Wednesday, September 29, 2004
My good friend, Henry Foner, sent me a verse (only the first so far, says he) after reading my Got The Movin' Blues Blog of yesterday. I thought I would share it with the world. Here 'tis:
I've got those "life-was-always-in-my-reach,
I've got those "shedding-all-these-bitter-tears
And ev'ry time the moving man knocks,
I've got to give him another box --
I've got those now-that-Sol-Gorelick's*-gone,
* Sol Gorelick was a labor and community activist and friend, who passed away recently.
Tuesday, September 28, 2004
Brooklyn - fuhgeddabout it! So says the signs posted by the omnipresent president of the same borough, Marty Markowitz. And so, while perusing some streets in Bensonhurst the other day, I came upon this side yard decorated with life-sized figures of whom?? Betty Boop, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Frankenstein, among others. All seem to be beckoning us to enter the garage, here decorated as the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. The picture speaks for iself. But why, how? I figure, it's Brooklyn, is all.
Bensonhurst driveway as the Battery Tunnel lined with the likes of Frankenstein and Elvis. By the way, you can click on any picture for a larger view.
Sep 28, 2004
Haven't been able to post. Moving is my every day, every minute activity. I'm tired, depressed and stressed. We started taking boxes over to our new apartment. Our intention was to get boxes out of our way as they began to pile up. So we shlepped some over to the apartment. Then, in a few days, we made another trip. Then another. So far, we've moved 75 boxes to the new place and the end is not in sight.
Yesterday we got our closing date: October 18th. So the end (of the moving) is in sight. We've made a big dent, but there's so much more to go. Day in, day out: get up and attack another room, another area of the house. But the big question in my mind -- where are we going to put all this stuff? We're moving from 8 rooms to 6 rooms. And the kicker? No basement. So things have got to go: either in the garbage, to Goodwill or to storage.
It's very hard to throw stuff out. Try throwing away pictures, for example. Having been in the business, I have amassed tens of thousands of photos. Maybe there are millions of photos, I don't really know. But there's a lot. Boxes and boxes of photos. Many are in albums. But thousands are not. These are the recorded history of our family. Parties, Thanksgivings, Passovers, travel, camping, babies growing into toddlers, then into children, then teenagers, then adults. Problem is, too many photos. Put them in storage? Then what? Who's going to look at them? When?
Pumpkin is still perched on unopened moving boxes but her perch is getting narrower as we go continue to pack.
Our van, filled with boxes. Heavy work.
We moved into our house in 1978. I was 32 years old. I'm 58 now. This house contains a big chunk of my life. Of my family's life. Just like our photos, it's a depository of so many events, of so much time, energy and work expended on it. So many happy times, some sad times. If this house could talk it could tell the story of my family, week by week, year by year.
There are many wonderful memories in this old house. There was the time that Larry (Stacey's dad, now gone) and I installed new Anderson windows. What a job. We removed the ancient double-hung windows, enlarged the opening and installed the new units. Brave, I was! And Larry tought me to be brave but also how to use tools, how to measure, how to build.
Stacey and I built our rear deck. We chopped out old windows and converted them into a sliding door. Then we installed upright footings into concrete. On top of that we constructed the deck and transformed our meager back yard into a living space that has given us so much pleasure over the years. Our new apartment, which is two floors in a Brooklyn brownstone, has a postage-stamp sized back yard. But at least it has some outdoor space which I felt was a prerequisite for any new place that we would live in. To move from a house with a driveway and yard to a small, cramped apartment without any outdoor space (even a terrace) was impossible to me.
When our picket fence, which had been built by the former owner, deteriorated and began to decay, we decided to recreate it. It's probably the only white picket fence in Manhattan Beach, being more at home in Yankee New England than Brooklyn, and we loved it. The original was a traditional picket fence with pointed tops. We copied our new one from fences we'd seen in Martha's Vineyard on many visits there. Unfortunately, it, too, is now decaying, a victim of the salt air and time.
Our house and picket fence today.
We're leaving our old house behind. Most likely, it'll be torn down and replaced by some enormous castle-like structure devoid of personality, out of context (except, by this time, these new houses have become prevalent and thus, they are now the context), too large for the 40x100 city lots that they occupy. I guess they too will eventually contain their memories, replacing the houses that once stood in their place. So we're leaving the house, but we'll take our memories with us. Yep, I'm loading those boxes of pictures.
