Archive for August 2008

Abingdon Square Park in Greenwich Village

August 13, 2008

Somewhere in Greenwich Village…okay, at the corner of 12th Street and 8th Avenue…is Abingdon Square Park. It’s pretty nondescript, but is graced with a Farmers’ Market every Saturday. I’ve been by there a few times and the place is pretty traditional for NYC parks. It’s nice, well attended, and lots of seating.

Another thing it has is a statue to local soldiers who fought and died in World War I. It’s not particularly disconcerting, but I always smile about war statues when I’m in Greenwich Village, one of the last enclaves of the counterculture. Or it would be if it hadn’t been thoroughly involved in the real estate runup of the past couple of decades. Expensive homes in the area, don’t-ya-know?

Like I said, well-maintained and rather lush with plantlife. Notice the flagpole in the next picture. It has a sign saying it was dedicated in 1933 by the Michael J. Lynch V.F.W. in memory of “our departed comrades.” It’s a nice and useful item in the park.

The farmers’ market is not in the square itself. Instead, it surrounds the park by being on the encompassing sidewalk. As such, it isn’t a particularly large market, but it seemed rather popular with the locals that day.



2008 Dominican Day Parade in NYC – Part 2

August 12, 2008

This is the second of two posts on the Dominican Parade.

The next picture was just one of those things. This guy may have been associated with some group, but I sure can’t figure out who. He and another cyclist were in an open area of the parade and they just kept doing some circling around in the street while waiting for the cross traffic at 46th to go by. In the meantime, this guy was doing the same trick again and again. He was pretty good at it, but it was obvious that he was still practicing. I gotta admit that I enjoyed the trick even though he seldom could hold the position for more than a moment.

A mambo group that didn’t mambo came through after the cyclist. But they didn’t dance at all while I was watching. The one photo that almost worked was accompanied by half the flag of my neighbor as she waved incessantly…so, no photo. Sorry.

Another group followed them that I sure don’t understand. It’s called “Grupo De Lechones” and had a sign mentioning Carnaval. Fine. But what were the Egyptian masks on the sign for? I just don’t understand. But I did like the weird skateboard used by one of the marchers. He’s below.

But following him was the parade highlight. I had seen these guys last year and just thinking of what they did raises the little hairs on the back of my neck. They were the “beasties” I mentioned in yesterday’s post, but beasties with weapons! Well, sort of. They had bullwhips and they were cracking those whips constantly. These weren’t little snaps and the like. They were loud and…well, they were really loud and close to the crowd at times.

The next picture shows one of the close ones. These guys were vigorous in their whipcracking. And very skilled. And loud.

The next picture shows two of my favorite beasties. (I have no other name for them and I kinda like “beastie”.) The guy on the left was very friendly and came over and was posing and talking with some of the people to my left. The guy on the right had the most interesting hat in the entire parade.

I enjoyed the next group that followed, too. It was a Dominican Tae Kwon Do group that did some moves and the like in front of us. The best part was what I took the picture of: one of the more skilled guys (I presume) leapt over the hand-held sign and broke a board being held by one of his fellows. A nice little trick, and very effective.

The group itself had people of a wide range of ages. Quite a few kids.

There was even a mention of the Iraq War issue by some military members and their families. The next picture shows some people carrying a picture and placard. The sign held by the soldier and the family(?) members are identical and state “I am Boricua Air Force Reserve Sgt. Daniel Jorge and I am headed to Iraq. Please don’t forget the sacrifice of my military borthers Dominican soldiers Alex Jimenez, Juan Alcantara and Marine Rian Tejada and Columbian Jonathan Rivadineira and pray for my safe return.” God bless you, them, and your families.

Incidentally, “Boricua” seems to be a word for the Puerto Rican people.

Some more beasties. Ah, they were ever present in the parade and I got so few good shots of them. They are just so colorful and weird that I don’t know why it really doesn’t come out better.

During much of the parade, there were lots of political candidates present and/or being represented by lots of supporters. Except for Mayor Bloomberg, who had no overtly political signs around (he marched in the “dignitary” group); every single politician was a Democrat. But that’s so very typical of NYC. I really have no interest in showing their signs and the like, but two of the three usual group was in the parade: Charlie Rangel rode in his convertible and Anthony Weiner did his bullhorn bit. No sign of Chuck Schumer.

But the one political display I will show is the next picture. I just looked at it and laughed that State Senate candidate Monserrate viewed this as a parade vehicle. There were lots of his supporters around and I doubt the candidate was in this stretch limo, but I can’t resist putting this into the posting. I presume it is rented, but the idea of this being one of his vehicles is a hoot. How much do we pay State Senators here, anyway? (I googled it and it seems to be just below $80K, but it is only a part-time position.)

