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.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pharmacy Hari-Kari Spree Persists Unabated

After half a dozen drug stores have come and gone, it would appear that word has not reached the small business world that taking on Duane Reade is an Rx for heartache. When I first moved to North Flatbush Un-Manored Lefferts Gardens 7 years ago, there was an awesome pharmacy just across from the disastrous "205 Parkside." The two co-owners were the pharmacists themselves - Chinese-Americans with a real knack for customer service. They filled prescriptions like hot-dog vendors prepare "one with everything." Having experienced one too many dastardly long waits at the DR a couple doors down, I became a convert, and I considered handing out flyers to the poor saps in line at the Reade, imploring my brothers and sisters to thumb their noses at the shameless corporate bloodhounds and give their considerable business to the little guys. Predictably, the "Parkside" pharmacy died, and my calls to refill a prescription were met with this ominous message: "your prescription can now be filled at the Duane Reade on Flatbush Avenue." Not only did the beast slay the prey, it swallowed it whole. The chilling conclusion: those same guys that owned my favorite pharmacy were WORKING at the Duane Reade. They were still nice. But you could see that behind their eyes the lights had faded.

Since then, I've seen a half-dozen drug stores close. But like so many "Flatbush Got Talent" contestants, the pharmacies keep coming with visions of Hippocratic Susan Boyle in their heads. Mere weeks after the closing of a pharmacy on Flatbush between Parkside and Winthrop, up pops another at the malodorous outdoor Parkside Mall, not but two doors down from the above-mentioned store of yore.

I just hope someone isn't pouring his life savings into this one.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Not Easy Being Green

Google and Bing aren't my friends today. All I wanted was some clear story about the green Flatbush tree thingy at Flatbush/Empire/Ocean, and danged if I couldn't come up with a single relevant link. Help me out here...Bob Marvin? Where are you when I need you?

Let me guess. As part of some sort of 1970s campaign to re-energize a demoralized business district from Empire on down, some civic group, maybe a local chamber of commerce, commissioned these things to brighten the neighborhood. I get why you'd want to write "Flatbush Avenue" on one of the signs. But another looks blank, like it's original message was scrubbed off. What did it say? I've got a few guesses:

"Where everything costs exactly half what it does in Park Slope!"
"You know what they say - Tight pants..."
"Where Wendy's meets Phat Albert"
"Go Tell Aunt Roti"
"Come smell our baking bread"
"A Neighborhood That Used to Be Home to the Brooklyn Dodgers"
"Beauty Begins at the Parlor"
"Abandon all hope ye who enter here"
"Home of the Malbone Street Wreck" (hey, look it up!)

Any tell! And who thinks this thing is due for a rehab, or at the very least, a detox.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Karnivores Korner

Many apologies to all my vegetarian friends. But if you go both ways, and don't know about Michael's Prime Meats, the last REAL butcher in NYC, then you don't know nothing about not much of anything.

I'll out myself here. I'm a member of the Park Slope Food Coop. I don't advertise it (oops); some people got a real beef against the PSFC. But they've got the swellest organic grass-fed flesh you ever did feed on. And gorgeous veggies at 1/3 what you pay at Whole Foods. Constantly changing products, dirt-cheap bulk foods, and a membership office full of dominatrices. I mean talk about strict!

But when I want to get a truly fresh hunk of animal, there's a place in the 'hood that I guarantee will make your last barbecue of summer a sizzler. It's called Michael's Prime Meats and it's just a 10 minute walk east to Nostrand, 'tween Martense and Linden. You'll be there in half the time it takes to get to American Apparel in Park Slope. Not that you can get baby back ribs at American Apparel. (Or judging from their racy adverts, maybe you can.)

The place has been there since 1931. Same family. The clientele may have changed over the years, but I doubt the attention to detail has changed one iota. Great jovial service. Great vibe. Some people think a butcher should stink like a butcher. A real butcher doesn't stink at all (his shop anyway). Because most of the meat comes out of the locker only when you order it. It gets chopped up and heads back to the clean cold tomb from which it came. Sawdust on the floor? You bet. Why? Who the f knows? Probably some ol' butcher wives tale about hygiene, or maybe left over from the days of icehouses, when sawdust would help insulate the precious frozen stuff. Can you imagine ice cream before refrigeration? Must have been for the rich only! And how 'bout the story of that NYC dude who nearly cornered the market on ice? Charles Morse was his name, and his "ice trust" was linked to our first five-borough mayor, Robert Van Wyck, whose god-forsaken highway is not pronounced Van Wick, but rather Van Wike. The Whitestone, however, is pronounced the regular old way, rhyming with light groan, the sound you're probably making as you read this.

Check out Michael's. Tell them Q sent you.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rain helps Clarkson shine

Crazy but the rain barely dented the fun. Here's some pics & vids:


And it was this woman, Janice Thomas, made it all happen. She's the real Brooklyn den mother...and the kids love her for it. Hats off to you, JT!

One nutty gymnast said it all:

c'mon down! the rides are up!

