OVERFLOW ISSUE 6 :: SUMMER 2010
gowanus . red hook . carroll gardens cobble hill . boerum hill . park slope prospect heights . windsor terrace
OVERFLOW ISSUE 6 :: SUMMER 2010
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Synaesthetic Surround bitchin' laser light show, by Sam Roudman
Slice literary Brooklyn gets its piece, by Dale W. Eisinger
Pardons from the Pastor a comic, by Hunter Nelson
Summer Bummer an illustration, by Erik Winkowski
Angel a comic, by Dean Haspiel
Reclaiming the Rub
Don't tread on me.
Frankensteins of cute woodland creatures, by Sarah Vandervennet
diary of a duped daddy, by Ryan Dodge
the thrill of the kill, by Hannah Rappleye Legs! getting around, by Douglas Calhoun
Gals from the Canal
26 30 40
just your neighborhood burlesque dancers, by Shula Melamed
dispatches from VFW 7096, by Nandi Dill
Gowanus Super Fun up shit creek, by Lisa Riordan Seville
Max & Julia try living with an insane painter, by Joe Sullivan cover photo by Eric Vogel, contents photo by Walker Esner
OVERFLOW Published Quarterly by OVERFLOW Publishing, LLC 555 Washington Ave., #2L Brooklyn, NY 11238 www.overflowmagazine.com
*** Publishers Samuel Carter Jonathan Melamed Managing Editor Shane Dixon Kavanaugh *** Photo Editor Jonathan Melamed Online Editor Dale W. Eisinger Interns Cain Corcoran Knox Dupree Amanda Higgins Advertising Inquiries firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial Inquiries email@example.com Comments firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Dale W. Eisinger is a writer from Idaho. 2. Ryan Dodge's work has appeared on Glamour.com, the New York Post, Slice Magazine, Yahoo!, MSN, and the Minetta Review. He hails from Tacoma, WA and resides in Boerum Hill. 3. Bobby Dupree: The car was tougher. xoxo 4. Sam Roudman is a man obsessed with rigor and results. He is a calculator in flannel, brought by god to make you happy. He's following you, follow him @bandnamefakes. 5. Sarah Wilmer: when next on the world wide web, visit www.sarahwilmer.com 6. Hannah Rappleye currently lives in Bed-Stuy and works as a freelance journalist and editor. Her favorite places to work are Michigan, the Bronx, and Africa. 7. Hunter Nelson is a writer/performer/illustrator who grew up in Texas. There was no sweet tea in New York before Hunter demanded it. 8. Jeff Brown: www.jr-brown. com 9. Sarah Vandervennet is dedicating her summer to Hemmingway, Paris, Pernod, and homefully some 30-toed cats. 10. Marlene Rounds: www.marlenerounds.com 11. Joe Sullivan is author of a novel, Three Thirds, and recent fiction Monkeybicycle. His music writing has appeared in Junkmedia, The L Magazine, and Crawdaddy!, and he moonlights as sax player in the Dead Sextones. joesullivanwrites.wordpress.com 12. Erik Winkowski is a Brooklyn-based graphic artist drinking an Oreo milkshake. 13. Eric Vogel is a Jersey Shore native with a heart of gold but NOT the matching tan. For the past 5 years he has called South Brooklyn his home, coincidentally on the very same block where his grandfather was born. Eric's work has been described as obsessively detail oriented and dramatically well lit, see for yourself over at www.ericvogelphoto.com 14. Dean Haspiel is a native New Yorker who created BILLY DOGMA and STREET CODE and steeps in psychotronic movies, Jack Kirby, and electronica. Dean has collaborated on many great superhero and semi-autobio comic books, helped pioneer webcomics with the invention
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of ACT-I-VATE, and draws for HBO's "Bored To Death." Dean is a founding member of DEEP6 Studios in Gowanus, Brooklyn and rides his bike everywhere. www.deanhaspiel.com 15. Kyle Muller: A shrewd and calculating leader, Muller, a Freelance Admiral and privateer, uses his fearsome image instead of force to elicit the response he desires from those he robs. Operating around Brooklyn and the eastern coast of the American colonies, he is one of the most notorious and successful privateers from Texas, and one of the most dangerous illustrators who works throughout the five boroughs. 16. Walker Esner: is a man of geometry, take a look at more of his photographs at www.walkeresner.com 17. Nandi Dill, is based in Prospect Heights. She's currently working on her Ph.D. at NYU where she studies institutions and places people call home. 18. Lisa Riordan Seville lives in South Brooklyn. She's developed an unhealthy fascination with coal tar. 19. Shula Melamed: It is from experiences--academic, professional, and social--that allow Shula to speakÂ with authorityÂ on a number of topics regarding performance, gender, sexuality and self-presentation. She lived in Gowanus back in the day when it was customary to pretend you lived in Park Slope. 20. Jesse Brown likes taking pictures. Check him out at www.jessebrownphotography.com 21. Douglas Calhoun is an idea man. He works as the resident Queerespondent for brooklyntheborough.com, creating a weekly calendar, throwing monthly parties, booking music, and writing words. 22. Pearl Gabel: is a freelance photographer who works for the New York Daily News and other extraterrestrial publications and organizations. She shoots cameras, hoops, and the shit. She has a website: www.pearlgabel.com 23. Michael Popp is a South Brooklyn resident constantly looking for new subjects and endeavors to capture. He likes whisky and rooftops. More of his work can be found at www.michaelpopp.com
Tamar Mogendorff by Sarah Vandervennet. photo by Sarah Wilmer.
alking into Tamar Mogendorff ’s Boerum Hill studio is like stepping into a storybook. There is no other way to describe being surrounded by treasure troves of button-eyed owls, corals spewing black tendrils, elegant swans with feathered tails. Bony fish skeletons adorn the walls and sequined seahorses in fishbowls hang from the ceiling.
But this is no ordinary storybook. Her creations are the Frankensteins of cute woodland creatures. They are the slapdash, hand-sewn stuffed animals and plants that cost upwards of $200. And there is no fairy dust or enchanting spell to speak of. Just Mogendorff ’s handiwork. Yet for some reason this is a storybook no one can put down. Scott Horne, a friend of Mogendorff ’s and a prop stylist who has used her work in photo shoots, explains why her work stands out from the growing handmade trend. “Sure, anybody can throw together a stuffed bird from leftover scraps of fabrics, but not everybody has the ability to tell a story at the same time. Tamar gets you wrapped up in a fantasy or fairytale with her cleverly appliquéd bits, stitches and finishing touches.” Talking to Mogendorff, you realize how much her work reflects herself. Her creations are basically the manifestation of her thinking aloud, scatterbrained yet insightful reflections that ring true in her work. “I have an idea, I want to make something,” she says. “I just find a way. My ways are not necessarily the correct ways sometimes, but I find it to be the right way for me.” Mogendorff ’s artistic process is a balance between precision and precariousness. Although she has been sewing since she was a child, she has no formal training. This gives her work its handmade charm.
She dyes wools and tweeds with vegetables from her own fridge, manipulating the fabrics until they satisfy her vision. At the same time, she leaves room for happy mistakes. Forgoing planning and measuring, she just does it. The results are unique works of tattered genius. “I like when something’s a little bit ripped. I like things that are not totally done,” says Mogendorff. I like to see the work. Like the swans. I like to see all the threads. I never hide any mistakes. It feels fragile, you don’t know when it starts and when it ends. It’s more than that.” And like her aesthetic, Mogendorff ’s work can’t be contained. After graduating art school in Israel, Mogendorff moved to New York City. She was 26. She supported herself working as a florist in Nolita, a job that suited her green thumb. However, as the demand for her creative talent grew, her art turned into a full-time job. Mogendorff attributes her success to hard work and gives a modest nod to luck. “I’m still surprised people are buying from me,” she says. But that is where the magic comes in. People love her work, whether that person is a representative from a high-end fashion label or a doting mother. Mogendorff collaborates with designers and artists on anything from window displays to art books. She also sells her creations wholesale through boutiques internationally and locally, including Brooklyn’s own Bird clothing boutique. Rose Lazar, a printmaker who collaborates with Mogendorff, first encountered her work on a buying trip to New York when she was working at a shop in Chicago. “I turned the corner and was instantly smitten with her work,” said Lazar. “We bought it to sell in the shop without any hesitations.”
