Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

The Internet is a Very Interesting Thing…

January 20, 2010

First thing’s first, the answer to  the bonus question from Monday.  What former iconic place in New York City would be just a lone apostrophe if your removed all of the consonants from its name?  See for yourself.  (Be thankful I had my safe search on.) 

Yep, the late great CBGB’s.

This is the kind of puzzling that I love to do.  One of the goals of this blog is to discover as well as amuse and bedevil.  I always want to learn more about New York, and this puzzle gave me that opportunity.  For instance, did you know that:

The now defunct Gage and Tollner’s restaurant in Brooklyn had its interior landmarked, so that anyone who took over the space had to honor the insides of it?  Including Arby’s.

Not only is the New York Coliseum gone, but so is Coliseum Books?  This is a real shame because I have a fondness for independent bookstores, and I had great memories of this old place.  Also, did you know that while the Coliseum and Coliseum Books are gone that the Coliseum Bar is still going strong?  It seems to have upscaled a bit since I hung out there in my college days, but I will let those tales lie for now.

The other sad thing about New York is that many of the things that are disappearing are either independent stores like Manny’s Music that are getting swallowed up but national chains, or quirky things like Astroland and McHale’s (which was a great fucking bar/burger joint) that are being sacrificed at the altar of “development”.  I know I am über-Polyanna when I lament the loss of New York’s independent entrepeneurs,  (I am fully aware that this is the way of the world right now, thank you very much) but I still want the phrase “Only in New York” to live on in some establishments.

The other very interesting thing about doing this puzzle is that I wanted to include a couple of things in the examples of the puzzle that were a bit personal to me.  I did work Snooky’s into it, but there were two other places that I could not remember some exact details, and I figured that the ol’ internet would bail me out on it.  Guess what?  Since both of the places were never hugely iconic (although big in their circles/time) and since both disappeared before the internet boom, I could not find them.

This is a very interesting aspect of the internet.  Lesser known things, like the closing of Snooky’s, are documented now, and sometimes in great detail, but things that went to pass before, oh say the late 1990’s or so are gone.  Anything that strikes a bloggers fancy is living on in the search engines of the internet, and people/places/ and things that didn’t hit a critical mass before the internet did are not documented well at all.  I find that to be a very tangible example of the power of the internet.

Here’s another one.  I know some people who can straighten me out on the two lost places that my memory failed me on.  So here’s the shout out:

Mom and/or Dad:  Was the name of the restaurant you guys liked so much called O. Henry’s, and if so where the hell was it?

Tony and/or Jay:  I can’t believe I am blanking on this, but the bar you guys worked your way through college at was called Jimmy- what?

If you could post the answers in the comments section, then these places will also get a toe hold in searchengineland.


New York Sports in the Fall

November 4, 2009

They’re Baaa-aaaack in the Bronx

Sometimes inspiration comes to me out of the blue.  I did not have a Halloween themed puzzle ready to go for last weekend, in fact I was working on a completely different generic word puzzle when the idea of “poltergeists” hit me.  In a fit of inspiration, I included the Yankees and I went from zero to timely in 48 hours.  BTW, completely hard-core old school Yankee fans will note that I listed the former and current Yank in uniform number order.  I also included WHITE, as in Roy White because I attended his baseball camp as a youth, and if he was too obscure for you, I apologize.

It is pretty heady times again for Yankee fans with the return of the Bombers to the World Series, and I find myself pulled back into interest.  I was a huge Yankee fan as boy in the 70’s and I still follow the team and attend the odd game now and again.  I drifted from full-time baseball nut and casual fan of just about everything else to full-time hockey nut and casual fan of just about everything else in the 80’s and hockey still holds the greatest interest for me.

Still though, I always find the Yankees fascinating.  The decades of championships, the tradition, the striving for excellence, juxtaposed with the greed, the bully with the most money, and a nearly pathological need to win makes the Yankees the sports equivalent of a Rorschach test.  Every sports fan can look at the ball club from the Bronx and take away their own conclusions.  Oddly enough, just about any position you take on the Yankees is both debatable and defendable.  That’s what makes the question, “What do the New York Yankees represent?” such a vexing one.  Are the Yankees the example of excellence in professional sports franchises?  Yep.  Are they also the benefactor of a hugely non-level playing filed in the terms of resources?  Hell, Yep.

