Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Abandoned in Hawthorne, NY

Here’s a few pictures of why I love my train station.

I took these pictures on August 26, 2010.

They are more evidence of why this corner of the Hawthorne, the area around the train station, needs more than a $50000 clock and a tiny flower bed to become attractive.

These trucks have been parked for several months without being moved. One has no license plates, the other has one, on the front, but hard to see.

It was inevitable that they would be vandalized - they are parked immediately adjoining an overpass with a path underneath that is used by some folk to just walk back and forth to the train station from a parking lot on the other side, but also by others who mark up the wall of the underpass, break bottles, and I don't know what else because I'm not there when they are. I only see the results.

At least one person I'm friendly, who parks in the Sunset Lot, told me that she is so nervous about walking back to her car at night alone that she has her husband pick her up. Is this what we want Hawthorne to be? It doesn't help that as you emerge into the parking lot from under the overpass, on the track side of the fence, there's a multi-year accumulation of plastic bottles and containers, nor that it took MetroNorth several months to get around to replacing the fence after it fell during a storm this winter.

Anyway, it was the unveiling of the clock that made me finally complain about these trucks and the other issues. If the Town of Mount Pleasant is serious about making the area around the station more attractive, this is an urgent action item, indeed.

Also in need of clean up is the lot behind 375 Elwood Ave., where the dumpster reeks during the summer and the weeds sometimes are allowed to grow rather high.

There are other eyesores along the way, but I don't want to be completely negative. The area behind the rooming house on Elwood, where a tree service parks its vehicles, isn't beautiful but it is kept tidy and clean bottles. Along the same lines, the new cab company's vehicles are nice and the drivers are friendly, polite and well dressed. The new bike rack is a good thing, though I would be happier if the person who locks a scooter to it made sure not to block part of the pedestrian walk. The liquor store on Elwood is attractive, and I hope the new businesses on the east side of Elwood succeed.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hawthorne, NY Gets a Clock or What do the Tin Man and Hawthorne, NY Have in Common?

The Clock
Question: What do the Tin Man from "The Wizard of Oz" and Hawthorne, NY have in common?

Answer: Neither have a heart and both have timepieces. 

The Wizard of Oz gave the Tin Man  a pocket watch to wear inside his chest and Hawthorne now has a four sided clock to remind anyone who cares that Hawthorne is a place name without being much of a place. With the aid of a $10000.00 grant and considerable fund raising, the scraggly strip of grass between the Hawthorne MetroNorth station, a place so lacking in beauty as to offer a unique aesthetic to the world, and Elwood Ave now has a green and white monstrosity. For all of its retro-appeal, the effort to get it reminded me of the Simpson's episode in which the town of Springfield railroads itself into getting a monorail. In the end, the clock will be just as useful.

 I won’t complain about the effort to beautify Hawthorne or the station. I commute in and out of there more than 200 times every year, and have been doing so for more than a decade. I think about how ugly it is from time to time, and how the combination of zoning and inattention has allowed the area to exemplify suburban blight. There are mornings when I think to myself as I walk on the path along the east side of the tracks, past dumpsters reeking of rotten garbage, seemingly abandoned trucks under the RT. 141 overpass, the line of vans loaded with ladders that almost reach the path, the cherry pickers, the rutted mud, how it’s an eyesore – and the nose isn’t happy either – ugly enough to exemplify an aesthetic of unpleasantness.

The platform and the station's structure are perfectly utilitarian, brutally so. The concrete stairs encased in aluminum and Plexiglas, leading to the bridge over the track, cold in winter, hot in summer, and often stinking of urine, might seem beautiful to a person with defective vision or a perverse sense of beauty. When it stinks of urine, as it sometimes does, I say to myself that the person who left that scent wasn’t doing out of necessity but out of protest.

Looking around the surroundings, one is confronted by the need to put these businesses somewhere, so put them next to the tracks. On the west side of the station is rear of several light-industrial sites. One of them, a National Environmental Specialists, 
replaced a dilapidated storage barn with a large cinder block building which conveniently blocks much of the more pleasant view of the steeple and churchyard on the far side of Broadway and the woods and hills beyond with a grey, windowless wall and white, gable-ended roof - now decorated with a sign for the Smith's Dance School, "where the fun never sets." The yard where trucks pull in and out all morning has a series of bins backed up to the fence along the tracks, filled with gravel, mulch, sand and soil. It is a pleasant view indeed, and many mornings the little boy in me takes pleasure in watching trucks get filled with their loads.

To the south of this delightful garden spot is a fuel depot. In the evening this spot is filled with Boar's Head Provisions trucks all in a row, their red, black and gold exteriors all shiny and clean, just like the shiny, clean exterior of the brand new, green clock.

Yes, the west side of the station is immune to any sort of visual clean-up so let's see what can be done to the east.

There was a definite improvement during the weeks following the displacement of the New Town Taxi company. The people who ran the business were friendly enough, but they were incredibly dirty. They smoked, and except when it had an A.C. in it, they dumped their cigarettes out the window of their office onto the path between the station building and the tracks. The had a remarkable mix of broken down and worn out furniture in their waiting room, and during the hot months, they'd move some of it out onto the walkway in front of their entrance.

Their cars were interesting, to say the least, and so were their drivers. They made the motley crew that Danny Devito ruled in the old TV show seem humdrum. The cars were beaten up and run down. They leaked a variety of fluids in their parking spaces, and the owner of the company didn't mind changing tires, oil, or other parts right there, and leaving the old parts lying around for a while.

