Letter to a Vacated Apartment

Dear Apartment,

You aren’t the first, or last dope apartment I will ever have. You were close to everything. You had a lot of energy. I could buy groceries, go for long walks and get my dry cleaning done just steps from you. Your doorman protected me at night, when he wasn’t fast asleep at 3 in the morning.
Your book giveaway area always provided me with gems I was too broke to buy and your proximity to my place of study always made it easy to get to class. I love you, but in a few days I must leave you.
Subsidized housing in New York is a luxury. Academia does help, as well as the deep coffers of an Ivy League institution.
So it goes apartment. We’re parting ways, but you won’t be lonely for long. Someone else will inherit you. They too will be close to public transportation:

They too will have the luxury of air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter. In abundance. You won’t contain roaches or mice and you will always have maintenance people at the ready to fix any leak or broken fixture. Don’t miss me apartment, because I will do better than you in no time. I’m a champ, and you’ll always just be a regular old apartment. But a dope one. Stay strong.

All the best.

Diner Passion in Jersey

Diners are to New Jersey what hot dog and pretzel carts are to New York. I’ll take the 24-hour ubiquity of the diners over some dude slamming a dog between two buns and slathering mustard on it (with a big exception: Gray’s Papaya ). The diner pictured here is the Skylark. Moms took me here after a reporting trip to Philly. I’ve been to many Jersey diners in my day and I don’t remember this one. On your way to the bathroom  hallway lights flickr in a sequence. One, two, three…then all of them light up at once. It’s kind of cool and very kitschy, just like an NJ diner should be.

For lots of N.J. diner suggestions, look here.

Ode to Melrose

Today, Melrose Avenue stands as one of the longest and most famous stretches of independently owned and operated retailers in the world. Consequently, it does not weather the regular economic downturn of the business cycle in the same way commercial enterprises such as The Grove, The Beverly Center or Third Street Promenade do, nor does it adapt as quickly as smaller independent shopping areas like West Third Street, Los Feliz or Abbot Kinney.

From a piece that ran here in response to an L.A. Times business story from September 2010 that said Melrose couldn’t hack it in a rough economy. Not to mention, according to the piece, Melrose is falling off in other ways:

Although store owners blame the recession for their woes, others contend that Melrose’s problems go deeper than the economy. They say the shopping district has fallen from its glory days because of an increasingly run-down feel, restrictive parking measures and an excess of shops all selling the same poorly made apparel from downtown L.A.’s Fashion District.

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Newark Brewery: Eagle in the ¨A¨

I grew up on the outskirts of where the King of Beers is made. I´m from an industrial town nearby, so this was never that special of a place, except for the smells and the sign.

As a kid I remember passing by this Anheuser-Busch plant and smelling the oddest smell: malted oats, or something like that. At night the sign lights up and you see an eagle fly and then transform into an ¨A¨, it´s really impressive along that loan stretch of the 1&9 just before you reach Newark Airport, ecscuse me, Liberty International Airport (see how long I´ve been gone?).

Some details:

Anheuser-Busch Newark Brewery
General Manager: Kristopher Scholl

Brewmaster: George Weston

Location: 200 U.S. Highway 1 & 9, Newark, N.J.,  07114

Opened:1951

Brands Produced: Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob ULTRA, Busch, Busch Light, Natural Light, Natural Ice, King Cobra, Rolling Rock and Rock Light

States  Served: New Jersey, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, export military shipments

Site: 88 acres

Total Floor Area: 3,223,440 square feet

Shipments: Approximately 200 trucks per day

Annual Payroll:$84 million

Annual Utility Expenditures: $41 million

(Info. via.)


There used to be other breweries in the vicinity, but they´ve since shut-down. Their cool signs gone as well.

Recap: This Is Halloween 4 Israel

Started out innocently enough. I saw a flier for a party near my beat, Sunset Park. Not really, though. It was Industrial City.  This little enclave of concrete, brick and old school manufacturing within good smelling range of the Gowanus. Actually, smack dab between the Gowanus and the BQE.

The flier mentioned it was a free warehouse party, which was all I needed to know. It was about a week before Halloween and I needed some free drinks in my system, even if it was mystery punch. On my way to the event, I noticed on the flyer I printed that there was a small box in the corner saying it was a benefit for Artists 4 Isreal. Okay. Not big deal, everyone is entitled to their political agenda.

When I arrived at the event, after walking down a long cobble stone industrial-rimmed street off 3rd Avenue, I walked up a short flight of steps and saw a large door with two young buxom ladies standing out front. They each had super sexy “Halloween costumes” on and held onto an iPad and mini keyboard. I figured they were asking people to sign up for something upon entering this free jump-off.

“$10 dollars please,” said the young lady. After making my ” Damn, I thought it was free,” face, I dropped the “I’m a reporter” line on her.

“Well it’s to benefit Artists 4 Isreal. Plus, we have free drinks.”

“Well, I’ won’t drink,” was my reply. I then stopped staring at her chest and strolled inside, camera in hand.

I didn’t really know what I was getting into. This was definitely some Brooklyn, hipster, arty, loft party. There were projections, pumpkins, half-nekked women with paint on them walking around. Hipsters. Thug hipsters. People who looked out of place. Someone collapsed and the medics were called in. I met a guy in a blue robe.

It was surreal to me for that section of Brooklyn. Nothing was really making sense. There was a lot of fitness in the room. I actually did sneak some punch, but believe me it didn’t compromise my ethics.

The dude in the blue robe, the coordinator of the event, and a distance relative of a famous lawyer called me over for a “photo op”. He was smashing pumpkins. No, not those Pumpkins.