So, there was candidate after candidate. To tell you the truth, the weather was looking a bit iffy and I wasn’t very happy with the caliber of the displays. But then some dancers showed up and made me perk up. This group was quite good. As I always say, combining native costumes and dance is always a real plus in a parade.

There were some more floats and some were fine. There were politicians and money order businesses and the like. But after that last set of dancers it wasn’t until 14 minutes later than I found a group I enjoyed enough to write about: models. I think it was some sort of model school, but maybe not. The thing I really liked was something I really couldn’t capture: they spent a while standing and doing this sort of weird wave that reminds me of Queen Elizabeth when she waves to crowds. A sort of minimalist twist of the arm more than a wave. These young ladies were more than a little bored although one of them is giving me a bit of a saucy look. Well, maybe to someone on my right…

The parade itself was very good. Too many politicians. Not enough dancing. But those are quibbles. The crowd’s enthusiasm was wonderful and a sight to behold. The ear-splitting cheers and flag waving and the like were a delight. It’s a good thing to be compared to the Puerto Rican Day Parade and this parade is getting into that class. It needs a few celebrities and maybe about 10 more decibels, but that’s probably about all.


2008 Dominican Day Parade in NYC – Part 1

August 11, 2008

Sunday had the annual Dominican Day Parade on Sixth Avenue. Like last year, it was big, it was loud, it was loud, and it was loud. All in all, a good parade with an enormous amount of audience enthusiasm and, as can be expected, a lot of politics in an election year.

The parade did start on time. The crowd was large, but I did manage to get a front row position. That’s the good news. The bad is that I was right next to a young Dominican lady somewhere between 15 and 19 years old (I’m guessing, of course). She seems to have spent the previous year in a training program in professional screaming. And wild flag waving. She must have been tops in her class. My right ear is still suffering. And about 1/3 of my pictures ended up with part of her flag in it.

The parade started with cops on horses and cops on motorcycles; but my first picture was one of the highlights of the parade. These horses have some sort of equestrian training. They took very quick little steps in a prancing motion. Very cool, and impossible to capture in a picture.

The horses were followed (at a discrete distance) by the dignitaries including Mayor Bloomberg.

And that group was followed by some guy who appears to be the king ‘o the parade. I presume he’s a local character of some sort or the figure may be some sort of cultural icon. In either event (or neither), he got a lot of enthusiastic yells from the crowd. Of course, with this crowd you could have walked an chewed gum and the audience would have been leaping in joy. They were really, really wired up for this parade. And that’s the fun in parades. Almost never the participants alone, but in the give and take between paraders and watchers.

Goya foods is one of the big supporters of the parade. They had a number of floats. As is the Famous Ankles tradition, beauty queens get pictured. Here’s the first of many.

One of my best memories from last year’s parade was centered on what I can only think of as “beasties”. These are some sort of devil critters that seem to be very prominent in the culture. Whoever creates the costumes can be proud of how imaginative they are. There were lots and lots of beasties. Some of them came over very near me. Some will show up later; others are pictured with a young lady’s flag between them and my viewpoint.

Well, here are some more Goya beauty queens. And I should mention that everytime you see a float; think in terms of 120 decibels of fun streaming from them. Very loud. Not quite Puerto Rican Day Parade loud, but getting close.

A dance troupe called “Little Dancers of Borinquen” performed very nicely. Ah, but discerning readers may note that Borinquen is in Puerto Rico, not the Dominican Republic. Hey, it’s a probably a case of any opportunity to dance in public to very loud music. The group’s picture below is just of the youngest, but there were young ladies of every age in the group and they all did just fine.

Well, we’ve gone long enough without some beauty queens. Here are two from the New York Daily News. Nice smiles, ladies. I really am pointing out the “beauty queen” bit here because it nearly vanished in the last half of the parade. That’s when things got a lot more political…and boring.

One of my favorite bits in any parade is native costumes matched with vigorous dancing. It’s one of those things that riles up the crowd just right and brings out the energy. There just weren’t enough of these groups in the parade, but I did appreciate the ones that were there. And the crowd did, too.

The next picture shows a child in one of the same sort of costumes as above. But there was something a little different. Right before she and the boy behind her came up was a man in the same costume doing a comedy act. Not a transvestite, but some sort of Milton Berle in drag sort of comedy routine that I saw a couple of times and made me think there was a cultural in-joke that the crowd knew, but I didn’t (well, except the comedy was broad enough for anyone to catch). The fact that these two followed them so closely had me thinking that they were part of it, but it’s hard for me to remember why I made that conclusion. She may have been just too young or too tired to do the dance routine and her proximity to the comic may have just been coincidental.

More dancers showed up. These ladies were great and very energetic. I have several pictures of them with the girl-to-my-right’s flag in front of them. She was a waving machine with them.

As always, I like to get a good photo of the crowd. It was big. I was around 46th Street which means this wasn’t anywhere near the most crowded part of the route and just look at them!