“Her work is so popular because it spans ages,” Lazar continued. “A mother can buy it for their child's room, but a dude can buy it for his living room, too. There is a sense of romanticism, whimsy and nostalgia in every piece that people can relate to.” Lazar had one of Mogendorff ’s mounted deer heads on display in her home before she even worked with her. “When I worked in the shop in Chicago, I would totally understand why a grown woman was squealing about a family of white felt polar bears and needing to give them a good home,” she said. The stories Mogendorff ’s creations possess inspire relationships with her work. There is a personal quality to it that begins with Mogendorff ’s own relationship with each of her pieces. Each piece is part of her evolution as a designer, and part of her ambitions to develop her creativity. “Now when I look back it’s almost like I couldn’t do anything else,” she says. “It so makes sense that this is what I would do.” Mogendorff maintains a modest attitude about her success. She takes herself seriously, but only seriously enough. “I don’t see myself as an artist,” she says. “I see myself as a designer or…I don’t know. Some people call me a stitch artist whatever that is. So I would say – I don’t know the right word in English. There is a better word in Hebrew for me. It’s more like craftsmanship.” Each mushroom, birdhouse, and bunny family that Mogendorff creates lives happily ever after in the hearts of those who buy them. But the artist will always be tugging at the seams, breaking the boundaries and opening up new worlds. “There are a lot of other things I want to do and that I’m working on for the future,” she says. “It’s something that I can take in many directions. And I’ll play with that.”
by Sam Roudman. photos by Jesse Brown.
t the end of Todd Bresnick’s Park Slope apartment, past the Buddhist incense holder, the hookah, and the conceptual art conglomerations on the wall, there’s an 8’x10’ room with prayer flags slung over the entrance. Its walls are dark purple or crimson and partially covered by sheer curtains. The window is blocked, and the only light comes from a strip of Christmas lights snaking along the floor. It’s a little scary.
affecting change through our animal response, has been less rigorously and systematically explored. “There’s still this split between body therapies and psychology,” said Bresnick.
“And so if you’re relaxed, your brainwaves are moving at a slower rate. Say between 2 and 10 hertz. If you’re more activated, they’re moving more quickly.” This sort of thing is verified through scanning the brain.
Bresnick’s therapy takes the normal treatments for depression, anxiety, and ADHD, and uses sensory stimulation, sound, light, and vibration to beef up the interface with the animal response part of the brain.
“If you present stimuli to the brain through the senses, whichever set of senses, at particular brainwave lengths, the brain becomes in a sense overwhelmed, it starts syncing up with the external stimuli, it’s called entrainment.”
“You can put your feet up if you like,” says Bresnick, with the equipoise of the world’s greatest Jewish summer camp counselor.
It was about three years ago that Bresnick began bridging the mind/body gap in earnest. But in reality, Synaesthetic Surround is the culmination of an adult life spent as a conceptual tinkerer.
By stimulating someone at a relaxed frequency (with sight, sound, touch, etc.), the brain latches on to that frequency and the person relaxes. The more the process is repeated, the more readily the brain responds, the easier the person chills out and bang, you’ve got an effective therapy.
I lay back on the chair and four coiled tentacles that float 10 inches in front of my face begin to pulse light at regular intervals. Every flash is synced to a rumbling bass oscillation with the oddly comforting regularity of an electric aquarium. A highpitched tone fades up from nowhere with the utmost discretion, and Bresnick’s voice enters the speakers around my head.
Bresnick originally moved to New York from Denver for a graduate program in something called Performance Studies. It’s “like critical theory,
“You can close your eyes and notice things as a mediation. Just let them come,” he says. Enveloped in the calculated warmth of the sensory input, my brain is about to get rocked. Todd Bresnick, Psy.D. doesn’t just want to fuck with your brainwaves –any stimuli can do that. He wants to massage them into compliance. In his apartment, Bresnick has created a multisensory therapy called Synaesthetic Surround, an interesting mixture of sense therapy, talk therapy, and a bitchin’ laser light show.
But beyond anecdotal plaudits, does it work? Still in the experimental phase Bresnick has used Synaesthetic Surround on some 30 patients. He is planning for a more in depth study this summer.
A half-hour before I took a ride in the chair, we talked brain in Bresnick’s backyard.
“I don’t like the detail work so much,” said Bresnick, clearly an ideas guy. Luckily, he’s teaming up with a former Albert Einstein College of Medicine psychology professor and friend, Ross Levin, Ph.D., who is of a more statistical orientation.
“There are studies that indicate that our experience happens more through our bodies than we heretofore realize,” he said. When we receive some sensory input –light for instance –it filters through the eye, is processed in the brain’s Rube Goldberg mechanics, and then gets presented to the conscious mind, which then decides how to react. Based on the information the thinkin’ brain comes to the conclusion, “Dude, this is way too bright,” or “Man, that’s pretty, I’m going to keep staring.” But, there is another way these stimuli are perceived as well. “Part of your brain responds before consciousness responds, before the cortex decides ‘Ok, this is a scary situation,’ and tells your body to have a fear response,” Bresnick continued. Say that sensory input is a fire heading toward you. Your body might automatically respond with sweaty palms, a clenched stomach, and a racing heart. These physical symptoms of fear occur before the thinking brain is able to say, “Oh shit, I’m going to burn. Run, RUN!” Normal talk therapy sets its focus on altering patterns and feelings through the conscious brain, but for the most part, body-based therapy, geared toward
o far, people seem to be responding. Bresnick’s friend Maria Lomanto experienced a few experimental sessions while he was still fine-tuning the therapy. She was down from the get-go. “Zap me, sign me up,” she said. She came out of a sample session a changed woman. “I felt like I was making connections much quicker, outing ideas together much faster. I felt like any anxiety over anything was gone.” She also appreciated the fact that the experience was non-invasive and drugless.
anthropology, philosophy, and psychology as applied to the performativity of identity,” said Bresnick with a bit of a giggle. “It’s all very high theory.” He graduated to find the high falutin’ program was counterweighted by its low employment potential. “After the masters I looked around and I thought, what am I gonna get with this?” he continued. “Theory didn’t seem enough for me. I wanted something that had practice involved.” And so after a few years working on multimedia art and film, Bresnick gravitated toward psychology and entered the Albert Einstein school of medicine at Yeshiva University. It was there that he started looking at the research on brainwaves. “Our brainwaves vary at certain rates depending on what mental state we’re in,” he said.
Back in the chair I’m digging on the lights, tones, soundscapes and vibration as Bresnick leads me on one of those shamanistic-guided meditations through time and the cosmos. Given the tanker of coffee I drank before showing up, I can’t vouch for how strongly I’m entraining, although it’s no less than pleasant for a ball of light to pulse ecstatically around the periphery of my closed lids and to lose track of where my legs are. I sneak a peak to my left, and I realize that Bresnick is loving this, sitting with his laptop, fiddling with a mixer and incanting a voyage into the microphone. I don’t know if it’s the effect of the brainwave, but I think I see why, because Synaesthetic Surround is the sum of Bresnick’s pursuits, and the obliteration of their borders. It’s mind and body, theory and practice, performance art, and of course, professional therapy.
by Dale W. Eisinger. photo by Jeff Brown.
aria Gagliano and Celia Blue Johnson met when both landed jobs at Random House five years ago. They became quick friends and discovered they shared a vision of how to shape the next generation of American literature. They wanted to work with new authors and help to nurture fledgling careers. But they quickly realized the corporate publishing world valued established writers and editorial hierarchies more. Their influence as low-level editors was fairly minimal. Their response? Gagliano summed it up thusly: “We just said: Fuck it, let’s do it ourselves.” So in 2005, Gagliano then 21, and Johnson 22, began laying the groundwork for Slice Magazine. It would be a discretely focused literary journal. It would offer a place for lesser-known authors to rub elbows with those more established in mainstream publishing. At the time, the pair lived together in a small twobedroom apartment with their respective boyfriends on 8th Avenue (they now live in separate apartments in Park Slope). They ran all the planning and operations out of that space to get the magazine off the ground. “It took a year of even just researching and planning before we could begin doing anything beyond that,” Gagliano said. By the time the first issue was released in fall of 2007, Slice reached an interesting dichotomy – a grassroots organization with a mainstream bent; and, even stranger, a mainstream impact. Big names in publishing stand shoulder with lesser-known talents; and in some cases, those lesser-knowns bust out of their indie bindings. The reason for the magazine’s staying power may have something to do with the more-mainstream vision the publishers had for Slice. Gagliano and Johnson purposefully stayed away from experimental work to keep the audience engaged and entertained. Both still work jobs at big publishing houses. Through their connections there they’ve pulled in interviews with big hitters such as R.L. Stine, Jonathan Lethem, Salman Rushdie, Adrian Tomine, and Junot Diaz, among many others. “Publishing is such a small industry, that often times getting to a person is going through two people we know,” Johnson said. “We interviewed Elizabeth Strout for our next issue. And it turned out her publicist was our friend,” Gagliano added. With a considerable lack of pretension on the part of its creators and the manner in which the magazine cultivates its audience, the door of this young magazine is open to anyone with the drive and talent to make a contributable effort.
“When we were conceptualizing, we wanted it to be a little more pop. We wanted it to be a little more engaging visually and a little bit more of a lighter read. But still literary,” Gagliano said. They’ve succeeded in that regard – each issue is colorful, full of photos, hefty, and memorable, if only for the fact that each has a theme. The most recent issue’s theme was Metropolis.
Sixpoint Craft Ales (the magazine’s official sponsor) and noshed traditional Bavarian treats. Before long, the gregarious and demure publisher-pair appeared on stage to thank attendees. Gagliano and Johnson were strikingly similar as always: long, brown hair, both wearing calf-length dresses, Gagliano in red, Johnson in blue. They appeared on stage in front of competitive teams of editors, authors, and agents, answering literary trivia.
