Sunday, May 31, 2009

"Reinventing the Rodent" Underground Rat-Themed Art Opening in the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel

On May 16th, which happened to be my birthday, my girlfriend and I went to an underground art opening for the rat-themed "Reinventing the Rodent" art show. The Show was literally underground, as it was inside the long-lost Atlatic Avenue Tunnel. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel is the world's oldest subway tunnel, which many New Yorkers don't even known is right below their feet under the streets of downtown Brooklyn.

The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel (aka the Cobble Hill Tunnel) was built in 1844 by the Long Island Rail Road to relieve congestion in downtown Brooklyn. It is 17 feet high, 21 feet wide and a half-mile long. The Atlantic Avenue Tunnel was built in just seven months using only hand tools and primitive equipment. It accommodated two standard gauge tracks.

In 1861 the tunnel was ordered to be filled-in due to a ban on railroad locomotives within the city limits of Brooklyn, however both ends were merely capped. Over the next century the tunnel became a thing of urban legend and folklore, filled with German bomb-making terrorists during World War One, bootleggers and mushroom farmers in the roaring 20's and the bodies of mob hits in the 1940's. In the late 70's Flatbush resident Bob Diamond heard rumors about it's existance on a radio show, and became captivated. He made it his mission to locate the tunnel, and through years of research and physical work, he found the long-lost tunnel in 1980.

The Brooklyn Historic Railway Association (BHRA) was formed in 1982 to restore the historic Atlantic Avenue Tunnel. In 1989 the BHRA successfully filed and received offical designation for the tunnel on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today the BHRA continues to maintain the tunnel, as well as conduct tours and special events such as the "Reinventing the Rodent" Art Show.

"Reinventing the Rodent" featured tons of really cool New York based artists including Jessica Murphy, Nicole Murphy and Ian Nettleton, as well as "Rat Poison" wine, snacks and records spun by DJ Birthmark.

All in all it was the perfect way to kick off my 40th birthday, and honestly a once in a lifetime experience. What better way to look at rat-themed art than in an old abandonded subway tunnel below the streets of New York? And we were smart to listen to the promoters of the event and bring flashlights, because at one point the generator went out and it was pitch black down there. My girlfriend Liberte made some joke about The Descent and we could hear nervous laughter coming from the dark.

The second person to go down the hole is my girlfriend Liberte (in the Batman teeshirt).

Video I took down in the tunnel.

More Video from down in the tunnel.

More about the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel tours from Brooklyn Independant Television's "Neighborhood Beat."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

East Village/LES Community Gardens and Parks Spring 2009

This is a slideshow of pictures I took while job hunting on the Lower East Side. I kind of got sidetracked by all the community gardens and parks in the East Village and Lower East Side. Unfortunately the 6th and B Garden was closed, but I got some great pictures in my favorite garden, the 9th Street Community Garden.

I also took a 360 degree video inside the 9th Street Community Garden (below).

The cool latin music was not added by me, that's what the people who were working on their gardens were listening to.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Video from BK Botanic Garden Sakura Matsuri. May 2, 2009

Koi fish in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during Sakura Matsuri. May 2nd, 2009.

Duck grroming himself by the Koi Pond in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden during Sakura Matsuri. May 2nd, 2009.

Kagero- Japanese Gypsy Rock at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Sakura Matsuri. May 2nd, 2009.

Bushido: Soul of the Samurai at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Sakura Matsuri. May 2nd, 2009.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Sakura Matsuri Slideshow May 2, 2009

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sakura Matsuri in New York City 2009

From late March/early April to early May in New York City is cherry blossom season. What better way to herald the birth of spring than a shower of tiny pink petals falling softly like snowflakes from a sea of cherry trees?

While the Cherry Blossom Festivals in both Brooklyn and Queens are already over, there's still at least a week left of prime cherry blossom viewing, also known as hanami, a centuries-old Japanese custom. Hanami is a springtime tradition that involves picnicking under the beautiful pink canopies of cherry trees. It is a time for celebration, as well as contemplation of life's beauty and transience.

Cherry Blossom Festivals, or Sakura Matsuri are becoming more prevelent in the U.S., with several in New York City alone. In recent years, these festivals have become popular celebrations of Japanese culture with performances of both traditional and modern Japanese music, Taiko drumming, folk dancing, martial arts workshops, cosplay contests, kimono shows and tea ceromonies.

April 25th was the 5th annual Sakura Matsuri at Flushing Meadow Park in Queens and May 2nd and 3rd was the 28th annual Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I missed the Sakura Matsuri in Flushing Meadow Park, but I was able to check out the first day of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's Cherry Blossom Festival. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden houses the largest and most varied collection of cherry trees outside of Japan, with 42 different varieties. The annual Cherry Blossom Festival draws hundreds of thousands of people who come to enjoy a weekend of Japanese art and culture.