Here’s one aspect of the Yankees franchise and its relevancy in, well, the world, that I find interesting.  The Yankees are the only professional sports team from our fair city that can legitimately be used for a metaphor as New York City’s standing in both the USA and the world.  New York holds a special place in US culture, commerce, and folklore and only the Yankees tap into that aspect of New York City.  The Mets, Rangers, Jets, Giants, and Knicks are local teams.  While these teams followings are spread out past the boundaries of the five boroughs due to New York’s reach across the world, but the Yankees are actually a part of that reach.  Like Broadway.  Like Wall Street.  The Yankees have a global reach, and outside of the US they are as easily associated with the USA as NYC.  You just can’t say that about the rest of the sports teams here.

The word guy in me thinks that it has something to do with the teams very name.  When you name your team the Yankees, you are not thinking locally.  Yanks are Americans.  Remember the team started life as the Highlanders, ’cause they played on a hill.  Well, what team would strive for 26 (perhaps 27) championships if they were a bunch of guys on a mound of dirt?  If you area Yankee, you have to win.  America doesn’t cotton to losers.  All of the other teams in the New York have distinctly local roots in their nicknames.  The Mets were named for Metropolitan New York.  The Rangers were named to go with their original owner’s nickname of “Tex”.  The “Knick”-name Knickerbocker came directly from New York’s mythology.  One just has to look at the skyline of Manhattan to know how the nickname Giants stuck, and the when the Titans rang too much of a rip off of Giants, the team named themselves after the planes that flew over their heads from La Guardia.  All locally flavored names.  All invoke the symbols and myths of New York to a degree, but only the Yankees add the symbols and myths of America as well.  The success of the team has added to an American legend as well as a New York story.

I’m not saying that luck, and vast amount of money didn’t contribute to the Yankees success.  I am saying that words matter, and certain expectations come from a Yank.  Personally, I prefer to root on a more locally flavored team (see Devils, New Jersey), but I do appreciate the Yankees and all that their name and their franchise has become.

The Real Great Annual Fall Sports Event in NYC

Yankee fans like to think that participating in the World Series is their teams birthright, but alas there have been more Fall Classics without Yankee participation than with.  Sunday marked the true annual autumnal sporting event in New York and that was the New York City Marathon.  Very recently, the marathon has come to hold a special place in my heart, and every November I go down to Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn to cheer on as many of the runners as I can.

The September 11th attack on New York was the hardest thing I have ever had to live through in my life to date.  I will always remember walking home to Brooklyn from Midtown Manhattan that day, crossing the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing the impossibly large plume of smoke that had been the two towers of the World Trade Center just hours before.  I remember the sorrow and the dread of the weeks that followed.  The fear of losing my job because the field I worked in, Broadway tickets, was crippled in the first months after the attack.  I remember attending the funeral of a fire fighter I knew and learning just what a brotherhood New York’s Bravest truly had.  I remember attending the wake of a friend’s aunt who had died of old age a week after the attacks and how everyone admitted that they felt relieved to be attending a viewing of someone who had died naturally.  I also remember how nothing felt normal, day after day after day.

I had never attended the Marathon before, but in 2001, I did.  I didn’t want to attend, but  I had a friend running that year and my friends and I were going to support him.  It was one of those, “The terrorist have won if I don’t do this” moments that we all went through that fall.  The day was sunny, the runners ran down Fourth Avenue and I cheered my friend and thousands of other runners without any reservations.  That was the first time since the attacks that anything felt normal for me, and that felt good.  Very good.  All New Yorkers had their moment like this, when we learned to remember but without dread.  To not just move on, but also move up.  We realized that normal was going to be different, but also OK.  There was a day for almost all of New York that we finally felt OK again, and that it was OK to feel OK.  For me that day was 11/4/01 and it was the New York City Marathon that did it.  I will always be grateful for that, and I haven’t missed a year since.