Clarkson between flatbush and bedford. Free jumpy bubble thingies. Water slide. Storm's coming. C'mon by!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

PLG Beauty Parlor Capitol; Ugliness Thing of Past

From Empire to Caton, I've heard counts of 50 - 100 beauty parlors. And most of them are packed. Laughing, music, comradery, the occasional temper flare-up. It's all here on or just off Flatbush. For you newcomers, the African/Dominican/Caribbean-American/Indian beauty joints might seem odd. But they're as American as apple pie around these parts. It ain't like this in the suburbs - our well-tended-lawn brethren WISH they had a place like this to hang with pals. I mean, there's Starbucks, but do people really gab and laugh at the top of their lungs over mocha lattes?

Here's my photo essay, from Empire to Parkside, on the west side ONLY!!!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Sunday starts a new day for Clarkson Avenue!

Come one come all. No matter what block you call home, no matter what train you call hometrain, no matter what style of pants you're wearing, come be a part of the Clarkson Renaissance. (Okay, that's a bit of a stretch. But come have some fun anyway!)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Fine Dining Comes to Southwest Lefferts Gardens!

Step right this way monsieur! My you look lovely this evening, madame! Usual table? Of course sir! Why thank you sir! Your generosity never ceases to amaze, sir! Nice hat! May I ask where you purchased such a lovely chapeau? You don't say! The haberdashery on Winthrop? I dare say Reginald has the gift! For our specials tonight...

Now that I've had my fun, perhaps y'all can hep me to your favorite takeout in the neighborhood. Don't hold your breath for a place that sells this whatsit:

Alls I'm saying it that until one of w'all get off our soapboxes and start dishing out the bouillabaisse, we'll just have to make due with some pretty amazing offerings around here (at a fraction of the cost and pretense and twice the portion size).

So give us some suggestions! I'll get this party started right, and say you gotta get the curry goat at Pepa's. Let her rip! I know you're out there, neighbors.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Clarkson Block Party Next Sunday - meeting today at Tea Time

C'mon over to our place today at 4PM to talk about next Sunday's Clarkson FlatBed block party. We've got all the permits - they really are going to shut down traffic (so make sure your car is off the block if you can!). Kids running free willy-nilly. Barbecues humming. Music. Have a Tag Sale. The street's the limit!

If you want to drop by at 4PM, email me at for details!

Friday, August 13, 2010

What ZZ Top and Caledonian Parkside have in common

Hey...we're back! Ask me about our vacation sometime. Mrs. Clarkson FlatBed, little miss FlatBed and I had a fantastic time in the lush green hills of Vermont. If you've never been, treat yourself...maybe even drive around during peak foliage? Checking out the foliage, or Tree Peeping, is a strange NYC custom that came about because people couldn't think of any other excuse to skip town between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. Of course, some people like to ski in Vermont too, though all they ever do is complain about how it's not the Alps or Colorado. Why do people who ski complain, anyway? I mean, they get to ski don't they? Really, of all the people in the world, what percentage do you think actually get to take off from work in the winter and go skiing?

Back to the blogness at hand. Here's the tie-in:
That's right. The good ol' crayola colorful corrugated tin barn at the NW corner of the 'Bush at Caton. You know the one, because everytime you pass you go "what the f$&# is up with that place?" Well I'm going to tell you what the f$%* is up with that place. It's abso-friggin-lutely amazing.

For those too new to the neighborhood to remember, that corner used to be full of street vendors. Some folks from the City and the Caribbean American Chamber of Commerce decided to build a building, and now it's a year-round mini-mall. The Kiva-style idea here is that micro-businesses can get schooled in the art of opening their own shops without dumping tens of thousands of dollars into their dream. With subsidized rent and classes from the Small Business Services agency, some pretty awesome stories emerge. Read more about them at the FCM's website, which includes descriptions of all the vendors.

OK, sure, not everything in there is going to blow your mind. But the stories might, and there's no reason to be scared off by the weirdness of it all. Go grab a pastry or coffee at Back Home Bakery and check out these particularly one-of-a-kind shops:

The Brhuberger Company Booth #: 34
Popular "As Seen on TV" items without the expense of shipping and handling.

(the geniously named:)
Thank you Jesus Booth #: 37
Provides specialty cooking items from cast iron pots to insulated food containers and other convenience store items.

Julia Hector Booth #: 19
Offers handmade gifts and accessories for babies as well as fashion and hair accessories.

If you're feeling randy, there's lots of intimate apparel. The owner of Notre Dame, Marise Joseph, was quoted in the NY Daily News during the infamous brouhaha over whether to kick out the food vendors (they did). She was a big proponent of letting the victuals back in, saying "It's not good, because everybody eats every day. You don't buy panties every day. The food makes the market go on. Now no one comes in." Amen to that! Bottom line: don't wait til you need a new pair of glittery pasties to check out the FCM.

Oh yeah. The ZZ Top thing. I almost forgot. Seems there was a popular booth at the FCM called "The Final Touch." Cynthia Campbell makes homemade crocheted accessories. I just noticed a new shop on Flatbush up towards K-Dog called "The Final Toush" which i'm hoping is her big jump to the full-on world of retail. But I don't think she meant Toush, right? Which makes me think of that ZZ Top song "Tush," and the crazy way Mr. Top rhymes Tush with much, when everybody knows he meant booty, which most folks rhyme with bush.

Is this one cool neighborhood or what?