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.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Kandidate Korner - First Up, Pia Raymond

It's a testament to the weakness of incumbent City Council person Mathieu Eugene that he's facing four challengers to his throne this Fall. An even semi-popular council dude would easily slide to his max number of terms (Eugene was "grandfathered" so he has yet another term to go before being tossed out). Two popular and qualified candidates announced a while ago, with two new ones joining the race since. Of course everyone has the right to challenge Eugene, so we can't fault anyone for piling on, But the chances of beating him outright have plummeted as a result. Mathieu will maintain his most steadfast base, and each of the other candidates will carve out their spot in the electorate. Since it's do or die in the Democratic Primary, and you need just a plurality to win (no run-off), conventional wisdom says Eugene robs us of another four years of strong, vocal and imaginative leadership.

Unless..well, we'll cross that bridge in a later post.

Brian's the one with the beard
Let's get right to the candidates. The Q wrote about the first-announced challenger last fall, Brian Cunningham. At that time I would have called him a shoo-in to top Eugene in a head-to-head battle. Smart, experienced, politically savvy with many friends in his native neighborhood, his early announcement was meant to dissuade others from joining - a shrewd political move given the nature of Democratic primaries and the cynical power of incumbency. It seemed to be working...for awhile.

Pia has no beard
Then we learn that longtime Crown Heights resident (5 generations - wow) and currently Fenimore II mom Pia Raymond joined the race. She too is smart and popular, albeit less experienced in the ways and means of the notoriously arcane and treacherous City legislature. So who wins? Let's start with surface details. Anyone who knows Pia can't help but note (and her campaign poster attests) she's quite glamorous and fashionable, plus tall and svelte - she doesn't fade into a crowd. I'm not quite sure how that fits into the equation. I mean Brian's handsome too, though his beard is new! The two could be homecoming King and Queen. The calculus here is tough to determine. She's African-American; his roots are Jamaican; Eugene's obviously Haitian. (another recent addition to the roster of candidates is ALSO Haitian, Rose St. Albord). To say these things don't matter is to deny the reality of our neighborhood (oh hell, any neighborhood), where language, culture, dynasty and custom - not to mention rivalry - often rule the day. And yet a winning candidate must transcend such simplistic identity-politics and appeal broadly, and most important, s/he must bring out the vote. It ain't easy to get people to the polls for a primary in September just as the new year begins (and let's face it, the year begins in September, no matter what the calendar says).

And who really takes the time to get to know these folks or the issues they champion? You, perhaps? Yes, identity, roots, family, church...these things really do count for a lot. But so does YOUR identity, your roots, family, spirituality, gender (let's not forget that), orientation and, for lack of a better word, your politics beyond this particular race. These are all Democrats, mind you. They're not going to go all Trump on your ass. But still, there are differences, and some come down to the intangibles of charisma and leadership. You want someone who will inspire, lead the charge on contentious issues, take tough stands, articulate difficult issues, be teachable and tolerant, communicate effectively on ALL means of communication (just try to find your current Councilperson on le Web).

Oh yes, and then there's the endorsements. Will BP Adams and Jesse Hamilton et al go to bat once again for the miserably unfit Eugene? Will the Working Families Party endorse him again too, after catching flack for giving him the WFP seal of approval last time? How about the powerful unions, particularly the hospital workers? Then there's the local political dynasty of Una and Yvette Clarke. They too showed no remorse or independence four years ago, sticking with the man they placed in the job in the first place. With the contest running near-even in 2013, they conpspired to robo-call folks in the district aGAINST capable and independent challenger Saundra Thomas. And while some consider her position as Congressperson untouchable, Yvette is more exposed than you'd think, and a strong candidate could take on her seat anytime - her district is much more diverse than it was 10 years ago. Therefore, look for her to hold on to the Haitian vote as long as she can. (So gross. To think politicians would stand by a loser for their own self-interest. Wait...I guess that's most of the Republican party with Donald Trump. Sanders supporters said the same of Clinton. I might as well have just described the political class in general. Ah, I hate everyone. Except you, of course, dear reader.)

