OVERFLOW Published quarterly by OVERFLOW Publishing, LLC 397 President Street, 3rd Floor Brooklyn, NY 11231 www.overflowmagazine.com
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OVERFLOW ISSUE 9 :: SPRING 2011
kickin' it with Cobble Hill's Boot Master, by Kerri MacDonald
the struggles of Brooklyn's first distillery since Prohibition, by Megan Izen
chewin' the fat with NOFX's frontman, by Sam Roudman My Wine Cellar a comic, by Hunter Nelson
Day by Day Brooklyn Based's Tip Sheet for our corner of the borough
Reduce, Reuse, Reef
two animators think the world of your trash, by Gabrielle Begue
the financial lives of your friends and our friends too, by Andrea Swalec
Hipsters Everywhere a comic, by Chris Miskiewicz and Nathan Schreiber
key bumps, anyone?
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Slope Music's enduring home, by Colin Weatherby
Clubbing with the old guys, by Hannah Kramm
Are these Italian eateries worth their salt? by Susannah Edelbaum
dropping bait in Buttermilk Channel, by Jonathan Ritzman
Beards of Brooklyn a comic, by Erik Winkowski
cover and contents photos by Sarah Wilmer
CONTRI 2 3
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1. Adam Krause: www.adamkrausephoto.com 2. Andrea Swalec is a reporter working on various hustles. As Mary J. Blige once said while jumping and squatting in high-heeled boots, "Put your hands up if you know you can follow your dreams!" 3. David Brenner is a cartoonist based in Gowanus. 4. Eric Vogel: Look out. This guy is having a baby! www.ericvogelphoto.com 5. Chris Miskiewicz is a multimedia performer working in television, film, music, and comics. He is a member of the Brooklyn-based psychedelic rock group Swinger Eight, and the writer of EVERYWHERE published monthly on ACTIVATECOMIX.COM 6. Erik Winkowski is a Brooklyn-based graphic artist who can only grow a neck beard. 7. Marlene Rounds: Photographer. wwwmarlenerounds.com 8. Sayaka Nagata loves her cat Robocop. To see more of her paintings visit www.sayakanagata.com 9. Sarah Wilmer: Sarah Wilmer is a photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. See more of her work at www.SarahWilmer. com and www.JulianRichards.com/wilmer, thank you. 10. Hannah Kramm came from the mountains, grew up in a desert, and currently lives by a canal. She likes strong cheese and smoked fish. Feel free to send her some. 11. Kerri MacDonald is a multimedia journalist living in Manhattan. She has hopes, dreams and a few pairs of boots (@kerrimac). 12. Megan Izen is a multimedia journalist based in Brooklyn. She also makes a mean cupcake. 13. Hunter Nelson is a writer, illustrator, and 8
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performer from Houston, TX. He is part of the SMIRK collective, and the writer of Who Loves You, Baby?, a live cabaret tribute to Telly Savalas that you could view very easily if you lived in Los Angeles. While in New York, look for his comics in little stores. 14. Jesse Brown shoots the hell outta some pictures. 15. Jonathan Ritzman is a writer living in Crown Heights. He recently moved from Denver and is seeking gainful employment. Please send job offers and e-cards to: jritzman@ gmail.com 16. Nathan Schreiber is a former print designer for women’s underwear. His comics have appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Smith Magazine, and Act-I-Vate.com. His Xeric-Award winning comic Power Out has been nominated for an Eisner and multiple Harvey awards. 17. Jeff Brown: jr-brown.com 18. J. K. Putnam: from Past Objects, to The Reef, to his current project documenting the mongo collectors of New York, J.K. Putnam has been taking pictures of garbage, and the people that collect it, for the last three years of his life. jkputnamphotography.com, markbattypublisher.com/books/past-objects 19. Liam McWilliams is a tattoo artist, illustrator, and amateur surgeon living in Brooklyn. For more information, check out liammcwilliams.com 20. Gabrielle Begue is an editor, writer, and eBay addict living in Prospect Heights. 21. Colin Weatherby came here to kick ass and chew bubblegum. . . and he’s pretty tired of Doublemint. 22. Sam Roudman: The photo says it all. 9
by Kerri MacDonald. photos by Marlene Rounds.
t’s snowing outside, getting colder. On Hoyt and Wyckoff Streets, people are shuffling quickly along the sidewalk, heads down. Over a quiet shop across from a housing complex near Atlantic Avenue is a sign: “How To Make Boots From Your Garage.” Inside, bent over a workbench, is Olivier Rabbath. Let me introduce you to the Master of the Boot. Tall and thin, Rabbath, who turns 50 in March, has three hoop earrings in his left ear, white eyelashes on his right eye, and a set of dark curls sweeping out from underneath a newsboy cap. When we first meet, he’s wearing a yellow knit turtleneck over a blue plaid shirt. He’s blasting piano music. His fingers are adorned with metal. And on his feet: a pair of buttery yellow boots. He smiles, a little gap-toothed. He has a spectacular French accent, but an all-American goal. “The only country that can produce cowboys is America,” he says. “We don’t. I went to buy, in Upper East Side, a pair of cowboy boot. I wanted to support my country. I pay $700 for boots. It’s not cheap.” “Seven-hundred dollars,” he continues in his passionate, rambling style. “I’m very happy. I get out. I look inside: ‘Made in Mexico.’ I’m so sorry. I love Mexico, but boots are not Mexican! I mean, what are you doing? I love Mexicans and they have great productions, but it’s not America. We don’t even produce cowboy boots? I mean, it’s an embarrassment! It’s like saying to France, ‘You don’t produce wine anymore.’” If one were going to label it, he or she might call Rabbath’s boot garage—which he pronounces “gair-uhge”—the last vestige of an American tradition. But it’s hard to walk into the place and call it a vestige of anything. It’s cold and colorful. The floor is painted cement. The walls are a light, peachy sort of pink. There’s a stitching machine from the 1950s on one workbench. In a far corner is a wooden machine Rabbath designed himself to press soles. And everywhere, there are boots. Boots on walls. Boots on shelves. A wooden rack four rows high is filled with molds for boots, perched upside-down, heels blowing kisses to the ceiling. There are boots on tables, half-made boots on workbenches. Red boots, yellow boots, pointy boots, cowboy boots. To the right of the entrance is the shop, where a shelf filled with boot and shoe books stands alongside more boots-on-walls. The art of making boots requires passion, Rabbath says. “It’s really simple, you know?” he says. “It’s like a musician—to be a virtuoso, you know, it’s not between two and three in the afternoon. Its four hours every day for years, and there’s no rush. You can breath like”—he sniffs quickly, like a dog—“or breathe deeply.” So does the art of teaching others how to make boots. A sign on the wall in Rabbath’s shop
boasts proudly of his interactions with young boot-makers: “Work done by the students of Sterling School”—the ‘i’ on Sterling is dotted with a heart—“299 Pacific Street.” The art of making boots also requires cash: $375, plus materials. Rabbath doesn’t give his knowledge away for free—not even, despite pleas and protests, to writers itching to tell the truth of the boot. (“I’m not going to start to invite journalists to do experiments,” he says.) A proponent of “the old ways,” as he calls them, Rabbath is passionate about education, which he says shouldn’t be about knowledge, but about desire to learn. It should be a relationship between a student and a master—“and when I say master,” he says, “I mean, really. Master.” He sighs, visions of Bauhaus dancing in his head. “I love that process, which doesn’t exist anymore.” The days of yore are gone, and Rabbath is building boots by hand in his de facto boot factory, a shrine to the American slipper, in Cobble Hill, where he feels “comfortable.” He lives around the block, but this is where you’ll find him most days, from 3 p.m. until late in the night. Rabbath was born in Paris in 1961. He grew up in boarding schools and developed an interest in the arts. When he was 16, he started drawing cartoons for newspapers. He worked for five years as a fashion designer, making t-shirts for tourists featuring cartoons of Parisian dogs pissing on Parisian streets. “I started to sell quite some quantity of t-shirt,” he says. “Which I couldn’t believe.” He laughs, a hearty, and quite French, “har har.” It was, for him, a revelation. The natural next step? “So I do some boxer.” Eventually, he developed a clothing line, “Illusion.” He opened a boutique of the same name on Rue de Lagny. And he got into boots. “Quickly I learned, basically, all the techniques of footwear,” he says. When La Federation Francaise de la Chaussure sponsored him to go to New York City in the late 80s for his first-ever “shoe show,” he returned to France unhappy. France had brainwashed him. America was opportunity! America was security! America was beautiful! “I was pretty pissed,” he said. “Everything I learned was absolutely wrong.” He fell out of love with Paris. “Paris is a beautiful museum. But you don’t live in a museum. You visite a museum.” In 1990, at 29, he moved to Miami to open a shoe factory. Life was good; he could work for 15 hours straight and then jump into the ocean. But Rabbath started smoking cigarettes at age nine, and his addiction to boots was just as powerful. His was a lung coated with the black oil of a smoking boot. By 2000, at age 40, he needed a breath of fresh air.