I would highly recomend checking out the cherry blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In addition to the trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and Flushing Meadow Park in Queens, there's also Sakura Park in Manhattan, which has quite a bit of history.

Sakura Park owes its name to the more than 2000 cherry trees delivered to parks in New York City from Japan in 1912. The cherry trees were to be presented as a gift from the Committee of Japanese Residents of New York as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909. However, the steamboat that carried the original delivery of cherry trees from Japan was lost at sea. A new shipment of trees arrived in New York City in 1912, and they were planted in Riverside and Sakura Parks.

In 1960, another gift was given to the Sakura Park, this time by the City of Tokyo in the form of a stone Japanese latern, when New York became her sister city. A common fixture in traditional Japanese gardens, this latern was made from the native rock of Japan. Its inscription (now worn away) read: “Presented by the citizens of the Metropolis of Tokyo to the citizens of the City of New York in celebration of the Tokyo-New York sister-city affiliation inaugurated on February 29th, 1960.”

Monday, May 4, 2009

May Day NYC 2009

For those of you that don't know, May 1st was May Day, aka International Workers Day, aka the real Labour Day. And New York City had its fair share of May Day celebrations taking place all over the city.

I marched with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in the Break the Chains feeder march from Chinatown to Union Square. The feeder march and rally at Grand and Chrystie was organized by Chinese Staff and Workers Association (CSWA) and The National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS).

At Union Square Park the Break the Chains feeder march joined up with the much larger rally and march organized by the May 1st Coalition, while the IWW contingent broke off at this point to protest the anti-union multinational coffee chain, Starbucks. Members of the IWW, the Starbucks Workers Union (SWU) and supporters went inside two seperate Starbucks cafes located on opposite ends of Union Square Park to protest the company's ongoing and illegal union-busting practices. Both store locations contain active union baristas who have been fighting for a livable wage and the right to organize.

Break the Chains feeder march organized by Chinese Staff & Workers and National Mobilization Against Sweatshops.

"Say What?" IWW members, aka "wobblies" chanting "Ain't No Power Like The Power of The People Cuz The Power of The People Don't Stop!"

NYC SWU and IWW break off from the "Break the Chains" May Day feeder to protest inside two seperate Starbucks locations in Union Square (Union Square East and 17th & Broadway). This Footage shows the Wob Mob going into 17th and Broadway.

Live Jazz Bands on Vintage A Train on Duke Ellington Day in NYC (aka Music and Transportation Part 4)

Live Music on various forms of transportation in New York seems to be an ongoing obsession of mine. So, with that in mind, I bring you videos of both the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Alex LoDico Ensemble performing "Take the A Train" on seperate vintage cars on the A Train on Duuke Ellington Day in New York Effing City.

Paul Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra plays "Take the A Train" on a vintage 1930's A Train.

Duke Ellington Orchestra's second performance of "Take the A Train" on a vintage 1930's A Train.

The Alex LoDico Ensemble plays on a vintage 1940's subway car on Duke Ellington Day.

Paul Ellington & Duke Ellington Orchestra on 125th St mezzanine and vintage A Train pulling up to the platform on Duke Ellington Day.

Paul Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra performing on the Mezzanine of the 125th St A Train Station.

School kids dancing to the Duke Ellington Orchestra on the Mezzanine of the 125th St A Train Station.

My video footage of the vintage 1930's A Train arriving at the platform on Duke Ellington Day in NYC.

Someone else's footage of the vintage A Train arriving at the platform.
[I'm the guy in the brown hoodie and shaved head.]

Duke Ellington Day was the Shit.

OK, New York may be one of the most expensive places in the world to live, but it's also a city with an AMAZING amount of really freakin' cool things to do for FREE.

Duke Ellington Day in NYC was filled with such free events. First of all there was a free performance by Paul Ellington and the Duke Ellington Orchestra on the Mezzanine of the 125th Street Station in Harlem. Afterwards, the crowd descended down into the subway and waited for a vintage 1930's subway train, where the whole band boarded, along with Alex LoDico Ensemble. Both Jazz bands plaed live music aboard two seperate cars while the train made its regular route from Harlem to Howard Beach and back. Since my girlfriend and I already had weekly MTA passes, it really didn't cost us a thing to joyride a vintage 1930's train while hanging out with the friends and family of Duke Ellington and listening to really good live jazz music. I just can't tell you how cool it was to listen to the Duke Ellington Orchestra play "Take the A Train" while riding in a vinage A Train!

After taking the A train I made it to 110th Street just in time to catch the tail end of the Brass Band procession through Central Park.

My favorite quote of the day is when legendary Apollo dancer Jacquie "Tajah" Murdock told my girlfriend Liberte that she would gladly pay a fare increase if there was live jazz music on the trains. Seriously. I'd never get off the train.