5.8.07

CAM:NYC-Part III: What's Cookin' in Brooklyn

The L train is a swell train, and delivered our merry wanders to the welcoming shores of Brooklyn, much like the Starship Enterprise delivered Cpt. Kirk and his crew to the blue planet with the green aliens on episode 11-128A of Star Trek. But our merry wanderers were not here to seduce alien life forms into intergalactic kinkery and tom foolery, the alien life forms that inhabit Brooklyn are far more frightening than anything you might find on the Blue Planet.


01 July 2007: Canada Day-Continued
1353: Set foot on the sweet sweet soil of Brooklyn.
The newspaper and the internet conspired to tell us that there was a "pool party" at the McCarren Park pool featuring none other than Man Man. After accidentally discovering Man Man while they were on tour with Modest Mouse and being blown away we could not refuse a second chance. Thus, we found ourselves in Brooklyn on a Canada Day Sunday afternoon, looking for Man Man playing at a pool party.
1427: Finally find McCarren Park, which wasn't that far from the Subway, but far enough for us to take a few wrong turns.1431: Scene from McCarren Park:
M and K: (Walking Blissfully in Brooklyn)
K: (Stops to tie shoe, M does not notice, continues walking)
M: (To random woman who is walking roughly where K would have been would she not have stopped to tie her shoe) Hey, look over there, its a booth for the Friends of the Public Library! What do you think they are giving away? (Turns and notices that the random woman certainly is not K).
Random Woman: Uh-aaah, um... I'm sorry (stumps away quickly)
M: (Face flush with embarrassment)
K: (Rolling on ground laughing)
M: (Face flush with rage and embarrassment)
1438: Arrive McCarren Park pool, just in time to wait in line to get in.1444: Burly security guards check our sacks for contraband, finding none we are granted access to the most wonderful hipster heaven on earth. Never have my eyes beheld quite so many pairs of skinny pants and bad sunglasses all at once. The McCarren Park pool, my research tells me, was built at the height of the depression as part of FDR's New Deal to pull America up by its boot straps, how a dozen-or-so monstrous public swimming pools in and around the boroughs of New York relate to the boot strap metaphor isn't really clear, but the McCarren Park pool is monstrous enough for 6,800 Depressed Brooklets to take off their boots when they tired from all that strap tugging and soak their weary feet. Yes, you read correctly, some on Broadway may measure their years in 625,500 minutes, but in Brooklyn they measure their pools by 6,800 people all splashing each other in the eyes. I am sure that from 1936 until sometime long before the pool was finally shut down in 1984 the pool was a fantastic and grandiose tribute to the New Deal, the American Dream, other symbolic crap, and a place where a million Brooklyn children nearly drown playing Marco Polo in the crowded pool. There are hints in the architecture that whisper elegance, only these days they have fallen off or have been spray painted over. What remains is a hipster Mecca and one of the wham-bammiest show venues I have ever been to. Proving, once and for all, finally, that FDR was cool, even if he couldn't run very fast.
1447: Attempt, with all of our most strained attempts, to take in the scene. We cannot. Luckily some internet radio outfit has free T-shirts if you sign up for their emailing list. That is why it is always important to have a false emailing list identity. Mine is T.B. Rasmussen. What is yours? My shirt is blue-baby blue.
1457: Overwhelmed by the surrealism of a rock concert in an massive abandoned Brooklyn swimming pool the Farm boy from the backwoods of West Central Alberta and the Pretty girl from the backwoods of Southern Ontario don't realize that the band currently playing (Illinois) sucks.1458: Oh, there it is, the realization has finally set in. But between the sunshine, the stench of a few thousand hipsters, and the Great Depression era pool cleaning chemicals that linger in the deep end we stay listening to indie rock boy band crap that guys with faded jeans and immaculate white shoes seem to adore, which is fine, but I was wearing blue shoes that day.
1540: Illinois is over, giving us a greater opportunity to peruse the scene. To peruse the port-a-potties sitting on the dirt that has filled in the diving pool. To peruse the organic-vegan sausage hot dog stands. To peruse the booths of promotional give aways for cell phones, magazines, and blue jeans. To watch hipsters hit each other in the face with balls in the dodge-ball cage in the deep end. To watch fat men in bikinis attempt the slip-n-slide in the shallow end.

