Friday, April 20, 2007

Flatbush #38, 4/19/07

It's really nice today, and I should be outside, and I will, soon. A couple quick announcements: apparently it is National Library Week, you know the week that's about to end right now. I guess I've been derelict in my duties's cool. Also I wrapped up my library school application, so that is all sent in, and now it's just a matter of waiting for the transcripts and recommendations to get there and then I find out if I'm a future librarian! Should be a little over a month, I'd imagine.

Well, I went to a Barnes & Noble (I know, I'm sorry, I had a gift certificate) and spotted a few things that I wasn't sure I wanted to buy but looked like interesting reading. I looked 'em all up and settled on I, Stagolee, the story of a legendary pimp from African-American folklore, now in handy novel form. They had it at many branches, including the...Flatbush Branch.

Branch: Flatbush
Location: 22 Linden Blvd. at Flatbush Ave.
Transport: bicycle
Book: I, Stagolee by Cecil Brown
Date: Thursday, April 19, 2007

This branch is over by the southeast entrance to Prospect Park, and though it wasn't as nice as it is today, it was pretty good, so I biked it. Up the hill, through the park, then down Church St. cause I was craving Subway for some reason, then back to Linden Boulevard. So, a pretty good ride. The branch was nice but seemed to have an odd lack of tables considering that it wasn't even very small. Plus I got there right around the time when all the kids were getting there, and they weren't being that loud, but one of the librarians kept yelling at 'em. Guess he didn't want to give them an inch! Another guy at the table I was sitting at decided to pack it in as a result. He even told himself it was time to leave. Didn't seem that crazy though. It was also odd that when I got there, a policeman was checking people out. I guess they all work for the city...

The Flatbush Branch seemed to fit in with the trend that if a library is in a not great area, it'll have worse facilities than one in a nicer area. It would be nice if Brooklyn spread it out better, but I suppose there's a chance they're just responding to demand, and it happens to be less in those places. Personally though, I doubt it. And here's a chance to actually help out, and I can't do it! Tomorrow is Support the Shelves Day where people can go to certain branches (Brownsville, Cypress Hills, Flatbush, Homecrest, New Utrecht, Saratoga, Sunset Park, Ulmer Park, Washington Irving and Williamsburgh) and donate books they don't need. Unfortunately, I'm going to be in New Jersey tomorrow having fun so I can't donate books. But if anyone reading this has books...and lives near one of these should do it! I know no one will, but if you do, I'll buy you something nice. Maybe even a beer!

I guess that's all for today, look at some pretty pictures.

wide shot...


row houses across the street...

kids, a basketball, and a hoop. They were playing, ok, just not when I took the picture. There's no court though so it was more Horse than anything, or so I assumed. That is all.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

East Flatbush #36, 4/13/07

So, finished those other books right quick and decided to hit another library on Friday. As I said, A Contract With God was phenomenal. Cosmopolis was good too, engrossing and very imaginative. It was about an executive in a limousine and his entire day trying to get across Manhattan. He meets with various people in his organization, gets through an anarchist protest, etc etc. There were so many ideas going through it that I'm not sure there was a solid story or any real characters, but seeing Don DeLillo exercise his brain was still a fun time. Also, the book is dedicated to Paul Auster, and his work definitely seemed to have something of an influence on it, particularly The New York Trilogy.

And so, continuing my break after the monster that was Cobra II, I decided to get the next chapter in the Contract With God Trilogy, A Life Force, and they had it right out near where I went the other day. That is to say, at the East Flatbush Branch.

Branch: East Flatbush
Location: 9612 Church Ave. at. Rockaway Pkwy.
Transport: R train to Atlantic Ave., 4 train to Utica Av., 3 train to Saratoga Av.
Book: A Life Force by Will Eisner
Date: Friday, April 13, 2007

I read the book already. It's totally amazing, I think I liked it even better than A Contract With God. There's not too much to say about these books, just that if you have even a passing interest in either graphic novels or tenements or even New York City history in general, they are must reads. I think they might all be available in one volume too.