On Puzzles Blogs and Quizes And Yankee Fans and Free Drinks Answers

October 27, 2009


I must admit that I am very excited to give out my first prize for this puzzle blog.  It is a milestone for the blog, and a fun thing to do.  It is also a good spring-board for reflecting on this internet endeavor of mine, and upon self-review, I have discovered one truth about Puzzling New York City.  I am pretty good at the puzzling part of puzzle blogging, and not so good at the blogging part.  

Creating puzzles has been the relatively easy part of this shindig.  Of the 21 puzzles that have appeared so far, only two or three have been caused me stress in creation.  I am better at some puzzle forms than others, but by in large I like the puzzle construction, and this is the “work that doesn’t feel like work”. 

The blogging part has been much more difficult for me.  The technical aspects of blogging have caused me innumerable headaches, and the relentless march of time has made posting things on time more difficult than I had anticipated.  I find that I am a good writer, but a bad editor.  So even if I have a puzzle ready to be posted for a given week, the actual posting takes much longer than the time I have budgeted to post it.  I am also a bad marketer of the blog, as I do not yet get how to get my blog linked to others.  I mean how do you do this without being totally rude?

“Love your blog Bob, BTW could you mention my utterly fabulous blog?”

I know from past experience with a theatre company that the creating part of what you like to do, be it painting, theatre, writing etc., is always the easy part of the job.  Getting your name out in front of people, finding the time or getting paid to do it, and finding an audience are the real chores.  It has been said to me that a big problem is that creative people just aren’t wired to do the “grunt” work.  I have thought about that, and that assessment does have a ring of truth to me.  I think that more accurately though is that the grunt work to get out your creative work is just plain more time-consuming.  What bloggers and artists do have very little financial return initially, if ever, and the time needed to promote is time taken away from earning a living or actually living. 

I wish I knew the “tricks” that get one’s blog noticed.  Oh well, I’m afraid that I will have to just keep producing puzzles, expand some ideas for interaction, and try to find a core audience.  I am not too distraught over readership levels, since I enjoy making the puzzles.   If nothing else, I am getting good practice in puzzle construction.


An interesting thing happened when I gave my Ends of the Earth quiz at Rocky Sullivan’s on Thursday.  The event coincided with the Yankees/Angels playoff series Game 5.  The Yanks were up 3-1 and a win would wend them back the to World Series after an “agonizing” six-year drought for Bomber fans.  One of the teams that participated in the quiz was a band of boisterous Yankee fans, who expressed their displeasure with Yankees starting pitcher A.J. Burnett with the team name “Burnett Sucks Clocks”.  They lived and died the game loudly, as was their right, but here’s the interesting thing.  I had a Yankee question on my quiz, “What Yankee won the AL MVP in 1963?”.  This team did not get the answer, Elston Howard, correct.  Now to be fair, the team also did not pick up on the theme of my quiz which was all answers had the initials E.H., but still Elston Howard does have his number retired by the Yankees.  He was the first African-American Yankee.  He is kind of a big deal, and not one of the Yankee fans could come up with that one.  The Yankees always go on and on about their fans being the best and most knowledgeable fans in the game.  Well, I can point to one instance where best is shown in passion, but not in knowledge of a team’s truly rich and fascinating history.


I hid the free drink question that I had asked at Rocky’s in the answers to the pub quiz.  The answer is:


News and Olds

October 14, 2009

Thoughts on This Week’s Puzzle:

My boy is in bed, the bills have been paid, and I have a little time to reflect and look ahead

This week I was able to post my fourth word pyramid, and I am finding some interesting things in constructing these puzzles.  Some of the answers come fast, especially the two through six letter answers, but for every pyramid there is a seven letter or up answer that just won’t come for a looooong time.  This week it was the eight letter answer AL LETTER, and believe me I was not thrilled with having to go with that the first place.  This answer is a prime example of “puzzle speak”.  It is two words that make sense together, but let’s face it, this is just terrible syntax.  Very unnatural sounding.   I was very pleased with the other nine answers.  I wanted to use one of the single letter stock ticker symbols and ideally a letter that appeared in the words WALL STREET.  It was great serendipity that the Loews Corporation has the “L” stock ticker symbol and that the company has ties to New York City.  The rest of the answers are all familiar phrases.