The Q met with Pia on Friday morning, and though I've served with her at Community Board 9 for a few years, this was the first time we had a one-on-one conversation. I've gotten to know quite a number of people on CB9, but Pia is reserved, where I'm a loudmouth. I'd like to think I listen too, and I DO I really do, but Pia strikes me as a particularly good listener, and an excellent conciliator. She's super proud of her heritage, and she has plenty of good reason. She's managed to trace her own legacy to slave owners in North Carolina, and from those tortured beginnings her family rose to prominence in Brooklyn with her father - Syl - becoming a true stalwart (gentry, if you will) in Crown Heights through his sporting goods and trophies shop on Nostrand, at Park Place. This is a good example of the problem with the term Gentrification. I mean, with clear-souled folks like Syl Williamson helping define a neighborhood and working to keep kids on the right path...they were the heroes that kept a place from completely falling apart after the earlier gentry abandoned the neighborhood for the 'burbs. That's Gentry - the real deal. For a brief bio on the famous Syl Williamson, Pia's dad, check this here. Pia ran the business for awhile but eventually the landlord decided he could get more than Syl's could pay. It was then that Pia started her non-profit "Creating Legacies," dedicated to identifying and preserving the deep histories that differentiate "community" from "neighborhood."

Pia saw the worst of the drug and gang years through the eyes of a child. By the mid-80s, she started to plot her escape. She managed to earn a spot at Groton, the blue-blood boarding school in Connecticut. Then to Boston University, and back to NYU for Social Work. She's that powerful combination of reverent for elders, strong of character, and comfortable in non-native worlds. She puts people at ease. She's a laid-back presence in a rumble-tumble world. She's thoughtful and passionate, though maybe a bit circumspect. That's my only concern, really. Where folks like Diana Richardson, Jumaane Williams, Brad Lander, Laurie Cumbo can walk into a room and demand attention, Pia acquiesces. She may grow to lead, to command a room. If she surrounds herself with good people, we'll be in good hands, and she will put at ease any fears you may have of engaging with your elected officials.

Pia's work with Community Board 9 has focused on the needs of small businesses, and she and co-chair Warren Berke put together the successful and ongoing Shop Local CB9 campaign. She's a champion of local merchants as part of the Nostrand Avenue Merchant's Association, long under the stewardship of Lindiwe Kamau. Pia has brought fresh energy to NAMA, and maintains healthy relationships with all the local merchants, old and new. And she's a board member of the Lefferts Manor Association (LMA) that helps keep "the Manor" alive and thriving as a tight-knit 'hood within a 'hood. Her hubby's cool, her kids are gorgeous. What's not to like?

See what I mean? It's tough. We're going to have to look hard at these candidates and see in them what we want for the future of our neighborhood. I'll be coming back to Brian again, because I think he deserves a close-up now that we're heading into the busy season of signatures and campaigning, door-to-door. And don't you dare forget the upcoming "debate" at the Brooklyn Commons!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Let's Get Ready To Rumble - June 5

When Your Bank Says No, Champion Says YES!

Is it all just a game of good-cop bad-cop? Maybe. The City Planning Commission (read: the Mayor) is going forward with the current plans by BFC Partners for the Bedford-Union Armory - they just decided to start the official ULURP process, which does NOT mean a for-certain conclusion. But the battle lines have been drawn. Usually, though not always, the City Council sides with the council person on these matters. T'would be interesting if they didn't in this case, since Laurie has come around to finding the deal insufficiently community controlled. I've discussed the issue ad nauseum, but story keeps giving. It's a terrific metaphor for so many social, political, racial, economic zeitgeist issues.

Maybe my analysis is too grandiose. I think what's really going on is that Laurie Cumbo senses she cannot get re-elected if people feel she has not been sufficiently Lefty on the issue. And by Lefty, I mean Socialist (this is Brooklyn, USA after all). At this moment in political history, it's not enough to be a Democrat. You must defy the very forces of capital and the captains of industry! You must make certain that no one makes any money, even if a few good things might come of it.

Seriously...seriously. That sort of one-up-person-ship as to who is the true progressive - that's what I sense is happening, and not just around the Bedford-Union Armory. In my own life, at the kids' school and work and friendships, I see folks struggling for their very identity in a world turned upside down. It's not okay to side with forces that could be seen as reactionary or pro-business. To do so would be to betray one's liberal bonafides, to side with the Trumpers, to send the country back to its darkest days i.e. last Wednesday. Or was it Thursday?

