Spring Fever (The Brooklyn Streets are Calling to Me)

Coney Island Avenue (4/19/08, Saturday)

The avenue’s squalor and tackiness abuts the greenery, Victorian charms, and near-rustic placidity of Kensington/Flatbush/Ditmas Park. In this juxtaposition one sees the epitome of Brooklyn’s profound resilience and allure—the Glorious Mesh: naked commerce cum residential life . . . A stretch of miles with no building higher than four stories and nary a chain store in sight, family/homespun businesses wall to wall. (In another time this would not be remarkable, but today it stands as one of Brooklyn’s distinguishing features vis a vis America at large.) . . . Wind-blown streamers sizzle in the used car lots . . . muezzin’s call to prayer . . . further down, Midwood section of the avenue, every place shuttered for the Sabbath.

Union Street Bridge (4/20/08, Sunday)

Every loose shingle, every paint-chipped building ledge or grating— Patinas of decay: oh to see it all, every time, with the faculty of complete, virtuosic sensitivity and awareness. Or, like now, brimming with imperfect humanity and entrenched cognitive/sensory flaws: to notice something different each time I pass—the wonder of the details, the pleasures of discovery . . . The textures of ruin lead me to muse on the process of sensitization and the feeling of power that comes from growing sharper, more attuned vs. the oblivion/inattention of all the times before (evidence of obtuseness/desensitization). Knowledge and proficiency; wonder and oblivion—a cause for celebration and despair (simultaneously).

Bennett’s, Ft. Hamilton Parkway (4/22/08, Tuesday)

The Mets are playing a rare weekday afternoon game and I ask the bartender to turn it on, for I find a solitary drink in a bar while watching baseball a rare pleasure. Johnny the bartender busts my chops (and everyone else’s, he tells me). He’s a real wag, funny, roughly personable in that Brooklyn way, with his steel gray, pompadour-like helmet hair. “This is one of the top five bars in all of Brooklyn,” I chirp, to which he pours me another shot of bourbon (I didn’t need that) . . . Jukebox: “Oh oh oh it’s magic”; Mungo Jerry, “In the Summertime” [someone turns it up]; “Ring of Fire” . . . A Steve Buscemi lookalike at the other end of the bar is getting the business from Johnny, as is the only woman in the bar, who’s glued to a cell phone . . . “She would give asprin a headache . . . she’s got the minutes ‘cause boy she can talk . . . shut—da—fuck—up!”


  1. Interesting Pics. I have fond memories of Brooklyn. My Grandparents lived in Flatbush on E31st and Beverly Rd. I have been going down memory lane, via google. Boy has it all changed, I'm not sure whether to cry or just say "times have changed". The saddest were the pictures you posted of the Kings Theatre. I have very fond memories of going there with my grandparents. It was a fabulously beautiful theatre inside. To see it now, is very sad. I also attended Erasmus High School, glad to see at least that looks the same.

  2. Ken,

    Thanks so much for your comment.

    I was just talking about this with someone: A heavy air of nostalgia has always hung over Brooklyn, even becoming part of the collective memory through a variety of clichés and archetypes, like in the old war movies the tough-but-sentimental guy in the platoon was always from Brooklyn and every gangster in Hollywood had a Brooklyn accent no matter where the story was set . . . Coney Island, Brooklyn Bridge, The Dodgers ("Dem Bums"), egg creams and the rest . . . Brooklyn: it's always changing, yes, but I think there's something essential here that will always remain. It's like sports, and America itself: always different but always the same.

    Adam E.

  3. Love those style houses. Very nice pictures. I use to live in Brooklyn in the 1970s. I was born across the street from a McDonalds. I see a Mcdonalds in the picture. I don't think that is the one though :)

    I love your blog. If you like to be on any of my 18 blogs blogrolls, email me or leave a comment on my blog. Would love to have you listed.

    Have a good week.

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