Monday, September 20, 2004
The house looks like a mess - we've begun to pack in earnest. Moving is an incubus. Twenty six years of stuff to go through. Decide what comes with us. What gets discarded. The boxes are beginning to get filled. We're piling them in various rooms. Or moving them toward the front of the house and stacking them there. Pumpkin is very upset. She knows something is happening and she's not happy about it. Come to think of it, I'm not happy either. Moving sucks. I don't know how some people move every few years. Impossible. Pumpkin is my cat, in case you're wondering.
Boxes, boxes - everywhere you look, boxes!
You're probably wondering why this post is called Guantanamo. Sometimes I just write these posts backwards.
The other night we saw a play: "Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom." It came here from a run in the UK where it received raves. It's a documentary play. That is, like its predecessor, Exonerated, at the same theater -45 Bleecker - the dialog is the actual spoken or written words of either persons incarcerated at the infamous prison camp in Cuba or the words of their anguished family members.
Nightmarish are the terrible descriptions of being caught up in the throes of war, arrested and taken thousands of miles from family and home. Held in cages in the tropical heat of the Guantanamo without charges. Presumed guilty without trial or evidence. No explanations given. Years pass without a glimmer of hope. Suicide is the answer for dozens as hope gives out. The arrogant Rumsfeld is presented and questions are asked him about the Geneva accords and democracy and human rights which he rudely brushes aside.
If you have questions about the direction our country is headed, this play will only confirm them. I hope you get a chance to see this play before it closes in several weeks.
Here's part of the Times review by Ben Brantley:
On an anxious night, you have probably had a dream that goes something like this. You are arrested by uniformed officers for a crime that is never specified but that you know you did not commit. And there is no way for you to prove your innocence. Such a scenario was immortalized by Franz Kafka in "The Trial." It is also the real-life situation of Jamal al-Harith, Bisher al-Rawi, Mozzam Begg and Ruel Ahmed. Their stories are told with a bafflement that shades into gut-level despair in this deeply moving documentary play by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo. First produced in London by the Tricycle Theater, this calmly condemning drama considers the plights of some of the British detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. There is no question that it is a partisan work. But it exerts an icy visceral charge that is never achieved by flashier agitprop satire, like Tim Robbins's Bush-bashing "Embedded." - Ben Brantley.
Tickets can be had at 212-307-4100.
Go see it!
Guantanamo at the 45 Bleecker Street theater.
Sunday, September 12, 2004
Today was the 15th annual NYC Century Bike Tour (my 5th or 6th - lost count a while ago) and what a day it was! Stunning and perfect for a tour on bicycle of our fair city. Stacey and I joined 5,000 others as we started from the Harlem Meers (the Meers is a lovely lake and lawn at the far north end of Central Park at 110th Street).
We woke at five. (Yes, you read that right- five o'clock). The word "Century" as applied to a bike ride signifies one that is 100 miles long. The rider, however, gets a choice of 15, 35, 55, 75 or the whole megillah if he or she is so inclined. We're not. We took the 35 mile tour which just right.
As I loaded the bikes into the car for the trip into the city, I stopped to admire the beautiful day that was dawning. A tiny crescent moon coupled with a very bright Venus were dueling with the rising sun.
Getting ready to leave for the bike ride. A beautiful sliver of the moon and Venus greeted me.
There were 1000's of bikers and bikes at the starting point. The ride is sponsored by Transportation Alternatives, a wondeful NYC organization (of which I'm a proud and long-standing member) that promotes bicycling, walking and more sensible (read less cars) transportation policies to make city life healthier, less stressful and more enjoyable. Despite the large number of bikes lining up to take off, things went very smoothly thanks to TA's well-prepared organization. The time you departed depended on which mileage you were riding. So the 35'ers were to leave at 7:30. If you were doing the 100 you were expected to be at the starting line at 5:30! (another reason for choosing a lesser amount, right?)
Some lined up for the WC before lining up to leave on the tour.
The beauty part of this tour is that you get to see so many great New York sights and neighborhoods. It covers every borough but Staten Island and it's designed to show off great NYC bike routes - many of them car-free - part of the ever-increasing NYC Greenway System. However, many miles are on the road and sharing it with cars. Cyclists, with TA at their vanguard, declare that the roads belong to bicycles as well as cars and that we have rights that must be respected. It is very evident from the numbers of bicyclists participating in this and other rides around New York that we have arrived and we will be heard!
Every few minutes the marshall would allow several hundred bikers to begin their tour, then holding back the rest. This assured the ride would spread out on the streets and be unencumbered by sudden stops (and thus, possible accidents) due to congestion.