Four years later, he moved to New York, where he continued the work he’d been doing since he closed the shop: decorating restaurants and private homes. But ultimately, boots were his calling. Recently, Rabbath incorporated Olivier Rabbath Associates, a “graduate support system,” which is explained, not clearly, on his website. Rabbath’s website—which looks as if 1998 exploded—will tell you a lot about the man. He is an entrepreneur. He’s also a musician. An architect. He designs menus and decorates restaurants. He created the “Rabbath Case,” a hard yellow shell to protect instruments. He’s a philosopher. He’s a painter. He’s just trying to keep his creative juices flowing, because that’s what makes him happy. “Every human being is so powerful, and so gorgeous,” he says. “He just doesn’t know, or forgot.” His philosophy—known, on his website, as “myphylosophy”—is deep: “We wish to demystify the process of how the ‘twinkling of a shoe idea’ travels from the mind of the Designer to the store shelf. Like watching the Boulanger, as he makes the delicious bread.” But let’s get one thing straight: Rabbath does not see himself as a Master. “I consider myself as a helper,” he says, “and somebody who can inspire you. Give you enthusiasm. ‘Master,’ for me, embarrasses me. Like ‘artist,’ or any kind of title. Because you define the person, you limit the person.” Rabbath expresses himself through sound, through colors, through material. He doesn’t need a label, he says. But the man has built 50,000 pairs of boots. Works by hand out of a Brooklyn garage for average boot lovers alongside (anonymous) big-name designers. Can charge upwards of $400 for 15 hours of boot-making classes. (15 hours stitching leather and learning about the failure of the French system.) “When you are a Master you don’t really realize you are a Master,” says Rabbath. “It’s somebody else who can say, ‘Oh, well you are a Master.’” In Cobble Hill, then, Olivier Rabbath, you are the Boot Master. To learn “How to Make Boots from Your Garage,” contact Olivier Rabbath at 917-673-3891. Classes are semiprivate, taught in groups of up to four. 11
Breuckelen Distilling by Megan Izen. photos by Jesse Brown.
n a cold Saturday morning in November, Brad Estabrooke leaves the row houses and tree-lined streets of Windsor Terrace for an isolated industrial block of South Slope. It’s the same trip he makes six days a week to the gin distillery he opened five months before. Unlike most days in the cavernous cement warehouse, Estabrooke expects to see more than just the faces of his two employees. He’s hoping a herd of thirsty souls will brave the R train and ten-minute walk under the BQE to sample his boutique spirits in the distillery’s tasting room. “Even in Brooklyn where people are so welcoming of things like this, the deck is really stacked against being successful,” says the 31-year-old Maine native. A large chalkboard with the tasting room hours and $3 tasting price hangs on the bright orange walls of the narrow space separated from the distillery. Estabrooke and his employee, Gino Di Stefano, communicate over a ten-foot high plaster wall with each other. Breuckelen Gin is open for business from 12 to 6 p.m. At two o’clock, the stools at the long cement table with carefully arranged jars of botanicals and sample bottles of Estabrooke’s signature gin remain empty. And they stay that way, save for a Staten Island woman and her sister who pop in briefly. It’s a disappointing Saturday afternoon. Estabrooke usually sees at least a handful of people. Nothing has gone exactly as planned since Estabrooke began building Breuckelen Distilling from the ground up more than two years ago. He never thought following his passion would be smooth-sailing, but it’s even more work than he expected. He didn’t plan for an empty tasting room, a lawsuit with a rival gin baron, or having to hound some customers to pay up. But Estabrooke believes that if there’s anywhere where people will appreciate a handcrafted gin made with organic ingredients, it’s the DIY denizens of South Brooklyn. And Estabrooke isn’t alone in his thinking. Even though he was the first to open his doors, Kings County Distilling and New York Distilling Co. were on his heels. Most liquor stores are filled floor to ceiling with shelves of bottles, and those choices are only expanding. Like the microbrew explosion in the 1980s, microdistillers are cropping up left and right across New York state making vodka from apples, whiskey from rye, and gin from wheat berries. Learning to drive a forklift and fermenting wheat is a far cry from Estabrooke’s eight years trading bonds in Boston and New York. But he had dreamt of starting a small business where he could make something from scratch. He and his longtime girlfriend thought about making everything from belt buckles to wine. They started saving for the day when they could go into business for themselves. That day came sooner than expected when Estabrooke lost his job three months after they started saving. Rather than find another suit-
and-tie desk job, Estabrooke, with the help of his girlfriend, family and friends, opened the first distillery in New York City since Prohibition. “Sometimes you need some sort of a push to get you to do something that’s risky,” says Estabrooke, who says he hasn’t seen a paycheck in nearly two years. “When you have a nice cushy salary it’s hard to make the jump to doing something like this.” Estabrooke scoured Brooklyn for affordable places to open up shop. The overhead for getting a microdistillery off the ground is high. Affordable rent was key. Zoning laws also factored into the decision. Permits for a distillery are easier to secure in industrial areas. When he finally settled on the warehouse at 19th Street and 3rd Avenue, Estabrooke and his girlfriend packed up the apartment they shared in Williamsburg and headed to Windsor Terrace. Estabrooke is making the gamble that he can turn Breuckelen Distilling into part of the 50 percent of small businesses that survive past five years. Once he had his location, Estabrooke began filling it with necessary distillery tools. There’s the handmade copper still he imported from Germany. There’s the giant blue vats of fermenting mash that smell like sourdough bread when you get close enough. There’s the Costco-style forklift he uses
With just a Facebook page and no marketing budget, he pounded the pavement with his gin in tow, offering tastings to any restaurant, bar or liquor store willing to give him a chance. He went to The JakeWalk on Smith Street. Alchemy on 5th Avenue. And Juice Box on Prospect Avenue. In his first six months, Estabrooke got more than 40 venues in Brooklyn and Manhattan to carry his product. He felt like he was on a roll. “If we get into three quarters of the places we go to we’re doing great,” says Estabrooke. “I can count on one hand the number of places that I’ve been and poured and they haven’t ordered.” But then he ran into trouble. Just when Estabrooke thought he could focus his attention on selling gin, he was hit with a trademark infringement lawsuit by a rival artisanal gin-maker operating under a similar name: Brooklyn Gin. Joe Santos, a New Jersey native who had spent the last eight years working in the marketing and product development departments of Bacardi in Florida before branching off on his own, threatened not only Estabrooke’s company name but the small share of the market he had carved out for himself.
to move organic wheat berries from Newfield, NY off delivery trucks and into piles waiting to be transformed into gin.
One of Estabrooke’s first clients, Slope Cellars on 7th Avenue in Park Slope, opted to carry Brooklyn Gin instead of Breuckelen Gin in December. While Estabrooke had boxes of gin waiting to be sold, Santos was scrambling to make enough gin on the still he rents from Warwick Valley Winery upstate. In addition to Santos’ advantage of being an industry-insider, he’s kept his overhead low with no storefront and even couch-surfing through apartments during his first months of business. From Thanksgiving to Christmas, Santos brought in 30 clients, and had to slow down to keep up with demand. Another two weeks, and he had the same customer load it took Estabrooke six months to secure.
“Move slowly and carefully,” Estabrooke, who earned a perfect score on his online forklift driving course, says with a chuckle. “It’s got brakes but you just don’t want to crash into anything.”
“I’ve been getting calls from people upstate and on Long Island,” says Santos who is concentrating on accounts in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. “I’ve had to say no for now.”
The wheat to gin process only takes about a week, which is why gin is among the more popular artisanal spirits to produce in this new wave of microdistilleries. Once the berries are ground and fermented into mash, they spend an afternoon bubbling in the small round windows of the copper still before vaporizing into the ethanol that will become Breuckelen Gin. Each of the five aromatics, from juniper berries to ginger, are infused into the 60-proof alcohol separately before Estabrooke combines them to create his signature spirit.
But Estabrooke, along with many other boutique spirit-makers including Santos, thinks that there’s enough to go around for all of them to stay in business. He says he welcomes the competition. To get someone to walk out of a liquor shop with a bottle of Breuckelen Gin over a bottle of a better known spirit is where the real challenge lies.
“I’m all about tradition, but at the same time we’re really about just trying to make things that taste the best,” Estabrooke says. “That’s why our gin is not a traditional style, it’s something different.” After a few months of tinkering with the recipe, Estabrooke was ready to take his gin to the public.
When he’s not out delivering, selling, or making gin, Estabrooke sits in a makeshift cubicle between barrels of mash and boxes of gin. With papers piled up on his desk and clothes strewn on the floor, Estabrooke sends out invoices, pays the bills, and sets up appointments with prospective customers. He hopes his 12-hour days will soon pay off. “If I take away half a percentage of Bombay Sapphire’s sales, I am going to high-five everyone who walks down the street,” he says. 13
interview by Sam Roudman. illustration by Sayaka Nagata.
at Mike is the leader of NOFX, one of the greatest crappy punk bands of all time. Perhaps to counterbalance decades mining a rich vein of juvenilia with songs like “Pump Up the Valium” and “Please Stop Fucking My Mom,” he is also a serious foodie. When he’s home in the San Francisco Bay Area he’ll sup at the French Laundry (three Michelin stars, bitch), or at the eponymous restaurant of chef-star Michael Mina. Now on his quarterly trips to New York he has a restaurant of his own to visit: Thistle Hill Tavern. The low-key South Slope spot features Euro and Mediterranean influenced fare, like Sicilian style cauliflower, and house made Papardelle in a lamb Bolognese, but also basics like burgers and chicken. Then there’s the elaborate cocktail menu, put together by John Bush, previously of the East Village’s Niagra. We caught up with Fat Mike on a day off during NOFX’s recent American tour. He was in Knoxville, Tennessee, and he had a serious cold. OVERFLOW: So how’d you get involved with the restaurant? FAT MIKE: Uhh, well my friend John Bush, he’s a dear old friend of mine, and he and David Masoni [General manager, proprietor] had been looking for a place to open a restaurant for a long time. They got Rebecca [Weitzman]. I was in New York and they made me go to her restaurant, which was Inoteca. She made me an eight-course meal that was amazing. I’ve never been interested in the restaurant business. But when I saw the location and I ate her food, I just said ,“I’m in.” O: You knew John before? How did you meet? FM: I’ve known him for 15 years or so. He worked for a band called the Swinging Utters. The Swinging Utters were on my label. O: Did you have any involvement in creating the menu? Or did you just sign off ? FM: Everything Rebecca made for me I loved. So I had complete trust in her. O: Were you there when Thistle Hill opened? FM: I was there within the first month. I go to really nice restaurants a lot because I travel a lot. And I’m super happy with the menu there. Especially the mussels, the mussels just kill me. O: Favorite cocktail? FM: The Howard Hughes [Aviation gin, lemon juice, muddled Amarena cherries, mint, A.B.Smeby cherry vanilla bitters]. Which is weird because it’s a little bit of a sweeter drink, which I don’t normally like. I’m more of a Campari soda or a Jamison soda. O: Would you open another restaurant? FM: The restaurant business is not something I’m interested in. I got involved in this one because everything was perfect. I got the location, the
chef, and one of my best friends in the world is bartender.
O: At this point you must have four or five different generations of fans…
O: How often are you in New York?
FM: It’s strange. Usually about half the crowd is in their 30s, which is very old for most bands. You’d think our crowd would be teenagers, but it’s honestly 30 percent teenagers and 70 percent people between the age of 20 and 40. We keep getting new fans, but the older fans are the ones who buy the tickets first.