As for the library, honestly, it was nothing special. I was kinda having a shitty day, maybe something to do with it being Friday the 13th, who knows. The neighborhood sucked, a bitchy woman cut ahead of me when I was waiting to check out and then didn't care when I called her on it, whatever. Then on the 4 train into Manhattan I had to listen to a bunch of asshole teenagers yell over me about how "the village is the place with all the homos" and that they would never get off the train there, and that anyone who did was gay. I can never tell if that stuff sickens everone else in the train car the way it does me. Fuck it.

The one nice thing was that on the way there, I got to Atlantic Av. just in time to see a 3 train pull out. I hightailed it over to the 4 track and this time, when I got to Utica Av., the 3 was right behind us. Basically the opposite of what happened on Thursday.

Well that's it for that one as far as I'm concerned. With all the talk about this storm today I thought we were gonna float away, but that didn't happen. It's a relief I suppose. Now to the photo evidence.

The full picture...

and then there's the entrance...

and you know, it's always nice to have an angled shot. Greenhouse windows!

Friday, April 13, 2007

New Lots #52, 4/12/07

Well, I finally did it. I finished Cobra II. There were times when the fight got too tough, and I was ready to give up. But I forged on, mind focused on my original plan, refusing to adjust no matter what. Maybe 600 pages is too much, my misgivings informed me. I have other things to do. I just want to get back to another library. I thought I'd be greeted as a liberator. Of the book. Or something. What I'm getting at is, the book was excellent, not just as a chronicle of military operations in Iraq, but as an indictment of the Bush administration (the authors' main targets seem to be Rumsfeld and General Franks) for their failure to recognize when they were faced with situations different from those they had planned for, and to adjust to those new situations. It works even better than other anti-Bush books because it is actually not an anti-Bush book; it is very even-handed, trying to represent the full picture of events throughout. I highly recommend the book to anyone who can spare a few days of their life to read all about Iraq, which at this point may be few of you.

Well, after reading that book for so long I felt weird when it was no longer with me, I decided it was time to get back on the library horse. And it was pouring like crazy yesterday, so after getting completely soaked whilst mailing my taxes (woo!) I hopped on the train and was on my way. Where to? Well, I figured I deserved something short after that monster I just read, and I liked the one Don DeLillo book I read in the distant past (White Noise), so I figured I'd try out another of his for size. In this case small size. What the hell am I talking about. Come with me, whoever you are, to the magical realm of the New Lots Branch.

Branch: New Lots
Location: 665 New Lots Ave. at Barbey St.
Transport: R train to Atlantic Ave., 4 train to Utica Av., 3 train to Van Siclen Av.
Books: Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo; A Contract With God by Will Eisner
Date: Thursday, April 12, 2007

I know the transport bit looks a bit convoluted. What happened was, I got an express train (4) from Atlantic in the hopes of passing a local (3) train on the way to Utica Av., which is the last stop on the 4. Not only did this not happen, but three more 4 trains arrived at Utica Av. before a 3 train came. Since the 3 train goes to a lot more stops than the 4, this is VERY STUPID. MTA, are you LISTENING TO ME!!!! I'M A JUDGE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE! HOW DO YOU THINK THIS REFLECTS ON ME? Ok, moving on.

A Contract With God is a Will Eisner graphic novel, his first in fact (and if you don't know who he is, click the link, because you really should), and since I have shamefully never read any of his work, I spotted this and snatched it up. I've read it already, and it's just fantastic. Not only does it give a true to life portrayal of tenement life in New York City in the '20s and '30s (I'm just guessing, but I'm pretty sure I'm right) but Eisner lets the tenement function as the whole world, giving us a look at the human condition. Really really really great. Read it!

And I also got the DeLillo book, which I understand is about a day in the life of a limousine, or something. I'll report back.