Waiting at the "starting gate." The marshalls would stagger
departures to avoid bunching up on the road.
Well, we're finally on our way. We've done this many times but it's always a thrill. It's 7:30 on a pristine, but sleepy, Sunday morning. One thing I love so much is that almost silent sound of bike tires on pavement and the quiet click-click of the chain and gears. It's now amplified by hundreds of bikers either passing me or being passed by me and its music to my ears.
It's early morning and we sail down Fifth Avenue past the Guggenheim Museum.
Say hello to the Cardinal - rolling down Fifth, Saint Patrick comes into view.
(i.e. we rolled - the cathedral was stationery).
The lighting at this early hour is beautiful -
here the Flatiron building at Fifth and 23rd Street.
The next borough on our tour was our home town - Brooklyn, via the bridge that bears the same name. Kind of nice to be heading towards Brooklyn at 8 in the morning, the sun coming up strong now and turning the cables and granite arches into sillouhettes as we biked across the river. We're headed through Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Park Slope and to the first rest stop at the Prospect Park carousel. Here, TA has arranged for us riders to take a break, help ourselves to bagels, Krispy Kreme donuts, bananas, plums and apples, use the bathroom in the zoo and then enjoy a free ride on the carousel. How great is that?
Crossing the Brooklyn Bridge.
An added bonus for bikers - a seal show at the Prospect Park zoo!
Not to mention a free ride on the carousel. Built n 1912 for Coney Island
and moved here in the 50's, it was restored to its former glory in the 1990's.
We left the park at Grand Army Plaza and headed up Underhill Avenue -- right past our new apartment! This was certainly grand -- the bike tour headed through the most beautiful parts of "Brownstone Brooklyn" - Prospect Heights (our soon-to-be new "hood"), Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and the Pratt campus. Then further north into Williamsburg. The contrast was striking: lycra shorts and tank tops on bikes whizzing through neighborhoods teeming with ultra-orthodox Hasidim dressed in long black garments and wide black hats.
Leaving Prospect Park at Grand Army Plaza to head up Underhill
Avenue - we passed right by our new apartment!
Waiting for the light at Atlantic, Underhill and Washington Avenues.
North and north we went, through Greenpoint and then over Newtown Creek on the Pulaski Bridge and we were in Queens - Long Island City. This is a very interesting part of the tour as it takes you along the East River with fabulous views of Manhattan on the other side.
As I'm pedalling along I hear two guys talking behind me. One guy is sayng "I told my dad that I was biking through Prospect Park and he said 'what are you crazy??'" The next thing I hear this same guy say is "Is that Matt Weinstein I see?" It turns out I've run into a friend of mine (who I met recently), Alan, and his friend, Isaac. Don't you just love living in a small town like New York?
People regularly walk from Brooklyn to Queens (and vice versa)
over the Pulaski Bridge. Even though it's another borough, to them
it's just about getting from one neighborhood to another.
The view of Manhattan is awesome. Here's Stacey and our new
friend Alan, whom we met by coincidence.
New York City is so big and so spread out that you can live there, as I have, your entire life and not know of, or ever get to see, dozens of other neighborhoods in your own borough, not to mention in the other boroughs. The wonderful thing about this bike tour is that it takes you through some gems of neighborhoods. It gives me a new respect for the variegated city that I call home and for the people that live there.
When we cross from Brooklyn into Queens we are in the manufacturing section of Long Island City. But lately it's becoming home to an influx of young people fleeing the rents of Manhattan. So there are interesting looking bars, clubs, restaurants and cafes, interspersed with the warehouses, power plants and factories of the older industrial base of this part of town. That seems to be the story of the entire eastern rim of the East River. Neighborhoods are being re-invented and renewed. The views of Manhattan are splendid; the rentals are priced somewhat lower (albeit rising) and the subway delivers you to the "city" in a matter of one or two stops.
The industrial backwash of Long Island City.
Down the street a tennis club on the East River and
views of the Empire State building in Manhattan.
A beautiful old church in the Two Coves section of Queens.
Again we're headed north, this time our destination will be the second rest area - in the shadow of the Triboro Bridge in Astoria Park. It seems to me to be one of the city's great parks; a beautiful expanse of lawn and trees on the banks of the Hell Gate, a portion of the East River with treacherous currents separating Queens from Ward's Island, an island that was used for a large state mental hospital. Hundreds of bikers are converging on this rest stop and the grass is covered with their bikes and them, lying out in the sun of this glorious day. Food and water is being dispensed again and my odometer is reading 25 miles - just 10 to go to reach the end point back in Central Park.