FM: I’m probably in New York three or four times a year. I usually play maybe one show in New York a year, but we go out for other reasons. Who doesn’t like spending time in New York? O: Why Thistle Hill in South Slope / Windsor Terrace, as opposed to the Village or Williamsburg? FM: John and David really like the neighborhood. And the location is just perfect. It’s just on a great corner. It’s a nice family neighborhood. They wanted a restaurant that’s going to last for a really long time, and not just be a trendy place to go. They want the neighborhood to love it. O: What do you eat on tour? Do you go out to nice restaurants all the time? I can’t imagine that’s an option. FM: It pretty much is. It’s our tradition. It’s what we do every night. We go out to dinner four hours before we have to play, so we have plenty of time to eat a really nice meal and get super drunk. O: Do you have any memories of how it was before you had the cash to do that? FM: Our first U.S. tour, we’d get a loaf of white bread and have peanut butter and jelly. That’s it. That’s what we’d eat three times a day [incredulous laugh]. The worst was we used to eat top ramen, which was just ridiculous, because we didn’t have hot water. We’d just eat it out of the package. O: How long every year are you touring? FM: We do three-week tours. That’s about all we can take. We like to drink and party a lot on tour, so I’m pretty much exhausted after three weeks. Then we usually take six weeks to two months off, and then come back out. O: I want to read you a Yelp review, from Anne H. in Brooklyn, New York: “As a 15 year old I spent a good portion of my time getting high in my bedroom and blasting NOFX because I thought I was a rebel. When I found out that Fat Mike of NOFX had opened a yuppie restaurant in South Slope, part of me wanted to puke, but the other part of me saw the menu and wanted to try Thistle Hill Tavern immediately. FM: [Laughter] That’s pretty cool.
O: At this point NOFX is sort of like an institution. FM: We’re very, very fortunate that we’ve had such a long career, and nothing is slowing down. Everything is staying the same. Everything has been the same for 20 years. Same clubs, we sell the same amount of merch, and it’s pretty cool because it’s just a fucking great way to make a living. I get to hang out with my eight best friends all the time and fuck around, drive around the world. It’s awesome. O: There have been 20 different waves of punk rock, and at this point the music industry is disintegrating. Where is punk now? FM: It’s funny because people outside the punk scene see it as kind of dead, because they see all these commercial punk bands. But I see it as being the exact same as it always has been. In San Francisco there’re punk shows three days a week, at tiny bars that are full of a hundred kids that are wasted, and bands that are playing terrible music. And that’s what punk rock always was. I like to call it great music played by drunk or on drugs-bad musicians. You just have to look for it. O: In San Francisco it seems like more of an active thing than here in Brooklyn. FM: That’s probably true. Oakland has a super cool underground punk scene. Neighborhoods that gentrify and get too expensive lose punk scenes. That’s why Oakland still has a good one. O: Thanks for talking, I’ll let you get back to your germs. FM: I sound like shit, huh? O: You sound like a frog roasting in the sun. FM: We’ll see if I can play the show tomorrow. I can’t do a show like this. O: Do you think the sickness is the product of your bad behavior on the road?
O: You think a lot of the people who go there used to be NOFX fans?
FM: For sure [laughs]. Usually the bad behavior is fine, but top it off with a cold and… we’ll see what happens.
FM: I think mostly it’s just a neighborhood restaurant. But if a NOFX fan is gonna be in New York vacationing, there’s a good chance they’re gonna head out to Brooklyn and go to my restaurant. People come in from out of town, check it out, and all I’ve heard are good things.
OVERFLOW highly recommends NOFX's "White Trash, Two Heebs, and a Bean." Thistle Hill Tavern is located at 441 Seventh Avenue at 15th Street; 347-5991262; www.thistlehillbrooklyn.com 15
illustrations by Liam McWilliams. Brooklyn Based wanted to create a special Tip Sheet just for OVERFLOW. So we picked some of our favorite ongoing events, trivia nights, dance parties, and special menus that take place on a weekly or monthly basis. This here is a roadmap for a fuller life of fun. Now get out there and get into it!
PARK SLOPE Cheap Date Comedy Night at Union Hall. Tyler Fischer and Sharron Paul host on the second Tuesday of each month. Get some of the bar’s signature Macho Macho Nachos, and let the good times roll. Afterward, watch, or play, if you’re so inclined, a game of bocce or two. Union Hall, 702 Union Street at Fifth Avenue. PARK SLOPE The first Tuesday of every month Melt prepares a special $30, five-course tasting menu. Add five wines for $20, and you have a date night out. Melt, 440 Bergen Street at Fifth Avenue. WEDNESDAYS
MONDAYS FLATBUSH So it’s a little out of the way, but this is guaranteed to make the rest of your week amazing. Treat yourself to a few hours at Brooklyn Banya, home of the Russian baths. They’re open until midnight. Could there be a better way to start the week without having to go all the way to Flushing to hit Spa Castle? Saunas, steam rooms, hot pools, cold pools, vigorous salt scrubs—you’ll feel brand new. Brooklyn Banya, 602 Coney Island Avenue, between Beverly Road and Avenue C. COBBLE HILL Trivia nights at Bar Great Harry. Take a warm cozy bar with a great selection of craft beers, and then stock the whole thing with board games. Add in a trivia night on most first Mondays of the month. That’s the equation for a neighborhood favorite that we’re probably ruining for everyone by talking about it. Bar Great Harry, 280 Smith Street. TUESDAYS 18
BOERUM HILL Dive Comedy at Hank’s Saloon. Take it from us, stand-up comedy is making a comeback. As with all things, Brooklyn is home to an emerging comic scene. Brooke Van Poppelen and Giulia Rozzi host and book this weekly stand-up show, and there are always two first-come, first-serve open mic spots for you aspiring funny folks out there. Hank’s Saloon, 46 Third Avenue. PARK SLOPE Brooklyn Jazz Wide Open at Littlefield. One Wednesday a month (it’s not always the same one) Littlefield hosts a jazz performance put together by Connection Works, a non-profit dedicated to bringing jazz to the people. C’mon, the Brooklyn
music scene is about more than just nodding your head and staring at your shoes in a loft in Bushwick—though you can totally do that while listening to live jazz, if you want. Also, keep an eye out for the bar’s occasional series, The Talent Show, starring comedic luminaries like Eugene Mirman and Julie Klausner, as well as This American Life host Ira Glass. Littlefield, 622 Degraw Street. THURSDAYS COBBLE HILL Maybe it’s just us, but Thursday night is bar night, right? On the weekends everything gets crowded and filled with amateurs. Thursday is far enough into the week to make you feel like you deserve a night out, but the scene is still mellow. We have two Cobble Hill favorites: Boat, and newcomer 61 Local. Boat is a dive in all the right ways and sports a jukebox that sometimes scares us by knowing exactly what we want to listen to. 61 Local is spacious and airy, with long communal tables that are perfect for groups—or for making new friends. Boat, 175 Smith Street at Wykoff and 61 Local, 61 Bergen Street, between Smith and Boerum Place. FRIDAYS PARK SLOPE Slice Me Nice at The Rockshop. On the second and fourth Fridays of the month DJs Brian Blackout and Spoolwork dig up their favorite dance tunes and parade them around. If you’re looking for a place to cut loose and cut a rug, this is it. No cover. Tunes start bumping at 10 p.m. Party in the front, pool and snacks in the back.
The Rockshop, 249 Fourth Avenue at Carroll Street. RED HOOK Rocky Sullivan’s Think Global, Eat Local menu. Definitely one of the most delicious nights out in Brooklyn. Every Friday from 6-9 p.m. Rocky Sullivan’s serves up lobsters from the Red Hook Lobster Pound, accompanied by greens from Added Value, when they’re in season. As for booze, they have local-minded drinkers covered, with white wine from Red Hook Winery, across the street, and brews from Sixpoint, next door. Finish your local feast with Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pie, also from Red Hook. And, in the summer, the Friday night lobster fest moves to the roof deck. Rocky Sullivan’s, 34 Van Dyke Street at Dwight Street. SATURDAYS GOWANUS Open workshops at Cut Brooklyn. BB and OVERFLOW pal Joel Bukiewicz makes insanely beautiful, insanely sharp knives in a workshop on the banks of the Gowanus Canal. Every Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. he opens the doors and hosts an open workshop so customers can come and pick out knives where they’re made and observe some of the knife making process along the way. You can also bring your knife in for sharpening. Cooooool.
Brooklyn Museum, 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue. SUNDAYS PARK SLOPE Quiz night at Pacific Standard. This easy-going bar is definitely a home-awayfrom home for California transplants, so Golden State haters may not fall in love with the vibe. Their 8 p.m. Sunday night quiz nights are consistently lively and challenging. Pacific Standard, 83 Fourth Avenue, between Bergen and St. Marks. AWESOME OCCASIONS GOWANUS The Bell House hosts the borough’s best Kentucky Derby Party every year, hands down. There’s hats. There’s a big screen. And most importantly, there are mint juleps.
PARK SLOPE Every year Two Boots hosts a huge Mardi Gras party complete with zydeco (grilled alligator on a stick), seafood gumbo, beads, dancing—the whole bit. Two Boots, 514 Second Street at Seventh Avenue. WINDSOR TERRACE If you’re into college basketball and want a friendly spot to watch March Madness with fellow fans, you can’t do much better than the Black Horse. There are snacks, including British-style chips for the bar’s large footie-watching crowd, 16 beers on tap, and pitcher specials during big games. The Black Horse Pub, 568 Fifth Avenue at 16th Street. One of the cornerstones of Brooklyn Based is the Tip Sheet, a weekly round-up of our top picks for fun around Brooklyn, delivered to your inbox every Wednesday. If you’re not already signed up, put down this magazine and proceed directly to www. brooklynbased.net to get on the list—you have no idea what you’re missing.
The Bell House, 148 Seventh Street between Second and Third Avenues.