New Lots is fairly close to Brownsville and East New York, but it mainly just seemed fairly desolate. It was probably at least partially due to the rain, and I suppose it is way out at the end of Brooklyn, but it was really quiet and empty out there. There were also some odd sights that I have documented in the pictures. More on that shortly.

The library itself is a nice, large two-story building, though I think the second story is only for official programs and things, because I couldn't see a way for the general public to get up there. I was there before 2, so it wasn't filled with kids yet, though I overheard a policeman saying that it soon would be. As with some of the other newer buildings (well, 1957) it seemed to have more space than it was using, though the selection was decent. It just didn't seem much better than some of the smaller libraries, which is too bad, because they have the space for it. The most bizarre thing about the place, though, is this tidbit from the Brooklyn Public Library website: "The library site is thought to be a Revolutionary-era burial ground, containing the remains of soldiers, slaves, and English officers." That's pretty sweet, though it may cause problems in the future if you ask me. And before anyone asks, no, I did not see any zombies. YET.

Now for a story in pictures...

Here it is from the back, with an eerie abandon'd playground.

The side, all cover'd in ivy.

Left side of the front...

Right side of the front.

This neat old church was across the street, with its own little cemetery and everything.

An abandoned boat on the way back to the subway. Its registrations stickers read '94 and '97. I like to think it got there in some kind of flood. Which doesn't really explain, just to the right of it...

This car. And let me tell you something else, it seemed like it had been there a long time. Maybe I should be glad that the area was relatively deserted?

Well I got short books this time and finished one already, so there's no excuse not to check this space and soon. In other words, do that.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Brownsville #27, 4/3/07

That's right, another post! After I posted yesterday, I read The Fatal Eggs and finished reading Brownsville. The Fatal Eggs was very good, definitely well written with an interesting story. Basically a scientist in the Soviet Union in the 1920s discovers a ray that makes animals become much larger and stronger, as well as more aggressive to the point of killing and eating each other and whatever else they can get to. Combine this with an inexplicable chicken plague and before you know it the Soviet government is using this "ray of life" on eggs to make the chicken stronger. Only they accidentally use snake and ostrich eggs. So it sort of becomes a monster movie at the end, but not really, because it's basically just satire the entire time. Science, the government, the press - Bulgakov attacks everyone. It's certainly not perfect but at 110 pages, I'd say worth reading. I'll probably check out some of his other work at some point.

Brownsville was good, I enjoyed the art style and subject matter but just felt that the plot was missing something. This seems to be confirmed by reviews claiming that there is much better work on the subject of Jewish gangsters. But it served it's purpose in choosing my next Brooklyn neighborhood to go to, and I was off to the Brownsville Branch.

Branch: Brownsville
Location: 61 Glenmore Ave. at Watkins St.
Transport: R train to Atlantic Ave., 3 train to Rockaway Ave.
Book: Cobra II by Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor
Date: Tuesday, April 3, 2007

This branch was a bit of walk from the train, but it was a nice day, so I enjoyed it. Not like today's god-awful weather anyway. Brownsville was once a Jewish neighborhood, but these days it's mostly African-American. With it being so close to East New York (where apparently 25% of the crime in NYC occurs) I wasn't sure what to expect, but I actually found it to be a fairly bustling but also laid back area. Similar to the Walt Whitman Branch, this library is built right in the middle of multiple housing projects (though I'd imagine the library was there first, being built in 1914). There was plenty of open space and greenery, but I guess there's no escaping the generally bad vibes coming from housing projects, stemming primarily from building design. I'm pretty sure years ago someone told me about architects who designed low-cost housing that didn't feel so depressing, but their designs were rejected by cities for whatever reason. Of course I have no source on that whatsoever. That said, there were basketball courts right next to the library full of kids, and the feeling inside the library itself seemed to be an overall good mood. I saw an excellent chess game where the two players were basically trying to psych each other out.