If you want to know what the Socialist perspective is, why not go to the source? NY Communities for Change is one of the closest organized relatives of the World Workers Party we have going right here in the Windy Apple, as I like to call Brooklyn. Actually I think Brooklyn's outline looks more like an apple than Manhattan, which always struck me as more of a sawed-off shotgun. When I look at the outline of Brooklyn, I actually see the silhouette profile of a bear, sort of a Paddington like fellow, with a funny hat. See how his back leg (bottom right) is in the air, making him look like he's walking leftward? That leg is actually Floyd Bennett Field. And are those little shards of poop coming out of Canarsie, or maybe his backup ruptured sending cheese puffs a-flyin'?

Anyhow, the beef of the matter here is that NYCC is actually deeply involved in the Armory issue, and their participation has shown that the Left, as in the REAL Left, has plenty of kick left in her, not unlike Mrs. O'Leary's cow. It's never too late to set a City on fire, you know.

Here's the latest missive from NYCC, which many of you first encountered as ACORN:

We are not moving forward with the project.”

That’s what Council member Laurie Cumbo said last week about the Bedford Armory deal, but yesterday the City gave the development process the greenlight.1

That means that Mayor de Blasio’s administration will move forward with the project while Laurie Cumbo gets to tell her constituents she’s against this gentrification plan during the election season.

But we can still stop this deal from happening. Laurie Cumbo has the power to finally kill this deal and start over with a new plan for community-controlled, 100% affordable housing at the Bedford Armory.

Tell Council member Laurie Cumbo to stand up to Mayor de Blasio and demand that this project be pulled from the approval pipeline! Call her office at (718) 260-9191.

Laurie Cumbo and the administration are in the middle of playing good cop/bad cop with us, all while leaving Crown Heights stuck with a terrible housing deal.

This is completely unacceptable. Our neighborhoods, homes, and lives are not a game. Laurie Cumbo may say she’s fighting with us, but now she has an opportunity to actually step into the ring and stop this deal from happening.

This deal prioritizes private profit on public land, in a neighborhood that’s facing rapid gentrification and a homelessness crisis. We shouldn’t have to choose between a recreation center and the housing Crown Heights needs.

The only acceptable way forward is to kill the deal and start over under a framework that puts community control front and center. Council member Cumbo should demand that the City stop this process and start over with a deal for 100% affordable housing at the Armory.

Call her office now at (718) 260-9191 and urge her to demand that the City stop the approval process. Click here for a sample script of what to say.

Until we win,

Vaughn Armour
NYCC Member & Crown Heights resident of 16 years

Monday, May 22, 2017

War of the Armory

What better place to hold a war than an Armory?

Since the Q's last post, beleaguered councilperson Laurie Cumbo and BP Eric Adams have come out AGAINST the deal to create housing and a rec center from the Bedford-Union Armory. Politics is trumping Cumbo's realism and Adams' "Build Baby Build" rhetoric.

Folks this is a major teaching moment for us all. A relatively small - actually no, an ACTUALLY small - number of residents have struck big fear into elected officials around all manner of development and housing issues. Watching this up close has been fascinating and eye-opening. By keeping the pressure on, and using truly inspired propaganda like this website called Real Gentrifiers and a roving van with fancy LED screens calling out officials by name, this coalition of housing activists have created the unflattering attention needed to convince the Powers-that-Be to switch sides. Hungry wanna-bes are waiting in the wings to knock Cumbo, Adams, Hamilton and others out of position, by painting them as betrayers of the largely black and poor long-time residents of Central Brooklyn. Remember, this area is represented by a battalion of strong black politicians (our noble councilperson the exception to the "strong" rule). While young Caucasians may find themselves attracted to the assertive tactics and boisterous chanting, the underlying cries of "sell-out" and "Uncle Tom" may strike some as bizarre. Again, checking under the hood you sometimes find more there than just rusty spark plugs.

Great Facebook Live video on the demonstration (against AND for, it should be noted) and all the currents from Patch's Mark Torrence. Yours and my fave ballbuster Alicia Boyd aids a strong cast with her "look at me" antics:


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's Under the Hood At the Bedford Union Armory?

