Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Millinery Center Synagogue, NYC

 NYC has continued to evolve in a direction that I find disturbing... an extended shopping mall/amusement park/food court...hell disguised as a clown with bright plastic facades and flashing neon lights hawking bland franchise food in contrived predictably faux exotic settings that appeal to the lowest common denominator...families...that have contributed to the dumbing down of NYC and Broadway theatre to nothing but Disnoid live TV spectaculars with songs that has done little more than extend the comfort zone of the suburban mall to 42nd Street.   A city that has left the redefinition of its architectural integrity to the lowest bidder, Donald Turnip, a bland, crass man, devoid of character or any visible redeeming qualities who has been allowed to redefine the NYC skyline in his own featureless image.  Welcome to the new New York.

It is against this backdrop, that I find myself lost, disoriented, and searching the streets for sanctuary.  Places that have maintained an authenticity that link me to the past, and this little architectural gem of a Millinery Center Synagogue on 6th Avenue between 38th and 39th streets is one such place in which I find peace.  Built in the 1940's so garment workers could find a minion during the week, when they worked long hard hours and such things mattered, it had its origin many years before when orthodox Jewish garment workers worked here, producing things (in this case hats) and gathered in lofts to pray in the morning and afternoons until they could raise the money to build this lovely building.  Most of our clothes are made in China now, and the garment district is mostly gone now, as is the raison de etre for the synagogue, which is largely forgotten and easily overlooked.  A footnote and a reminder of a different and forgotten city lovingly cared for by Rabbi Hayim Wahrman (seen below), it has become a refuge for displaced persons such as myself and other easily recognizable wandering lost souls.

Until recently that is...
During the unusually cold winter of 2014, a pipe burst, flooding the place, leaving the floors warped and twisted, the walls stained and sagging, prayer books soaked, and the odor of mold and rot in the air.  When I was just there the place was dark and empty but for one sad soul sleeping on a bench.  Its future is tenuous in this voracious city where only the strong survive and developers see only opportunity in the misfortune of others. 

Monday through Friday you can find Cantor Tuvia Yamnik selling sheets and dry goods in front of the building and talking to anyone and everyone who will listen and who will sing for if you even hint of the need for spiritual uplifting.  A joyous man made for the streets on New York. 


Monday, April 28, 2014

Back in NYC and glad to be there!!!

There is something about walking along the wall on the side of Central Park East on a mid spring morning that makes me feel like I am in Europe, Paris maybe.  I walked up Park Avenue from Grand Central Station at 42nd street to 92nd street to see how things are there on a Sunday morning, and what a saw a lot of was well scrubbed nattily dressed Presbyterian families going to and leaving Presbyterian churches and looking enviably nice.  It was a relief to reach 92nd St and a short two block walk to the park with a short

There is an ancient stone wall running around the park with benches placed every so often.  People sit on them, and the first people I met up with were Carl and Barbara, a lovely old couple who have always lived in the city and claim to have never tired of it.  They were just finishing up their non-kosher lunch before going into the Jewish museum on 92nd St. since they were careful not to bring treyf into the museum which has a kosher cafe.  My sister and her husband tell me that they often look at old couples and sometimes see people who they think (or hope) they will be like when they're that age.  I liked Carl and Barbara's spirit and continued excitement about life and hope Jackie and I will do as well. 

Wasn't going for a smartphone theme or anything here, but it does seem to be a common thread everywhere anyway, unless you have something more satisfying to do, like smoke a good cigar by yourself.

This was taken just inside the park where I ventured for just a moment or two and found two more people entranced by their hand held device.  What are the odds!!!


Sunday, April 13, 2014

An architectural post script...

I revel in the architectural exuberance exhibited in years gone by when people often built buildings that were is some way an expression of themselves, and were meant to make a statement.  Followers of this blog know that I am particularly attracted to buildings that have something to say.  They may have  been utilitarian in their time, but have aged well and have a story to tell, even if you have to make up the story yourself.  Occasionally examples of this architectural elan, buildings that are much more wonderful than they needed to be, turn up in unexpected places and continue to amaze.

The exuberance of buildings like the now abandoned Field Bros Service Station in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, has been replaced by the expedient, utilitarian boxes that how clutter our landscape at every intersection and exit ramp, selling everything from gas to books to burgers to hardware to pet food ad nausem.  These dispensable expedient structures are cheap and easy to build and just as cheap and easy to dismantle when needed to be replaced by another uber monstrosity housing a Walmart/Dollar General et al...selling cheap and easily discarded shit from China to people who they've convinced need it.  In the end we are leaving no architectural heritage of our own, unless bland and ubiquitous are the new art deco.  

Did not feel the need to provide any comparison photos.  Just look out your window, or drive down the Central Ave in your town to the Mobile gas stations Holiday Inn Expresses and the big box stores littering the access roads at the edge of town.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma

About 10 years ago, while Jackie was attending a conference in Dallas, I was forced to leave town under questionable circumstances after causing a minor situation at the infamous book repository high above equally infamous the grassy knoll.   After being shocked to find out that the good people of Dallas had the nerve to want me to pay $8 for the dubious privilege of walking up 4 or 5 flights of steps to see the window from which Lee Harvey Oswald allegedly shot JFK, I suggested that they should be the one's paying reparations to the rest of us for something that happened on their watch, rather than profiting handsomely from their complicity, inattention, and ineptitude, that was further attested to by the killing of Lee Harvey right under their noses.  Metaphor intended... The whole thing still reeks, and they were not amused.

High tailing it out of town one step ahead of the mind police,  I thought I may as well see Oklahoma while I was in the neighborhood, and ended up in the most extraordinary time capsule of a place, Pauls Valley, a town seemingly bypassed by time and progress, isolated from change and still living in the 1950's, with no shopping centers or box stores to sap the vitality of a downtown.  I often reminisced about the joy of holing up there and since we were passing by on the way back to Austin,  Jackie needed to see this mythical town, and I needed a reality check as well.  It was a short stop this time around and when you are just passing through, you take what you can get.  The sun was out, there were clouds in the sky, and though I was shooting from the hip with no time to linger, got some good shots and the place was just as I remembered it, although the dark clouds of doom were on the horizon as I discovered on the access road leaving town.

One thing I was surprised to see when looking at these photos was the fact that there was no one on the streets, something that might be explained by the temps, 87 degrees when we were there...

Or possibly the reason there is no one on the street has to do with the recently built Walmart Super Center and other such life sucking entities that now stand along the access roads at the edge of town, draining all of the life out of this once vibrant and self contained community where people once came into town to buy shoes and clothes and appliances or hardware or what ever and linger on the sidewalk or coffee shop talking to their neighbors.  The people of Pauls Valley obviously didn't understand the implications of allowing demonically predatory Walmart into their home to destroy their economy and way of life, all so that they could but cheap shit from China that they don't really need but which is all they can afford working for slave wages they earn at one of the most despicable employers in the country.    The unholy alliance of China/Walmart will poison them in the end.  And that's why there are no people in these photos taken in mid afternoon on a normal business day.