I’m going to finish this part of the coverage with another beauty queen. I haven’t any idea of who she is or what she represents. Okay, she’s representing the Dominican Republic and doing a very fine job of it.

There were still a number of big things to come in the parade. I’ll cover the most interesting ones of them in tomorrow’s post, but a lot of it became very political. Lots of politicians and their supporters. And every single one of them was a Democrat. Welcome to NYC, what did you expect?


Jack Moelmann and the Wurlitzer Organ at Radio City Music Hall

August 10, 2008

About two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from my cousin in Florida mentioning some retired Air Force colonel’s quest to rent out Radio City Music Hall’s auditorium to play the organ. I hadn’t heard a word about Colonel Jack Moelmann up until that point and the storyline probably wouldn’t have caught my attention without her pointing it out.

I thought about it and thought about it; and finally decided to go.

I must admit to not being too much of an organ fan. It’s a fine instrument and the one at Radio City has, with some qualifications, claim on being one of the biggest in the world. Hey, they call it “the mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ”. That’s a very cool name. 

I have to admit that I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to the organ, except in Iron Butterfly’s In-A-Godda-Da-Vida and Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue (the last link actually has a sound file).  Neither was played last night, but I think the last one would have brought the house down.  My best memory of an organ itself is meeting the uncle of a good friend and watching him build part of a world class organ for a large Virginia church.  Amazing.

So I got in and had a pretty good seat. There are actually two organ consols in the place. One to the audience’s left and one to the right. I made a guess that the one on the left would be the focus of the performance and before the show started I managed to catch a quick photo. This is the last of the “good” photos because they banned flash photography. I gotta bunch of lousy pictures. You’re going to see the best of the worst from here on out.

At first, the place was pretty empty and I wondered about the turnout. I was pretty much there to support a retired Air Force colonel (just like my dad was) and his pursuit of his lifetime dream. (Actually, I don’t know how long he had the dream but I like to think of it as a longtime, even lifelong, quest.)

Radio City Music hall has about 6,000 seats from what I understand. The place did start to fill up, but I don’t think it hit the halfway point which is what I figure he would need to break even. The crowd was pretty eclectic, but certainly skewed toward retired types that appeared to be retired military.

Well before the above picture took place, something very nice happened. I was sitting there and some guy in a white jacket appeared and talked to some people near the front. I really only noted him because of the white jacket and how out of place it was. He then went to a couple of other rows and I started to suspect it was the Colonel. I hadn’t seen any interview or any picture that I could recall.

As he did a little bit of wandering, he came and started talking to some people two rows ahead of me and their words indicated it was Colonel Moelmann. He started talking and I recognized one of his phrases from an article I read; something about the Rockette’s wouldn’t come because they cost $90,000.

I shoulda taken a picture, but I didn’t. Interestingly, nobody near me did either. I just couldn’t believe that the show’s star was coming out to greet his audience only about 15 minutes before the show.

Anyway, the show started with an introduction by Fr. Gus Franklin and Nelson Page. They were front and center on the stage, but that area wasn’t used again until the very end of the show.

After about a two-minute intro, Jack Moelmann came out and climbed onto the organ’s seating. For the period of his main playing time, he got on and off that thing about six times, each time we all wondered (and he wondered aloud) whether he was going to fall off the elevated perch. There didn’t seem to be much room between the back of his (movable) bench and the edge of the perch. How he didn’t fall at some point remains a mystery. Of course, the guy was probably walking on clouds anyway.

Colonel Moelmann wasn’t alone in his playing. Early on, he was joined by Russell Holmes (the pianist for the Queen Mary 2 liner) playing on the organ consol to the right. I tried to get a photo of it, but no luck.

The Colonel played for about twenty minutes or so. Most of his repetoire was pretty standard songs from the thirties and on. His first one: The Trolley Song from “Meet Me in St. Louis”. One of the most modern ones? Rubber Ducky. He did some Cole Porter, too.

He was followed by a fellow organist, Walt Strony. The picture below is pretty much the sort of thing we saw all evening. During his conversation with the audience, Colonel Moelmann stated that one of the “rules of show business” is not to turn your back on the audience. Well, with the Radio City setup, there was no way to not have your back to the audience.

The next organist was Lew Williams. The next picture is such that both he and Walt Strony were hard to tell apart.

At the very end, they went to the main stage and Col. Moelmann was presented with an award from the Theatre Organ Society International. The members of his Church sent flowers and the Colonel told us to get out.

The program itself was pretty standard. There was the first medley from Moelmann. He was joined by Russell Holmes for a few tunes. Walt Strony and Lew Williams did a few themselves, giving the Colonel a chance to take a breather. He came back to lead a sing-along. There was an intermission and then each of the four did some more playing. Plus, Fr. Franklin played some at the end with Moelmann.  There was one classical piece performed, I believe by Williams.  Lots of Broadway tunes.