461 Third Avenue at Ninth Street. PROSPECT HEIGHTS Target First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum. While visiting Target on any given Saturday is a nightmare of epic proportions, the First Saturday events they sponsor at the Brooklyn Museum have become some of the most reliably grown-up but unstuffy fun to be had in Brooklyn. Every first Saturday of the month.
by Colin Weatherby. photos by Sarah Wilmer.
he Cronyn House is a remarkable structure by any standard. Located at 271 9th Street in Park Slope, it is an enormous French Second Empire home painted in psychedelic shades of orange and blue, distinctly out of place next to the drab fast food joints and cinder-block eyesores with which it shares the block. The context of the building is also awkward, as it is the home of Slope Music, a school that has been a fixture of the neighborhood since 1981. The building is a modern oddity with an idiosyncratic history that is both unusual and deeply reflective of Park Slope’s storied past. William B. Cronyn built the home in 1856 to escape the huddled masses of Lower Manhattan. He had recently made a killing on Wall Street and threw his tether across the East River deep into Brooklyn’s unsettled backwaters. Nestled against a pastoral hill overlooking the Gowanus Bay, Cronyn and his family were pioneers in the first wave of landed gentry to put down roots in the newly-subdivided depths of rural South Brooklyn. In less than a decade, the estate became grossly outof-place. The area rapidly descended into a seething grid of screeching trolley cars, horse manure, and boilerplate working-class brownstones. “It isn’t like the neighborhood began a slow decline,” says Francis Morrone, an architectural historian who has studied Park Slope extensively. “They were instantly surrounded by canal workers very shortly after the street cars came through. It must have been quite shocking.” The once isolated and idyllic mansion was under siege by the masses. The Cronyn family sold the property six years after its completion and moved to undoubtedly greener pastures. The remnants of rural dreams are now limited to the property’s relatively tiny footprint. The trees in the front yard are filled with blown shopping bags, the inevitable fruits of a Brooklyn winter, yet the house itself is an immaculate representation of its original state. Current owners Charles
and Vita Sibirksy poured over the details of the home, having renovated the facade extensively and repairing the century-old ironwork. The Sibirskys purchased the dilapidated mansion from a friend in 1981. They intended to house their growing family, not realizing that they would soon be living in the basement below their place of business. Charles began his career as a teacher at 17 while studying classical and jazz piano. Born in Manhattan and raised throughout Brooklyn, he was able to study with Sal Mosca, one of the greatest New York pianists of the modern era. As an avid performer, Charles did not expect to be running a school from his home, but as middleclass families poured into Park Slope throughout the 1980s, business began to grow and expanded to fill the massive building. The school eventually employed dozens of teachers, and every corner of the house was filled to capacity. Charles took a unique approach to music education that seems almost quaint by modern standards. “The first job I had, most of the teachers were miserable and screaming at their students,” began Charles with a smile. “I decided I didn’t want to be them. It was quite a lesson for me. Everyone that comes here has the chance to learn, whatever their abilities may be.” The unlikely transformation of the giant home into a thriving business was not without precedent. Nearly a century before its most recent period of dereliction, an opportunistic 19th century businessman named Charles M. Higgins saw great potential in the property. Located only four blocks from the Gowanus Canal, the home was an ideal site for manufacturing, despite its inappropriate design. Higgins relocated the headquarters of his small Higgins Ink Company to the new 9th Street address, and a factory was erected on the lot directly behind the mansion. The business grew as Higgins India Ink became the publishing industry standard for quality printing as well as a household name.
The ink industry outgrew the antiquated Brooklyn facilities by the mid-20th century. Higgins was absorbed by office supply giant Sandford, manufacturers of Sharpie and Rolodex. The mansion became just another casualty of midcentury urban decay and was taken by the City of New York to be used as a halfway house until the late 1970s. Much of the home’s recent renovation was performed by Eric Safyan, a Brooklyn-based architect and family friend who attended high school at Brooklyn Tech with the Sibirsky’s son, Jacob. Most recently, Safyan has assisted in the redesign of the entryway and repair of the iron cresting along the front of the building. “The house was a great early inspiration for me as an architect,” says Safyan nostalgically. “I loved wandering around all those rooms trying to decide which was my favorite. The amount of work they put into the place is incredible.” The building’s past as a bustling office space is not hard to imagine at Slope Music. There are ten pianos in the house, making the space an interesting aural experience. The white noise of typewriters and supply shipments has been replaced by a mellow cacophony of major and minor scales echoing throughout the building. The floorboards creak loudly and woodwind squawks punctuate any moment of silence. The low rumble of the F train rattles the foundation every 20 minutes just in case it ever gets a little too quiet. Today, Charles teaches in the massive ground floor parlor. Vita has an equally impressive studio in the stunning cupola on the top floor. Both rooms are filled with instruments and books that reflect a lifetime of musical devotion. Eyes closed and grinning, Charles launches into a flawless rendition of “Darn That Dream.” Although completely accommodating in general conversation, it is obvious that he is most comfortable while tickling the ivories. He hangs his head for the final note, letting it ring out as he quietly closes the fall and runs a hand across the glossy oak. 21
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” he says energetically. “Made in 1913. It’s the only concert grand in the world that Steinway made in a natural finish.” All of the instructors at Slope Music are now independent contractors, renting out rehearsal space by the hour. With their children grown and the years gaining, the Sibirskys have slowed their schedule accordingly, but despite the natural progression, Charles is noticeably distracted by the trajectory of musical performance in popular culture. Whereas the school was once overrun with children, nearly half of the students today are adults. Many of them are revisiting instruments they played in their childhood. Interest from the current generation is simply declining. “If you had told me in 1975 that people in the future would pay a guy thousands of dollars to play records at their wedding, I would have said you were crazy,” says Charles. “But that’s what is going on now. I guess I don’t quite get it.” As Charles begins to describe the Brooklyn of his youth, it becomes 24
painfully clear that the role of music has changed swiftly—yet subtly—in the 30 years since the school opened. Before air-conditioning was popular, he would walk around the neighborhood listening to his students practice through open windows. Every restaurant on Seventh Avenue seemed to have a piano, and live performers were common in the evenings. “There weren’t jazz clubs, there were just bars that had jazz!” laughed Sibirsky, shrugging deeply. Small details slowly began to outline a musical culture wholly unrecognizable to the modern Brooklynite. Just as William Cronyn probably sat in his window anxiously watching the farmlands disappear, Charles Sibirsky is understandably hesitant to embrace the unfamiliar changes of his neighborhood. He is steadily witnessing the final measures of a provocative period in Park Slope history, but rest assured, the first fruitful notes of an unknown future have already been played. In a few short years, we’ll all be singing the tune.
by Hannah Kramm. photos by Adam Krause.
Retired longshoremen, doctors, lawyers, storeowners, and Vietnam vets. All from a small town on the Adriatic Sea in southern Italy. These are the members of The Citizens of Mola club on 4th place and Court Street. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the club. But members and their families have been here long before it opened. Club president Allegrino Sale, 56, has seen real estate prices skyrocket, and many of his friends fled for Staten Island or New Jersey. This does not stop them from coming to the club every day of the week to speak their local dialect, watch soccer, and cook food that reminds them of home. â€œWe made Carroll Gardens what it is today,â€? Sale tells me, while sipping strong espresso and pointing around the room at his colleagues. Though they often get associated with the mafia, The Citizens of Mola are no gangsters. They are pious men, who enjoy their wine, good Italian food, and unfading memories of Brooklyn.
left: The Reverie Social Club; opposite: The Citizens of Mola 28
The Reverie Social Club
The Citizens of Mola 30
Joey Igneri remembers a different Carroll Gardens. Children playing marbles and stickball in the streets, building go-karts out of junk found in empty lots, families sitting outside of buildings grilling and chatting in the sun. “People don’t know how to hang out anymore,” says Igneri, 47. Except at The Reverie Social Club on Henry between Sackett and Union. After buying the original city charter issued in 1938, Igneri and his brother, Vincent, brought it back to life in 1999. It’s a place where lifelong friends can continue hanging out, an activity that has a long history on this block. “The club is really more like a home to us,” Igneri says. Reverie is where members go to gripe about work, taxes, and the changing times over a drink and some cards with people they have known since they were children. Igneri complains that now people come straight home from work, from school, that there is no more camaraderie between neighbors. The Reverie is his contribution to preserving his neighborhood’s past, when doors and windows could be left open. When people helped each other. When somebody had your back, no matter what.
The Citizens of Pazzallo Society
The Citizens of Mola
The Citizens of Pazzallo Society has been on Henry Street and Sackett since 1919. President Sal Fronterre, along with the Society’s 220 other members, are now working on changing their century-long image. “Before we were just old guys playing cards,” says Fronterre, 57. Now the club is getting a makeover. Today, women are members of the club and sit on the board, which organizes food and toy drives, among other initiatives. “We’re not done yet,” Fronterre says. The next step is to get more kids involved with the club so that the name and history can continue. These Sicilians are proud of their children who are slowly becoming adults. Fronterre says he cannot wait until they are ready to join the club and continue the celebration of their heritage—and a new chapter of life as Americans. On a Saturday you can count on the club being filled with laughter and loud conversation.
The Citizens of Pazzallo Society 31
by Gabrielle Begue. photos by J. K. Putnam.
n one of the historic Van Brunt warehouses on the Red Hook waterfront, between the bustling Fairway supermarket and the rusting trolley cars on the shore, Christopher Webb and John Jerard are collecting Brooklyn’s garbage. For nearly ten years they’ve been building a new world, one in which New York’s history and future collide, a time capsule of the past decade that is also a feat of 21st century recycling. It is called the Reef. And, slowly, the Reef is coming to life. In one corner of Jerard Studio, filmmaker and animator Webb and craftsman and Parsons professor Jerard, with the help of a rotating roster of volunteer animators and art students, are making it the setting of a ten minute stop-motion animation filmed on grainy, dreamlike Super 16mm. Its stars are the many creatures that crawl, swim, and hide in its depths. A school of USB-drive fish float on aluminum foil wings. A safety-pin hermit crab drags its porcelain-doll-head shell along the ocean floor. Earring and copper-wire bugs scuttle up purple Boylan soda-bottle foliage and past one of the three wristwatches that gave out while Webb and Jerard were building the alchemical underwater scene. “We wanted to make a world where things are teeming, so you want to say, ‘Hey, can I see that 32
again?’” says Jerard. “This isn’t a play on a stage. It’s an entire world. And we’re just nutty enough to keep doing it. We’re inventing things all the time, and it’s a major recharge every time we get to work on it.” Even the equipment is salvaged and rigged up in unlikely ways. A massive anglerfish made of Pearl Paint plastic bags, Christmas lights, and thermoplastic from one of Jerard’s completed prop jobs is partially controlled by a 1920s periscope that belonged to Webb’s grandfather. A rotating light filter runs on found Lego motors. Though the eight-foot-tall set is built on a deconstructed animation table and made from trash, it’s surprisingly easy to fall for the illusion. Yet Webb and Jerard are more interested in celebrating what they have than dissembling it. “We want people to see that it’s junk,” says Webb. “It’s like a puppeteer who can put a wooden bead on his finger and make you say, ‘I know it’s your hand, but it really looks like a freakin’ bird.’ That’s what we’re trying to do.” Inspiration for the Reef struck Webb and Jerard during a trip to Coney Island. Working together one summer day, the two left the sweltering studio to go for a swim. Down the beach from the
amusement park they found an old bathhouse that had a caved-in roof, though its Beaux-Arts façade was still intact. They wondered if a freshwater pool, which in traditional bathhouses was available for swimmers to rinse away salt and sweat before getting dressed, was still inside collecting rain, animal droppings, and endless Coney detritus, and asked themselves what kind of world could be, must be, growing beneath the surface. What they’ve come up with is a breathing slice of the city. “This thing is Brooklyn,” says Webb. “If you gave Martians a time capsule of Brooklyn, this would be it. You can read the newspapers that are stuck to the set and learn everything you need to know about New York.” Since that day, the Reef has been in constant flux, growing and changing as new pieces are added and the technology evolves. “This process is never static because we’re constantly presented with challenges,” says Jerard. “All of what we do is problem solving. We need a piece of camera equipment? We do some drawings and make it.” Though they have succeeded over the years in finding solutions to the Reef ’s unique obstacles and have ended up with some extraordinary results, the process can be maddening. “The puppets suck
it, it wiggles, something falls off, something shorts out, something’s melting. And you have to be okay with that.”