They are gone now, and left behind is the empty hull of a building that wasn't much to look at before it was made into something to avoid looking at. There's some talk about restoring it, and putting a business in there. In my opinion, we'd be better served by having it torn down and replaced with a weather resistant waiting area.

The parking lot is a crescent of asphalt and cars. It is impossible to improve, and impossible to make much worse. If you want to improve the station, close those spots and make the whole thing a little plaza. It ain't going to happen.

Elwood Avenue by the train station is ugly. That's all that can be said for it.  An empty restaurant, low buildings with nothing visually pleasing about  them, parking lots, retaining walls, cyclone fencing - once more, it's suburban blight at its best. The best things around the station, Gordo's bar/restaurant, a pleasant little liquor store, the deli, are mostly visually unappealing.

So sure, let's beautify the station with a band-aid of a clock and a few black-eyed-susans. Let's make sure there are some mostly inaccessible benches for residents to relax on during a warm summer afternoon, watching the cars and trucks going by on Elwood Avenue, the line of SUVs in the parking lot every half hour or so, waiting to pick up arriving commuters. 
The truth is, I don't know what can be done to make the Hawthorne, NY MetroNorth train station and its surroundings more beautiful. I don't know if anything can be done. It's a clumsy and confused spot, confined between a steep hill and the Saw Mill River Parkway, with the streets that border the station a complete mess. But putting up that clock is a perfect example of wasting money on a fruitless and not particularly attractive gesture.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Frisbee Golf in Fertile!

Farm road outside Fertile, MN

The headline for this week's Fertile Journal read Frisbee Golf in Fertile?

I was going to laugh, and maybe I did, but seriously, in Fertile MN, Frisbee golf could be a big deal.

The two times I've been to Fertile, I discovered that in their politeness, the locals tend to describe someone who is outside the range they consider normal to be "interesting." I asked if I was interesting and was told that since I was from NYC, I was automatically interesting.

Frisbee golf, played at the Agassiz Enviornmental Learning Center, on the fringe of the Sand Hills - ask me about them sometime - would, I think, be inherently interesting. I expect that matches would not be the occasion for tragedy or feuds but rather the building of community spirit, if not the consumption of spirits.

Street Scene, Fertile, MN
Anyway, I'd hope that a Frisbee golf tournament would bring out the crowds and get some people onto the streets for some post-tournament celebrating and carousing. The article in the Journal suggested as many as 400 might participate, and that's easily 45% of the population.

Notice all the action on Mill Street on a Saturday morning. Frisbee golf, for all any of us know, might change this.  That's the Fertile Journal office two doors down on the left.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Unbearables Big Book of Sex at FusionArts part two

[click on the pictures to make them bigger.
right click and note the options to open in a new tab or window]

It was a NYC winter's evening: cold and humid, yet the streets of lower Manhattan still echoed with the sounds of late winter partygoers, and the FusionArts gallery was filled with people come to hear the readers and view the art.
Tsaurah Litzky

Some of the readers were outrageous in their histrionics, their subject arousing them to heights of demonstration. Others wherefore subdued, as if the personal nature of their writing left them shy, even reticent, about the things revealed.
Carl Watson eventually took off the hat


Jim Fleming





Leonard Abrams and Carl Watson





Ron Kolm







Shalom Neuman

I would've shaken this guys hand and congratulated on him doing the best he could with that complexion, but he stood there in silence, gaping at me instead.

I've identified the people in these photos to the best of my ability. If you want to help, post a comment and I'll update the captions.

It was a good and pleasant time.

The Unbearables Big Book of Sex at FusionArts part one




What do I know about the Unbearables? Not much, but the more I think of the name of this loose assembly of writers and artists, the more I think of the essential unbearablity of life and how the arts, music and literature lift some of that burden. Maybe, after a good read, or time spent contemplating a work of art, life becomes a few ounces lighter.

Last January 31, 2010, a Saturday night, I attended a reading by Unbearables at the FusionArts Gallery on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. There was a nice crowd there, and the reading was raucous, in part because of the subject - sex in many of its varieties - and partly because there was a lot of energy in the gallery.

I took photos and then forgot about them. I was busy with getting the last pages of the novel I was writing finished, and then I was revising it. I wasn't taking as many photos and I wasn't thinking about them either. Maybe I even felt a little guilty not sharing them.

Enough time has passed and they've matured, sitting there, in the digital vault. I've taken them out, examined them, discarded the utterly useless, hidden the uglier ones and chosen these for anyone to enjoy or revile. I hope nobody is offended by them - I find them thoroughly inoffensive - and if you are, please go away and deal with your problem somewhere else.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Ron Kolm



Bob Holmon of the Bowery Poetry Club


audience
If you think I know who all these people are, you are wrong. I'll label the ones I know, but honestly, does it really matter?





Jim Feast


Jim Feast

Tsaurah Litzky - a demonstrative reader, indeed.

Tom Savage - he read too

Shalom Neuman held temporarily hostage by Jim Feast

Bonny Finberg




Tom Savage competing for attention with the installation



Shalom Neuman

Carl Watson

Leonard Abrams








Catherine Sand

In the background, Ron Kolm and Jim Feast. In the middle, a woman either captivated or terrorized by the goings on around her. You decide.
Thanks to Ron Kolm for helping me identify people in the pictures. If you recognize someone and want to help me, post a comment and I'll caption the photos.
If you made it this far, thanks. I'll post the more tomorrow.
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