Henry Miller is not only one of the greatest writers Brooklyn ever produced, but also a chronicler of the now vanished North Brooklyn before the building of the Williamsburg Bridge in 1903. Honestly, there are times when I do not like Miller’s writing: it can be macho, self-obsessed, vain and highly egotistical, but when writing about old Williamsburg he approaches literary genius.
In 1971, the New York Times (PDF) invited the then 80-year-old Miller back to Williamsburg to recollect on his childhood. Though he had been away for five decades, Miller had a crystal clear memory, recalling many fascinating stories from that vanished world of his childhood. Miller was born of German-American parents in Manhattan in 1891, but moved to the area as an infant, living at 662 Driggs Avenue, a house that still stands.
His fondest memories, which occupy much of his writing, concern his boyhood friends from the neighborhood. He said, “As I walked the streets the names of my boyhood companions, or better said, my idols, came back to me: Johnny Paul, Eddie Carney, Lester Reardon, Jimmy Short, Tim Buckley; Matt Owen, Gus Fowler, and last but not least, my first real chum, Stanley Borowski. With Stanley I maintained a friendship until I left for France in 1930. Like myself, he wanted to be a writer; I doubt that he ever made it however.”
Reading Miller’s writings, the neighborhood comes into focus through the eyes of a mischievous young lad who would later be censored by the United States Post Office for his shocking prose. Miller recalled first being rebuked for his language at the police station at Bedford Avenue where he was dragged by the arm one afternoon by a babysitter at the age of 6 or 7 years old; the crime he had committed was to use dirty language in her presence – the first of many times Miller would shock people with his language.
Miller’s writing later shocked another, more prominent Williamsburger, Presbyterian Minister John D. Wells. Today John D. Wells Middle School on S. 3rd St. is named for the preacher Miller knew as a child. He recalled, “Later, on some crazy impulse, I sent this rather pompous and aristocratic minister one of my first pieces of writing from Paris. He replied that he had thrown it in the garbage can; he wondered, he said, how one of ‘his boys’ could ever have conceived such filth.” At 7 years of age, Wells had presented Miller with a handsome little New Testament, his name inscribed in gold letters, for reciting by heart the 23rd Psalm. Continue reading →
Mayor de Blasio proposed a fantastic idea last week– to host the next Democratic Convention in where else, but the hippest fucking place in America. Yes, I’m talking about Billy’s (and our) home borough.
The spot where the convention is proposed to be held is none other than the glossy monolith that signals shiny new Brooklyn, the Barclays Center.
The NY Times, which always likes to make sweeping generalizations about youth culture, called Brooklyn “a cradle of the resurgent left that has morphed from a symbol of the working class into a gritty, global arbiter of cool.”
Where not sure what “coolness” has to do with the DNC, but there are a hell of a lot of liberals here, perhaps too many, as some have suggested. The location would be a departure from holding the convention in swing states like Florida and Colorado. Madison Square Garden has hosted 4 Democratic conventions and one Republican one, but this would be the first time that the major political event would be held in an outer borough, if selected. Continue reading →
We found out over the weekend that John McGillion, the owner of Lulu’s, is suing his landlord, Guard General Merchandise Corp, for not allowing him to turn the establishment into a gay bar. McGillion told the Post that gay-ifying the bar would boost his customer base and raise profits, allowing him to survive in the now quite competitive Greenpoint nightlife market.
But apparently the lease has a specific homophobic clause forbidding this: “The leased Premises shall be used by Tenant as a restaurant and bar. It shall not be used for adult entertainment and shall not be operated as a gay or lesbian bar and/or restaurant.” Just the grouping of “adult entertainment” and “gay bar” is ridiculous/offensive, but so is including this level of discrimination in a legal document. What if the lease prohibited the bar from catering to blacks or Jews? Imagine that outrage that would cause. Continue reading →
Building owners are cheating the system by advertising “affordable” housing on obscure government websites that no one can actually find. And the online applications are only in English, making it more difficult for non-native speakers. The most recent case is at 59 Orient Ave in Williamsburg, the past home of the Kate Winslet’s character in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind (random trivia fact to keep in your back pocket). (The Brooklyn Paper)
A guy in Williamsburg built a 1600 sq foot home out of shipping containers and other found materials at 351 Keap Street. Another shipping container condo building, albeit a fancier “luxury” one is being assembled at 2 Monitor St. (NY Times)
Would you drop $2 million for this “fisherman style” townhouse? (Curbed)
Your music’s swell and we know how much you enjoy a good cup o’ joe (yes, we did watch a feature-length documentary all about how f-ing cool you are and we liked it despite ourselves). But, listen James (can we call you Jimmy?), did you check the price tag on your own specialty coffee blend? It might not seem like a lot to you, seeing as how you sell out Madison Square Garden in like .5 seconds, but $26 is ABSURDLY overpriced for a bag of of coffee. Anyone who spends that much on coffee doesn’t understand how commerce works and frankly, should retreat to their penthouse with a french press. Continue reading →
Oh New York Times Style Section, how you love to make generalizing statements about this mysterious land called Williamsburg, a mystical place where millennials and yuppies hold hands and dance on sparkling rainbows made of trust funds and artisanal cheese, where mustachio-d baristas mate with mixologists in industrial condos purchased with their parent’s pocket change.
First you dress up a reporter (a self-described “middle-aged avowed Manhattanite”) in plaid and send him to purchase a $225 t-shirt and ride a fixed gear bicycle in search of the real Williamsburg experience (so real). Now you inform us that Grand Street is the Williamsburg equivalent of the Mason-Dixon line, cleaving the neighborhood into two: a sleek, moneyed “North Williamsburg” and a gritty, hyper-authentic “South Williamsburg.
Do you continue to publish these articles just to capitalize on the web traffic generated by people googling the word “Williamsburg”?
I love go-to recipes that are as easy as cutting out them of the newspaper. Growing up we always ate NY Times Stew, which was a stew recipe my Grandfather found in the 60s, which is still a weekly Sunday dinner item my Mom makes. Recently I came across this NY Times Southwest Sweet Potato Salad recipe and it’s now in the weekly meal rotation.
Any great recipe can be made with substitutions. It would be too complicated explain why, but we had 50lb of brussels sprouts and carrots that we were inventing ways to eat before they rotted. Instead of using roasted sweet potatoes in this recipe, I substituted roasted brussels sprouts and carrots and it was just as good, if not better! This is a salad that is hearty and you don’t get bored in the middle of eating it. Plus it is so easy to make!
Southwest Carrot & Brussels Sprouts Salad
Roast a bunch of carrots & brussels sprouts (or peeled sweet potatoes) in a pan coated in olive oil, salt and pepper at 425 degrees until tender. Set aside to cool.
Chop a red onion, a red pepper and a bunch of cilantro.
In a blender combine a few jalapeños, 1-2 limes, a few garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
In a big bowl combine the chopped red onions, red peppers, cilantro and roasted brussels sprouts and carrots, along with a can of drained black beans.