These word pyramids provide me with a second challenge, and that is either coming up with New York-centric clues or finding the New York angle to more common phrases.  In this puzzle, I was more than pleased to be able to get New York Ranger great Jean Ratelle into the puzzle.  Ratelle is a just fantastic New York-centic answer.  I am a huge hockey fan (albeit not a fan of the Rangers, but we’ll just leave it there, OK?) and Ratelle was one of the all time greats.  Sadly, Ratelle’s career is kind of forgotten now, as most of Rangers history revolves around the 1994 Stanley Cup Champion team.  This is really a shame, because there are many great players in Rangers history that are overlooked because of the 54 year Stanley Cup dry spell before the ’94 championship.  Players like Ratelle, i.e. broke in with the team and/or played most or all of their careers with the Blue Shirts are punished for the team’s failure to win it all, while players who had much shorter careers on Broadway are exulted for finally bring home Lord Stanley’s Cup.  I guess this is understandable, but take a second to go to the link about Ratelle above.  He was quite a remarkable player.

Common phrases like TALLER and TALE easily lended themselves to New York themed answers.  Bob Costas was born in Queens, so his talk show LATER was in.  I never could find out through my research if that show was shot in New York.  Does anybody know?  Anybody?  Is this thing on?  I used Sunset Park for NYC kite flyers because I live right across the street from it, and there really is a lot of kite flying here in the summer and fall.  Now about AL LETTER…  I suppose I could have used Roker for Al, but Al Hirschfeld had just a bit more flair for me.  Sorry weather dude!

Heinz Dept.

Still ketchin’-up.  The very fist word pyramid that I did for this blog was inspired by the intersection of two Avenues in Brooklyn, Avenue N and Coney Island Avenue.  I wanted to use a street intersection to bookend the pyramids starting and ending answers, and I also liked the symmetry of starting with Avenue ___ and ending with _________ Avenue in the clues.  I chose this intersection purely because starting with N and ending with CONEY ISLAND made constructing the middle clues easier letter-wise.  I literally had no idea what was at this intersection.  So this summer, I took a little field trip there.  I was a little worried that the corner of N and Coney Island Ave. would be just completely nondescript, but I went with the nothing ventured nothing gained philosophy and checking out the location.

I took a pretty long walk up down Ocean Parkway and across Avenue N to get there.  I passed through predominately Jewish neighborhoods to get to the corner and when I got there I found…

AND MY PHOTOS WILL NOT UPLOAD.  GRRRRR.  I will have to get back on this one.

Pete and An Answer

August 5, 2009


The one thing that I missed out on by doing the guest round at Rocky’s last week was catching the Pete Seeger 90th Birthday concert on PBS that night, but thanks to a wife who is on top of things, I was able to watch it last night on Tivo.  Now I know that bringing up politics on any blog in this day and age is akin to chucking ground round into the hyena pen, but I will admit that I am a lefty.  I grew up on my folks’ folk albums, I read too many comic books, and I developed a set of values that is heavy on social justice, freedom to be who you are, and just doing the right thing by people even if it might cost you a few tax dollars.  Cynicism and sheer laziness have crept into my life, and I am far from an unflinching beacon for change, but I put my dollars down where I can, and I try to keep my snide comments to a minimum.

Pete Seeger is a lefty’s lefty.  He always seemed to good to be true, but there he is on stage at Madison Square Garden, 90 years old and still believing if you get enough people singing the right songs them the world will change and more people will be less miserable and oppressed.  The damnedest thing is that he is right.  You don’t believe me?  Consider this.  When he started singing for African American people he was trying to help them get served at a lunch counter. Now he sings to honor an African American President.  Sure I am not naive enough to think that Mr. Seeger’s sing-a-longs did the deed, but they did contribute.  His songs and hundreds of other songs galvanized, vitalized, and spiritualized a movement that bore fruit.  There is a reason for the power of this man and his music.