Red Hook’s waterfront is part art, part ecological ideal, and more than a little magic. Watch a clip of “The Reef ” at christopherwebbfilms.com.
In the same way that Webb and Jerard are learning to appreciate it all as they go, they hope to encourage others to see junk in a new light. Because despite the technical challenges and the distractions of full-time businesses, the creators of the Reef continue to derive so much joy and inspiration from the project that they want the rest of us to get a taste. Jerard's optimistic about the creative spirit: “If you want to do something like this, you can do it. If you don’t have the money, then make the stuff. We hope someone will go, ‘Oh, that’s made out of a coat hanger and a piece of a lamp…I can make something like that!’” In fact, Jerard and Webb are always looking for volunteers as nutty as themselves to help make a few metal sea bugs or animate a drill-filing stalk of seaweed.
to animate,” Webb says. “When you’re doing a commercial, you’ve got a $10K armature that moves like a Mercedes Benz. With these, you move
After a decade, the end is in sight. Webb and Jerard’s goal is to have a screening of their film by year’s end along with a gallery show of the creatures and equipment in all their wild, juryrigged glory. But even when the Reef is complete, the film is canned, and its inhabitants are laid in their labeled boxes, it’s hard to imagine that the world they have created and spurred into motion will truly rest. Made from the unwanted bits of a city that doesn’t sleep, the underwater world on
375 9th Street at 6th Avenue in Park Slope Open Monday - Friday: 10:30-7pm, Saturday 10-6pm, Sunday 11-5pm 718-768-2453 www.bklynbikes.com
673 Vanderbilt Between Prospect Pl. and St. Marks
Sun - Thurs: 11:30am - 11pm Fri and Sat: 11:30am - 12am
hey're on our corners and our side streets, blending into the urban landscape. They represent a bygone era, one where your ties to a neighborhood ran deep enough that you and your kid might have had the same high school principal. You might walk past one and remember the tall tale of an infamous murder. Forget about that stiff who died over some bowl of Bolognese. We want to know—how’s the pasta! OVERFLOW put four Italian stalwarts in Carroll Gardens through their paces. In an era where new restaurants open by the twos and threes (and close by the ones and twos), we take a look at which unrenovated establishments are worth your lunch. Ferdinando’s, 151 Union Street (at Hicks) Est. 1904 Ferdinando’s is both one of the oldest and most charming restaurants in Carroll Gardens. Its interior might remind diners of the establishment in The Godfather, where Michael Corleone kills the crooked cop with a gun hidden behind the commode. The space is longer and narrower, however, and the lighting is pleasantly dim. The framed pictures are good looking, and the pressed tin ceiling is authentic. The waitresses are pretty nice. On a busy weekend, an unexplained unshaven man hangs out by the door and asks if you want 36
by Susannah Edelbaum. photos by Eric Vogel. a seat, but isn’t the one to seat you. The younger waitress calls you “Hon,” even if you are roughly the same age as she. My friend Kit and I went recently went for lunch. For those seeking a solid Carroll Gardens meal for not too much money and no wait at noon on a Saturday, Ferdinando’s is a sure bet. It serves some very specific Sicilian specialties beyond the usual calamari fritti and sausage parmesan (which they do have). The panelle sandwich ($5.50) is a great alterna-brunch item. The sandwich is comprised of thin slabs of fried chickpea flour topped with a dollop of slightly chalky ricotta, and a sprinkle of cheese on a white roll. The roll itself has just the right crunchy crust and soft innards that a roll should possess. Kit and I didn’t order the panelle during this particular lunch. Instead, we got the vastedda ($5.50), a baked spleen sandwich, and Pasta Con Sarde ($16), which is spaghetti with sardines, pine nuts and a reddish-brown sauce in which various spices blend together to become individually indistinguishable but collectively delicious. (Typical red sauce, it was not). At Kit’s urging, we also ordered that sausage parm ($5.50). Kit calmly ate his half of the spleen sandwich while I practically threw up on the table. Spleen
tastes like dirt, and it looks like it, too. Perhaps it’s an acquired taste. At least it was reasonably priced. “Aren’t you glad we ordered something normal?” Kit asked. The sausage parm had everything right: a good ratio of sauce to meat to cheese. It wasn’t too overwhelming or messy. It also came on the same perfect roll as the panelle that we’d skipped during this visit. It’s nice to use booze to wash down a spleen experiment gone awry. There is only one alcoholic beverage on Ferdinando’s menu. The “house wine.” red or white. is $7. It basically tastes like wine. It doesn’t make much of an impression, but it isn’t bad. On the scale of real world examples, it’s better than the swill at a gallery opening, though not quite as good as the wine your friends with real jobs and adult pretensions serve at dinner parties. Ferdinando’s is one of the nicest places to go for lunch, old or new, Italian or not, in Carroll Gardens. Just don’t eat the spleen unless you’re a true connoisseur of offal. And because the restaurant closes at 8 p.m. on weeknights, be prepared for an early bird special. If you are finishing up in the sevens, no one will kick you out, but the staff doesn’t hesitate to stack the chairs around you.
Sam’s, 238 Court Street (at Baltic) Est. 1930 “You can just sit down,” a seated patron told Kit and I while we stood awkwardly at the entrance to Sam’s. We were trying not to commit a faux pas, but it turned out that would have been hard to do. There is only one staff member at the restaurant, and he operates too much on the offensive to be offended. Luigi, who also goes by Lou, inherited the business from his father, Mario, who is quoted on the menu: “If your wife can’t cook, don’t divorce her. Keep her and eat at Sam’s. You’ll both be happy!“ We asked Luigi for a recommendation. “I’ve been working here 53 years,” he said. “I’m sick of everything.” Sam’s is known for their pizza, so Kit and I got a pie with eggplant, meatballs, and ricotta (around $20). The pie was not super thin or crisp, but it was thin enough. The ricotta was of the same smooth and dollopy variety as Ferdinando’s, which we both liked. The eggplant and meatball were somewhat indistinguishable from one another, so we played a few rounds of “slice of meat or slice of vegetable?” The pizza was huge, as was our other entree, the Scaloppina Alla Sam’s And Croquettes ($19.50). This was a bubbling pile of veal, chicken and eggplant, topped with mozzarella and a lot of red sauce, accompanied by two fried potato croquettes that looked like mozzarella sticks on steroids. They were pleasantly hot and mushy on the inside and crispy on the outside. Like the pizza toppings, the various ingredients of the Scaloppina blended together in an unholy melody that was somehow not bad. When I reheated a sizeable section of the dish at work the next day, a co-worker stared at it. “That looks like food,” he said, unable to identify any component by either appearance or smell. He stuck with that description after being fed a bite. And that’s what it tastes like. Hearty. Comforting. Unexciting. Kind of like the way your best friend’s mom in the third grade cooked dinner. Lou was unwilling to recommend much in the way of wine. The menu offers a number of reasonably-priced options. Just for fun, I went with a lambrusco, which Lou made sure I knew would come out bubbly. It was juicy without being too sweet and a bona fide deal at $7, unlike Kit’s sloe gin fizz. That was only $6.75, and it tasted
like Kool-Aid. We decided we’d be willing to try some of the many (many, many) other oldschool cocktails listed on the menu another time. Hopefully they aren’t all bright pink. Like Ferdinando’s, Sam’s rolls through 2011 untouched. Unlike Ferdinando’s, it’s not so easy on the eyes. The two-person booths are comfortable, but the lighting is harsh. A large back room stays dark. It still charms with the help of Lou, who paid as much attention to us as he could, given the fact that he was also bartending, bussing, and waiting on everybody else. When asked, he said the bathroom was “twenty-two flights up and then seventeen flights down.” I just wandered up some stairs and found it myself. Neighborhood friends
paneling, and checkered tablecloths, it doesn’t seem to have changed in the last 70 years. The cuisine here is comparable to Sam’s— generous, hot, and unthreatening. Dinner for two without any appetizers will run you about $60 before tip. There is no menu. The waiter talks fast. He is clearly used to listing meats and pastas, and all the various options for their preparation to a more experienced clientele than those seated at our table. I’m still not sure what kind of veal we got, or how much it cost. (The waiter doesn’t list prices and we were reluctant to ask.) It didn’t matter— the veal was thoroughly enjoyable and re-heated well the next day. The meat was tender and came under a blanket of some kind of buttery tomatobased sauce that could have done laps around the basic red sauce poured over an accompanying bowl of penne. (All meaty entrees come with little bowls of pasta with that ubiquitous red sauce dumped over them. Luckily, entire cloves of garlic are chopped in, too. However, the pasta is still a pretty dull afterthought to the meat.) A pork chop, which was highly recommended by the server, stood about eight inches high and was only a little on the dry side. A few mushrooms and peppers garnished this beast and kept things reasonably tasty. We were glad we agreed to the vegetables when ordering, as the waiter had skeptically asked if we wanted them at all. Sam's
have complained of his rough-seeming demeanor (he calls diners “youse guys” without a hint of a joke) and body odor. But on our visit we smelled nothing, and Lou fondly told us to “stay well” as we left. Two Toms, 255 Third Avenue (at Union) Est. 1940 The reasons Two Toms falls behind Sam’s in this lineup are two fold. First, its lighting is even harsher. Second, the restaurant has made an attempt to keep up with the times, in the form of two wall-mounted flat screen televisions. During our visit, the lone server took the televisions off mute to play President Obama’s State of the Union Address. This incited some of Two Toms’ patrons to say “Heil Hitler” and give the Nazi salute. If that’s your thing, you might like this restaurant most of all. For the rest of us, it’s best to go on a night when the televisions are limited to muted ice hockey. Aside from the flat screens, the wood
A window behind the counter at the back of the restaurant provided a clear view of the chef. He was a behemoth who cooked in an oversized t-shirt and a gold chain. Music for the entire restaurant seemed to be provided by whatever the dishwasher had chosen to play (mostly Top 40 radio). All beverages came from the same refrigerator case, including unmarked carafes of red wine. We ordered one of these. Like the house wine at Ferdinando’s, it was potable and unremarkable, if a bit colder. From the chilled red wine, to the speed-talking delivery of menu items, to the Nazi salutes, the minor details of eating here are funnier and weirder than either Sam’s or Ferdinando’s. Keeping that in mind, beware that it might make your own presence at Two Toms seem bizarre, should you be a non-Italian South Brooklyn resident, or a recent transplant. Two Toms, both physically and in spirit, is the farthest removed from the neighborhood today. The other clientele, though they keep to their own festive and occasionally raucous dinners, 37
To eat at Marco Polo is to plunge into the 1980s, from napkins folded with a flourish to the musical selection of easy listening slow jams. Lurid murals depicting Technicolor visions of coastal Italy adorn the main dining room.
