Monthly Archives: June 2011

Summer on the High Line

Built in the 1930’s and used until 1980, this elevated freight line ran up the West Side from the Meatpacking District.  Abandoned through the 80’s and 90’s, wild plants and grasses took root up here and it became the (illegal) haunt of graffiti artists and urban adventurers.  There were always rumors about the best ways to evade security and sneak up here.

Towards the 2000’s, the city started to move to tear it down, but thanks to the efforts of community groups like “Friends of the High Line”, it was instead turned into a city park.







For more check out:


Today, June 24, is La Fête nationale du Québec .    This is for a place and culture I love very much:


Old Montréal is a glorious architectural melange.  Ruins of the 17th century Ville-Marie colony mingle with the stone walls, baroque churches and houses of the 18th century mingle with the warehouses and pantheonic bankhouses of the early industrial era.  Punctuated throughout, especially further from the river, are the Art Deco office blocks and modernist towers of the 20th century.

July 2, 2005

Much like in Lower Manhattan, Old San Juan, Boston, New Orleans, and other colonial centers, the streets here still adhere to their original narrow, meandering, and twisted natures.

Every colony of the new world was unique- isolated outposts on the fringes of the European world-  each adapting in their own ways to these alien lands.  Today, they remain unique.

If Boston and Baltimore are red brick and New Orleans and San Juan are bright pastel color, Montreal is grey stone.   And if New England and Philadelphia could be said on basic levels to have been founded on Puritanism and its relatives, and New York and New Orleans on commerce and trade, Montreal might be said to have, at its very basic roots, a mixture of Catholicism and business.

Like any other city, it grew up and took on many different shades and forms in its course, while always feeling the echos of its origins.

History in Montréal is felt strongly and with pride –  and I always love that in a place.


March, 2010

Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal

July 2, 2005

Notre-Dame de-Bon-Secours, Montreal

April 1, 2010

L'Homme by Alexander Calder - Parc Jean-Drapeau Île Sainte-Hélène


Runes of Ft. Tilden

Ft. Tilden runes

Ft. Tilden runes


The ruins of Ft. Tilden, near the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, are covered in tons of graffiti of varying quality.  Some of the more intriguing pieces are runes- some covering the entire interiors of decaying barracks and warehouses.

On closer inspection, the characters at the beginning of this picture merely follow the rune “alphabet”.  The meaning of what’s written on the rest of the wall, however, is a mystery.


In trying to find out more, I came upon some rather surprising findings.


Not too much info about this graffiti is out there, but a search turned up these two articles which connect graffiti runes in New York City to neo-Nazi sentiment and Guido von List , whose ideology influenced occult Nazism in the ’30’s and ’40’s:

Both articles date from 2009- it appears that the exact origin of these is still unknown. I couldn’t find a whole lot on neo-Nazism in NYC, but it surely exists.


Of course, this sort of usage is only a very tiny facet of people’s interest in runes- Without knowing what this particular example is saying, who knows?

Random Holga pic

New Paltz Holga Eye

Taken with my Holga

bike messengers are on crack.

These guys are  surely kicking it up a notch for the camera, but still…   It takes a special sort of person to work in this profession.

The Iron Triangle of Queens – Willets Point

    Willets Point, aka The Iron Triangle, is a shadow-neighborhood, on the fringes of NYC, and even civilization. 

Bound by railroads, freeways, and the Flushing River and Bay, it is a hard place to get to.  There is a strange world here- entirely dedicated to auto work and scrap metal.  There are no sidewalks here, the streets are barely paved, huge puddles abound,  and no normal rules of traffic apply.  No one has a home here, and there are no stores or any kind.  Mechanical work is happening everywhere- in the garages and even in the streets themselves.
Cars come to Willets Point to be resurrected- like the pristine BMW’s and Mercedes being driven back out to more genteel surroundings.

Or- cars come to Willets Point to die, as seen by the overturned chassis strewn about, and the massive mound of scrap metal.

This is the ash heap of The Great Gatsby, traversed by Nick Carraway on his trips from West Egg to Manhattan….

What is most amazing about Willets Point is its location right next to Citi Field, and a stone’s throw away from the U.S. Tennis Open.    Being such a wasteland in such close proximity to places with such national and international profile puts the neighborhood in constant peril-

San Francisco and the West Coast Spirit

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

This is a fairly NY-centric way to begin-

With its concentration and depth of soul and history, San Francisco strikes me as something of a New York of the West. In many ways, SF is what NY once was; and in many ways, SF is what NY has always wanted to be-
It’s a port town and the port spirit here survives- whereas NY’s has passed on-  perhaps this is because San Francisco was still on the free-wheeling frontier long after New York had become dominated by finance and status.

This metropolis on the edge of a wild continent was still a tabula rasa long after the East had become staid.   Like the Europeans seeking all sorts of freedom in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, California was settled by American Easterners, seeking freedoms of their own- whether in  the form of the  ’49ers coming for Sutter Mill gold or the counter-culture which gathered in the 1960’s or the Okies fleeing the Dust Bowl.
A beginning anew that permeates California ..

…The reward here for having the courage to strike out across this wild continent according to one’s own instincts and nature is a forgiving climate, a wealth of stunning landscape, a generous generous sky, the bounty of earth and ocean, and most of all, the understanding amongst everyone that all is reasonably possible and acceptable.

… But –   the price for having this understanding is an unstable geology, a precarious dependence on water, unforgiving flames, rolling blackouts, millions bent on distraction, and the general bloating of the american dream.

Presenting the Golden Gate

If one walks west from Fisherman’s Wharf along the hilly bike path, one is greeted with a curving vista of the city, bay and the unfathomably clean and rich sky.  The air, ocean, mountains, and city all co-mingle here in a such a way that you can never be sure which is the most dominantly striking feature.

At one moment the steely blue shine of the water catches the eye, and then the very next moment, it’s the clouds.  And then you notice the mountains in the distance, and suddenly realize that the clouds are actually squeezing through the mountains.   And just when you settle into thinking about the natural wonders, the Bridge comes into view, half-enshrouded by the fog, its towers ethereal, its red arc a rainbow of steel vaulting across the Golden Gate.  Finally, turning around, you catch the city, with its houses perched on impossible hills and its universe of humanity.
This is a very rich place.

Russian Hill from St. Peter and Paul Church

Russian Hill from St. Peter and Paul Church


A mecca for Belgian beer enthusiasts the world over-

Achel and St. Feuillien at Kulminator

Achel and St. Feuillien at Kulminator

Kulminator is special.

The owners have been collecting beer for 30 years and counting, and this place is truly a labor of love.

The menu is a three-ring Binder.   Any bar-hardened beer lover has seen many an extensive beer list, some obscenely long-  but it’s rare to see one quite so abundant and intricate as this one.  In a country filled with thousands of brews and millions of dedicated followers, this is home base.

Some bars might stop there, but not so with Kulminator.   Its atmosphere is as welcoming as its drink- dark and cozy, comfortably cramped, and cluttered with decades of memories.  The owners preside over people playing chess or cards, chatting with family, fussing over the cute little house-cat, and lounging in a spirit of gentle conviviality…   Every half-hour, an ancient coo-coo clock comes alive, momentarily giving pause to the room with its rare but somehow familiar sound.

Kulminator interior


There is more.  Including a few magical secrets, which will not be divulged here….

If you’re more than a cursory fan of beer and anywhere near Antwerp, this is a must.

Contrails over the West Side- as seen in Gothamist

Gothamist picked up my pic the other day-

Midtown Liquor Dusk

as seen in Gothamist