 On the surface, it sounds so simple, so enticing. The City bids out a behemoth 110 year old drill hall in southern Crown Heights to be re-purposed for much-needed recreation. The drawings from the winning bidder show basketball courts, dancing classes, an indoor swimming pool, spaces for community groups to meet or host productions. The City's engine for Public-Private partnerships, the Economic Development Corporation, leads the way. After all, it knows how to get things done. While the City itself can't always be relied upon to produce big, big projects, EDC has a pretty solid track record. Sounds good so far, yes?

Over the years NYC EDC has been responsible for shepherding and helping finance everything from our beloved Lakeside Center to the Harlem River Park, the updated Whitehall Ferry Terminal, the Brooklyn Cyclones' MCU Ballpark and hundreds of projects throughout the City that make the City the City. Their secret? Land. It's all stuff that's on City-owned land. They essentially try to make the "best" use of what the City already has - land - to keep jobs here, bring jobs here, create housing opportunities and build civic amenities for all New Yorkers - not just for the super-rich. They issue bonds and provide financing and expertise. And it could be argued that the EDC's previous incarnations helped stave off the worst of the NYC downfall and abandonment of the '60s and '70s. You know, white flight, job flight, manufacturing flight, flight flight...all the stuff that led to the kind of poverty-choked decay that seems such a distant memory now. Unemployment is low; wages are up, housing is tight, land is scarce. It's a far cry, though not without its own set of Big Apple sized problems.

So that's the EDC, for better or not so. A lot of the coolest parts of the City owe their existence to it. And sometimes, fair to say, it bulldozes over the City's history. In the name, mind you, of progress. And sometimes EDC ushers in visions of the future that look like this:

BFC rendering - proposed
Enter the other Armory acronym - BFC. Easy to get them mixed up. But BFC is not the EDC. BFC Partners is the Developer. They're known for doing a lot of, der, developments. They do what developers do, better or worse. They make money by building stuff - a bunch in Staten Island, the East Village, now Brooklyn. (Important to note - without developers, in essence, you got no City as we know it. Folks who work for the City understand that Developers are as key to the City's economy as manure is to farming. A lot of times it stinks, but it's hard to grow without it.) Like many Developers, BFC has gotten pretty good at making money. Finding "undervalued" land and making it more valuable. The very act of development, it could be argued, is the stuff of gentrification, in the broadest sense. As land becomes more valuable, as the properties ON the land become more valuable, the surrounding neighborhood's living costs rise. The poorest folks get priced out. The newcomers stay for awhile, and even some of them eventually get priced out. Conversely, sometimes the bet doesn't pay off. (Don't cry; there are ways of shedding those losses, believe you me and your current president). Continental Capitalism does its thing as its done since the days of the Dutch. What was worth a few guilders and a bucket of tulip bulbs is now worth a few hundred million dollars and seat on the Board of the Met.
BFC Rendering - Proposed

As I wandered the massive spaces and hidden tombs of the Bedford-Union Armory last night as part of a CB9 ULURP tour, led by (don't get confused) both BFC and EDC, I couldn't help but be reminded of a simple fact. No project HAS to go the way it usually goes. We could, at any time, decide that our priorities for a given project are a) not to make money or b) not even to break even. We could decide to c) spend money. Yep. Tax money, the money that's MADE through gentrification and value-addition. And we could do so to, say, alleviate human suffering, build colleges or medical centers, house the homeless, or create new public spaces and amenities that aren't intended to pay for themselves but rather to make the City a more livable place for people of modest means, thereby shining dignity upon all our brethren and standing as a beacon to the entire nation. And if you do it right - and there's no assurances you would - you might just end up ennobling the Great Experiment of New York City, which in many ways stands as one of America's greatest living achievements. I'm not being ironic here - I believe this to the core of my being. Now, one might fall on one's face trying, of course. But guess what? For-profit and break-even projects fall apart ALL THE TIME. Folks brush themselves off and start again. Just because you can make it work out on paper doesn't mean it works out in real life. So yes, NYC COULD think big, like government did in the first age of public housing and the New Deal and the creation of Medicaid/Medicare and (this one always blows my mind) create a system of Upstate reservoirs that easily brings potable water to millions and millions of thirsty people who speak 200 languages and come in every conceivable size, shape, color, creed, sexual identity and (gulp) political philosophy.