Wine was a special that week and was recommended by the nice server. The bottle was a $30 Petite Sirah, marked down from a previous (alleged) $80. Slightly sweet with a spicy finish, its quality seemed to fall somewhere in between the $30 and $80 price points. It was also disappointingly Californian. Those in the know might have fun with Marco Polo’s extensive wine list, which is mostly focused on Italy. Given the restaurant’s lifespan, they must have some gems aging well in their wine cellar.
The single waiter clad in a maroon shirt and tie was cordial. Unfortunately for him, Marco Polo’s food was the worst. For the sake of comparison, we ordered a veal dish ($16.95)—here called Scaloppini as opposed to the more traditional Scaloppina. After chewing (and chewing and chewing) a bite, my dining companion said, “People used to cook things more than they do now.” Besides the tough veal, that observation applied to most things on the plate. There were some tired-looking green beans and a lone carrot stick that peeked out from under the meat and potatoes. The little perfectly
Marco Polo was almost empty around 8 p.m. on a weeknight. We were seated with a few other couples in a central carpeted room, where most of the Italian murals come out to play. But the atmosphere might have actually been picked up by eating in a glassed-in side corridor overlooking Union Street. Of the four restaurants here, Marco Polo offers up the least appealing version of nice in both atmosphere and cuisine, with all idiosyncrasy glossed over and the funny bits taken out. The idyllic murals aren’t enough to make up for it, and the result is the most boring, forgettable kind of “nice.”
were the most heterogeneous in comparison to the other three restaurants. Marco Polo Ristorante, 345 Court Street (at Union) Est. 1983
scooped pile of mashed potatoes was buttery and edible, though, and the acidic-tasting jus in which everything sat gave the dish some pleasant
bite. Unfortunately, our house-made pasta dish, a special that night (around $20), looked more enticing than it tasted. A long plate of moonshaped ravioli filled with walnuts and ricotta and topped with a gorgonzola sauce just didn’t really have any sass.
EDITORINCHIEF@ OVERFLOWMAGAZINE.COM 39
by Jonathan Ritzman. photos by Jeff Brown.
t’s a cold, shadowy afternoon when I make my first cast from the cement banks of the Gowanus Canal. The elevated F/G track is towering above me, and trains thunder by with no particular rhythm. There is a neon green birdhouse in the corner of the Lowe's parking lot, and I am casting just beyond it toward the 9th St. drawbridge. If the birdhouse is any indication, Mother Nature is alive and devious in Brooklyn today. There is no discernable current in the camouflage green waterway, which does not exactly blend in with my notions of nature, but I know that for every abandoned boot that sways along the floor there is life that swims around it. I am looking to catch a fish to quell the selfdoubt that whirls around my brain. With each cast I’m wondering what kind of fish I will pull out of the canal. Will it gasp for air thankfully? Will it be Gowanus’s own white whale? Then, while changing my lure, a drop of the murky waterway lands in the corner of my eye. I began to wonder, why on earth am I fishing in the Gowanus Canal? Prior to moving to Brooklyn I had only fished a handful of times, but the romance of the sport has always intrigued me. In the late 1930s my great grandfather, Samuel Ferguson, caught a legendary swordfish just east of Montauk. The fish was hooked around noon and was finally hoisted aboard some 14 hours later. It weighed nearly a quarter ton. The swordfish lives on in the annals of my family’s lore and stories of the fish are still passed on from one generation to the next. The only known photo of the fish still exists as a Ferguson family relic; I received a framed copy of the photo when I was younger and the picture still hangs in my apartment. In it, the behemoth broadbill leans against a rock as a few cars sit behind it to lend perspective. Until recently, the photo has been nothing more than a good conversation piece. Lately, however, it has taken on an unusual life of its own. The more I look at the fish, the more questions I have about myself as a fisherman. How could it be I’ve lived all these years and don’t have a decent fishing story? How could I come from such fishing royalty, but only have a worn copy of The Old Man and the Sea to show for it? I began to project my own insecurities onto the fish. “You’re no fisherman,” the pictured beast would hastily groan. “Catch something, for Christ’s sake. Be somebody!” The creature seems to wonder why I’ve only inherited the fisherman’s penchant for drinking but not a spiritual kinship with The Deep. I begin to think this cruel, scaly mirror on the wall is right. Maybe I hold some innate ancestral fishing power that I’ve yet to harness. On a journey of self-discovery, I decide to catch a fish somewhere in Brooklyn. It’s a Sunday in December, and I’m on Van Brunt Street in Red Hook. I’m looking for someone who can tell me where and how to catch a fish in local waters. Red Hook Bait and Tackle on Van Brunt and Pioneer seems like a decent place to start. The walls of the bar are littered with dusty fish and
game mounts. In a less ironic world there might be snowmobiles parked out back. The owner, Barry O’Meara, is wearing a cozy looking cardigan, and he might look younger if not for the gray and black beard he’s sporting. I’m worried he might laugh at me when I tell him of my quest. I start to ask him about his bar. His Irish accent is faint on his tongue. “It was a bait shop when we took it over,” he says. “But it would have cost a few thousand dollars to change the sign, so we just stuck with it.” I get his attention again. “Do you know anyone who fishes around here?” I ask. He immediately pulls out his phone. He thumbs through his contacts. “I know just the guy,” he says. “His name’s Robby.” Finally, he looks up and his accent comes on a little harder. “He got run over by a fucking car though.” Barry hands me his cell phone. Robby is on the line. I’m caught off guard. I stammer for an icebreaker. “Hi, my name is Jonathan,” I say. “I’m looking to talk to someone who fishes around Red Hook.” And with an eager tone Robby Giordano sells himself to me, immediately listing the sizes of his latest catches, and referencing the pictures he has to prove it. I tell him I’ll be in touch, feeling good about my potential new fishing buddy. After a short phone conversation a couple weeks later, Robby’s agreed to give me a tour of his fishing spots. In the back of my mind I hope I can parlay this into an actual fishing trip. But we’ll see. So far, he’s the best I’ve got. We meet at a coffee shop on Van Brunt then jut down Walcott Street toward the Buttermilk Channel. As we approach one of his favorite spots, I’m already sizing up my new coach. He looks like Tony Danza on a bender. Even though I’m bigger than him, I’m sure before his accident he could have beaten me up. He’s an east coast, no-frills everyman with a dark, 5 o’clock shadow. He’s wearing a black beanie, a dark puffy jacket and a decent pair of blue jeans. Nothing too fancy. He isn’t trying to impress anyone, but you can tell there is still some class underneath his gritty demeanor. He’s using a little wooden shillelagh Barry gave him to navigate the icy cobblestone streets, a vast improvement from the wheelchair he was bound to for several months.
distracted by the boats taxiing up and down the channel. I ask Robby if we’re trespassing. “We’re fine, we’re fine,” he says. I’m already having doubts about this voyage. I’m ducking behind factory buildings with a complete stranger, and for what? I try to remain calm as we stand at the water’s edge. We’re on the concrete landing that runs behind the building. Robby begins to preach to his congregation of one. “We’re trying to match Mother Nature as much as possible here,” he says. He gestures with his hands any chance he gets, and as he continues talking, I gaze off toward the water. The deep blue swells are audible in their churning and even intimidate me. How will I pull something from this vast, unknown channel? It seems like a daunting task. It’s a far cry from the expedition my great grandfather made off Montauk, but I try to maintain focus as Robby goes on. “It’s about making that piece of bait look alive.” I think I have found a veritable fishing sensei as he delves into the importance of the tides around Red Hook. “On Valentino you wanna fish the last two hours of the outgoing tide.” He goes on about how striped bass are “more finicky than other fish in these waters.” He starts to offer me spiritual fishing guidance. “Every time you cast, you gotta think you’re gonna catch something.” He rants on that “the number one thing is perseverance and whenever you think you’re done,” he starts to take on a more serious tone, raising his voice a little, “you always make one last cast. I can’t tell you how important that is, making ‘one last cast.’” My fears of trespassing have subsided, and I start to wonder why Robby insists on ‘one last cast.’ Perhaps it’s the uncertainty of it all.
Robby would turn 40 in February and keeps all his fishing gear in his apartment on Dikeman Street in Red Hook. He claims he came out of his mother’s womb with a fishing rod in his hand. “That must have really sucked for your mom,” I say. It’s windy and he doesn’t hear me. When he was two his parents took him for a walk out on a pier, and he wandered toward a stranger fishing and grabbed the rod as if he already knew how to use it. His parents were stunned. A fisherman was born.
After his accident, Robby thought he’d never walk again. It was October 2009 when he was riding his bike in Red Hook through a five-way intersection with reverse traffic lanes, what he calls “the devil’s triangle of Red Hook. He was caught in the headlights of a full-size Ford SUV. (Due to an ongoing legal case, Robby asked that I not write the specific intersection). “In a last ditch attempt to save my life, I fell to the ground like a quarterback getting sacked,” he tells me. The truck ran over both his legs and the frame of his bike drove into his thigh with the full force of the SUV. He broke his right femur and right hip and his left leg was obliterated beneath the knee. “The bone would have stuck out of my thigh if it wasn’t so shattered,” he says. “It looked like someone pushed a cereal bowl into my leg.” I wince when he tells me this, but he remembers it casually, hardly stoic is his recollection. Though, like any fisherman, he loves a good story.
follow him past a dead end sign on the south west edge of the Brooklyn cruise terminal and at the street's end he shimmies through a pried open fence in front of me. It’s along an abandoned looking building, but the trucks out front hint someone might care what we’re up to. I’m looking for security guards but trying to act cool about it. My feet crunch on the pre-natal sea glass strewn about the landing. By now, there is a sweeping view of lower Manhattan, and I’m
He tells me the last time he fished behind the building, which he suggests remains unnamed, he had a run in with a territorial local named Vladimir. Turns out a few anglers, including Vladimir—a larger 40-something Croatian man—were having a day behind the building. Vladimir had briefly left to the liquor store when Robby landed a sizable striped bass. When Vladimir returned and saw Robby’s fish, he was inexplicably incensed, perhaps jealous of Robby’s catch, Robby explains.
