here. There is absolutely no reason why one SHOULD mix vanilla and chocolate on a cone anyway - it's like mixing coke with mr. pibb - because you really can't distinguish the flavors when they're mixed up that way, but it looks cool and you suspend disbelief even as your licking something neither chocolate nor vanilla but rather Chilla, as my girls and I call it.

Out here in rural America, even BLUE state rural America, you're once again reminded that the country is WAY white and WAY un-NYC, or as Todd from Bovina likes to say "I'd rather take a beating than spend an hour in New York," and btw he lives just three hours away. When you talk to people out here, up here, down there, you start to remember that most of America doesn't relate to the multi-culti progressive zeitgeist nor necessarily have much interest at all in the ways of the nation beyond immediate needs and concerns. Oh, people get worked up like they always have, but until the policies of State hit home, it's just so much hot air. It has always been thus - politics is always local, except on the Huffington Post (or as I like to call it "The Hourly Outrage," since that's about how often they update their absurdly huge headline). Since the founding of the Republic there's always been a sizable contingent that despises centralized national authority and can't fathom why they must pay for things they don't need out of their hard-earned (and sometimes not-so-hard-earned) dollars. Trust me you needn't argue against that line of thinking; I'm with you. It's just not hard to imagine the other side, that's all, when you're away from the dense urban group-think.

Now, as a card-carrying liberal-arts-cool-dad I wish that rural America DID care more about leveling the playing field not just at home but worldwide, since for some reason it was ingrained in me that to be a good citizen of the earth one must worry about famine across the sea and justice for folks who don't look or sound like me. But every once in awhile I'm reminded that the primary concern of every species is procreation and rearing of young, and once fed and clothed and sheltered you could probably be forgiven for thinking the rest is none of your goddamn business. This is a morally bereft legitimate way of looking at the world, and it's one of the reasons I'm surprised that DIY Libertarianism hasn't become a more major political force on its own, rather than being usurped by the GOP as part of its Confederacy of Dunces. To the "farmer stock" of my grandparents' era it wasn't even really an option to imagine otherwise; like the Ingalls fambly you set out on your own and worked hard and did with what you had. In a dire emergency you availed yourself of good ol' Christian charity. I recall my grandfather, a Republican from IL (which, I might add proudly was true of our greatest President) saying that the worst business that government can be in is the charity business, because it creates an unholy alliance between a political party and an underclass, one that can be manipulated at will by the wielding of carrots and sticks. I cede that very point to the man, though his world was pretty small and couldn't fathom the true depravity of a post-slavery post-industrial hyper-capitalist hyper-specialized mostly-urbanized mostly-demoralized society of wildly unequals.

From the Department of Duh it's worth remembering that the Wars and Great Depression changed America, and there was finally a political will to take action, BIG action, on a national scale, and to pay for it with taxes. Suddenly a wildly rich country, the U.S.A. could really pay for stuff like massive infrastructure projects and more generous welfare and even single payer healthcare for the poor and old, and progressives could now imagine a country with a solid judicial that could try to spread things more evenly and take care of its most vulnerable, and best of all (here's where my liberal heart turns cynical) create a reliable base of support for its ideology. I would argue that it was Democrats, not Republicans, who worked hardest to manipulate the electorate to their advantage. They had the brains and the media on their side, and from JFK to the assassination of Bobby and Martin it looked like nothing could stop them. The youth were digging it, some major churches were on board, the Vietnam War didn't help the conservative anti-commie cause, and Medicare and Medicaid helped ensure a base of support for progressive politics into the foreseeable future. And then...bang, bang, bang, bang, bang. An over-reach by the Left? Too much talk of revolution? Or just plain ol' fear striking the heart of the breadbasket? The country's lurch to the right started with Nixon and but for a brief hiccup caused by his paranoia, the rightward march held steady through the late '80s. The wars of these years set the stage for a new all-out negative political terrain that frankly wasn't that different from the old except in its 24-7 intensity. The energy and urgency on the Left had dissipated and the right was now promising something equal in sway to entitlements - tax cuts, unpaid for of course and with dramatic consequences to the national budget and the poor and to the rates of incarceration particularly against young men who were NEVER gonna vote for Republicans anyway.

And really when it gets down to it...aren't tax cuts and health care both entitlements, to appease the two bases? Were it not for those pesky problems of racial, ethnic and religious discrimination, well, it wouldn't be hard to fathom the need to argue those philosophic questions with civility and humility. We're being thrown bones really, to keep us in line, and it works astoundingly well for the wealthy who can hardly contain their glee when the revolution is put off for another generation.

The Trump phenomenon feels personal because that's how it's sold. You, dear liberal, are the enemy, and the current administration won't let you forget it. Your politics are elite and patronizing. You claim moral high-ground even as you take care of your own just as fiercely as any right-winger. You just do it while voicing the dying language of the Left, though there's not much revolution left in you. When you see people truly taking to the streets - whether Occupiers or Black Lives Matter or even the fiercest Bernie Bros, you feel a bit of glee but you don't join in. You're staring at your phone hoping things will go your way in the next news cycle, acknowledging but not participating, secretly hoping that things don't get TOO out of hand, because, after all, at your core, you are a Homo Sapien, a creature like any creature, primarily concerned with pro-creation, the procurement of food and shelter, and the safety and nurturing of your young. They might label you Entitled, and you might feel a pang of regret, but somewhere in your very skeleton your DNA is cheering.

You are a hairless ape with aspirations of grandeur. You are a hairy lizard making decisions based on fear. You are a hilarious mistake of evolution that might just extinguish your lineage in pursuit of what exactly? Art? Comfort? Power?

You are pathetic. And I love you, just as I'm pathetic and love myself to the degree I don't off myself, take pleasure in my young, and seek to illuminate not just my own struggle but the neighborhood, city, country and planet. There. That's all it is, dimly illuminated, with no coherent meaning or spiritual enlightenment to be gained, though you and I will vainly try like Sisyphus to achieve something, and even the greatest of you will descend like Icarus after touching the sun just enough to write a poem or song about it. And you might get a statue and a paragraph on the world wide digital magazine under History of the Human Race, but that sun will ultimately burn out your eyes and scorch your home and those wings were cheap plastic anyway.

To paraphrase this Post, as the Great Lorax once sayeth, UNLESS...