But now with a viable cultural footprint coming out of a shared vision between two unfulfilled editors, Slice could stand to take some risks in the pieces its editors select – and perhaps to scrap the idea of a central theme. Even Gagliano and Johnson admitted it limited the process of selection somewhat. On the other hand, it helps hone in that discrete focus. It’s hard to dispute the breathtaking quality of much of the work, such as “Amalgamated Products Are Us,” by Nicole Walker in the fall issue of 2008, or “Canned Goods,” by Seth Fishman in the fall 2009 issue.
But first they thanked the audience.
And while it’s good to let these unknowns sing, the already established interview subjects that are the big draws of the magazine – Paul Auster, Samantha Hunt, Kathryn Harrison, et al. – have moments where they heave like gas bags. Simon Van Booy’s interview in the new issue of Slice reads like a grandfatherly letter of wisdom. If we wanted that, we’d go get Letters to a Young Poet.
Contributors, as well, hail from around the globe. A Russian author, Janet Skeslien Charles, says, Slice took a chance with her. Her story, "Matchmaking in Odessa," appeared in issue five of Slice early last fall. It has since been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Skeslien’s work had only appeared in small European literary journals before the Slice piece – which turned into a book, titled Moonlight in Odessa. It’s being translated into twelve languages.
But some of the most purified work appears in that first issue of late 2007. Elizabeth McKenna’s “Peeing the Bed” particularly rings with a universal quality of desire, despite its title. For that first run, Gagliano and Johnson paid out of pocket. The magazine took off, and has since broken even on every printing. At points, however, they had bake sales from their Park Slope stoop, guest bartended at spots across the city, and had a table plying their 1000-issue run at the Brooklyn Flea Market to raise funds for further issues. The magazine’s main source of income nowadays has been literary game show events the magazine hosts. The publishers bring together agents, authors, and editors of some prowess to play a game of trivia. This year, their trivia event showcased the knowledge of A.J. Jacobs, Lev Grossman, and Jennifer Mascia, among an assortment of editors and agents from bigname publishing houses. They sell $25 tickets, and give each attendee a copy of the latest Slice release. Issue six was released in late March, in conjunction with the magazine’s now-biannual fundraiser on April 20, four-people shy of selling out the West Village’s 179-seat Cherry Lane Theatre to an audience of readers and interested literati. An absolutely packed lobby played host to an audience of young and stylish writers, friends, and past teachers of the magazine’s publishers, as they schmoozed, drank free beer from Red Hook’s
“None of this would be possible without you,” Gagliano said. And also the regular readers of the magazine - subscribers across the world cover half of expenditures nowadays, say Gagliano and Johnson. “We have a few subscribers in Israel, Australia. There’s a little cluster of subscribers in Bulgaria,” Gagliano said.
“Slice is not only read by writers but by editors and agents, and I received interest from all three after Prison Letters was published,” Patricia Engel said. Her story appeared in Slice Issue 3, in spring 2008, and had only appeared in two smaller journals. She’s since gone on to get a book deal and win numerous awards, including a Boston Review Fiction Prize, a Florida Artist Fellowship in Literature and other scholarships and fellowships. Her first novel, Vida, will appear this fall through Grove Press/Black Cat. “What we were looking for in the first place is to start building this community of people and create something that doesn’t necessarily exist but should in the publishing world,” Johnson said. “A lot people involved are in the professional publishing industry and I think they’re all tend to come to it for that reason, that they really believe in the cause and want to hang out and celebrate it together.” The mission is ambitious, and succeeding in a way – but aren’t Gagliano and Johnson kowtowing to the corporate publishing world anyway? While only a few of the mag’s unknown writer alums are being published for their talents, the big hitters get to use the platform to further their ever-inflating sales. At least the unknowns are beginning to get read.
Visit slicemagazine.org for some great reads.
by Shula Melamed. additional reporting by Samuel Carter. photos by Eric Vogel.
ome of the most wild and wonderful performers and producers of burlesque are neighborhood girls. When they arenâ€™t gigging at the Bell House, you might find them sitting next to you on the R train headed to PINK. OVERFLOW is proud to introduce you to four of your most clever and glamorous neighbors.
Gal Friday hiding a gal like this behind a desk is a crime
Legs Malone the girl with the 34 ½ inch inseam
Gal Friday was Miss Coney Island 2008 and is one of the hardest working burlesquers on the scene. She’s also an instructor at the New York School of Burlesque. This is the training ground for many NYC burlesques where courses in glove peeling, stocking stripping, and Go-Go dancing are taught by some of the most sought after performers in the New York scene.
Lovely Legs Malone is a lithe and luscious beauty. She first discovered burlesque when studying contemporary art in London in 2006. Her playful, artistic, intellectual bent influences how her acts are created. “The Legs Malone Show” was always curated around specific themes – political, psychological or purely sensual.
What a lot of people who don’t do burlesque don’t realize is the sense of community we have. In burlesque it is a family and you really get to know the people around you. When I started I realized I didn’t have that many female friends. I wanted more and I wanted to be in a positive environment, you know, with a lot of positive ladies.
As a burlesque dancer my primary aim is to challenge the audience. I am up on stage. I want to stir the pot. I want to get people thinking, or asking, or reflecting. I want to give them something they are not expecting and that in some way challenges them. Because that sort of rigorous artwork has a structure and it causes a shift in the audience. I think that is extraordinarily important
I also think a lot of times people don’t realize how much effort we put into what we do. A lot of us make our costumes, design, and choreograph our acts, as opposed to just buying stuff at a store or having someone do it for us or hand it to us. There is not set process. Sometimes I will just see material, and I will say, 'Oh!' I have got a great idea for a costume and start building it with absolutely no act in mind. Sometimes the costume will just sit there for months even, until something feels right.
Burlesque is a very diverse art form, which is one of the reasons why I think it is doing so well, still. It has adaptability. There is always room for subversion. There is always room for parody.
Everybody has the capability to be stunning and interesting and vibrant. You can be the most perfect looking thing on earth and you come out there and you just don’t care. Or you are boring because you just don’t care to connect to people. You could be stunning, you could be an absolute Venus, but who wants to watch Venus be dull?
Sometimes it would be nice if people paid more attention to the artistry, or the parody, or the subversion, or the intelligence behind the numbers. There are so many people who write about burlesque that just write ‘that person had a good body, that person didn’t.' It’s like, ‘Oh come on. It is so much deeper than that. You have got to be kidding me.’
Runaround Sue the make it happen girl
Kiki Valentine the renaissance woman
Runaround Sue is a catch-her-if you-can producer, performer, and all around distributor of glittery corporeal joy. She spreads her brand of femininity up and down the eastern seaboard with her Sugar Shack Burlesque. She’s even produced a frisky fundraiser for one of the oldest privately owned libraries if the country the Lenox library in Western Massachusetts.
Kiki Valentine produces and hosts The Sunday Show, which until recently took place the last Sunday of each month at the Slipper Room in the Lower East Side, which has closed for renovations. The Sunday Show will continue, though, and to find out where and when, sign up for the list at www.sundayshownyc.com
I gotta honestly tell you that the deep-seeded start to my burlesque began with the FBI when I was nine. My mother was wanted by the FBI when I was a child. I grew up with idea of my dad being the white knight and my mother being the villain, so everything feminine was very villainous or had the potential to be behavior that was not kind to others.
I started producing live shows incorporating burlesque, street art, graffiti, breakdancing, and live music with Shepard Fairey and other artists in 2003. The first burlesque performers I worked with were the Pontani Sisters. Since then, I have been studying the art form in its purest sense at The Slipper Room, which has had the longest running burlesque show in the history of New York City.
In my 20s I had seen a bunch of burlesque shows, and I wanted to do it. My boyfriend, actually my fiancé at the time, asked me not to do it because he was very uncomfortable. After we broke up I took a class at the School of Shimmy (at the Center for Sex and Culture) and I performed in a student recital organized by the school.
The Sunday Show is an uncensored collective of burlesque, sideshow, comedy, and music performers who share ideas and their talent, collaborating around a specific theme each month. My philosophy for the show is to provide an alternative on Sunday for people who don’t go to church—one where they can be exposed to topics that are in the news, that are in our every day lives.
We are taught that every time you enjoy the sexuality of another person you are objectifying them. I don’t think that is true. That is the big fun of burlesque. It is the elephant in the room we are not supposed to talk about. We are attracted to each other. You don’t have to prove you are a man by banging anyone in the room, and no woman has to prove you respect her by getting nasty about anything. It’s like a pep rally for adults. It’s really relaxing in a way, and it's liberating.
I’ve kept The Sunday Show in the LES intentionally because preserving the art form in that neighborhood is important. So many venues closed in the last few years, and the more that happens, the more I’m driven to keep it going. The show started out as invitation only: you would only find out about it if you were invited by someone performing or who had been before. I kind of like bringing it back to that just for now—exclusive, but not private. But I think that when the Slipper Room reopens, potentially in March 2011, we’ll be back there and bigger than ever.
illustration by Erik Winkowski
Come and Enjoy Our Outdoor Garden
hen most Park Slope residents hear the phrase “hot night at the club,” the first thing that comes to mind is a Camembert-fueled discourse on the latest literary offering from their neighbor Jonathan Safran Foer. What they don’t know is that on the first Saturday of every month, Southpaw on Fifth Avenue hosts The Rub, a long-running dance party that has received ringing endorsements from The New York Times, Village Voice, Spin, and URB. The three selectors who started the shindig—Cosmo Baker, DJ Ayres and DJ Eleven—have shared their stage with a murderer’s row of guest DJs, including super-producers Diplo and Mark Ronson.
