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.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Now it's your turn!

Hey y'all. The past two months have been fun, and I'm just getting rolling here. But I need your help! If you live or did live or are going to live or wish you could live in this micronabe, then let yourself be heard! While we've laid down no hard and fast boundaries, I think of "Parkside" or "Caledonia" as being anyone who calls the Q at Parkside their hometrain OR the Caton-side entrance of the Q at Church, otherwise known as Little Caledonia. BTW, there IS a little micro-hood called Caton Park that might beg to differ, but they're officially SOUTH of the Parade Grounds and end where it ends, stranding nearly 20,000 people who live from Parade Place to Flatbush Ave without a micro to call their own! A secret peace agreement with the Lower Lefferts North Flatbush Security Zone has led to a thriving corridor of commerce and residential accord as far as a stroller can stroll, from the Parade Ground playground, through Umma Park, past the Diplomat, past Mango Seed and Suzie Farm, over to Mike's Pizza and the NSA, through the "Beauty Parlor Promendade" not to mention relative newcomers K-Dog and that bar with the Pool Table, Da Hot Pot, Meytex, over to Phat Albert's, with special consideration of the Oriental Pavillion, the Drummer's Grove and Old MacDonald's Farm at Parkside and Ocean.

Mrs. FlatBed and lil' Clarkson Jr. and I are renting a cheap place in southern Vermont for a couple weeks, then mooching off some pals for another. During that time I'll chime in about dis, dat, and d'other, but I'd be mighty obliged if you'd comment on this here post with:

1: Recommendations on restaurants, hair salons, dry cleaners, botanicas etc.
2: General thoughts about changes in the neighborhood
3: Other blogs and articles to check out
4: Suggestions of things you'd like to see posted and discussed

I love Parkside as it is, but even as it changes (and every nabe in Brooklyn changes, good or bad), may we all get along and work together for a safer, cleaner, respectfuller, more perfect union. And eat lots of jerk!!

Enjoy the heat!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Peasant Bread in Old Caledonia

People often stop me on the street and say "Hey, Q, what's with calling our neighborhood Caledonia?" Or rather, if they did, this is what I would say:

The Caledonian Hospital was once the soul of the neighborhood, standing majestically at St. Paul's and Parkside. Many a famous Flatbush Caledonian was born there, from Kevin Bacon to half of the surviving members of the rock band Survivor. Recently the decaying building was purchased by a developer named Chetrit for $15 million, and that's the truth, though the part about Kevin Bacan and Survivor is most definitely a filthy rumor started right here by yours truly.

Caledonia of lore refers to Scotland, and the word was in use throughout the middle ages -- a relic of the name given by the Roman Empire. During the middle ages, most people lived as peasants, and their bread has been making a resurgence. In fact, I paid $5 for a loaf of Peasant Bread just the other day, and I have to say that if I'm going to pay half a sawbuck for a few slices of bread I'd really rather it not be too tough to chew. I'm quite certain that no self-respecting courtier would have been caught dead eating peasant bread, and if there's one era of history we don't need to glamorize it's certainly the European Dark Ages.

I have pretty good teeth, but I can barely rip through a piece of the stuff, which leads me to wonder whether this Bread Alone company is worth its weight in dough. Because if the current British smile is any indication, a medieval peasant's teeth must have been horrendous, and I doubt very much that they would have spent what little "downtime" they had baking bread that was thoroughly unchewable. I mean take a gander at the authentic color photo above, taken sometime during the early 1100's.

Which reminds me, if you have a recommendation of a good dentist in the neighborhood, I'm all ears.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Coffee Conundrum

Oh, how many times have I heard the complaint..."the Q at Parkside" has no decent coffee shop. Up at the Prospect Park Stop there's K-Dog and Dunebuggy, a quaint spot with lots of love from the community. Down at Cortelyou is the much blogged about VoxPop. The Heights of Prospect have about half a dozen coffee shops that fit the bill. Crown Heights has its beloved mattes and lattes. We of North Flatbush Caledonian Parkside (otherwise known as NoFlaCaP), have the Internet Coffee House (or ICH). I was just there today, and I got a really good iced coffee and momentarily considered getting my USB port replaced (they do computer repairs). It's a nice little place, though the signs and seating do little to encourage the sense of coziness and comfort that other shoppes effortlessly exude.

