Monday, September 29, 2008

Coney Island Texas Lunch?

Fabulous small business signage from crumbling Scranton, PA, the boyhood home of future vice president Joe Biden. Ya gotta wonder, though, “Coney Island Texas Lunch”? Scranton is rumored to become a bedroom community of Hoboken, NJ, which is across the river from Manhattan.
Plans are afoot (or they were before the financial meltdown) to build a high speed train between Hoboken and Scranton.

The city is an old world beauty, full of gorgeous pre WW2 architecture, gorgeous Gothic churches, a university campus, and all these terrific small businesses.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ocean Grove, NJ 1950

Charley and Ben. No doubt, delivery men of some sort. Mail carriers maybe? Milkmen? Must be cold outside by the looks of Ben's scarf. Taken in an old diner in Ocean Grove, NJ. A pic of a pic. A seaside town with history.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Pearl Street Ghosts

Witness a survivor. This lone facade at 211 Pearl Street in the Financial District was declared landmark status last year, after a long battle. The New Yorker and other publications chronicled the building's unusual tale: built circa 1840, it passed through various hands and businesses, was rumoured to be the birthplace of Herman Melville, and when its destruction was eminent, a weird, seemingly occult symbol was found buried in a load bearing wall. No one knew what the oblong shaped triangle meant, and each of its side was inlaid with a different material. Anyway, it was found that the developers were using state grant money to destroy, then rebuild the site, and was thus 211 deserved local review: landmark status. But only for the facade! So now when you walk down Pearl Street you see this ancient facade tacked to the front of yet another sparkling, faceless, soulless, Financial District behemoth. No one ever did figure out the meaning of the symbol, however.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Somewhere...Upper East Side

Hey, I can't be slumming all the time in my GV hood!

Eliane adds: "I spy Tudor City with its little park... I spy the UN... I spy the East River... I spy Rossevelt Island... I spy the Queensboro Bridge?... I spy Queens..."

Music Madness since 1958

The Music Inn, located at 169 West 4th between 6th and 7th Avenues, is another Village institution, though to the casual passerby the place is an unknown oddity. Presenting a classic Village façade to the busy street outside, the Music Inn is chock full of musical instruments taken from the world over. Filled to the rafters with zithers, sitars, balalaikas, horns, keyboards, dilubas, bells, guitars, mandolins, gongs, hand drums, keyboards, various stringed and hundreds of rare, unique and unclassifiable instruments, the Music Inn has been in business since 1958. (the Music Inn was featured in an episode of the Naked City, starring Alan Arkin)

Owner Jeff is an old school, warm hearted kind of guy who has seen every era of Village change, from the ‘60s folk music boom to the ‘70s disco plunge to today’s gentrification rage. Back in the early '60s, Bob Dylan lived a few doors down at 161 West 4th, and was a regular patron, buying harmonicas and “100s of records,” Jeff recalls. Today, Jeff’s vinyl LPs (10,000 and counting) fill The Music Inn’s basement, though his stock is currently off limits while he tidies up the downstairs.

Jeff employs five workers, though he could obviously handle the place himself. He enjoys having them around; one employee has even created the Music Inn comic book series, featuring Jeff and his son. Jeff is working on the latest comic himself, concocting a story where George Carlin hangs with George Bush. Yea!

The Music Inn doesn’t have a website yet, but Jeff is working on it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Along the Hudson

Something Special

Lenny Cecere runs a Greenwich Village institution called Something Special. Here, amid the bric-a-brac, percolating coffee and candy for sale, the 82-year old Matt Lauer look-alike rents mailboxes, performs notary services and distributes sage wisdom and sly humor to the many folks who use Something Special as both local watering (or caffeine) hole and hangout. The store sits on the street level floor of Lenny's landmark-designated building (at Houston and MacDougal), and is popular among SoHo's rich and famous who regard Lenny's mailboxes as their personal address away from home. The Beastie Boys, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, Patti Smith, Famke Janssen and other showbiz notables can regularly be seen picking up their mail at Lenny's. Sarah Jessica Parker even served coffee in years past when her schedule in the city was less than sexy. A typical day at Something Special finds Lenny holding court and serving coffee as fellow seniors -- like 'Philly' DeCicco and his brother Jimmy, who in the '70s were on a first name basis with Sullivan Street mobster Vinnie 'The Chin' Gigante and Frank Sinatra -- shoot the breeze, argue about the Mets and Yankees or pass a summer day watching the endless people parade that courses down Houston Street.