Bikes spread out in Astoria Park - unknown to most New Yorkers
except those that live nearby but certainly one of the city's great parks.
After a while and a rest we head off for the final leg of the tour. The route, which is given to each biker on cue sheets that lists, ad seriatim, each and every turn to be taken for all 100 miles, now takes us across the Triboro Bridge. It's nice to know that there's a bike/ped path on that many mile long crossing, but it's certainly not one of our favorite parts. Hot, noisy and narrow is how we see it. And you have to carry your bike up steps several times as you cross the bridge. Not fun after 25 miles. But once again, the views are impressive. And I guess we should be thankful that there's a path at all. Robert Moses, the car-centric highway Czar of years past, decided to prohibit bikes and walkers from many NYC bridges, a legacy that haunts us to this day.
We're taking the bridge to Randall's Island. At that juncture, some will head up to the Bronx to build up more mileage. Others, like us, will cross the East River on a little bike/ped bridge at 103rd street and connect us to the bicycle path alongside the FDR Drive. From there we head North and cross the parkway at 111th street. Then it's cross town and back to where we started some three and a half hours ago. The weather has been great - we're not very tired. Free ice cream and massages are being offered to the returning champions. It's been a very wonderful New York city day.
My point of view - in case you're interested. The odometer reads
26.83 miles covered. Just a bit more to the end.
Carrying the bikes up stairs on the Triboro Bridge.
Still in all, wonderful views of the Manhattan skyline.
We took this little footbridge across the East River and back to 103rd street in Manhattan from Randalls Island.
Back to the beginning ... 35 miles and 3½ hours later.
Where's that free ice cream?
Friday, September 03, 2004
Candlelight vigils were held around the country last night - to coincide with the Bush speech inside Madison Square Garden. President Pinnochio made his case for another four years. If you got up to get a beer from the fridge, you would have missed any discussion of jobs, health care, education and other critical issues. That was the length of time he spent talking about real problems and what he would do about it. "Check my website if you want to know more." But actions speak louder than soundbites and four years of this President have resulted in a stumbling economy with joblessness and poverty on the rise. A million more Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. There are three million more unemployed and his No Child Left Behind has left millions of kids behind with an underfunded and crumbling public school system. Never mind, that's not important. What is important according to Bush, is pursuing his glorious, God-inspired (according to him) war on Iraq.
Staten Island had its own vigil. It was called for 9 o'clock on the steps of the Borough Hall and several hundred gathered there, candles held aloft. The view of the city across the harbor was magnificent. Speaker after speaker excoriated Bush and his policies as being poison for working class Staten Islanders. The featured speaker was Frank Barbaro, who, as readers of this Blog well know, is running to defeat 3-term Republican congressman, Vito Fossella, who was quoted today mocking Bill Clinton's heart attack and impending surgery. Said Vicious Veto, "Who knows? It could be the result of a successful Republican convention." This Bush clone is as nasty and uncaring as his father-figure in the White House. All the more reason to make sure that both are ejected on November 2nd. Contributions are definitely needed (so are volunteers). Send your checks made out to Friends Of Frank Barbaro • 36 Richmond Terrace Rm 215 • Staten Island NY 10301. To volunteer call: (718) 442-4448 and ask for Ray or Mike.
Frank Barbaro with several hundred supporters on the steps of
Borough Hall in Staten Island last night.
George MacNanama of Veterans For Peace - "if you believe that Bush was telling the truth about WMD's then I have a bridge over there you can have for a couple of bucks."
Frank addressing the vigil. Blasting Bush and the Republicans.
The Staten Island Advance wrote: The main speaker of the evening was Democratic congressional candidate Frank Barbaro, who ripped the Bush administration on every front -- from the weakening economy to fewer decent jobs and higher costs for health care and prescription drugs."
"I'm here with the people and I feel safe here with the people."
If you want to read the Staten Island Advance story on the vigil just click here.
If you want to see more photos, go to my Smugmug site by clicking here.
Thursday, September 02, 2004
We took the subway back home only to head back into Manhattan again in the afternoon. We wanted to be part of a historic event: the NY Central Labor Council was calling on its members to demonstrate against the Republicans. They wanted regime change here at home because the Bush administration has shown itself a sworn enemy of labor and working people. The latest insult came this week as Bush removed regulations that guarantee overtime pay to millions of American workers.