So it got me thinking -- why no teenage-crush style love from the 'hood for ICH? Well, it turns out, I think, it's really not about the "coffee" at all. It's not even about the decor, or the service (certain beloved coffee shops have horrendous, even indifferent or rude, service). At the risk of stating the super-obvious, it's ultimately about a bourgeois fantasy of community - a place where like-minded consumerist revolutionaries can plan the next assault on poorly-considered design aesthetics and kvetch about stroller recalls and Subaru dealerships. Not to put too fine a point on it - it's about class (not so much race) and a sense that a neighborhood is headed in the right direction. Coffee shop breeds bistro breeds upscale market with 300% marked-up artisanal croutons.

Tongue out of cheek for a moment, I'd probably be one of the regulars at just such a coffee haus. In fact, this very moment, I'm imagining the perfect coffee shop for Parkside Ave across from the Pioneer, and it looks something like this:

Maybe you've fantasized about being the person to open the "Parkside Percolator," an 800 square foot joint with old couches where patrons could while away their days working on screenplays. I have too! But before you do, please, please read this. And remember that you can always just walk up to K-Dog!

Coffeehouse Nightmare

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Infinite Regress on Flatbush Avenue!

It's a few hours later, and I'm still trying to wrap my mind around this one. Little help?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Gettin' Frisky With It

Today's NY Times does an uncharacteristically good and unbiased job of describing the great rise of "stop and frisks" all over the City. If you live in the micro-hood of the Q at Parkside, you've probably seen plenty of this action yourself. And perhaps you've been the target of a frisk or two yourself. Here's the full 'ticle: Frisk Times. And why they didn't use the adorable pic above w/the pit bull trained for the frisk, I'll never understand.

I'm really curious to hear what y'alls reaction is to this. God knows it's not new. But when summer heats up the police seem to step up their presence and the friskiness seems to get more intense and more indiscriminate. A recent event right in front of our house got us thinking that maybe there's a better way to deal with unwanted knuckleheads on our blocks.

Most neighbors I talk to are glad for the police presence. We've all watched certain buildings and corners become hangouts for ne're-do-wells (a contraction of never do well i just realized, which should therefore be spelled ne'r-do-wells). But do the actual seemingly random "frisks" really make a difference? I find that just having cops pace up and down the blocks is a huge help. Maybe a kind word to local young black men would go a lot farther. Get to know your constituents. Shoot the proverbial sh&t. Find out who are the good guys dressed bad and the bad guys dressed good. It can't be that hard, can it?


Saturday, July 10, 2010

New Gallery to Open Right Here in Parkside!

Okay, you gotta admit I got you on that one!

But whenever I walk past 400 Ocean Avenue, at the corner of Crooke, and I see this conspicuously windowed yet vacant lobby, I can't help but think an opportunity is being missed.

Here's a thought. You know how micro-brew took off as a trend about a dozen years or more ago? How about micro-gym! The lobby at 400 Ocean could be the beginning of yet another global fad to trace its roots to PLG Caledonian Parkside. Just put in a couple stair masters and treadmills. As far as I can tell, people LOVE to do their sweaty heavy breathing routines in full view of the walk-by public. I'll never know WHY they enjoy having their buttocks, abs and thighs scrutinized by every Tom, Dick or Harry who happens past, but there it is, and if it's there, you better just leave it there.

Am I right? Or am I right?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clarkson FlatBed BLOCK PARTY: AUGUST 22!!

You want block party? You got block party. Janice Thomas and I (no relation, unless her mama ain't telling her something) got clearance from Community Boards 9 and 14 to do a full-on bus-stopping block-closing butt-thumping ting-drinking splish-splashing old-skool block party right here on Clarkson between Flatbush and Bedford. And while other BPs happen on Saturdays, we're SO slick ours is on Sunday - the Lord's day - the 22nd of August. Wasn't it He who said "and on the seventh day he partayed?". Y'all are invited, even if you have the severe misfortune of living elsewhere.