1601: I know I come off a little too curmudgeonly sometimes, or all the time, and perhaps I am a little too curmudgeonly sometimes, or all the times. Perhaps I too take a double take when something strongly worded passes through my lips and carries a certain Bill Murray-tone (those who know will know, those who do not will think about Caddyshack and shake their heads). But I need to get this off my chest: World Music ruins everything. Maybe not everything, I am sure it has done wonderful things for wonderful people. But if you are going to call something world music shouldn't it give some sort of vague resemblance of the diversity of music that is produced and preferred all over the world? It is called World Music after all. Not Afro-Reggae-Bongo-Beat music. If any of those are your thing that is fine, but stop insisting on calling it world music. If you don't like world music you feel shackled with guilt related to somehow hating the world and all the people in it. I'd like to think I don't. But maybe I do, because I don't like their music. Regardless, if you fill a swimming pool with hipsters and bore them with a indie rock boy band out of the chute and then follow that up with some World Music troupe, you are an evil bastard. I commend you on pulling off a wonderful practical joke, but the speed with which the hipsters abandoned the pool was like somebody threw a Baby Ruth in the deep-end (those who know will know, those who don't should think of Caddyshack and nod their heads).
1611: We were hungry anyway, that makes it okay to leave in the middle (by middle I mean middle of their second song) of the World Music band's set right?
1643: In Caroline, if you want to get sick to get you out of something you go to town for dinner. You have several choices, or 4, depending on what sort of cuisine you wish to encounter twice (in-out) and to what degree you wish to be sick (a little under the weather, a lot under the weather, in a ditch to avoid the weather, dead in that ditch because you can't hide from the weather no matter how much you regret ordering the weather and swear to you Saviour that you will never tempt the weather again if you can live through this encounter). In cities there are many restaurants constantly competing with one another for your mouth and gut. As the tenets of capitalism dictate, or any field of competition, there are winners and there are losers. So, usually in cities the restaurants that make their patrons ill eventually run out of patrons and go belly up, or the health department does it for them. However, there are those illness inducing places that manage to avoid bankruptcy and condemnation usually become cultural institutions and will go on making people ill for decades just because the illness it provokes somehow has become a rite of civic duty and/or a tourist attraction--see: Peter's Drive-In in Calgary (their milkshake machine gave people E.Coli! E.Coli is caused by ingestion of feces! What kind of place has feces shakes!), Schwartz's Deli in Montreal is another severely overrated (read: not very good at all) cultural institution with chronic long lines, but I don't know of any E. Coli outbreaks at Schwartz's, but then again, I am new.The two-or-three one horse town eateries also become cultural institutions, not because they offer any sort of special treat like the biggest greasiest burger/pile of smoked meat in town, they become cultural institutions because they exist in a world with such a shortage of quality competition that they just will not go away. Institutions by attrition more than reverence or acceptance, sort of like the Catholic Church (waaa-zing!). The only difference between the big city greasy spoon and the one-horse-town greasy spoon, is that the one-horse-town spots haven't the reverence afforded the big city ones, so the sense of civic duty attached to taking every friend who visits from out of town to have sample of local food poisoning is non-existent, and you only have to go to the Silver Gate Cafe for your grandmother's 70th birthday, which is a duty of another sort, and to the Burger Baron when you and your dad are the only one's home, mom has been away for a week and there are no groceries left in the house, in that case laziness and ineptitude is rightfully punished (order the Mom's Burger in a twist of mind boggling irony, or something like that, it still burns and bubbles all the same, just a little more ironic).
The one thing that these institutionalized eateries share, regardless the size of the metropolises they lord over, is the worn out and run down nature of everything associated with them--particularly the table tops with their fake wood veneers and worn round corners (these places never have table cloths, if you want your restaurant to fail just start using table cloths). 20, 30, 40, 50, 75 years of grime, grease, and being scrubbed angrily by a waitress (there are always waitresses, these places exist in a time before the Persons Case or the War) who hates the place as much as she hates her deadbeat ex who keeps drinking the child support payments, add up to that charming warmness that only 20, 30, 40, 50, 75 years of grime, grease, and spiteful scrubbing can create. The kind of loathsome warmness that Dairy Queen, A&W, and to a lesser extent MacDonald's and the rest all only dream of.
In Brooklyn, on Canada Day, we found a charming little Polish place that I could have sworn was a Polished version of the Sportsman Cafe. I have no recollection of what the place was called, but it was a sight to behold. It was not so much in category A, the revered local institution, more a category B place, the institution by attrition. The secret of the places longevity, and thus the worn round corners of their face wood tables, was that is was a family run place, the old man did the cooking, his babushka wife did the scowling, and their three stunning blond daughters did some of both as well as wait tables. To give you a better idea of the place, their menu was on a board, one of those black boards with the white letters that you click into the slots, only these letters were yellowed with decades of grease exposure. The place was filled with old Polish men drinking beer and old Polish couples having a 4 o'clock dinner to beat the rush of senility (they lost). And by filled I mean half full, as in half of the 6 or 7 tables. We sat at a dirty table (there were occupied tables and recently occupied tables, no unoccupied and welcoming tables, on top of the forbodingness of this arrangement, it also gave the air that the place was busy and the staff were run off their feet and unable to keep up, instead of arguing aboutsauerkraut in Polish in the back), were met with a scowl on the face of the daughter who took the dirty dishes that remained and gave a spiteful scrub of the table. A similar scowl accompanied our glasses of water in the plastic stacking cups. Similar to the scowl that was met with our order of perogies and schnitzel. Both of which were to die for and the best New York meal we had in the 3 days. We were bid adieu with a triple scowl from all three of the daughters, on top of thepermanent motherly scowl.
This took me back to two places, Poland (and Eastern Europe in general, for the most part) and Caroline. It reminded me of how much Eastern Europe reminded me of West Central Alberta. I had forgotten that. What wondrous places those are, my two favourite places on earth. New York has EVERYTHING!
1804: Perogies leaked into Man Man, so with stomaches sloshing full of perogies and shnitzel and several variations of cabbage preparation we hussle back to the pool.
1812: Arrive at the pool. Have our sacks checked for contraband again.
1813: MAN MAN!
Will MAN MAN live up to the hype?
Will a giant meteor strike, killing all the hipsters in the pool?
How will it end? Will it ever end?
STAY TUNED TO FIND OUT...