As proud South Brooklynites, we only have one problem with The Rub: the Bridge and Bedford crowd. Every Rubturday, our beautiful neighborhood is infested with haughty residents of Williamsburg and the East Village, who spend the rest of the month making lame jokes about how we’re a bunch of neutered stroller jockeys. As General George Washington, who knows a thing or two about defending the area from foreign invaders, might have said, FUCK THAT SHIT. Let it be known that OVERFLOW is taking back The Rub for Park Slope. Our shock troop in this Guerilla Coffee war is Phillip Lederman, a tax lawyer and new dad who rents out the basement of his brownstone to us. Phillip drives a Scandinavian automobile, no longer finds his wife attractive enough to feel self-conscious about his erectile dysfunction, considers joining the Park Slope Food Coop every time he places an order with Fresh Direct, and wouldn’t think twice about killing anyone who gets between his precious progeny and a Pre-K spot at P.S. 107. If Park Slope were a man, his name would be Phillip Lederman. We tricked Lederman into attending The Rub by sending him an email in which we purported to be the organizers of Baby Loves Disco and invited him to attend a special late-night edition of the dance party for kids and their Peter Panrents. Our only request was that Lederman keep a running diary, which would be posted the following day on a popular Park Slope parents blog. Needless to say, he jumped at the opportunity. *** 11:08 p.m. – I did not anticipate such a long line— apparently I’m not the only one who heard the story on WNYC about how disrupting your child’s circadian rhythms can boost their IQ by .5 points. Young Silas certainly seems stimulated—all of the young mothers (and they certainly do look young) can’t resist coming over and saying hello. He is particularly entranced by a woman in the halter top with the sailor tattoo on her shoulder. I can’t help but notice that she obviously didn’t breast feed.
by Ryan Dodge. photos by Pearl Gabel.
11:52 p.m. – Finally inside, where it is frightfully hot and crowded. Young Silas looks a little dehydrated, so I push my way through to the bar. Their juice selection leaves much to be desired—all they have is orange and cranberry, and it doesn’t look organic. I was going to order a water for myself, but all the other dads (who also look quite young) appear to be drinking beer and I wouldn’t want my son to think his dad is a pantywaist. I ask the bartender to give me his most popular brew and he hands me an abnormally tall can of Miller High Life. I almost send it back—the only person I’ve ever known who drank Miller High Life was creepy Uncle Roger—but I give it a try. Guess what? Tastes exactly like a white wine spritzer. 12:15 a.m. – After finishing my beer and ordering another one, I make sure young Silas is securely strapped into his Babybjorn and make my way onto the dance floor. Although he does not yet possess the motor skills necessary to “dance,” research shows that subjecting your child to rhythmic movement in the first nine months can result in a three point increase in SAT scores. But my attempts at dancing seem only to antagonize the boy, a fact that I blame squarely on the DJ. I was expecting a medley of upbeat kid-friendly tunes from They Might Be Giants, not sexually explicit boasting from They Are Definitely Former Drug Dealers. I retreat to the bar—young Silas is looking parched again. 12:56 a.m. – How can it be that I am only now discovering the sweet, bubbly pleasures of the Champagne of Beers? I offer Silas a sip (a recent article in the Times noted that moderate alcohol consumption during the formative years can lead to a fuller, more lustrous head of hair), but somehow he is asleep. For the first time, I notice there are no other children in the club. When I ask the scruff y young man standing next to me where all of the other babies are, he snorts and gestures toward the crowd: “Dude, are you kidding me? This place is full of babes.” He’s right—I haven’t seen so many nubile young bodies since the vernal equinox ceremony at Wesleyan, and those girls couldn’t dance their way out of an earnest discussion. These girls are different. They rap along to the most misogynistic lyrics. They close their eyes and grimace in concentration when they’re feeling the music. They dress like a cross between Rosie Perez in “White Men Can’t Jump” and the ingénue in a sixties New Wave flick. And judging from how
many of them have cooed over him as they waited for a drink, they can’t get enough of young Silas. I guzzle the last of my High Life and strap him on for another go at the dance floor. 1:28 a.m. – I always thought those kids who lived in the basement were miserable brats, but I might have to knock $100 off their rent for turning me on to The Rub. Mimi, the young woman in the halter top, explained everything to me. At first I thought she was into the kid, but when she asked me to switch the Babybjorn to backpack mode so we could “talk” I knew something was afoot. Now the DJ is playing “Rock With You” by Michael Jackson, which was the last dance at my senior prom. Mimi is giving me a look I haven’t seen since that same night, when Christina Skinner made a man of me. I’m leaving after this song, but I wouldn’t want to cheat young Silas out of the opportunity to see his father dancing with a beautiful woman. After all, a panel of child development experts recently announced that sons who consider their fathers to be virile are able to bench press approximately 10 more pounds than boys who are raised by pantywaists.
Kevin Dunn (left) with his brother Kenny Dunn (right), Commander of the Post, who served with the Marine Corps in Vietnam.
KENNY'S POST dispatches from VFW 7096
by Nandi Dill. photos by Walker Esner.
n the corner of Third Avenue and 28th Street, the Edward F. Lukoski Post 7096 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars sits somewhat hidden underneath the Gowanus Expressway. Getting there – past an adult video store, across a busy intersection, and through a maze of cars from the neighboring auto body shop – feels like a pilgrimage, a far cry from the manicured streets of Park Slope proper.
taped to one page announced: “The Annual Spring Frolic, Dinner and Dance. $17.50 per person. Cocktails 3-4pm. Dinner at 4pm.” These memories only filled the first half of the album. The latter half was empty. But once I began looking around the post, I started to understand that they represented an era long gone. Since these photos were taken, the membership has aged a great deal. Many members are over 70 and 80. Danny, a
When I first walked into the post my presence was immediately noticed. A couple of middle-aged men casually dressed in jeans and sweatshirts sat at the bar. The room, dark despite the sun shining brightly outside, looked cavernous and run down.
Much of the post’s history was displayed around the Third Avenue building they purchased in 1972. On its walls, a picture of Edward F. Lukoski – a local Navy man who was killed at sea – is displayed. Next to him are photographs of post commanders past and present. During one of my visits, current post commander Kenny Dunn pulled out a large blue photo album. Pictures, ticket stubs and invitations were arranged within its thin pages. In one picture, men and women were smartly dressed in blue and white uniforms and marched in a holiday parade. In another, members smiled on the steps of a church shortly following a Sunday Mass. An invitation
The layout of the post is divided into two main rooms, around which much of the post’s life is organized. The room closest to the street holds the bar, equipped with a large television, pool table, jukebox and a couple video poker machines. The jukebox shuffles between Beyonce and “American the Beautiful.” The television flickers between the History Channel and various military-themed programs. Down a short hallway and past the bathrooms is the post’s banquet hall. The large hall is filled with long tables and folding chairs. A flag is prominently displayed at the front of the room. Many of the pictures in the post’s photo album were taken in this very room. Yet comparatively the hall looks drastically different. The large collection of banquet tables is now gathered on the far right side of the room. On the other side of the room a brick wall lays bare showing signs of long-term water damage. The ceiling is open, exposing steel beams and loose knots of electrical wires. The hardwood floor that was recently refinished is discolored, also ruined by leaks.
My cheery ‘Good afternoon’ stopped the conversations cold. The bartender turned the television down as I introduced myself. Suddenly I was at the center of attention. I learned later that the acronym VFW also jokingly stands for “very few women.” Most of the guys I met at the post spoke with thick accents and comported themselves with the no-nonsense attitude of the Brooklyn born and raised. They had seen combat in Germany, Korea and Vietnam and, I’ll admit, they were a little intimidating at first. But they were quick to shed their initial air of gravitas and soon proved to be a friendly, jovial bunch. They seemed to take comfort in the post’s roughness and had pride in its pseudo-exclusivity. Only now, years after battle and resettlement into their home lives, do they look to improve their watering hole. Or at least they are looking for what they consider a long overdue stroke of luck for their beloved VFW post.
But with the most active members growing old, the future of this post and potentially others remains unclear. The WWII vets gave the post a spark, an energy not easily replicated. “The post used to be more interactive,” Commander Kenny said. “We were one big family at one point in time.”
Joe Buonafede , member for three years , served in Korea with the Air Force. long-time member and one of the bartenders, told me that next to none of the original membership is currently active at the post. Unfortunately, it seems as if the vigor that followed the return of many WWII veterans to the neighborhood has waned. Not to say that the bonds formed here have disappeared. On a Friday night, a rummy game between four friends took place at a small round table across from the bar. Regulars strolled in and out all day, knocking gently at the door. One member, Anthony, spoke proudly about how he calls the post just to see who’s there when he’s overseas on tour. The camaraderie is still there, no doubt.