The layout was confused me a bit, but I believe it was my own fault. It's another Carnegie building, though the upper floor/balcony seemed to be off limits to the public, but it took me a while to separate the adults section from the kids, and to find where the new books were. Then it turned out the book I wanted wasn't in the new section anyway. NBD. I took out Cobra II, which is apparently the definitive account of the war in Iraq, or so it claims. In any event I'm sick of this one thing dominating our news and elections and policy debates and not being informed enough about it. Plus the book only just came out in paperback and it was too heavy as a hardcover.


This one is of the general area, with the library in the background on the right side.

Tree, library, tower.

Aaaaaaand just the library.

Well this Cobra II is quite the tome, so it might be a while for me, but it might not, so, you know, keep checking. Commas.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Brighton Beach #24, 4/2/07

Hey, it's April now! Neat. And since it's so nice out (well, not really, but nice enough) I biked all the way down to Coney Island yesterday with my friend Diego. But we'll talk about that more later, first I have some books to talk about.

The Maakies book was great as expected, odd shaped and pretty gross but also hilarious. A Handbook of American Prayer, the Lucius Shepard book, really surprised me. I was wrong about his nationality, turns out he's from Vancouver, Washington not actually Canada, but the book itself was very good. It was about an ex-con who changes his life and ultimately becomes famous with his own contemporary style of prayer that seems to work so long as he doesn't ask for anything too outlandish. He soon gets into a feud with a member of the christian right, and it seems that a character from some of his prayers have come to life. It sounds completely ridiculous, but while I was reading it, I was totally engrossed. Something about the voice of the character was both unique and realistic, and it kept me caring about what happened to him even as it became less and less realistic.

So that's all for that. Yesterday morning it was foggy and fairly cold, but by the afternoon it had burned off and I was ready to ride. The ride is excellent, most of it on the Greenway of Ocean Parkway, aka not on the road or the sidewalk but on a separate bike only path. After reaching the boardwalk and then heading back north and east a block or two, we reached the Brighton Beach Branch.

Branch: Brighton Beach
Location: 16 Brighton First Rd. at Brighton Beach Ave.
Transport: bicycle
Books: The Fatal Eggs by Mikhail Bulgakov; Brownsville by Neil Kleid and Jake Allen
Date: Monday, April 2, 2007

I just got some random books here, because I intended to get The Yellow Arrow by Victor Pelevin, which is apparently on the shelves, but actually it isn't. Second time in a row! So, I noticed this strange sci-fi/satire story by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov, who also wrote The Master and Margarita, which I haven't read but have been told by members of my peer group that it is hilarious. So I figured what the hell, it (the egg one) is only 100 pages, it might be good or it might not. Brownsville is a comic about Jewish gangsters in Brooklyn back in the 20s and 30s, nothing too special (based on reading the first half) but it's decent enough I guess. It's certainly no The Wire.

The library was great, nice and big if a little odd shaped. It was apparently built in 1992, but I was just glad it wasn't another identical Carnegie library. I enjoy the uniquely shaped ones, and this might have been my favorite since Gerritsen Beach as far as that goes. I also enjoyed the badass teenaged Russian girls that were hanging out looking tough but they were still in a library. But I guess you can be tough anywhere. After checking out the library, Diego and I checked out the boardwalk for a while, and I was all excited to get some Nathan's, but it wasn't open yet. What was open was the Cyclone (roller coaster) which we totally went on, and it ruled. Those old roller coasters really shake your bones around. The adrenalin I got from the ride gave me the energy to bike back home, where I found out that the Yankees had won (woo!) and that the Red Sox were being crushed (woo!). Then I headed over to my sister's place for an awesome, low-key Passover Seder. Wait, I'm not talking about the library anymore am I. Pictures:

Well, that's as much as I could get in one can't really see the right side, until...

The next picture.

And then, here's a closer view of the front, with Diego hidden somewhere in the picture. Can you find him!?!?

Well apparently after today it's gonna be in the 40s all week. Ugh. I might have to take the train to the next library. Time to get back to reading so I can make it happen! See you next time.