It was some art intervention type thingy, only a dude in a yarmulke participated and OBAMA was written on one of the pumpkins. Damn, this was some real radical shit going on. Was I messed up for watching this and taking pictures? I was practicing my journalistic distance. Besides, he was letting me take pictures and I figured it would make for an interesting “check out what I saw” story.

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An elder with rent control

So this was a project I did back in September. It just go critiqued today. Biggest fault: it raises more questions than it answers. Why do these guys live together?

I looked at it as a funny odd couple sort of thing. The older guy, pushing 100, and the younger cat (relatively speaking), whose a character by all measures. I should have let it breathe a little at the intro instead of sliding right into the nat sound. All in all, I’m happy with my first crack at this style of storytelling.

To recap what I ‘shoulda’ done:

*Open with Magnus talking, or with some extended fade-in, silent.
*Focus on just one of the characters, namely Magnus and explain his plight (even though it was not a good choice for a 1-minute piece)
*Show more of the apartment, or at least a shot of the front of the building.

Good luck Mr. Saethre.

Hello (México) Brooklyn, Part II: Bushwick

Man, this audio class is a real kick in the head! I think I cried today in class. My piece was way poor. Not the flat-out sad cry, but the cry that sounds like you’re laughing. You see it in the movies all the time. An exact example escapes me at the moment.

Above, Bushwick. It was the second choice for my beat. Probably because it has the 2nd highest concentration of Mexicans in BK, according to Daniel D. Arreola’s 2004 “Hispanic Spaces, Latino Places: Community and Cultural Diversity in Contemporary America.”

I stepped foot in Bushwick (the first time in my life), and walked around the projects, something I probably couldn’t do without losing my shoes and shorts several years ago. I chatted up a guy working a bodega across the street. My investigation tactic of the day was “Hay una taqueria cerca?” As dumb as that sounds, it led me to pockets of Mexicans throughout Brooklyn. But, for some reason, this time, the mans directions didn’t yield any secret Mexicanized boulevard. Instead, my journey led me into an industrialized hipster zone. Fittingly, I bumped into Pharoahe Monch, on his way to a micro brewery.

Didn’t surprise me.

I kept walking and finally got to what I thought was the purest example of Mexican culture you could ever find anywhere in the world. Not just a taco stand, but ….

a tortilleria.

G.I. Joe beard and rap in Doctores

You may know someone with a beard like this.

If you look at the success of Kaws, plastic toys are cool, right ? But what´s the allure of movable fighting men? Basically, a doll, created in the mid-60s … for boys.

I´m not a toy collector, but I used to play with 80´s G.I. Joe toys. It´s wild to think that I used to get lost in play for hours with a bunch of little men with plastic weapons, unleashing tactical assaults with a hover craft, and borrowing from images of Arnold Schwarzenegger, or Bruce Lee type destruction.

Toys meant a lot to me back then. When I kept seeing flyers around my local coffee shops for  MUJAM, a self-styled toy museum featuring a visiting G.I. Joe exhibit, I knew I wanted to be there.

I noticed the flyer´s map put the museum in Doctores. It´s a colonia, or neighborhood, with a reputation for being one of the more dangerous D.F. hoods. Part of this legacy has to do with high rates of muggings and auto parts thefts. La Jornada breaks down the criminal roots of the colonia. Doctores also has its own public Malverde shrine.

The area is important as an active hospital zone, providing local  health care, government and judicial buildings are located there, and every Sunday you can find great deals on produce at the tianguis along Dr Erazo.  Lucha libre matches at Arena Mexico feel safe and under control, especially when crowds of foreigners spill out onto the streets at 11pm every Friday night. The museum Estación Indianilla should be on your list if museum hopping in Doctores.

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It´s odd that there´s this sanctuary of toys in a hood that´s typically avoided by visitors. The collection belongs to Doctores resident Roberto Shimizu, who in this Vice magazine interview, seems like a hoarder.

I Know Huh X Wayneandwax X Postopolis!

Above, Rapper 2Phase on the mic (center), at a January 2010, rap event near Centro.  It was a 7 hour rap show in a hall connected to Cría Cuervos, a punk/goth space. Pictured is the entire concert stage, the bar was off to the right.

For my presentation today, I invited 2Phase and Yoez. More about them during our chat, but I wanted to give a little background on why I chose these two, of the literally hundreds of rappers trying to get their voices heard in D.F.

2Phase was one of the first rappers I saw perform when I got here in the winter of 2008  (Listen to some tracks from his 1st album, here and here.). He was performing in another punk space, El Under, in Colonia Roma. The reason why I picked him is because, first, he speaks English. And, two, he´s not only a rapper, but a producer for Revolver Productions. I felt that he could talk about, not only the rap scene, but also the technical aspects of production and getting product and merch out to the masses.

Yoez is a rapper I heard a lot about, because she was a member of D.F.´s  first all-girl rap group Rimas Femininas. I researched this group for a story that appeared in Latina magazine, but I never got a chance to talk to Yoez. Her work is personal and she´s got a stage presence that can´t be ignored. I´ve seen her destroy crowds at Foro Alicia, usually over some heavy West Coast beat.

*Super shouts to Wayne Marshall for inviting me as a guest.

Corrupt edifice

There´s an abandoned 2-story building on the Roma Sur side of Viaducto Miguel Alemán. Too bad I couldn´t climb in, it´s all gated up. Didn´t stop some painters from getting down. The walls were covered with portraits.

This was the front of the building.

This was an athletic facility on the edge of a field in Bosques del Valle. Spent a Saturday afternoon at a band practice across the street.

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