“He came over to me, grabbed my fish. I thought it was a joke at first, and he chucked it back into the water. I was so pissed.” Robby confronted Vladimir, questioning his actions. Things nearly turned physical, and a few of Robby’s friends came to his defense knowing that he was still in rough shape. Eventually Vladimir left, avoiding a more serious situation. Later that night Robby sent Vladimir a text message suggesting that it might not be a good idea to come around Red Hook if that was the way he was going to carry himself. Robby hasn’t seen him since. After an hour ducking in and out of alleys behind different buildings and fishing holes, Robby is starting to show more of a limp. I suggest we grab a beer and he agrees. We’re a couple High Lifes deep when he decides he’ll take me striper fishing on Valentino Pier, which juts out from the end of Coffey Street due west off of the curving hook of Brooklyn. I mention to Robby that striped bass season ended in November (as most of the fish have migrated south to warmer waters.) He insists, however, there is a residential school of fish that sticks around through the winter. Over the years, Robby has swum with the migratory school. Nature’s path for Robby has been a constant catch and release. After his family moved to Florida, his parents went through an ugly divorce. As an escape, Robby turned his back to land and fished off the local pier. He’d regularly catch snapper, snook, even sharks. Years later, after moving to Seattle, he turned to the water again, fishing for salmon offshore while his girlfriend of the time was in and out of jail on drugrelated charges. And now, here in Red Hook still recovering from two broken legs, subsequently unable to continue his job as a deckhand with the water taxi, he fishes for stripers at the west end of Coffey Street, off Louis Valentino Pier. It helps supplement the modest disability check he collects each month. “I still had 100 stitches in my leg when I caught two stripers at once out there.” I should be skeptical, knowing that fishermen have a tendency to embellish. But I believe him. The man has seen a lot, on shore and off. The next day, Robby shows up with all the necessary tackle for our expedition. Everything we need is in his rusted black fishing cart that he first used as a walker after his accident. It’s an amalgamation of urban ingenuity and rugged outdoorsman. Necessity is, more curtly, the mother of cool shit like this. It looks like a soup’d up version of my elderly neighbor’s laundry cart. Robby’s wrapped foam from a pool toy around the handle to stick his hooks and lures into. There are three PVC pipe rod-holders attached to the front with electrical tape and the cart itself holds all the weights, reels, line, knives and bait you need for a day fishing. The bait today is some old bunker fish from Robby’s 42
freezer, and he’s immediately slicing hunks off the whole fish on a cutting board that’s permanently fastened to the end of the pier with a rusted chain. He hooks a three-by-five inch chunk on each of the four hooks attached to varying size rods and heaves each one of them toward the southern tip of Governor’s Island, straight at Lady Liberty, who looks as though she could be making a cast herself. Then, we wait. I naïvely thought there'd be more to this experience than just waiting for a fish to bite, and I start to question my motives. Why did I drag this guy with two bum legs out to the pier? Am I being selfish? Is there more to this? While we hold for a bite Robby has wonton soup delivered to the end of the pier. Just as I start to fish around the broth trying to pluck a wonton from it, one of the reels begins to tick. Something is pulling the line. This is it. Robby jumps to the rod and gives it a tug, but nothing offers resistance. “It could have been the tide going out, swinging the bait,” he says.
So, after four hours on the blustery pier and two orders of wonton soup, we pack up our gear. I should have been discouraged, but I wasn’t. My fishing Miyagi had stressed persistence, so I wasn’t going to reel it in just yet. Then, about half way through our second day fishing, the warmest day in weeks, something interesting happens. A car pulls up at the end of the pier. “Oh shit, that’s Vladimir,” Robby says. “That’s his car, that’s his car.” I look down the pier and see a beige, GMC Jimmy with a fishing rod on top parked on Coffey Street. My heart starts to race and I ask him what we should do. “We wait to see if he comes out here.” He says this with confidence as I begin to crack my knuckles. Robby is immediately on the phone with his hardened friend from the Red Hook Houses. “Hey Al, I’m down here at the pier, and Vladimir just showed up. Just wanted to let you know in case he tries anything.” What have I gotten myself into? I was looking to fight a fish, not some Croatian maniac. I’m scared, but I feign excitement, acting ready to go to bat for my sensei.
Except Vladimir won’t get out of his car. He drove down to the pier with his rod and he never once stepped foot out of his car, likely seeing Robby and having second thoughts. It was a small victory for a captain and his mate, and all we could hang our hats on when we eventually left the pier. But I didn’t care all that I caught in Red Hook was a mild cold and a couple of plastic bags. Robby had already taught me everything I needed to know before we even cast a line out. There was still more to be done. I wondered if my great grandfather would have rested on his waders and given up. Since the frigid water off Brooklyn didn’t seem to be playing host to any big bites, I decided to look elsewhere. I needed to find warmer waters where a few stray fish might have taken refuge from the unforgiving winter. And then it dawned on me. I’ll fish the Gowanus. I figure these waters are likely warmer as they are nestled inland amidst Brooklyn businesses, but are there fish in it? After some quick research a recent New York Post article reveals people should “avoid eating fish or crabs caught in the polluted channel.” So, with this piece of double-edged inspiration, I head to the canal. So here I am, peering into the formidable trench that is the Gowanus Canal. I’m armed with a forty-dollar rod and reel from Capitol Fishing in Manhattan, a five-dollar box of lures and a ten-dollar state-issued fishing license when I start making cast after cast. Yes, the canal is a bacterial coup d’état and, no, people probably shouldn’t fish in it. But I don’t care. It still sounds like water, and for the purposes of my quest to uncover my innate fishing prowess, the faint warmth of commerce is my friend and teammate. Something big is in there, and I know it. When I started this voyage I didn’t know which way the ocean was from my apartment. But here I am, filled with confidence, making cast after cast into the mighty Gowanus. A few boats troll by me and with them the hours of fishing pass. Again, I should be discouraged but I’m not. I think about how far I’ve come. With the sun close to setting and my fingers growing numb, I start to pack up my gear. I continue to reflect. I think of my great-grandfather and the swordfish he caught. I wonder what he’d think of me now, if I’d made him proud just for trying. I wonder if I’ll ever have a picture of my own to hang next to his. Then, while putting away my tackle, I remember Robby’s creed. “One last cast, just one last cast.” So I blow warm air into my fists, pull my rod back and indeed, make one last cast. I slowly start to reel in my line hoping the action on my lure will entice whatever whirls beneath. And with the faint Brooklyn siren song being whistled by police cars in the distance, it happens. It actually happens. My line tightens. My rod bends. And my real journey is just beginning.
YOUNG by Andrea Swalec.
Half of us here roll out of bed on Saturdays bedraggled from the night before, grab a coffee, swing by the farmer’s market, and go back home to make breakfast and read magazines with New York in the title. Though times are hard, we still lead the lives we dreamt of as kids. But how do we pay our bills?
the money on music expenses. I don’t save any money.”
We asked our fellow young, creative South Brooklynites to spill the beans about how they’re trying to make their dreams come true – with or without extra cash – and where they think these lives will lead.
Career goal: “To be able to do just music within two years; to be commercially, creatively, and artistically viable. I’m working really hard to get to a tipping point.”
Lifestyle goal: “My game plan only goes as far as six months.”
Student loan debt: “Like everyone else in their 20s, paying off my student loans is a serious concern and a weight hanging over my shoulder. I’m lucky that my parents are helpful. I’m just looking forward to the day when my creative endeavors will lead to real material gain. Ha. I can be hilarious! I’m screwed.”
Neighborhood: 7th Avenue and 3rd Street, Park Slope Occupation: Congressional staffer/musician Came to New York: In 2006, from Melville, N.Y. after going to Cornell. “I’m here to pursue my career, period.”
Housing: $1,150 a month for his part of a two-bedroom shared with his girlfriend, in a brownstone
Parental support: “Only as an emergency back-up.” Biggest extravagance: Cable
Income: “Enough that I can pay rent and use the rest of
How I think I compare to my peers classand money-wise: “Pretty much everyone I grew up with without exception became lawyers, doctors, and bankers. I had a really rough time saying I’m an artist, professionally. I didn’t feel an acceptance.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “The model has changed. People achieved bigger things younger. I think our generation has been coddled by our baby boomer parents. We can do what we want.
Gap between reality and the dream: “I would like to transition into making money through music. Following your passion usually means taking a whole lot of risk. I’ve always taken the risk gradually.”
MONEY Does that mean we’re lazy or putting life off ? No!”
London to visit friends and family, Thailand and Cambodia -- we worked our way north into the mountains -- and India to visit family, friends and just backpack around.”
Housing: $1,550 a month for his part of a quiet, sunny, two-bedroom shared with one roommate
Age: 28 Neighborhood: 4th and Atlantic Avenues, Boerum Hill Came to New York: Grew up in Queens and New Jersey, and went to NYU Occupation: Corporate lawyer in mergers and acquisitions Income: “Enough that I don’t have major financial concerns right now. I save tons and spend a lot on vacations. … As of late, I’ve gone to Scotland for a golf trip with my dad, Germany for Oktoberfest and to visit some friends,
Career goal: “I’m trying to make steps toward working with early-stage companies, maybe in cloud computing or green technology. To get there I may have to leave New York for Silicon Valley, since so many startups are there. But it’s hard to turn your back on money and good, steady work. And it’s hard to leave this place because it offers up so much.” Lifestyle goal: “I’m open ears right now. I was looking to buy property in Fort Greene. I was like, I’m going to settle down, buy property, get married, get a dog. Then, it became more apparent to me that I was chasing this
idealistic lifestyle. I’m figuring it out as I go along.” Student loan debt: “Five figures, and I’m aiming to get rid of it by next year” Parental support: None Biggest extravagance: “Nice dinners every now and again. I’ll pay through the nose for a good meal at a good restaurant. I really love Al Di Là in Park Slope and Olea in Fort Greene. In the city, Gramercy Tavern is my absolute favorite and Cookshop a close second. Dinners like that come rarely, though. Otherwise, I’m a cheapo.” Gap between reality and the dream: “Careerwise, I want to do what I’m doing now but work on a smaller scale with venture capital investors and smaller and progressive startups. I enjoy my work, but don’t get great fulfillment from my clients. More
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holistically, I’d like a family, enough money to live comfortably on, and the ability to travel. I’ll hopefully have that after I hit 30. Until then, I’ll just keep working my ass off.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “If you have the good fortune of being born middle-class, you have the privilege of being able to do whatever you want. At the end of the day, I think we [here] are in the same cultural class. There’s kind of a levelness to it.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “Absolutely. We do a lot of things the rest of America gets out of their system by the time they’re 22. It’s not bad. You can do whatever you want.”