Water from a leaky roof is responsible for much of the deterioration of the banquet hall. It seeps in frequently, whether rain or snow and comes from their neighbor’s roof. According to Commander Kenny, CBS Corporation owns the neighboring building and uses it primarily for the roof and its air space. It rents out the billboard situated above the building while the inside remains empty. The leaky roof has little impact on CBS, as they are able to continue to rent the billboard space without much interruption. Unfortunately this is not the case for the VFW next door. Although they’ve been fighting with CBS for many years, since October the damage to their banquet hall has only gotten worse. So bad, they recently shut down the room completely. This has had a dramatic effect on the post. Over the years the hall has provided space for its members and their families to gather and socialize. But additionally,
Curtis Bolden, the post's newest member, served in Afghanistan and Iraq with the Army.
the room provides a steady source of revenue for the post. They get calls weekly from people wanting to rent the banquet hall. On any given Saturday the post could be packed with children and families happy to find an affordable space for their baby shower, birthday or retirement party. Rental fees, in the form of a donation, start at $550 for four hours; and with drinks at discount prices the post is an attractive, local option.
Vietnam from 1968 to 1972 and military service runs in his family. Many of the men in his family were in the Navy and Kenny jokes that his father must have turned over in his grave when three of his sons enlisted in the Marines, almost consecutively. Kenny first came to the post while he was still serving in Vietnam. He tells me that he came on the
veterans face. With navigating the VA, translating their military experience into traditional work experience, and fitting themselves back into the lives they left behind, the returning veteran has a lot on his or her plate. Finding a place to kick back and tell a few jokes may not happen for many years down the road. Commander Kenny just hopes the Edward F. Lukoski Post is around for them when they’re ready.
The money these events bring in is put to good use. Not only does it help support post operations, it makes it possible for a diverse offering of activities for members. Commander Kenny tells me about the bus trips to Atlantic City or dinners with polka music or line dancing that used to characterize their post. Their Ladies Auxiliary, a branch of the VFW for members’ female relatives, would plan many of these events. “They’d make a party out of anything,” Commander Kenny said.
Shortly after I arrived one late Friday afternoon, Kenny showed me the mock up for the post’s new sign. It is part of a promise made years ago by CBS – to give the post a bigger, bolder sign to display out front. The sign is long overdue and I suggested to Kenny that perhaps it’s part of a peace offering. Not surprisingly, Kenny seemed skeptical. “They’re corporate America” he said excitedly. “They’re trying to grease my wheels a little. But I don’t understand how can you treat your next door neighbor like that?”
Nowadays with the little money they collect from dues, they are able to throw a Christmas Party, but in another venue. They still hire Eddie Juba, a favorite band of the post, and serve a small selection of beer, wine, mixed drinks and sodas. But because they are merely breaking even the post is unable to invite in the relatives and children of its members. So while they say they are not a local place, they understand their ability to welcome the families of members into the post as a way to more deeply establish their roots in the South Slope community.
After a couple conversations like this, I realized that he talks about the problems with the banquet hall almost incessantly. He often sees all issues related to the post’s membership, activities and history as tied to the building next door. Maybe he’s a little obsessed. Or at minimum, actively consumed. But the weight of this problem does fall squarely on his shoulders. Members frequently ask him, “What’s up with the back?” Its as if the hall holds the future of the post in its four walls.
“Maybe it’d be different if we had a lot of young people” Kenny said. “Then they could do some networking and maybe they could help fix the problem with the back.” Kenny’s thoughts take me back to the first day I walked in. I came hoping to find recent veterans – men and women who’ve returned to their South Brooklyn homes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I had no idea whether they’d be there, but a VFW post seemed a likely hideout. Once inside the small clouds of cigarette smoke and the drink price list –Beers $4, Mixed Drinks $4, Top Shelf $5, Water $1, Wine $3 –made me feel like I had stepped back in time. And the more I got to talking to Commander Kenny Dunn the more assured I was in my suspicion that this place – for better and for worse – was stuck in a time warp. As commander of Post 7096 for the last five years and a member since 1970, Commander Kenny has seen a lot change and a lot stay the same. He is a former Marine who served with the 1st Marine Division in
Mickey Velazquez served as a member of the Marine Corps for twenty years in the 1980s and 90s. invitation of a friend, but didn’t become very active until many years after that first visit. In the beginning he’d just help out around the post: making runs to the store or taking out the trash when needed. Over time he planted his roots, becoming the fixture he is now. When talking to others hanging around the post, their stories aren’t so different from Kenny’s. While the VFW was not always the first stop at the end of service, it did eventually come further along the journey home. The older veterans’ stories help explain why there seems to be a scarcity of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans at this and other posts. “They’re trying to get their lives together,” Kenny said. and “It’s hard to get a hold of them.” And in reality, he and the other veterans sitting around the bar can relate to the struggles new
But since the day I walked in things seem to only get better. The new sign indicates that CBS has some willingness to begin fulfilling their overdue promises. Contractors have also been seen milling around next door. “They say they’re waiting on permits to begin work,” Kenny told me with a hint of doubt in his voice. In short, he’s not holding his breath. In the meantime the post continues to look forward by looking backward, even with signs that their luck is turning. And while the banquet hall may not be the solution to the problem of an aging membership, it doesn’t hurt to be hopeful. “Maybe we’ll both get lucky,” Kenny said to me with a grin on his face. “Your article will get you fame and awards, and it will help me get my banquet hall back.” I will happily hold my breath for the latter.
by Lisa Riordan Seville illustration by Kyle J. Muller
n March 2, the battle was done. The Gowanus Canal had been Superfunded.
the contaminants in the water and what kind of risk they post to human beings and the environment.
The yearlong argument over whether to include the canal in the federal program to clean up toxic spaces was not about if notoriously noxious South Brooklyn canal should be cleaned. Nearly everyone agrees, at least in principle, it should. Wrapped up and bowed in terms of agencies and jurisdictions, the Superfund fight was about the future of a neighborhood.
When he has an audience, Mugdan likes to paint a picture. When asked he is wont to describe the sludge at the bottom of the canal as “the color and consistency of a black mayonnaise.”
Gowanus has some of the most desirable empty plots left in Brooklyn. Much of that land lines the canal, which, despite its raw sewage and rank summertime smell, maintains a certain, waterfront charm. The Gowanus corridor lies between the coveted reaches Park Slope and Carroll Gardens. All three sit in Community Board 6, whose property rates in 2009 rose more quickly than any other neighborhood in the city. The industrial sites can still come cheap. Developers Toll Brothers had a deal (now scrapped) to buy a two-acre site on Bond Street for about $21 million, a discount because they would also have to clean it. The abandoned industrial sites on the waterfront are some of the most toxic in the city. Then there is the canal itself. “This canal is just about the dirtiest waterway around,” said Walter Mugdan, director of the EPA’s Superfund Division in New York. Everyone knew it was toxic, but actually saying it proved more contentious. Anti-Superfunders said the word “Superfund” would kill development, drive away finance and cast a pall across the already sinking real estate market. Those in favor said it was the only way the site would ever get cleaned. Mucking through the battle over the Superfund argument is about as simple as dredging the canal. Years worth of mudslinging, local politics and neighborhood interests mingle like coal tar, heavy metals and sewage outflows that continue to slug down the 1.8 mile waterway. The dust has settled, but a new question looms. What does the designation mean, and what does it mean for the future of Gowanus? To answer that, a remedial investigation of the Superfund fight seems about right.
The remedial investigation: March—Dec. 2010 The EPA’s remedial investigation of the canal has begun. Over the coming months, scientists will identify
Coal tar, PCBs and heavy metal mingle within the mud of the 100-foot-wide, 20-foot-deep waterway. But the toxins remain fairly contained. “For people who live or work nearby it poses modest or minor risks,” said Mugdan. “Obviously if you wiggled your toes in that black goo that might be something else. But nobody does that. Nobody should.” The sludge in the canal isn’t only old industrial runoff. The city is charged with the $150 million dollar task of dealing with the combined sewage outflows (CSOs) that still pump into the canal. Up to three feet of raw sewage have accumulated in some parts of the narrow waterway, according to the EPA. Then there is the land. Coal tar left over from years of lamp oil production soaks several sites slated for development before the Feds came in. The EPA isn’t in charge of cleaning the plots along the canal— that’s the state’s purview. But the Feds have to work with owners and the state to clean up the sites that continue to seep contaminates into the water. Crawling past the waterside bulkhead onto the acres of empty industrial space also begins to encroach on issues of development.
$400,000. When the EPA came in, the city and certain local stakeholders mounted a fierce campaign to stop it. They said it would kill growth, stigmatize the community and happen at a pace so glacial that it would be worthless. Mayor Bloomberg presented an alternate plan to use federal earmarks and the generosity of companies with a stake in the area to fund a cleanup carried out by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. They said it would be better and faster.
Record of decision: June—Dec. 2012 The final decision will come out sometime in 2012. Before the EPA decides on the plan, it will hold meetings and forums for pubic comment to get feedback from the community. On March 2, Katia Kelly was one of the first to publicize the EPA announcement. Across the top of the post on her blog Pardon Me for Asking ran an exuberant headline: SUPERFUND! Kelly is by some accounts a newcomer to this neighborhood that prides itself on history. She has lived in Gowanus for 25 years. The local blogger worked with a coalition of community groups to push politicians, rally neighbors and the EPA. “We teleconferenced with Washington,” Kelly said. “We told them ‘the community welcomes you, we want you here, please don’t abandon us.’” The chorus of neighborhood voices pushing for the Superfund was strong, but discord surfaced.