Peter Seeger is more than just a lefty.  I have heard just lefty singers and even I roll my eyes at their ham handed means of attacking social problems.  Pete Seeger is one of those rare artists who connects to a universal chord that runs through us all.  In Mr. Seeger’s case he also has a skill in gently tugging on that chord and guiding us, together, to a better place.  His art is bigger than politics of the now.  He is the rare artist that will be viewed in the whole cloth of human history.  His art will go on and on.  Here’s how I know this.

I don’t want to give too much away, but my wife has a job that Mr. Seeger would approve of.  Unfortunately, it does take her out of town from time to time.  Last Sunday she went away and will not be back before Wednesday at the earliest.  Monday night our little boy Maxwell was the two plus year old that missed his mother.  I was able to get him down to sleep with just a bit of difficulty, and then I watched the Seeger concert.  On about midnight, the show was ending, and Max woke up (he’s a city kid, he usually sleep through TV’s, car stereos, etc.).  Max started to call out, “I want my mama!  I want my mama!”  That’s when the finale of the Seeger concert kicked in and all of the people who came to sing for the event joined together and sang Leadbelly’s “Good Night Irene”.  I sing this to Max, changing Irene to Maxwell, just before he goes to bed most every night.  That night he heard it from the television, calmed down, and drifted back to sleep.  There is a real power in that song for my son, a power that was passed on from a recording, to my father, to myself and then on to him.

America needs inspiration to tackle the huge problems it faces now.  It needed songs to inspire it through and against wars, to bring justice to marginalized people, and open up tolerant discussion instead of unflagging bullet headed dogma.  It is also just as important to have a song that will soothe one child who misses his mama.  Pete Seeger’s music can and has done both.  That is his true genius.

The Answer to the “Free Drink Question”

How many ticker tape parades have been thrown in honor of the New York Mets?  Drum Roll:

Three.  The Mets were of course honored for their World Series Championships of 1969 and 1986, but the city also threw a ticker tape parade for them in 1962 to welcome them into the National League.

I have decided in a bold and somewhat ridiculous way to increase readership that I will buy a free drink to anyone who finds me in a bar and tells me that the Mets have had three ticker tape parades in their honor.  So there.

Just Showing Up

July 29, 2009

First Some Business:

I am just thrilled to announce that I have been invited back to do the guest round at The Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz in Red Hook, Brooklyn this Thursday, July 30 at 8:00 PM.  The quiz is a blast, and MC Scott M.X. Turner makes sure that a grand time is had by all.  If you are available and near Red Hook on Thursday night, then use the above link for directions and go, go, go!

So, About Word Ladders…

Apparently the secret to word ladders is finding the right starting and ending words.  The three word ladders that I came up with for this week’s puzzle took all of 45 minutes to construct.  Which is funny, considering what happened when I tried to do a word ladder for the previous week’s puzzle.  After days of dead ends, I shelved the whole bloody thing and finished the Sister Cities puzzle the night before (and day of) posting.  The problem was that I was trying to make a word ladder that went from WOODY to ALLEN.  Even though five letter words gave me a bit more flexibility that four letter ones, it turns out that there are precious few words you can turn ALLEN into, and switching the double vowel of WOODY to the double consonant of ALLEN proved to be my undoing.  I am still fooling around with this one, and getting WOODY to ALLEN one letter change at a time is pretty much my first “Holy Grail” of puzzle construction.  Anybody got Galahad’s cell?

I really wanted to use Woody Allen for a puzzle to launch back into my sadly languishing Tuesday posts.  The Woody Allen themed puzzle was to be a bridge to a famous line of his:  “80% of success is showing up.”  I haven’t been showing up for my Tuesday posts, and this is no longer acceptable for me.  So in an effort to “show up” we have today’s post, and I would also like to introduce a new second feature to the Tuesday post:

From the Heinz Dept.

