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, February 28, 2011

From Caton to Canada

When all else fails...there's always Canada.

While waiting for the useless walk light at the absurdly dangerous corner of Ocean and Parkside, I noticed the above poster. I spent the rest of the day thinking about it, reading about it. With so much ugly discourse in our country over immigration, and so much economic adversity in our midst, and health care merely a dream for gotta wonder whether America is really the best destination for those looking for a better life. The more I read, the more I realize that Canada beckons like a giant neon chunk o' tundra.

Living here in Caledonia, you can't swing a dead cat without hitting an "illegal." Or more delicately, we keep the immigration lawyers in diapers. For me, frankly, it's one of the blessings of living here. And how fitting for a Canadian immigrant headhunter like JMED to reach out to Flatbush.

The propaganda, in this case, is largely true. From the Living In Canada website:

For several years now, Canada has been accepting around quarter of a million new Permanent Residents each year. For people with skills, work experience and a good standard of English or French, qualifying for residence is not a huge barrier. Once accepted, you can take pleasure from the fact that you will be free to live permanently in a country consistently rated by the UN as the world's best country to live in.

Furthermore, Canada is the world's second biggest country, rich in natural resources. Despite the abundance of natural wealth, real estate in most Canadian locations is cheap compared with other developed countries. Add to this the fact that Canada's 34 million residents enjoy virtually unlimited recreational opportunities and you might be forgiven for thinking you have found paradise.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Live Blogging the Oscars!!!

is something a ridiculously large number of people do.

Walter's Manufactory

Can't get enough of this sign. And yes, it's a word.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Small Business Dreamers: Here's Your Chance

This little shopping strip on Bedford 'tween Parkside and Clarkson has always struck me as undervalued. The buildings themselves are pretty cute, and the rents have got to be nearly half of Flatbush. Something could nicely compliment Gandhi, the Indian restaurant we choose when the idea of cooking makes us want to poop in our shoes. Get a load of this:
I for one won't miss the chicken/ice cream/feelawful place. Can't say I ever visited the Dry Cleaners. Luckily, the Wet Cleaners is still packing 'em in noon and night and will likely stay put, meaning a business that caters to people in-between loads could be JUST the ticket. Actually, Mike's Pizza seems to do well in that regard. Maybe a detergent store?

As you can see I'm clearly not cut out for the entrepreneurial life. But if you or someone you know is looking for space and has an idea that doesn't need the intense street traffic of Flatbush...this could be just the spot.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Honk If You Think This Sign Won't Make No Nevermind

Our neighbors Keith and Beth led the charge for this sign. They split for California, but their dream of a honkless Clarkson lives on. This sign went up without fanfare not long ago. Needless to say, there's been no audible change.

Has anyone ever actually been written up for honking? And why $350? Why not $3,500? Or $350 per honk? I figure the money should go to the neighbors anyway, not the City. It could be deducted automatically from the offender's EZ-Pass, straight into the Clarkson FlatBed Block Association coffers. With that kinda dough our block party could put Dave Chappelle to shame.

I must say that I do look forward to the day when some selfish gridlocked motorist lays on the horn a couple dozen times and I can walk up to his Olds, rap on the glass and point to this sign. Or maybe I'll think better of it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Driving Miss Spazzy

On my way back from the excellent dentist Carole Germain, of Care Dental on Nostrand near Lenox, I stopped to admire the derring-do of neighbor Kitty and her fearless school of driving on Clarkson tween Bed and Rog:

Frankly I might be more inclined to tell nervous drivers not to drive at all. For their sake and for ours. And what exactly is meant by "easy parking?"

T'was surely a fabulous day - by comparison of course. It was actually a day of mush and wet trash, but it was easy to look past the filth and revel in the relative balm.

This special scene at the curb directly out from the Pioneer "canners" took my breath away. Later in the day it was dutifully scrubbed, but to me this picture captures the moment when Caledonian winter made a U-turn towards Parkside spring.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Know Thy Neighbor - And Vote For Him

Don't know what it is in these Caledonian waters. But I just got an email from Rench of Gangstagrass, a duo that adds to our neighborhood's reputation as the home of genre-splicing crossover music.