The feasibility study: Jan.—Dec. 2011 The EPA will then explore the options to address the risks, considering the cost, environmental risks and side effects of two to 10 different engineering plans for the cleanup. The number of cooks in this toxic kitchen make things complicated. Right before the EPA announced it was considering the Gowanus for cleanup, the city was poised to rezone the manufacturing neighborhood to permit widespread residential development. One two-block stretch had already gotten the green light. Toll Brothers, a national developer of luxury housing, pushed hard to get the okay. City records show the company spent over $26,000 to lobby specifically to re-designate its street lot for housing. Add in Toll Brothers’ push for land use and rezoning of the area in City Hall and before Community Board 6, which includes Gowanus, and the bill comes to more than
“I live in this neighborhood. I am so pissed off that they did this,” said Joanne Bernardo. Bernardo offers an opinion similar to her boss, real estate mogul and local funeral home owner Buddy Scotto—nothing good will come of the Superfund. Scotto has real estate interests, but Bernardo’s revulsion comes from pride, passion and institutional memory. “If you think its bad there, you should have seen it 40 years ago,” she said. “You should have smelled it 40 years ago.” Weeks after the designation went through, she’s still incensed. “You take one of the best areas in Brooklyn, you take it and turn it toxic?”
Cleanup Design: 2012—2015 Engineers will design a plan to approach the decidedupon cleanup. The narrowness of the 100-foot-across
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canal poses challenges, as does the rotting bulkhead that separates the canal from the land. The planning will take between two and three years. “The majority of the people in the neighborhood are going to be very happy when the canal is clean,” said Michael Brown. “There is a stigma associated with Superfund. I don’t feel that threat outweighs the benefit of having the canal clean.” Brown sat in Giardini’s Gourmet Pizzeria on Smith Street in a sport jacket and shiny work shoes. Clean cut and businesslike, he looks the part of the young professional who frequents open houses in Gowanus. But Brown is a neighborhood boy, fourth generation South Brooklyn. Trained as a planner, and now working a real estate investor, Brown takes on and off the hats of many interest groups in the neighborhood. Brown supported the Superfund not because it would stop development, but because the Feds seemed able to promise results, if not speed. To Brown, the city plan didn’t provide that guarantee. “People get upset because developers come in and out, they are in it to make money,” said Brown. “But they leave behind units of housing for people to live in.” Brown is a rather unusual mix of pro-Superfund and development friendly, but he has his own worries about the future of the neighborhood.
“Would I love to own a lot, develop it, sell the condos and live there? Of course,” he said. “But I don’t know that that is the most beneficial thing for the city. Where are all these people going to work?”
The Cleanup: 2015—2020(ish) Without knowing what is in the water or what the final cleanup plan will look like, it’s too early to say exactly how long it will take, but Mudgan guesstimated at least five years, starting in 2015. The EPA estimates it will cost between $300 and $500 million. The developers have not given up on Gowanus, and the community that rallied around the Superfund is gearing up for a new round of battles over development. On the morning of May 12, a slew of well cut suits gathered under the coffered ceiling of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall. Coffee and arrays of cut fruit welcomed them at a half-day conference called “Reconsidering Gowanus: Opportunities for the Sustainable Transformation of an Industrial Neighborhood.” The real estate community had come to lick its wounds and figure out how to regroup in an altered landscape. Several from the South Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation also showed, eager to plumb the lay of the land for their members—industries still alive and employing people throughout the Gowanus corridor. Katia
9TH STREET CYCLES 375 9th St. at 6th Ave. in Park Slope Open Mon,Tues, Thur, Fri: 10:30-7pm, Wed 10:30-8pm, Sat 10-6pm, Sun 11-6pm 718-768-2453
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Kelly was there, as was one of the developers of Public Place, a large residential site slated for the canal. What became clear over the course of the four-hour event was that development will come to Gowanus. Yet by virtue of both the cleanup and the market, Borough President Marty Markowtiz’s vision of Gowanus as, “Brooklyn’s Venice, with kayaks instead of gondolas, of course,” is a long way away, and maybe just a dream. The Superfund will be long and drawn out—at least a decade, probably longer—but that buys Gowanus time. Everyone has a vision for a Gowanus transformed. The next few decades will likely bring a cleaner canal, though maybe never fit for fishing. Odds are time will bring tall multi-story housing, the loss of some industry and more crowded streets. But development along those sites also means that, with time, large swaths of the neighborhood will be less toxic than they have been in over a century. Gowanus will change. Everyone wants it to. And now, we have years to consider, and reconsider, and reconsider again, what exactly that transformation will be.
Fresh Meat how to butcher a chicken at home by Hannah Rappleye. photos by Marlene Rounds.
nside the Yeung Sun Live Poultry Market on Degraw and Columbia, a thin Chinese man stands on a chair. Next to him is a tall, gray plastic garbage can.
Over two-dozen brown mallards strain their necks through the bars of their steel cages, their desperate honks echoing across the concrete room. The man reaches into the cage, grabs a duck around its middle and hucks it into the garbage can. About half the ducks in the cage find themselves piled in the garbage can like this; they hit the bottom of the plastic can with a thump and a cloud of infinitesimal, delicate gray bottom feathers rise in the air and settle onto the ground. I explain to the man I’m writing an article, but he doesn’t understand. I ask, “Can you find someone who speaks English?” He goes through a door and another guy comes out. He’s younger. He doesn’t get most of what I ask but he says, “You want to see? O.K. Go.” I’m at the poultry market because I’m trying to see what goes on inside of them. Markets like these—
whether they are run by Chinese, Dominicans, the Chosen People, or Muslims—are all over the city. You can go into any one of them, pick out a chicken for $5 to $7, and get it slaughtered for a few extra bucks and a tip.
no windows and let them shit all over the floor. It’s overpowering, but watching the expressionless Chinese men work in the hot steam of the processing room, I suppose eventually you can get used to it if you have to.
Live animal markets have been around New York probably as long as New York itself. While they continue to serve as markets for immigrants used to fresh meat, more and more people are choosing to use them and slaughter their own food.
The table looks like a macabre whack-a-mole game. It has about a dozen holes that taper into cones at the bottom. A duck honks as the man picks it up and out of the garbage can. He bends its head back, pulls a long silver blade across its neck and the duck suddenly falls quiet. Then he dumps it headfirst into the cone so the blood drains out.
The young man points at the guy pulling out the ducks who is now dragging the can through a short hallway that leads to a steel table. I follow him. This poultry market, like most poultry markets in the city, is composed of cages crammed full of white rabbits, turkeys, ducks, and smallish white roaster chickens. I was told there would be guinea pigs. But I don’t see any. And this poultry market, like most in the city, smells god-awful. It is a smell that can only be described as chicken rot. It is the smell you would smell if you put 200 mangy chickens together in a room with
He repeats this process until all the ducks are dead. After a minute or so of draining he grabs the ducks by their feet and puts them in a pile in the corner of the table. They lie piled on top of each other. A heap of dead ducks. Their nerves are still going. One duck is sliding his head up and down against the table’s metal backsplash, like a snake trying to feel out a wall.
he modern chicken consumer has a limited range of options at the grocer. They can buy various cuts and giblets, sourced from one of two types of farms: a large factory farm, or a large certified organic farm. Many butchers and boutique grocers carry poultry from smaller, local farms at higher prices. Today’s South Brooklyner, however, is blessed with more options. Travel down to Red Hook, and you’ll have your choice of live chickens to slaughter. Last January, my boyfriend Ivan went to a poultry market and carried home two white roaster chickens in cardboard box. We’ve been killing chickens and cooking them for our friends for years now. They get a kick out of it, and it makes Ivan and I feel a little closer to home and our food (I’m from Michigan and used to seeing animals hunted down and slaughtered for food; Ivan’s grandmother taught him to break a chicken’s neck when he was eight or nine years old and living in Argentina). When he brought the chickens home and set down the box, two nervous-looking chickens poked their heads out and surveyed their surroundings. When Ivan was ready to kill the first bird, he picked it up by its feet. The bird, content to stand and shit quietly in the cardboard box, flapped its wings and started croaking in protest. After he looped its feet through a slipknot we fastened over our sink and hung it upside down, it fell quiet and resumed making soft, throaty chicken noises. Seconds after hanging the bird, Ivan wrapped two fists around its neck and pulled in opposite directions. And just like that, it died. But like all animals, the chicken’s nerves last longer than its breath. When Ivan slit the throat open to drain the blood, the bird raised its head slightly and, as we watched the thick bubbles of crimson drop to the sink, blinked one eye at us. Slaughtering an animal is a pretty intense process, but it’s relatively simple and can be done inside your apartment without a big mess. If you’re ready to join the flock of people starting to slaughter their own chickens around the city, keep reading.
Step One. Pick your birds. You can get a few roasters from a poultry market for $5 or $7 a bird, depending on weight. The birds in markets like this, which are all around the city, are usually still factory birds and aren’t organic or free range. La Pera Bros. in Brooklyn says they have “all-natural” birds and they deliver. Although the last time I ordered they told me they couldn’t deliver because the driver didn’t feel like it.