Or, you could create a bunch of market rate condos, a bunch of below-market means-tested rentals (i.e. affordable housing), and a public/private recreational center that costs around $10 a month for memberships, with breaks for kids and seniors and maybe others. You could, essentially, play it safe. Not necessarily horrible, or inherently evil. Maybe even pretty darn good. And by doing so, you could help BFC Partners make a boat-load of money. On the one hand, you have an incredible Crown Heights resource - land, building, history, nearly unlimited potential. On the other hand, you have a bullet pointed prospectus and an achievable plan to turn the whole site around in a couple of years, barring a financial collapse or terrorist attack or both. Safe or visionary. Which would YOU choose?

There are many activists working overtime to "Kill the Deal." They might just be able to oust incumbent City Councilperson Laurie Cumbo as a result - her capable and popular challenger Ede Fox is building her campaign around tarring Laurie as a tool for developers and gentrification (not fair, in my view - this stuff is too nuanced to be so glib) and it seems to be working. Laurie's been blindsided by her own early acquiescence on this project, and her slow change of heart on the issue may have cost her deeply. At her State of the Union speech on Thursday, look for the activists from Bertha Lewis's Black Institute and NY Communities for Change (think Acorn renamed) and the Crown Heights Tenants Union and union leaders to be doing their best to intimidate and castigate and, yep, "Kill the Deal." The activists feel, with good reason I think, that the City is selling the neighborhood short, by not thinking big, and not thinking about how $$$ already budgeted to homeless housing should and could be going to low-income permanent housing, thus lowering the numbers of homeless. Okay, that reasoning is not entirely sound or as straight-up as it's portrayed, but sound enough to be worth a listen (because not all sounds are worth a listen natch). And the chanters claim that the high-cost condos will speed-up the neighborhood's already monsoon gentrification. And while these claims of secondary displacement are hard to prove, since there are too many variable to do a controlled study, they're certainly plausible, and anyway, the fear felt by many current residents is very real indeed. Another 16-story building of condos doesn't sound like the kind of plan that takes their needs to heart. And don't forget the NIMBYists! They don't like change, especially at the cost to light, views, architectural integrity, though they're usually okay with a new sit-down restaurant or two. Or as (I kid you not) the C in BFC partners, Don Capoccia delicately put it "once New Yorkers get their own housing sorted out its like screw everybody else." I'm actually floored by the deep truth in that statement, and plan on using it myself and probably not crediting the Don. Btw, Don is an openly gay die-hard Republican, who says NYC is the most anti-development City in the world. The world is complicated, man. But don't get me started on the F guy. I mean, F that guy, Joseph Ferarri or whatever the punk's name is. Massive Trumper. But he's a NYC Real Estate expected more? The idea of him pocketing green off City land turns my tummy. And it's a BIG tummy!

Is the Q neutral? Maybe I kinda was at first, if I was honest, but only because I'm cynical and figured NOTHING would happen if we walked away from this deal. I mean I think it's really, really important to get a rec center happening, and the economy could give way before anything at all happens. But then I asked myself...don't we have enough money to do the rec center already? The City has a budget of nearly $100 billion dollars a year. Just picture a pile of a million dollars. Then picture it again and again up to a thousand. Now do that again 100 times. Oh who am I kidding. Let's bring out the visuals! I'll leave you with this...

$10,000 in $100 bills

$1 million in $100 bills

$1 billion in $100 bills, a pallet, and a person with no gonads

$10 billion in $100 bills

$1 trillion in $100 bills

$1 trillion dollars, again

$15 trillion - why not? It'll warm your huddled masses if you light it on fire

By the way, I'm almost MORE into seeing the Statue of Liberty on a football field than trying to visualize $15 trillion dollars next to a 747. C'est moi.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Parkside Plaza Needs Support - Now!For

For god's sake it even has a logo!!!

If you're new to the neighborhood you can be forgiven for assuming that the Parkside Plaza was always a lovely, manicured, flora-filled, farmer's-market-hosting, pride-inducing paramour of our dear Q at Parkside station. I can assure you, dear neighbor, this was not always the case.