With just a day left, you can add your jingoistic vote to Deli Magazine's Artist of the Month calculation. For simplicity's sake, I say go to the Gangstagrass website and listen to a tune before voting. Would you sign a contract without reading it? I thought not. But don't dally. The poll ends tomorrow night.

DISCLAIMER: The Q wouldn't bother recommending anything if there weren't a solid reason to check it out. I ain't no shill and I don't boost for the sake of boosting. These Gangstagrass guys are serious contenders for most ridiculous combination of musical forms - and when it works, it works. Rench's slinky country slide guitar playing clinch's the deal. Not the Rolling Stones, maybe. But a pretty decent showing for "the keepin' it real" side of the park. Rench is at Bedford and Lenox, and yes, that qualifies him as neighbor. Throw rocks at his window and tell him the Q sent ya.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scam Sandwich

Perhaps you've been approached by one of the gentleman preying on your sympathies at our beloved Q at Parkside. One of them, a painfully malnourished drug addict posing as an AIDS stricken father, is particularly galling. If you're not hip to the age-old BABY FORMULA SCAM, let me skool you right now.

Dude or Lady comes up to you with big doe eyes and sobs about how they can't feed their babies. Would you buy them some formula? They don't need cash, mind you. Just go into the store and buy some Enfamil (e.g.) - the powdered formula. Looks kinda like this:

You might be surprised to learn that the canister goes for about $15. But by now, you're hooked. You wouldn't let those babies starve, would you? If you're in deep, you might end up buying a couple.

Turns out formula has a quick cash turnaround on the street, and believe it or not, often gets illegally purchased by some of the less reputable bodegas and markets. Your "father of three" could be smokin' a rock before you get home to catch the latest episode Glee. Actually, he's probably watching it too. Except he's watching it high on crack.

Formula itself is a bit of a scam, of course. Most indigent moms would be MUCH better off breastfeeding - financially, emotionally and developmentally. (Plus, breasts take up much less space in one's kitchen cabinets.) The above picture shows Enfamil's LIPIL brand, the latest "breakthrough" in formula - more breastmilk-like than ever before. (I jest of course; there are many valid reasons to use formula - I ain't no La Leche League Bullyman. Heck, I enjoy a tall glass of formula myself from time to time - goes nice with a plate of teething biscuits.)

I'm fondly remembering my favorite NYC scam I ever encountered. About 20 years ago, I lived on Flatbush at Sixth Avenue - above the since-relocated Royal Video Store. A guy came up to me claiming he had a gig on Long Island, and could I help him get a train ticket so he could make the show. Before I had time to fashion a response, he starts telling me about his band - Spyro Gyra, and how the gig is real important because his son, whose mother hasn't let him see in years, will be there in the front row. It's gonna be a tearful reunion! The story was so far-fetched it HAD to be true, right? I told him to wait downstairs while I went up to grab my wallet. He started to follow me in, and I had to physically restrain him from gaining entry. At that point I caught the glazed manic look in his eyes and came to my senses. At this point, he started asking if he could "borrow" my Sony Walkman to work on a sax part. I persuasively sent him on his smooth-jazzin' way.

Years later, my girlfriend (cum wife) would tell me a story about a man she met outside a rehearsal space. She and her fellow dancer took pity on a guy trying to get home. At first they were suspicious, but he won their trust by telling them he was a musician, trying to get to a gig with his band...Spyro Gyra.

I kid you not.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Is There a Lawyer in the Foyer?

Why go to law school, when you can make easy cash dishing out bogus legal advice to hapless illegal immigrants?

A store on Bedford Avenue near Clarkson called Profimax (sounds like an impotence drug) and another down by Church called Rincher's Bookstore apparently preyed on Haitians following the earthquake. A merciful law designed to help Haitians gain visas following the disaster brought a lot of folks out of the shadows seeking legal work papers. Neighbor Fred Pinard runs Profimax, and duped folks into believing he had the expertise needed to file the paperwork, charging them hundreds of bucks EVEN though many of the immigrants would have qualified to have the fees waived. There's a special place in hell, Fred...

Newly elected AG Eric Schneiderman boasts in the Daily News: "We will continue working aggressively to root out fraud wherever it exists, and that includes bringing those who prey on the immigrant community to justice,"

Great going Eric. And if the past couple of years is any indication, we'll be seeing your name on the ballot for Governor soon enough. Nice to hear some common sense coming out of an elected official about immigrants.