‘Cause I have a lot of ketchup to do (nyuck, nyuck).  There were many puzzles that I wanted to expand upon or offer tidbits that I learned while making them, but I did not get to.  I will be posting these things here, and I am going all the way back to my first word pyramid for the inaugural dispatch from the Heinz Dept.  One of the answers that I needed for this puzzle was “scone” and I figured that I would just Google “Best Scones in New York City”  and find out what Time Out or the Village Voice ranked as the best place to get a scone in our fair metropolis.  Well, the scone is apparently the red headed step child of baked goods, as no NYC periodical has rated “The Best Scone” in any of their ubiquitous Best Of issues.  Undeterred, I poked around sites like Chow hound and came across Alice’s Tea Cup.  Their scones were rated highly by users, I checked out their website, liked what I saw, and so I used this establishment for the scone clue.

Well, as fate would have it, one of the “you’ve hit a certain age” medical test that I went for (turns out nothings wrong with me BTW) was nearby the Alice’s Tea Cup that is located on West 73rd Street, and so I actually set foot in the place and had breakfast.  I can honestly say that the place is very charming in its quirkiness and the food was very good.  Of course I tried a scone and it was great, but the tea that I had was also very good and needed no enhancement from milk or honey.  If you are on the Upper West Side and looking for breakfast/brunch stop, go ask Alice.

A Night at Rocky’s

June 18, 2009

For those of you that didn’t know, this week’s puzzle of riddles was also used as the guest round of the world famous (in Red Hook) Rocky Sullivan’s Pub Quiz, and I got to be the MC for the round!  I had a blast doing the honors and the rest of the pub quiz, and I encourage anyone with the means to get out to Rocky’s this or any other Thursday to do so!  I had a team of four friends come out to support me, and we had a grand time.  I then could not wait to blog about it and had:

A. Computer issues – then

B: Time crunch.

So much for striking while the iron was hot.  I can’t even upload the picture of me at the MC’s desk just yet…  grrrrrrrrrrr.

I must admit I was nervous about doing the quiz round.  Would I be boring?  Would I be unintelligible?  Were riddles too esoteric?  Turns out no on all accounts, although the fabulous host Scott M.X. Turner did tease me about the “game show host voice” I had used, and yes Scott I was practicing that voice for weeks.

The pub quiz consists of teams that work together on answers and then quietly confer and write ’em down, so I knew I was OK when there was much conferring going on after the first few riddles.  When it was all said and done, most teams got 5 of 8 riddles.  One team got 6.  My team, sans my help, got 5.  I think the riddles were tough, but fair.  My friends said I did a heck of a job, and a couple of other players were hoping that the riddles would be posted on the blog so friends of theirs could play as well.  That was the first feedback I have gotten from a non-friend or relative and that made me feel pretty dang good.  Scott has also invited me to come back and guest again and that is also heartening.

Finally, there is a tradition of giving out a point to answers that make you laugh, and I got two answers that indeed made me LOL as the kids like to type for this riddle:

I have two Davids, two Marias, four Jameses and dozens of Bills.  What am I?

“A bunch of people looking for a rent controller apartment”, and “My sisters lovers.”

Both received points.  See y’all tomorrow for another puzzle.  Trivia tomorrow, just soes you knows.

Your attention please, ladies and gentlemen…

June 9, 2009

I am going off topic for my Tuesday post today, and will not be talking about the word pyramid, save to say that I had a lot of fun constructing it, and that DISCO LANE deserves a huge assist to my lovely wife.   I did something last night that I wish to share/expound upon and I hope you forgive the indulgence.  This won’t happen often.

Last night I was able to get a pair of free tickets through my job to the Yankees/Rays game at the new Yankee Stadium.  This was the first time I had set foot in the new ballpark after having attended games on and off for 38 years at the old one, and boy did it feel odd.  The new Yankee Stadium is much easier to navigate, has more amenities (restrooms, food stands and the like), and has roomier seats and decent sight lines (even if you were sitting 10 rows up in the right field upper deck) (two parenthesis in one sentence?) (Now four, OK, I’ll stop).  Having said all this, the new Yankee Stadium just didn’t wow me.  It made an impression on me, but did not impress.