Up til about 3 years ago the plaza was about as lovely as an abandoned strip mall parking lot. That's until a group of locals banded together to lobby the City for funds to reclaim this public space for the greater good. I can still hardly believe that it's come to such frothy fruition. There were ups; there were downs. But in the end, good prevailed, the force is with us, and Tatooine wasn't destroyed by the Death Star, but rather nourished with water and turned into the Leffertsonian equivalent of a Garden of Eden. In-a-gadda-da-vida indeed.

So I ask you, I implore you, I beseech you, I importune, I demand, I expect, I solicit, I supplicate, I pray you will do the right thing and budget a wee bit of your wages for this communal jewel.


With a public commitment of just under $10,000, we signal to the City, to elected officials, to the DOT that maintains the plaza, and to our partners, that we care deeply about this ongoing project. We hope one day to get full funding from our elected officials, and you should all demand that our next Councilperson back this project 150%. For now, please show you care! If you read the Q even just once in a great while, consider this gift in support of the Q, for whom advertising is anathema, but whose love for you knows no bounds. I really, really love you. And I love you most when you're shedding your greenbacks in the name of greenery.

the project

We are thrilled to be celebrating the second anniversary of the Parkside Plaza. Over the past two years, the plaza has grown to become critical in displaying  the arts and culture of our community. 
For over 40 years, this space was barren concrete. However with your support, we were able to rejuvenate the plaza by:
-Installing benches and moveable seating for residents to sit and take in the splendor of the park;
-Hosting the Grow NYC farmers market every weekend during the spring, summer and fall seasons;
-Providing outdoor space for numerous cultural events (like PLG Art and local musicians), and
-Beautifing the landscape with plants, flowers and shrubbery

At a time in our society when we are all at risk for losing support and funding for arts, culture and green spaces, your donation to the Parkside Plaza matters now more than ever!

the steps

Every spring we work with local artists, organizations and merchants to host cultural events, resource events and showcase local talent. Our next steps will be to continue our outreach for local artists, further our relationships with resource providers and ensure that we continue to provide the community with a space to enjoy and programming and resources that benefit everyone.

why we're doing it

The Parkside Plaza is "A neighborhood plaza by and for the community".
The plaza exists to help the community and it needs the community to keep programming possible.
The plaza is now a part of our lives and we want our community plaza to continue to be accessible and enjoyable by everyone. The Parkside Plaza would not exist if it weren't for the individual donations from generous community members like you!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

PLG Music Festival - May 15-21

Or as some are calling it, PLeGnapalooza. (actually only the Q is calling it that at that moment).

Had it not come from the reliably truthful DNAInfo, I'd not have believed it. But here it is on the PLG Arts page:

What can you say? And have you been hearing the jazzy tunes wafting from the Parkside Pizza place lately? Dang. Positively swingin'! (By the way, while both this and the last post about the Tiki Bar could have been Q April Fool's gags in year's past, this ain't no joke folks. I'm just hoping a hair salon opens next to the new bar going in next to Peppa's and calls it Tiki Barbers)

Saxy Festival Player Kazemde George

Monday, May 8, 2017

Tiki Bar Opening Next To Peppa's

That space on the Flabenue btw Parkside and Woodruff/Clarkson next to Peppa's Jerk Chicken? You know the one that's being built-out as we digitally interact?

Tiki Bar. No effing kidding man. Right from the owner. Or rather the owner's neighbor. Very trustworthy citizen, she, so it's basically a done deal.

What is a Tiki Bar, precisely? My guess, my hunch, my suspicion, is that there is something not wholly politically correct in the concept, using Polynesian masks and silly umbrellas to doll up the pursuit of intoxication. From the Grail, a/k/a Wikipedia:
tiki bar is an exotic–themed drinking establishment that serves elaborate cocktails, especially rum-based mixed drinks such as the mai tai and zombie cocktail. Tiki bars are aesthetically defined by their tiki culture d├ęcor which is based upon a romanticized conception of tropical cultures, most commonly Polynesian.
The interiors and exteriors of tiki bars often include "tiki god" masks and carvings, grasscloth, tapa cloth and tropical fabrics, torches, woven fish traps, and glass floats, bamboo, plants, lava stone, hula girl, palm tree motifs, tropical murals and other South Pacific-themed decorations. Indoor fountains, waterfalls or even lagoons are popular features. Some tiki bars also incorporate a stage for live entertainment such as exotica-style bands or Polynesian dance floor shows.
Why does the Q suspect un-PC-ness? The words and phrases "zombie." "tiki culture." "romanticized conception of tropical cultures." "tiki god" "hula girl." "exotica-style bands." You know. Standard cultural appropriation stuff.