Schneiderman's nanny, housekeeper and gardener could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

erasing erasmus

Lest we forget our farming roots, the above portrait of the still-standing Erasmus Hall high school on Flatbush 'neath Church shows off its rural environs. To any of you who have peaked inside the gates of the currents Erasmus campus, you've seen the decaying original schoolhouse inside.

The Wall Street Journal reports that some funding has finally been pried loose to get some serious rehab going. It's not nearly enough, but it's a start. I just want to add my voice to the chorus of those saying...WTF? This is the second oldest continuously standing secondary school in the country. It doesn't get much more historic than this. Why isn't this a friggin' museum like Valley Forge or tourist attraction like the Corn Palace of South Dakota?

I mean, you could gather a bunch of wax mannequins of the historic alumni - set them at tables in incongruous groupings. I know you've already heard about some of celebrated Erasmus graduates, but it's impressive when you look at a big ol' list, this one cherry-picked by yours truly.

1. Mae West, whip smart vamp from film's gilded age
2. Dick Powell, screen actor whose name was Dick Powell
3. Janelle Commissiong, 1977 Miss Universe
4. Barbara Stanwyck, actress (Double Indemnity!)
5. Elia Kazan, author, stage and screen director
6. Donnie Most, "Ralph Malph" on Happy Days
7. Bernard Malamud, writerman
8. Eli Wallach, stage and screen actor
9. Jeff Chandler, screen actor - played "Cochise"
10. Susan Hayward, screen actress
11. Beverly Sills, opera singer - Lincoln Center maven
12. Robert Silverberg, author
13. Lainie Kazan, singer and entertainer
14. Neil Diamond, singer and entertainer par excellence
15. Barbra Streisand, singer and actress and butt end of many a joke
16. Bobby Fischer, chess champion and acclaimed weirdo
17. Gabriel Kaplan, Mr. KotTAIR, Welcome Back Kotter
18. Special Ed, Rapper
19. Marky Ramone, totally awesome drummer for the Ramones
20. Samuel LeFrak, Master of the weird real estate development
21. Hal Lefkovitz, Inventor of the "Clapper" lighting on/off device
22. Bernie Kopell, "Doc" on the Love Boat
23. Al Davis, Owner of the infamous Oakland Raiders
24. Clive Davis, Mr. Arista records and star-picker deluxe

Some potential tableaux: "Doc" and Special Ed sharing a Courvoisier. Marky Ramone jamming with Neil Diamond. Bobby Fischer playing Mr. Kotter in a game of checkers. Barbra Streisand. I said, Barbra Streisand.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fire Takes Neighbor's Life

The fire department battled a blaze this afternoon on Woodruff (#95) just west of Ocean. Sadly, neighbor Martin Johnson, 60, lost his life. Though the 4th floor fire was contained quickly, it wasn't quick enough.

Condolences to the family. Let this be a reminder to us all that when that fire truck barrels down Flatbush, lights flashing and horn blaring -- it ain't no party, disco, or foolin' around.

Kindly get the *#!$ out of the way.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Caledonia Lives!

I was beginning to feel like Paula from that classic movie Gas Light. Newcomers to the neighborhood think I'm nuts for referring to us as Caledonia. But no, Gregory, I'm NOT crazy. Get a load of this:
The "official" street map as you come out of the Q at Parkside station clearly shows a hospital called Caledonia nary three blocks west. Granted, the same map tells of a mysterious "D" train stopping within, and for lovers of talkies there's an RKO movie theater right off the Church Avenue stop. I'm also fond of the way the B16 loop-de-loops round Parkside and St. Paul's Place. They don't even mention the playground at the Parade Grounds. And I'm pretty sure that giant red circle graffiti has been removed. I wonder how many items must become anachronistic for the MTA to redraw the map?

In the meantime, big sale down at the Pioneer. Must be part of their ongoing Anniversary celebration.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A World Aprt

These signs are EVERYWHERE in our neighborhood. Once you notice the misspelling, you'll always notice them. The number belongs to an Askarinam Realty, which as you'd imagine, doesn't even handle rentals in most of the buildings with this sign.

Still, you gotta wonder how many of these things were printed before someone noticed. I've tried many times over the years to learn to say the word without a vowel between the p and the t. Not so easy, is it?