We arrived at 8th Avenue to find it filled for blocks and blocks with members of the city's multi-national organized work force. Black, white, Latino were arm-in-arm and mad as hell at the mere mention, from the speaker's podium, of the President's name. Speaker after speaker urged them to get out the vote on November 2nd. John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, Randy Weingarten, President of the UFT and many others addressed the crowd who responded with cheers and applause. But the most impassioned speech of the day came from actor and activist, Danny Glover who said "you are the workers and you have always been the ones to lead the fight for progress in our world."
Singer-songwriter, Steve Earle and Tom Morello, The Night Watchman, sang to the throng. It was a beautiful thing to see ironworkers, janitors, nurses, teachers, musicians, firemen -- thousands and thousands of the city's laborers out in force in opposition to Bush. "Two more months!" was the chant of the day - a fitting answer to the "four more years" that has droned on inside Madison Square Garden.
Local 802 - the NY Musicians Union lines up on 8th Avenue.
The Ironworkers -- "No more Bush!"
The Communicagtion Workers of America were very spirited.
A group of the newly-merged Unite-HERE (needle trades and hotel workers unions) marching behind a Working Families Party banner on 8th Avenue.
The crowd listening to a passionate plea from Danny Glover -
You are the workers and you must fight this injustice!"
Steve Earle (l) and Tom Morello (in black) warm up the crowd with their songs.
To see more of my photos from the Labor Against Bush demonstration, visit my sight on Smugmug ... just click here.
This has been the week that was ... it's becoming a blur, an exciting blur, with so much action directed against the Republicans and their policies. To participate with so many other New Yorkers is a very rewarding experience. But if you don't participate; if you only watch TV you'd never get to know the depth, breadth and magnitude of the anger in this city. Manhattan is awash with people on the move. It's electrifying. Buttons on lapels, banners in thousands of apartment windows, cars and bikes with signs posted ... all opposing Bush. When I return to Brooklyn, snap on the TV, I'm in a different world or maybe universe. Bush is praised as a fearless and wise leader and the war a necessity that he reluctantly pursued after exhausting all possible diplomacy. Kerry, the hero, is denounced by the sissy-hawks as a coward and vacillator. The protesters - a bunch of trouble makers out of step with the American people. I don't think we're out of step at all but if we are it's only because the media, and particularly that opiate - television - has succeeded in misinforming and misleading people. That can go on for so long before reality will come crashing down on people to wake them from their lethargy. Then, watch out Mr. Bush. The anger that results from having been lied to for so long will send you packing from the White House back to your ranch in Texas.
On Wednesday morning we rose very early. We were going to be part of the "world's longest unemployment line." Some 5,000 New Yorkers had volunteered to form that line that would stretch from Wall Street all the way up Broadway to the vicininity of the Garden. Every foot or so a person with a pink slip held aloft would stand silently. Each would represent thousands of Americans who are suffering unemployment - the vicitim of three years of steadily increasing joblessness the result of jobs being shipped abroard shaped by the policies of an Administration whose guiding principle is the bottom line of the corporations.
These then are the questions that are not being discussed at the RNC. It's only terror, terror and terror - The Bush reelection plan for unending wars that will drain our treasury, kill our working class youth, while joblessness reaches higher and higher levels, health care goes unheeded, our children left behind while the public school system is slashed and poverty climbs to the highest levels since the Great Depression.
Here are a few photos I took at various actions over the last few days. You can see more at my photo sight on Smugmug. Just follow the links below.
The world's longest unemployment line --
Five thousand New Yorkers lined up Broadway from Wall Street
up to the 30's. Each held a pink slip to symbolize the millions of
Americans who cannot find a job.
It was a very dramatic scene. For 15 minutes we stood silently,
pink slips overhead, facing north to the Garden where the Billionaire
Party was holding its celebration.
This is the flyer that was held aloft and distributed to people who
passed by on Broadway.
Someone had a cute addition for the subway entrance at Broadway and 8th Street.
If you want to see more photos of the Unemployment demonstration just click here.
After the pink slip action on Broadway we walked up to the Union Square Greenmarket. As we came to Union Square we came upon a very dramatic sight - a thousand pairs of army boots had been laid out representing the young people who have given their lives in Iraq and the 10,000 Iraqis who have died, victims of the U.S. occupation there.
A very dramatic demonstration in Union Square.
Soldiers' shoes laid out in Union Square.
A son, a husband, a father?