Step Two. Prepare your area. Before you bring the birds home, cordon off an area in your kitchen with newspaper and some type of barrier, otherwise the birds will walk around and shit on the floor. Don’t feed the birds anything or you’ll be eating it later. You’ll need a few plastic grocery bags, masking tape, a piece of twine or thin rope, a nail, a hammer, a big pot with boiling water, a small but sharp utility knife, and a cutting board. If you can, put a nail above your sink, and tie the rope on the nail with a little slipknot at the bottom. Begin to heat the water.
Step Three. Kill the chicken. Pick up the chicken (by its feet or its middle, whatever) and slip the knot over its feet. The chicken will squawk and protest being picked up, but for some reason, they become incredibly calm when they hang upside down. When you’ve got it hanging, wrap a plastic bag over its middle and tape it. This will keep the wings down when you cut its neck. When you’re ready, wrap your hands around the chicken’s neck, at the bottom of its neck and at the top, take a deep breath and pull quickly in each direction. If you do it right this will break the chicken’s neck. The chicken will take deep breaths and twist its body around and it will be dramatic and kind of sad if you have never done it before. But rest assured that, like your mom told you when your puppy got hit by a car, it died instantly and without pain. Take another deep breath and slice the chicken’s neck open with the knife. Let the blood drain into the sink for about 40 minutes or so. This is probably the weirdest part. The blood is thick and crimson and will make beautiful patterns on your sink. The chicken’s nerves will still be working and sometimes it will raise its head and look around. Sometimes it will look at you and you will feel slightly uneasy.
Step Four. Cut its head off and pluck. Take the chicken down from the gallows and lay it on your cutting board. Get a big knife and chop its head off. The water you put on the stove should be hot but not boiling. Put the chicken in the water. This will loosen its feathers and make it easier to pluck. Keep it in the water for 30 seconds or so. You can put the chicken back on the cord if you want, but make sure there’s a big garbage bag underneath before you start plucking.
Step Five. Cut off its feet, take out its insides. Put the chicken on its back on the cutting board. Make sure your garbage can is nearby. When you cut open the neck you’ll see a hose-like tube. Cut that out as much as you can. You’ll find another tube that leads to a bag. Cut that out and discard. Flip the bird around. Cut a short, straight line from the bottom of the breastbone, then cut a straight line on each side of the bird down to the tail to make a “Y.” Then cut a slit along the tail to connect the points of the “Y.” You’ll have to cut into the shape a bit but here you will be able to pull the anus and intestines out of the bird. You’ll have to shove your hand up into the bird to clean out any remaining stuff. Lastly, chop the bird’s feet off at the joints. When you’re done, clean the bird in cold water and get ready to cook.
LEGS! by Douglas Calhoun. photos by Michael Popp.
We crossed paths with Jackie, in a wrap button-down, at the corner of Underhill and Sterling on her walk from the dessert shop Blue Marble. She walks dogs, loves Prince, and shares a studio with her boyfriend in nearby Kensington. She’s in Prospect Heights for the ice cream and to soak up the rays.
We stopped Ross on his way out of Brooklyn Board and Bike on Vanderbilt. He makes a commute by bike from Queens to work at nearby Joyce Bakeshop closer to the entrance to the park. The ink on his legs ranges from pieces of Kandinsky paintings and hand drawn rats by a Brooklynbased tattoo artist.
In front of the fountain by Brooklyn Museum children run through the water as it shots from the pavement, perfect for a hot day. Looking on, Francisca and Marlin hold hands and whisper. Neither are from Brooklyn, Marlin’s family migrated from Guyana, and Francisca made the easier move from the Bronx. The two Engineers have lived together right by Prospect Heights for 10 years.
ew York is a walking city. From Vanderbilt to Franklin Ave., we walk. The legs of Prospect Heights vary in shape, size, color, and gait. They constitute a person’s nearest train, the power the errands they run, and the neighborhood they live in is defined from the hips down. This season, all of them are out with dogs and babies, some on bikes, and some on foot. Where are all these newly exposed legs headed? The shoes, shorts, belts, and bags make for a reflection of who people are and, more importantly, where they’re headed. I often wonder what someone does or where they are coming from when I pass them in the street, so I stopped a few folks and captured a day in the life thanks to their telling legs.
Sonya has lived in Prospect Heights for 30 years. She moved here from Westchester and hasn’t looked back. The colorful mural behind her and her vivid patchwork polo made for a perfect match. The mural circles a building on the corner of St. John’s Place and Washington Avenue.
Roommates Nick and Anna have lived in Prospect Heights for nearly 2 years and recently scored a new apartment on Grand just off Prospect Place. Nick bakes cakes for a living and Anna does medical research. The two were taking a stroll on this bright weekend down Washington Avenue toward Eastern Parkway.
The stylish Antonia waited on friends outside the museum and had just come from the Cherry Blossom Ceremony at the Botanical Gardens. She was quick to show off her shoes from a sample sale in the city. They are among her favorites.
The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop was founded in 2002. What began as eight writers meeting in the cramped kitchen of a South Brooklyn brownstone has developed into a creative home and literary community for over 1000 short-story writers, novelists and nonfiction writers. To learn more about their project, visit www.sackettworkshop.com OVERFLOW invited workshop participants past and present to submit works of fiction that featured South Brooklyn as a setting or as a character. Of the many great pieces, the editors selected the following excerpt from a novel and paired the text with one of our photographers.
heard the basketball hitting the pavement in the park across the street, right outside our window on Dean Street in Brooklyn. I heard it every day in an evenly spaced rhythm, as if it was keeping time, like a metronome on my life, on days spent in the house with the professor and the insane painter, Marco, whom my girlfriend Julia nicknamed “the sex offender” for his skeevy demeanor. He never left the house and it annoyed me. It was late February and he was preparing for a show at one of the local galleries. For several weeks, I heard loud banging, wood crashing, early in the morning down in his room. I wondered what he was up to. Every night that we saw him, he was drunk and we couldn’t get a straight answer out of him. His black hair was growing longer, and his blue eyes under his glasses squinted harder, while his mouth rose into a smirk when he’d find us eating dinner quietly in the decrepit kitchen, decades of neglect in the paintchipped walls. I wanted to run from those nights when he sat down slurring his words, pouring himself another glass of wine, waiting for us to entertain him. If we didn’t, he’d start to mock us. His anger came out in sarcastic verbal abuse we ignored, at least for the time he was with us. He didn’t handle his liquor well and it took him only two or three drinks to become obnoxious. Julia was getting upset at our condition. She had begun to move restlessly about the house cleaning or rearranging things. Each week I would return home at night to find our bedroom rearranged, one or two items removed—stored, she said. To make the room “more wide open.” I agreed with this philosophy. The more wide open the room became, the less trapped I felt. I despised my days in that room, though. If it were night, it was a different story. But the days were unbearable—all the clanking and clattering come up from the bowels of the house, from the painter’s studio or the professor’s room, which also billowed endless marijuana suffocation fumes that seemed to settle exactly where I sat, on the third floor. This house was an American machine at its best, men moving materials, exhaust being expelled endlessly. I had been there much longer than Julia, who had basically just arrived. Before she decided to live with me, I had been vaguely planning on leaving. I had no idea why she, a refined woman, a true fine artist schooled as an actress, vocalist and dancer, would choose to settle in such a place. Though she would
by Joe Sullivan photos by Bobby Dupree
never admit it to me, I believed she was fleeing from her former home, a small three-bedroom in Murray Hill in Manhattan, where her two roommates couldn’t stop themselves from over-involving themselves in her life. She had mentioned their inquisitions before, so I could infer it. That was exactly the sort of thing that, I knew, could drive her completely insane and cause an extreme move like coming to live in the old crumbling house with me. I don’t know why I had chosen to live in the house. I suppose it was because of my role as a freelance graphic designer and the inconsistent paychecks that made this place one of the few affordable to me in Brooklyn, still close to Manhattan. I can still remember that first day the painter showed it to me. I noticed the paint chipping, falling from the ceilings in both the bathroom and dining room. Somehow I thought: “This will be fine.” And now Julia was here with me. But I knew it was only for me she was here and she found it all to be far from “fine.” Just a few weeks after she had moved in, Julia turned to me as we lay close about to sleep. She said, “I saw him again today, down in the kitchen.”
“I didn’t know he would be. Mostly I just avoided him before you arrived.”
some work. I’ll see you a little later.” And that was that.
A while later, Julia had sunken into sleep and I was awake, left to ponder what I could do to make things more comfortable for her. The house itself was decaying, and having Marco bother her didn’t make things any better. I couldn’t come up with anything immediate that could fix the situation. But I figured I should talk to Marco. At least about his mess. Then about how he spoke to Julia. I would tell him she was a little shy and he should take it easy, make her feel comfortable. That’s what I figured might be best. The next morning, Julia was gone for work and I was left to fiddle around with a short book I’d been asked to design for a business publisher. Around two, I was hungry, and I ran into Marco in our kitchen. He had been especially quiet on this day and I hadn’t been sure he was home. I watched him plunge into a salad with walnuts and goat cheese. It amazed me how he managed to fit such large bundles of it onto his fork and then maneuver it all into his tiny, thinlipped mouth. He seemed to be relishing it. After one or two mouthfuls had cleared his palate, he said, “How’s it going, Dr. Wood?”