Three cheers for the little block that could.

Monday, July 5, 2010

That booming bass can take your breath away - permanently

Grenada. Here in Parkside Caledonia, more than a few of our neighbors hail from this gorgeous island nation just NE of Venezuela. If you're a person of a certain age, you'll remember the invasion of Grenada by the U.S., an event that puzzled most Americans, since few knew the nation existed, let alone needed rescuing from the barbarous arms of totalitarianism.

Two doors down from me, Barry is the super of a large Clarkson Ave apartment building. He's from Grenada, and proudly wears his country's colors on his rasta hat (some call it a dread cap). He's a really sweet guy, and he came up to me on the 3rd of July to say he was having some friends over, and they were doing a barbecue in the back of the building, and they were going to play some music, and he hoped it would be okay. Now, I know when something is a fait accompli as much as the next non-french-speaking person. So I said, no prob Barry, have a great time, at which point I made a really lame attempt at a bump handshake that he decided was so lame maybe he should just shake my hand Western diplomat style. Which was cool, and we're cool, and it's all cool.

5 minutes later the music started. The house rattled. The whole neighborhood rattled. Car alarms went off. I could see from my backyard a giant rack of gear with pretty flashing lights (was it just coincidence that the lights were the same red, green and yellow of the Grenada flag?). But Holy cannoli Sicilian Batman -- the thump of the 808 (yes, I've made a few records in my day) was extraordinary, even by Brooklyn standards.

Now I could make some lame-ass joke about how white people like treble and black people like bass. And the fact that I had just that morning been listening to the Hollies and Burl Ives could nail that sucker home. Don't get me wrong, I love George Clinton, but even the Atomic Dog never had cojones as big as today's reggae and dancehall. It's NYC, and there's no reason to complain, and we didn't, and the day was great and the house held up and Barry's guests were pretty much spleafed out and mellow by 11PM.

But here's the poop: massively loud music can actually make your lungs collapse. I thought this was an Urban Legend, but then I read this:!!

Lung Collapse

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A Day at the Beach

Living in hectic Parkside Caledonia, it's easy to forget how close we are to the cooling breezes and soft surf of the ocean. We all know that the Q at Parkside will take us to Brighton Beach or Coney Island in less than half an hour. But that's not your only option, and one of these hot days take a hot tip and try out another beach.

Ever take the Bedford Avenue B49 heading south? Stay on this frequent-running bus to the end and you'll hit the much-less crowded Manhattan Beach near the Kingsborough Community College. And here's another tip - along the way you'll hit Sheepshead Bay's Emmons Avenue, home of the semi-romantic marina and the kickin' klams at Randazzo's Clam bar. Mrs. FlatBed is partial to Helen Randazzo's famous sauce - it's good on just about everything. It's a nice walk from the beach to Randazzo's or vice-versa, so make a date of it.

But for my money, you can't beat Far Rockaway for the real-ocean experience. I've been to many fine beaches, but I still find Long Island's south shore at the top of the list. People talk about Jones Beach, Fire Island, the Hamptons. But you know what? It's all the same land mass, and the only difference is the clientele. So if you ain't got a car and you ain't got the big dough, take our reliable B41 down Flatbush to "the Junction" (that's what the locals call where Ave H, Nostrand and Flatbush meet - and hey, now you're a local!). That's where a sneaky-pete of a bus called the Q35 takes you right to Far Rockaway's Jacob Riis Park - definitely the most awesome and happening city beach (tip - walk all the way to the left and watch the guys swim trunks get tighter and tinier). But now I'm going to give away the big secret. Stay on the bus just a few stops more and you're in the residential part of Far Rockaway. Get off anywhere, walk the two blocks to the beach, and voila - you've got a quiet barely-populated chunk of Strong Island sand all to yourself. Most days you'll have decent waves to boot. Here's the Q35 schedule, and tell 'em Clarkson sent you. Happy body surfing!