Apparently Trader Vic came up with the whole idea and it took off like wild-tapas. Trader Joe's is also indebted to Tiki Culture, the '50s-'60s fad that included the brilliant music of Martin Denny. If you don't know his lounge music, you gotta check it out. The style is known as Exotica, after his famous record of that name, and dozens more, that use every manner of instruments and gorgeous stereophic sound that just bubbles off your hi-fi. Given the comely come-hither poses of beautiful ladies showing off their "exotic" sexiness, I can only surmise that we have wandered into yet another land mine of insensitivity. And yet, people still do mock German, Russian and Transylvanian accents without backlash. We'll see. Perhaps "Tiki" is simply too silly to be offensive.

In the meantime, c'mon out and get your mai tais. Opening soon.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Ladies and Germs...the Echo!

Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo! Echo...

And it's the House Tour edition to boot!

The Pain of Trump and the Fact of Hypocrisy

Many of us have suffered anxiety and anger, even depression. We've taken it personally. I have a theory about this that I'm gonna air for the sake of airing it. My own reaction to the election was fairly cynical I guess - this is what you get when you're apathetic, like George W. before Trump. Having grown up far from the glare and glamor of the coasts, I have a fairly empathetic understanding of just how BIG and WHITE and CONSERVATIVE is the United States of America. It is difficult to comprehend when you live in Central Brooklyn, where we fight each other over relatively minor issues like "how affordable is affordable housing" and it's taken for granted that we agree that the police over-extend their power and that we incarcerate WAY too many young men of color and that LGBT rights are human rights and climate change and on and on.

But here's what I think may be at the root of the very personal distress that we feel at the core of our being. And it IS personal, not just political. It's called...hypocrisy.

We're hypocrites, many of us. Like:

  • We claim to be unified against climate change but we own cars, sometimes BIG cars, and we air condition like penguins would, and practically horde plastics and some own second homes outfitted with twice the number of "things," many that are frankly superfluous, and we use water with abandon and so much more. A few of us ride bicycles, and maybe feel a bit superior? Many of us do it because we can't afford a car and parking is a bitch, and it's a forced fitness program for our lardy asses. Frankly almost all the parents I know own cars anyway, and ride bikes only occasionally.
  • We claim solidarity with worker's rights, but buy from Amazon and Uniqlo and Apple and use Uber and even Target and other companies that have actively eroded progress and depressed pay and living standards all the while forcing manufacturers to cut costs and extract greater work for less pay from foreign workers who suffer for our leisure, and we ceaselessly shop for the best bargains just to maintain our own standards of living, complaining about the rich while hording for ourselves.
  • We don't really give much to charity, let's be honest here.
  • We live segregated lives in integrated cities, and send our kids to segregated schools 
  • We say we're for affordable housing, but we won't budge on our quality of life or allow the building of new housing near us. 
  • We claim to be for housing justice, but we move into poor neighborhoods and demand services and utilize such services that actively help price people and businesses out
  • We vote the "right" way but never show up to local meetings and events that would create true partnerships between elected officials and the communities they serve
  • We do precious little to understand the people we claim we want to protect
  • We check our phones constantly, and somehow convince ourselves that's a political act
  • We argue the merits of Sanders vs Clinton, rather than working for voting rights in states where the votes really matter, regardless of whom they end up voting for, it being their choice after all
  • We argue against White Privelege, all the while using it to our advantage without so much as a blush, or even realizing it
  • We think of Trump as someone else's fault - media, FBI, Putin, social media, fake news, bigots...anyone but us.
I could go on and on.

In essence, I know precious few who live their convictions. When I meet them and talk to them, I see and hear a version of myself that could be, but isn't. Sometimes their humility is awe-inspiring. Sometimes they're just dogged and tough and hard-to-like. But they don't live like hypocrites. And perhaps, when they lie awake at night, they don't take the fact of Trump so personally. They wake up in the morning, to once again wear the mantle of resistance and progress.

Just a hunch.

Monday, May 1, 2017

From Sneakers To...

Sneaker store. Don't Shoot mural on gates. Now...

flatbush at maple