Archive for the ‘Harlem’ category

Stickball on Pleasant Avenue on 9/11

September 11, 2011

Today I was up in Italian Harlem doing some shopping at the Target (and avoiding the mess down in lower Manhattan).  As I was walking back to the bus to get home, I noticed that someone had shut down one of the streets and there were all these people in yellow shirts milling around.  I was intrigued and went up there.

It was at 118th Street and Pleasant Avenue and they had shut down that block and two lanes of 117th Street (for parking).  What I saw was something that I didn’t think I’d ever see:  a game of stickball.  I’ve heard of it and have even noticed that some street up in Harlem called something like “Stickball Hall of Fame Street” or other honorific.  But an actual game being played?  I thought that was as likely as seeing an ice wagon drawn by a horse.

There were maybe 60 people watching and playing stickball.  The dress code was a yellow shirt proclaiming a memorial stickball game.  For a while I thought it was the most bizarre and wonderful 9/11 commemoration imaginable.  A welcome respite from the politics going on several miles to the south.

I watched it for a while and missed out on photographs (I no longer carry my good camera, but did have my iPhone).  However, I was giving a play-by-play announcement of the game with my cousin and the game ended before I knew it.  At the end of it, the participants (ranging in age from about 7 to about 70) gathered for a photo opportunity.  They also played the national anthem and “God Bless America”.  Like I said, I thought it was a terrific memorial.  The shirts themselves listed some names such as “Tugboat Jr.”, Zeke, Funzi, and Tommy; stating “In memory of”.  I presumed that these were Pleasant Ave residents/family that had perished in 9/11.

Well, I was wrong.  It was just a coincidence.  I didn’t read the shirts completely.  It was the 22nd father and son stickball game.  It is held on the second Sunday in September; so it was just a coincidence.  Apparently, they did add on some of the music as a secondary salute to 9/11; so I wasn’t completely wrong.  What the heck, I’ll just re-write their intentions and say that the pleasant folks on Pleasant Avenue had this long-planned counter-memorial to southern Manhattan’s formality and were celebrating the strengths that got New York through those dark days in 2001.

The above picture was during the singing of “God Bless America”.  In the picture below, I got a father and son picture showing what the bat looks like.  They had a couple of different bats.  This one looked almost like a “professional” stickball bat.  I did see one that was almost certainly a broomstick without the bristles.  The ball?  A pink rubber ball.

And now the important stuff:  how is the game played?  The rules looked pretty fluid.  Two teams.  A bunch of guys (10, 15?) go out and play defense by standing pretty much whereever they want.  At least one guy is at first base.  Yeah, there’s a first, second, and third base.  The batter takes the rubber ball and drops it and hits it after the bounce.  He can actually be doing something of a forward run while doing it.  A caught fly ball is an out.  The batter can the tagged or thrown out.  It doesn’t look like there are foul lines, but the buildings act as an interesting way to bounce the ball around.

I didn’t see how many outs there were.  Nor how many innings.  It really had the flavor of a father-son game.  Well, there was one young lady so I guess it was father-son-daughter game.

And it looked like a very good time.  I’m really glad I didn’t have any frozen/perishables in my groceries so I was able to spend a little while there with no pressure to hurry out.

-H

Thomas Jefferson Park in Spanish Harlem

August 17, 2008

I’ve done a fair amount of blogging about my trip through Spanish Harlem / El Barrio / East Harlem. I don’t know quite how many posts I got out of it (six?). But, I do know that I’ve written a fair amount for just a few hours of wandering. And I didn’t even talk to anyone! And the place was mostly empty of people!

But that wasn’t true of Thomas Jefferson Park. It had a few people in it, although I wouldn’t call it a big crowd. Nevertheless, after finding so few people in Spanish Harlem itself, the light crowds were a welcome sight. The park is located on 114th Street or so and First Avenue.

When I first wandered in, the thing I noted was a lot of picnic tables and some sort of organized sporting event that was being prepared. It was on a large running track and included quite a few people. It was a health fair and event called “Run for Life” put on by a local health plan group called MetroPlus.

But the thing I really noticed was the pool. Wow, they had a huge, huge pool. It was pretty deserted, but probably because it was near noon and the sun was at the max.

But, like I said, there was other exercising going on. The below was a Church-group called the “Union Baptist Church Warriors.”

The sign for the event said it was an all-day event. I presume the light turnout was due to the heat and time of day.

Well, whatever the reason for the light crowds, it wasn’t for the lack of a pleasant area.

One last thing about the park: it had public barbeque areas! That’s rare. But the fact that you have to have a permit isn’t all that unexpected.