When Julia came home that night, I was on the couch in the front room watching TV. As soon as she came in the front door, I told her I’d spoken to Marco about his mess.
“Marco?” I asked. “Yes. He told me I looked nice and asked where I bought my dress. He said he liked the material. He reached out to touch it, but I pretended not to notice.” “What did you tell him?” “I told him it was from a thrift store up in Williamsburg. He smiled and repeated me. I hate it when he repeats me.” “Whaddyou mean?” “I mean, the last thing I say, he repeats. Like if I say, ‘I got this in a thrift store,’ he says, ‘Oh, a thrift store, you got it in a thrift store.’ It’s very annoying.” “Yeah, that would annoy me, too,” I said. “Plus, he’s such a mess. He leaves pieces of food all over the counter. He’s just a disaster.” “I know,” I said. “What can we do about it, though? It’s just how he is.” “I’m going to say something to him,” Julia answered emphatically. “And I don’t like how he spoke to me about my dress, either.” “Well neither do I. But you have to understand, he’s a little awkward socially. I don’t think his parents trained him or something.”
“It’s fine. Fine. You don’t have to call me Dr. Wood, though. You can call me Max, if you want.” Marco laughed. “I just like calling you doctor, for some reason. It seems to suit you.” “Well, whatever you want. Just know that I’m not a real doctor.” “I’ll make a note of it,” Marco said through another mouthful. “Hey, listen,” I said. “I don’t know if you know this, but Julia’s a real neat freak.” “No, I didn’t know.” “Well, I guess all women sort of are,” I continued. “She gets real antsy like if I leave clothes lying around. Or like if there’s food left out on the counter. Or, you know, if stuff just isn’t clean.” Marco was quietly munching and listening. I didn’t say anything more and a moment passed. Finally he said, “Yeah, I suppose it’s different living with a woman. They have different needs.” “Yeah,” I said. “She’s been on me about certain things. She just likes it all to be real clean around here.” “Well, I’ll do my best,” Marco said. “Thanks. I’m sure she’d appreciate it.”
“Or something. Whatever.” “No problem,” he said. “Hey, we’ll be out of here soon. When the spring comes, we’ll get our own place.” “Well, I hope so,” she said. “You didn’t tell me Marco was like this.”
After winning that small victory, I didn’t feel like bringing up how he’d spoken to Julia about her dress and even tried to touch it. I figured that could wait a while. I just said, “Well, thanks. I gotta go finish
“Did you tell him you didn’t like how he spoke to me about the dress?” she asked, unbuttoning her coat. “No. I figured that’d be for another day. This is the only time it happened, right? He probably just wasn’t thinking.” “You’re not thinking,” Julia said, voice lowered. “What if he acts this way towards me again? I’m already uncomfortable. Did you even think how this made me feel, Max? I’m afraid to be alone in the same room with him.” “Just because of that one incident?” “Yes.” “I’ll talk to him. But it seems to me he might’ve just made a mistake. He was really good about the cleaning stuff. I think you should give him another shot.” She wouldn’t look at me after I said that. She draped her coat over her arm, then raised her head and looked out the front bay window, as if there was somewhere to be found on the streets of Brooklyn where she’d be escaping to. Finally she just shrugged and let out a sigh. “It’s going to be fine,” I said. She headed upstairs without saying a word to me, and we didn’t speak for the remainder of the night. But when I saw her in the morning before she headed off to her temp job at the ad agency, she was back to her old self, singing as she got dressed and telling me she was glad the sun was out and that it was going to be a good day. She was in a good mood, and that put me in a good mood.
didn’t see Marco for a few days, but finally, three days after I had promised Julia I’d talk to him, we ran into each other in the kitchen. Besides its decaying walls, the kitchen was extremely narrow, which made it difficult for two people to be moving around at the same time. Marco didn’t seem to mind it, though. He’d do whatever the hell he needed to do whether you were in the way or not. If I were washing dishes, he’d place his cup under the faucet. If I were making something, he’d decide to make something, too, and manage to make multiple trips around me, nearly into me, as he did it. This scattered, seemingly unaffected movement grated on me. It made me hate him, basically. He could never just wait. He had to be there, too. On this morning, I took a new tack. I moved everything I needed out to the dining room and sat down to eat. Marco joined me without asking. And
that was fine. I needed to talk to him. I sipped my tea and said, “Julia. She’s very shy, you know?” He raised his eyebrows and looked at me questioningly, while swallowing his cereal. “What do you mean?” “I mean like, if you were to compliment her on what she was wearing. Like if you didn’t know her too well. And you complimented her in a way that could be seen as excessive . . . well, she might not like that.” “Is this about the other night in the kitchen? I told her I liked her dress and she sort of made this face at me. There was nothing excessive. I was just trying to be nice.” “Well, that’s fine,” I said. “But just be careful when you see her. She can overreact sometimes.”
more but holding back. He said, “She can say what she wants, but that never happened. I’ll be much more careful around her in the future. I’m sorry you think I would’ve done something like this, Max. I didn’t.” “I believe you. I’m just telling you what she said. Maybe you’re both just telling it how you saw it.” “Maybe. But I didn’t do that.” “Well . . . good. It’s not a big deal, anyway. I’m just telling you so you know, and so she’ll be comfortable.” “I hope she is. I had no intention of making her uneasy.”
was gone. There was rat shit all over the counter near where he’d spilled sugar for his coffee. I wiped it all up and washed my hands. Julia came home that night into our bedroom. I was on the bed skimming a book about astrology and historical events—it was a book whose jacket I was designing. I told her I’d spoken to Marco. “What did you tell him?” she asked, after placing herself on the edge of the bed next to me. “I told him you were shy, and that he should try to make you comfortable. I also told him not to touch you.”
“I’ve gotta get going,” I said. “I’m meeting someone for a work interview. In the Village.”
“What did he say to that?”
“Well, good luck,” Marco said.
“He denied trying to touch your dress.”
“Thanks,” I said, as I moved to the kitchen to place my mug in the sink. I nodded to him and left while he’d gone back to eating his cereal. I didn’t really have anyone to meet that day. I just wanted to get away from him and from the house.
“Mmm,” he hummed. “Sometimes she’s just not in the mood.” “Not in the mood.” “To be complimented that way.” “Well what should I say?” Marco asked. “Just ask her how she’s doing . . . or no, don’t even. Just say hello. Let her start the conversation. That would probably be much more comfortable for her.” “It really bothers her if I compliment her? Ask her how she’s doing?” “Sometimes,” I said. “It all depends. She doesn’t know you real well and she’s shy. So just keep that in mind. It’s no big deal. I’m not trying to tell you what to say . . .” “You are telling me what to say.” “I’m telling you how to be. That’s all. You two don’t know each other and I’m just trying to smooth out any rough edges.” “Well I didn’t know there were any,” Marco said. “This is surprising to me. She’s seemed perfectly pleasant when I’ve spoken to her.”
“I ended the conversation before he got too worked up. I think he took it fine.” “What else did he say?”
I took a long walk several blocks to Prospect Park. I bummed a cigarette from an older man who was walking his dog and afterward I sat on a bench smoking. It gave me a headache. I didn’t believe Marco, really. I thought he had tried to touch Julia’s dress after commenting on the fabric. It was in his character to do something like that. As for Julia though, I knew she could get overexcited. It wasn’t a good match to have both of them in the same house. He, a ready instigator. She, easily excitable. Some sort of combustion experiment, it seemed. I spent half of the day in the park people-watching and thinking about things. Then I got a sandwich from a nearby coffee shop and headed home. Marco
“Not much. I don’t think he’ll be bothering you again.” “Oh wonderful,” Julia said. “I feel so much better. Let’s go out to eat. Let’s have a drink!” After Julia changed clothes, we headed to an Italian place a few blocks away and got drunk on wine. For dinner I had veal and Julia didn’t say anything. Usually she protested if I ate baby cows raised inhumanely. She had the much more vegetarian caprese salad and some kind of bruschetta with eggplant. She told me about her day at work and I sat listening attentively. I didn’t have much to add to any of the goings-on at her office. It sounded like, being the office temp, she got to hear everyone else’s gossip, and they all trusted her with their secrets. We came home and there was a note on our bedroom door for Julia from Marco. It simply said, “Julia, let’s talk.” “Well that’s good,” I said. “He probably wants to make sure there are no hard feelings.” “I don’t want to talk to him,” she said.
“She is, she is. Just keep it in mind—her moods, her shyness. And don’t under any circumstances touch her.”
“I’m sure it’ll be fine.” “I don’t want to.”
“Touch her?” “Yes. She said you reached out to feel her dress.”
“Well do what you want,” I said. She put her hand on my cheek after I said that, as if to say thank you. Then she moved it down to my chest, then my abdomen.
“What? I didn’t do that,” Marco said. “Well, she thought you did.” I could see him biting his tongue, wanting to say
Minutes later, we were undressing. It was the wine. Without a word, we were on each other, in our vice grip, ’til it was over and she was snoring.
Life around the Gowanus Canal, Brooklyn