SARAH RYHANEN Age: 30 Neighborhood: Coffey and Ferris Streets, Red Hook
Are we delaying adulthood?: “Definitely. There are so many personal goals I have for myself here. Most of us who live in the city have a very charmed life, no matter how much money we have. It’s a scary idea that we would give something up.”
Neighborhood: Classon Avenue and President Street, Crown Heights Came to New York: In 2005, from Houston, TX. “I visited in 2001 and loved the pace, convenience and possibilities here.” Occupation: Director/theater student/DJ Income: None. “I’m living off student loans.”
Occupation: Co-owner and manager of Saipua, a shop in Red Hook that sells flowers and olive oil soap
Career goal: “I have two main loves, theater and DJing. If I could combine those two loves … Right now I’m applying for theater observerships and part-time jobs.”
Career goal: “I’m not very goal-oriented. [Saipua] could be making a lot more money, but we’re not. Part of our success has been in not worrying about money. When I’m at the flower market, I just get whatever is pretty. My plan is to get more informed about where we’re going. And I want to farm flowers.” Lifestyle goal: “I want to own something where there is a garden involved and own a sheep-herding dog.” Student loan debt: “I paid it off last year.” Parental support: None Biggest extravagance: “Food, clothes, and wine.” Gap between reality and the dream: “I’m doing exactly what I want to be doing. I never had a lot of money, and I don’t have a lot of money now. Not having money has never held me back from anything. Money becomes an excuse for people to not follow their dreams and have their life be what they want it to be.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “I try to keep my jealousy in check. I think there are a lot of self-mythologizing hipsters
Lifestyle goal: “I just want to be able to take care of my needs, such as health care. But not having money teaches you about life. You need to work for what you want. The struggle is making me grow up a lot. I think that I’m just at the edge of figuring that all out, at 32. In the next 10 years, I hope to be well established.” Student loan debt: Over $100,000 Parental support: occasionally.”
DANIELLE RAYMO Neighborhood: Court and Huntington Streets, Carroll Gardens
Housing: $935 a month for a nice one-bedroom
Housing: $1,500 a month for her part of a railroaded one-bedroom in an 1860s rowhouse shared with her boyfriend
generation is not trying to work a 9-to-5 that sucks the life out of us. We realize that we can have the life we want. Some people got married and want kids. But most people are pursuing what they want. I’m learning what to value in life, not buying what is out there about what I should value.”
Came to New York: In 2003, from Mohegan Lake, N.Y., after going to Virginia Tech
Income: $40,000 a year
out there. The whole authenticity fashion – I find it grating. But we make money off a lot of those ideas.”
Biggest extravagance: Clothing Gap between reality and the dream: “I don’t feel financially stable at all right now. I used to teach second grade. I was used to stability and having a salary. Now it’s about planning and being smart about my resources. It took me the past two years to figure out how to save money and budget. … I’m going to have to find a way to make my projects happen. I’m going to have to learn how to write grants.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “Most people in my group use loans as our financial resource. I try not to think about [other people’s situations]. I believe that I am in the place that is meant for me. I know that I will get to a place of financial stability.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “Adulthood is something society has imposed on us in order for us to contribute to our capitalist society. Our
Came to New York: In December 2010 from Rochester, N.Y. when her boyfriend got a job here Occupation: Unemployed radio host Income: “I’m living off my savings now.” Housing: About $1,000 a month for her part of a spacious one-bedroom with a porch, shared with her boyfriend Career goal: “Ultimately, to have my own radio show, with a mix of news and interesting stories. In the meantime, to work in radio, marketing and PR.” Lifestyle goal: “To have a job that I love and a really relaxed life outside of that.” Student loan debt: $45,000 Parental support: “I’m sure my parents will help if I need them.” Biggest extravagance: Nice food and dance classes Gap between reality and the dream: “On a scale of 1 to 10 for how stressed I am about money, I’d say I’m an 11 now. That’s the main thing.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “I’m about your average mid-20s, middle-class girl who’s trying to get her career going strong. I’m somewhere in the middle of both class and money versus my peers, I think.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “I don’t think so. With every generation there’s a lot more opportunity. We want to enjoy those opportunities. A lot of people I went to high school with have kids now, and I’m like, ‘Why?’ I wouldn’t be able to do all the stuff I want to do.”
ALEX THERAN Age: 23 Neighborhood: State and Hoyt Streets, Boerum Hill
Came to New York: In 2009, from Boston Occupation: server/bartender/babysitter Income: “It varies dramatically from week to week. Last week I worked 14 hours every day, but next week might be completely different.” Housing: “Rent-stabilized studio apartment in a great neighborhood, in close proximity to many of my jobs and the train.” Student loan debt: “I have a small amount of student loan debt, which I deferred until very recently.” Career Goal: “I received my BFA in Theatre Arts and always anticipated pursuing a career as a playwright. Though I’m still working on plays, I’m open to other options. For example, I’m interested in writing about foreign politics and drama criticism.” Lifestyle Goal: “I didn’t move here with the expectation that I would do as well as I have. Eating only beans and rice and wondering how I’m going to pay rent is a place I never want to be again but, otherwise, I don’t care about being wealthy. I’m currently saving for graduate school or a house. I believe that if you are focused on the things you love, money will come on it’s own.” Biggest extravagance: Skiing day trips Parental support: “My parents helped me pay for school but I don’t receive support of any kind. I’ve been independent for the last five years.” Gap between reality and the dream: “When I was 14 I made elaborate career plans for myself and, so far, I’ve achieved all of those goals. Yet, I’m still not satisfied and I don’t think I ever will be.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “Since October, I’ve been lucky to fall into an accepting, creative community. People I’ve met in New York have been incredibly generous and supportive in helping me along since I arrived here.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “I saw someone wearing a shirt that said ‘KIDULT’ yesterday, and I think that there is something to that premise. But in New York it takes time and money for people to build their lives and their networks. I babysit for enough families to see that people in Brooklyn do ‘grow up.’ They may not be getting married in their mid-20s like my friends and family back home, but I’m not sure who benefits by imposing those standards.”
ERIC JOHNSTON Age: 31 Neighborhood: 5th Avenue and 23rd Street, South Park Slope
Came to New York: In 2007, from Port Arthur, Texas, “the armpit of the state,” after living in Baltimore for grad school Occupation: Designer of towel and sheet patterns for major retailers Income: “Enough for me to live in New York but not quite enough to leave it if I wanted to. Affording a real vacation is definitely out of the question, and flying home is more difficult than I’d prefer.” Housing: “Around $800/month for my half of a two-bedroom walk-up I share with a friend. It’s tiny, sometimes difficult to maneuver and overlooks a scenic brick and steel ConEd facility.” Student loan debt: “I’m expected to pay around $500 a month on two loans that will be with me for the next 25 years.” Career goal: “My main priority is to make drawings, so ultimately I’d like someone who’s willing to support and represent whatever I’m making at the moment. In the meantime, I’m designing patterns and making ends meet.” Lifestyle goal: “My immediate goal is to have a separate studio that I can work in. I’m working out of my apartment right now and space is too tight to be able to really experiment with scale and step back and see the drawings all together. Either that or I’d like to be able to afford a much larger place to live and work out of.” Biggest extravagance: “Books and food are things I buy when I feel the need to reward myself. In fact, I probably reward myself too often.” Parental support: “Thankfully, my job covers most financial emergencies. But there are rare times when I have to call on Mom and Dad for a little extra to cover that check that didn’t clear in time or to help buy frames for a show.” Gap between reality and the dream: “Most gaps in my life right now are social ones. If I could ever learn to be the networking kind, I’m sure bigger things would happen.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “Most of the people I spend time with are cut from the same cloth as me, so I usually don’t come up against real class differences. But when I do, I try not to think anything of it. In the end, I think there’s always going to be someone who’s done more or seen more or shown more that I have. I can’t let those things bother me.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “Yes, but I don’t think there’s a morality attached to it. We define our own roles. The people I associate with have really strong feelings about their life’s work and what they want to accomplish. When you’re passionate about something, you tend to make sacrifices for it, in your time, money and relationships.”
SAJ POTHIAWALA Age: 26 Neighborhood: Union and Smith Streets, Carroll Gardens Came to New York: In 2005, from Norwich, Connecticut after college at Tufts. “It was either Boston, D.C. or New York.” Occupation: Owner, producer, and head writer at Landline TV, production company and viral comedy video-maker,. “I quit my job as a paralegal in 2008 and lived off unemployment for a year while my friends and I tried to make a business out of making viral videos. I was very broke, but, at the same time, I could do what I wanted to do.” Income: “I would always want more money. As a company, we made $250,000 last year, with four full-time staffers and some freelancers. Having lived on unemployment for a year, I’m very conscientious. Do I have enough money to save a substantial amount or go on a nice long vacation? Not yet. But I can certainly afford a few $6 craft beers on a Wednesday night without having to stretch my budget.” Rent and living situation: $800 a month for his part of an “average” two-bedroom Career goal: “To write for TV, for either an existing show or my own” Lifestyle goal: “I don’t even think about that stuff, to tell you the truth. I want to be able to live by myself, somewhere still in Brooklyn.” Student loan debt: None Parental support: None Biggest extravagance: “Entertainment expenses – boozing and shows. I don’t spend much –maybe $120 a week – but I don’t watch what I spend too closely either.” Gap between reality and the dream: “That gap is always there. It’s what drives you. I don’t feel like I’ve 'made it.' I still feel like I’m at the very beginning.” How I think I compare to my peers class- and money-wise: “I’d say I’m better off, if only slightly, but I can’t really tell, and I feel presumptuous saying so. As long as you can keep yourself alive and out of debt, I think you’re generally winning.” Are we delaying adulthood?: “Traditional careers aren’t as stable as they used to be. Everything is changing. Unfortunately, we’re the generation that’s the guinea pigs for that. Landline is a microcosm of that.” Additional reporting by Lane Arthur and Garrett Crabb
by Erik Winkowski
print ain't dead, it just went local. . .
published quarterly 10,000 copies per issue + online distributed free for all readers throughout South Brooklyn
a quarterly print magazine, an account of life around the gowanus canal