-H

Rodale Pleasant Park Community Garden in Spanish Harlem

July 30, 2008

I think that Pleasant Avenue in Spanish Harlem (El Barrio) (and the Pleasant Avenue area is also called “Italian Harlem”) has more community gardens per square foot than any other place I’ve ever seen. At least three. Plus at least one major park abuts it. Very impressive.

This is the third of the gardens that I’ve covered. Like all community gardens, the size isn’t large and the entrance is relatively nondescript.

Entering, the area is mostly unremarkable, except perhaps for the structure. And of course for the very nice shade. It was hot and the shade was pleasant. That was very welcome to me and I should note that saying is was “mostly unremarkable” shouldn’t be taken as “boring” or other negative. It is a very functional community garden.

When I first saw the building, I thought it was just a storage shed. Now that I’ve been introduced to the concept of the “casita”, I wonder if it was so much more.

There was a lot of growing going on. And, despite the lack of people in the pictures, I think that it was this garden that was the most actively tended that I ran into that day. I probably saw eight people working away on their personal plots. Or, at least what I think was their own little garden areas.

-H

Barnard College

July 26, 2008

Right smack across Broadway from Columbia University is the much smaller Barnard College. Originally a college for women, it may still be. But I know that male students from Columbia attend classes there as needed.

It’s small, compared with Columbia or most any other university that’s as well known. At most, it covers about four blocks although it may be deeper than it looks.

I went by it as just a lark to see how big it really was. I had done it a long time ago and I think it is about as small as memory serves. From what I understand, there are only a couple of thousand students enrolled. But since Columbia students can cross over, it makes the potential attendees much larger.

I passed by what I think is their main gate and noted that they had several privacy signs up. I felt at ease wandering around Columbia, but this place seemed a little more restrictive. So, I just kept walking.

-H

A simple but perfect bench at Columbia University

July 25, 2008

I really liked this bench. I mean, it was so simple and plain and ordinary that I might have passed right by it. And I probably have during my several visits to the campus over the past couple of years. It’s just a simple stone bench.

With a good inscription and provenance.

It’s hard to read, and I doubt you can see it on the above picture, but engraved on the bench’s back are the following words: “To fellowship and love of alma mater 1886 Arts, Mines, Political Science; 25th Anniversary.” So, I presume it was presented to Columbia sometime around 1911.

In terms of gifts and the like, it’s absolutely top notch. Well, maybe not quite as good as the lampposts I cited earlier; but still really nice.

-H

St. Paul’s Chapel at Columbia University

July 24, 2008

One of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings within Columbia University is, wouldn’t you know it, a church. Or, rather a chapel. St. Paul’s Chapel, by name.

As an Air Force brat, I’m used to chapels and their distinctly multi-sectarian focus. I wasn’t surprised to note that they have Jewish services and even have a Moslem prayer group. I do admit being surprised to see that they actually have a Hare Krishna study group. I don’t know why, but I was.

It was originally founded as a Episcopal chapel, but that’s pretty much gone by the wayside, I’d guess. There’s a printed history outside the doors that details a bit of the chapel’s history. It was designed by Newton Phelps Stokes (and makes the point that he went by “Newt”). Well, Newt thought that St. Paul’s was his masterpiece. The building was started in 1904 and dedicated in 1907.

To be honest, I don’t know if it is a real masterpiece (although I note that it was honored as an official landmark by the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966 and probably more than qualifies as one). But I really like the lampposts outside the doors.

There are actually two of them, on on each side of the door. They were donated by the Class of 1883 during the 1908 Commencement. I mean, look at these things. Ain’t they magnificent!

-H

Los Amigos Garden and Casita in Spanish Harlem

July 23, 2008

When I was in Spanish Harlem recently, I came across a number of community gardens. The most absolutely unusual one I have ever seen is right there on Pleasant Avenue and has the very “Barrio” sounding name of “Los Amigos Garden and Casita”.

The key to the “unusual”-ness of it is the word “Casita”. I hadn’t seen it on a community garden’s name before. It turns out that the word means “little house” and refers to a small house within the garden area. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a community garden and saw the below.

It was actually occupied. I thought I had wandered into someone’s yard and was trespassing! There were a few well-humored guys there (no English that I heard) and they motioned me to go on up to the house. But I felt like an intruder and took a couple of pictures and moved on. It wasn’t until later that I discovered the concept of casita and realized it might have been a real treat. But, then I really don’t know the rules of the house and whether it is only for community contributors and the like.

It doesn’t really matter. I wanted to see something unusual in El Barrio and I got something rather nice and special. To bad for me I didn’t know it at the time.

-H