After completing his army tour of duty in '45 and marrying Lucy Iannattone, Lenny trained at RCA's school for radio electronics at West 4th and 8th Avenue. He worked for Kodak as an electronics and machine maintenance technician for some 25 years during which time he began collecting radios. One day Lenny surprised me with a beautiful old Zenith tube radio from the '50s. Returning from the basement he unearthed more goodies: a crusty 1970s era Audiovox AM/FM tabletop, a nondescript '80s shortwave, a nifty looking RCA solid state and a truly space-age low profile WestClox model. All of Lenny's radios work wonderfully, you can almost hear broadcasts from decades past emitting from their ancient facades. Lenny still holds court, so when you visit the Village, walk down to 51 MacDougal.

Monday, September 22, 2008

At Lincoln Center

The subway entrance to Lincoln Center at 66th Street is covered in these cool inlaid murals. I think they represent characters from particular operas, but not sure. Do you recognize either of these two? Calling all opera fans!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Bea the Wonder Dog

I take weekends in Princeton, home of Bea the wonder pup. Here she is, tugging at my girlfriend's hair...

Friday, September 19, 2008

Last of the HoJo's

To those under 30, heck, to those under 25, "Howard Johnsons" means nothing. Howard Johnson's was one of the first national hotel chains, and their calling card -- yummy ice cream -- assured familes of a good time even if they were only pulling off the road for a meal. HoJo's bright orange facades could be seen on Main Street as well as along state highways (we're talking pre-Interstate). The Times Square HoJo's closed in '04, I think. On its final day they were even selling the menus. I love the bold neon, the whacky 70s era floor tile, and the 40s era art deco styled "Howard Johnson's" entrance tile. By the time this HoJo's closed the food was horrible and crackheads and hookers held court in the bathrooms, but it still looked magnificent to me.
70s green and orange!

Like so much in old New York these days, the party' s over...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


As first noted at Brooks of Sheffield's Lost City, the beautiful Long Island Restaurant in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, has closed. For how long nobody knows. The old Brooklyn diner/bar has a wondeful back story, three generations of one family running the place forever, until the family's grand dame passed away last year. I visited LI Restaurant years ago and spoke with this marvelous lady, who served me beer ina '50s-era glass. Entering LI Restaurant was like time travel, the mahagony bar perfectly polished, lace curtains in the window, ham and cheese sandwiches served on white bread with chips. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Fix your TV lady?

Remember TV repair shops? Remember big tube television sets? How bout transistor radios? VCRs? Portable TVs? This old place in Brooklyn Heights has seen better days, even though their sign still looks new. G&D? Gone & Departed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Coming soon to a country near you?

Wall Street's greed, corruption and stupidity has screwed the U.S., let's hope the world doesn't deflate from the shock..

Monday, September 15, 2008

war war war!

Revolutionary war enactment and the ladies who lunched in Princeton NJ

Laurie thought these ladies look melancholy. Perhaps their sons and husbands are making them do this?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Englishman on MacDougal

An Englishman In New York is currently being filmed on my charming block, and stars John Hurt as Quentin Crisp. Cynthia Nixon and Swoosie Kurtz too!  Enjoy these '70s era cars being used in the film.  Ahhh, the Kodak moments.         

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Tribute or chance to party?

From moving tribute...

To Star Trek sci-fi surreal scape

to a swell champagne party for those well heeled suits with passes…see the tents on the left?