One or two items. His playing was fine, but his three main accompanists were much sharper. No problem. Second, there was so many other sounds coming along with the organ playing that it seemed that the organ was played almost as much as a synthesizer than just a regular organ. I don’t know these things, but some of the sounds were such that they may have been recorded to play at the touch of a button rather than the sound changing because of the flick of a switch. For example, some bell-type sounds were very fast and there didn’t seem to be any corresponding movement in the organists bodies to show that they were being created on the fly.

But that’s of no consequence. It was good to see somebody’s dream come true. To his credit, the Colonel said that he his main dream was to entertain us, but however you cut it; seeing him do this accomplishment was one of the main entertainments of the evening.


Parade? What African-American Day Parade?

August 9, 2008

Led astray again by NYC dot Gov’s Events Calendar…

I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as good as last year’s, which I enjoyed for many reasons but also because of the crowd’s method of preparing for and enjoying a good parade (as I mention, lots of them brought out easy chairs from their homes to watch it in comfort). Bringing the parade to mid-town would change the parade, but it was impressive enough last year that I think it could have done pretty well on Sixth Avenue.

I got to 41st and 6th Avenue nice and early. I didn’t think I’d have a problem finding a spot and didn’t. In fact, I seemed to be the only one aware of the parade. Or was it that everyone else was keenly aware of the parade’s absence? I saw the parade barricades were set up, but was a bit concerned that there were no cops at the various intersections. By 12:45, I knew nothing was going to happen, but stuck around just in case.

And the “just in case” never happened. Nada. Zilch. No sign of anything anywhere. Just the usual street traffic.

At least there’s another parade in the same location tomorrow. Right….? (I’m told it’s the annual Dominican Day Parade, which is a pretty good ‘un.) We’ll see.


Jonas Brothers at Bryant Park for Good Morning America

August 8, 2008

Late yesterday I got a tip that there was something special going on. A friend from work called to let me know that the Jonas Brothers were going to be doing a concert in Bryant Park early Friday morning for Good Morning America.

Not news to me. I had already attended and blogged on the Chaka Khan show. I had heard that the Jonas Brothers were going to play.

The news was that the attendance was going to be overwhelming. I found out from my tipster that people were so eager to get in that they were camping around the park overnight.


So just after 6am on Friday, I found myself wandering near Bryant Park to see this sort of thing. I say “near” because getting in would have entailed a long, long line with some very excited youngsters and their more tired parents.

The police had completely cordoned off the park area. I did manage to get within visual range of the stage (that’s it in the background in the above picture), but I couldn’t have stopped there as the fenced area I was in was strictly for walking through.

And there were cops everywhere stopping people from jumping the barricades. I don’t know how many times I heard a cop say, ever so politely, “EXCUSE ME!!!!! THIS IS NOT AN ENTRY AREA!!!!” All of the talking cops were graduates of the Big Booming Authoritative Voice University of Life. It got the line jumpers attention and acquiescence.

I did find the area that there were lots and lots of overnight sleepers.

I kept trying to get a shot that showed the people. Man, there were a lot of them. The next picture is about the best I got. Well, it is the best I got.

What I should have gotten was one visual that I saw when crossing the street. There was one mystified, slightly terrified, somewhat excited woman coming by and she was very tightly clutching the hands of two extremely excited and joyous young girls. It seemed to capture the moment.

Instead, I kept walking. I did an entire circuit of the park and the next photo is about as close as I could get to the stage.

As a bonus, I was getting ready to leave the area when I saw this bus pull up with a two car police escort. The windows, the few it had, were pretty opaque. However, as I was going, one girl in the company of some others seemed to spot someone in the back of the bus and just started squealing with joy and jumping with excitement. It coulda been them, but I really don’t know.

I only hope that the fans got their wish and had a great set with the Jonas Brothers. I’m not in their demographic so I really don’t know anything about them, but it seems like harmless fun for the kids and their parents and it may even be good music.


Father Fagan Park in SoHo

August 7, 2008

I seem to be doing a lot of posts on squares and parks recently. I guess it comes from the lack of parades and my inveterate cheapness. Parks and squares are free to visit.

When I first spotted Father Fagan Park in SoHo, all I could think of was Fagin from Oliver Twist. That’s unfair to Father Fagan himself. He died in 1938 in a fire after saving two of his friends.

As parks go, this is one of the least “green” that I am aware of. It has some trees, but not many. I don’t think there’s a blade of grass on it. It’s all paved over.

The park is located at 6th Avenue and Prince Street, very close to the SoHo subway station. There’s a nice little bodega right there. I went in, but it was jammed so I left for less popular climes.

I’m so predictable in this next item: like virtually all NYC parks, it has lots of seating. Of course sitting next to busy 6th Avenue isn’t something I’d do to relax.