1. "Boho Chic," Manhattan as seen from Manhattan Ave, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, NY.
2. "Junkyard Baseball Tricks," Baseball in a concrete jungle in McCarren Park, Brooklyn, NY.
3. "Merry Wanderer I," McCarren Park, Brooklyn, NY.
4. "Hipster Temple in Hipster Mecca," McCarren Park Pool Entrance, Brooklyn, NY.
5. "Bootstraps," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
6. McCarren Park Pool, from: Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:McCarren_Park_Pool.jpg
7. "Off the Deep End," Remants of diving board, McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
8. "Shallow Hal," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
9. "Illinois Playing in the Pool," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
10. "Center Stage," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
11. "What Did the Angry Man Cry as He Killed Fun?" McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY (Answer: WE ARE FUCKIN' HERE TO WATCH FUCKIN' MAN MAN, PISHAW!)
12. "Merry Wanderer II," McCarren Park, Brooklyn, NY.
13. Happy anniversary Mom and Dad, Silver Gate Cafe, Caroline, AB.
14. "And the pool was filled with wingnuts with nice shoes," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
15. "Green Pirate Community Juice," McCarren Park Pool, Brooklyn, NY.
16. "Man Man," Brooklyn, NY. (Believe it or not, this graffiti was (apparently) unrelated to the band playing in the pool we were walking to at the time!)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

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