Sure, the restaurants, and art stores, and higher scale food was great, but does Yankee Stadium really need that to make it great?  Lets just put all of the greed and vanity elements of the Yanks and Steinbrenner aside.  I know most of the reasons for a new Yankee Stadium are rooted in making some very rich people that much richer.  I know the shady and unfulfilled promises make to the Bronx about developing the land that old Yankee Stadium sits on.  I am just focusing on the visceral experience of watching a Yankee game at the stadium, and I found all of the new bells and whistles did not enhance, but distract from the game.  There was more pre-recorded music and less organ music.  More shouty announcements from the PA instead of the classic Bob Sheppard calls.  And I’m going to stop now because I sound really old…

The friend who accompanied me to the game last night also went to the next to last game at the old Stadium with me and we were both left a little cold.  I asked around my office today about impressions of the New Yankee Stadium and the words that came back were “sterile” and “corporate”.  For me, if the old Yankee Stadium was a cathedral to baseball, the new one is a shrine.  Cathedrals celebrate the past but stay vital through present use, while shrines are solely used to extol the past and usually through excess.  I have a sneaky suspicion that the new Yankee Stadium will never be “my” Yankee Stadium, just like the old one was not my father’s anymore after it’s face-lift in the ’70’s. 

That is the way of New York City.  Old institutions reinvent themselves for the next set of youngsters, and while the New Yankee Stadium is not for me, I will gladly let others make it their own.

City of Reinvention

June 4, 2009

Again, if you haven’t played Friday’s puzzle, go here before continuing.


Neighborhood Joints

May 19, 2009

I really did get on a roll with the neighborhoods puzzle, but it did take me awhile to finish it.  This is mostly because I wanted to include the Queens neighborhood of Richmond Hill.  I had the first part of the clue, Staten Island’s original borough name of Richmond, but wordplay for “Hill” did not come so easily.  Even when I settled on using the name of a noteworthy Hill, I was not comfortable with the choices.  I weighed the options of Benny Hill, Anita Hill and Laryn Hill.  I went with Lauryn as I felt she was more relevant right now then the other two Hills, even with Lauryn Hill being out of the spotlight for a couple of years now (a veritable eternity in pop music).  I was happy enough with the dual clues for Richmond Hill, and called it a day for this puzzle.

So why Richmond Hill?  Well, this happens to be the neighborhood that my mother grew up in.  More than two score of years ago a young lady from Richmond Hill fell for a young gentleman from the suburbs of New Jersey.  They got married and started a family in suburban New Jersey.  How’d that work out?  They’ll be celebrating their 42nd wedding anniversary this fall, thank you very much.  I sometimes think about how when my parents came together how they had to marry more than themselves, but also two different upbringings (city, suburb) with different paces to life, landmarks etc.  Well, it turned out that they had one landmark in common.  Jahn’s.

Jahn’s was an ice cream palor/restaurant/diner that started out in the Bronx and expanded to about thirty locations in the outer boroughs and North Jersey.  The history of the Richmond Hill Jahn’s can be found here and a profile of the last remaining Jahn’s in the New York Times is here.

I grew up going to the Jahn’s in my home town in New Jersey, and I can attest that the sundaes were awesome, and my sister remembers that our Jahn’s made a great burger to boot.  The first memory of my life that I can conjure up in my mind is a Jahn’s hot fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream (which I sadly can not eat anymore…).  I have been told that this was my second birthday, and I was pretty wide-eyed when I was given an ice cream sundae.

I would like to think that Jahn’s provided a common experience that both my parents and the newly minted sets of in-laws could use to help bride two family’s from two different states.  The two family’s ended up meshing very well, and the shared experience of Jahn’s got passed down to my sister and I.  This is the true value of the neighborhood joint.  These are the places where common bonds are formed, and a bunch of people who just happen to live together become a community.

A great fear of the “developmentation” of New York is that these neighborhood hangouts and eating establishments are going the way of the dodo, swamped by a wave of TGI Friday’s and KFC’s.  I have found that in many neighborhoods, these places still exist.  No matter how much land is given over to the big chains, people still need places to go and feel like they are part of something local, and not a number three places to the right of a decimal point on the P & L of a multi-national corporation.

This isn’t to say the local joint isn’t being pushed by the big boys and other outside forces.  The Jahn’s in my home town closed down many years ago to make way for a Rite Aid, and the Richmond Hill Jahn’s fell to cultural changes of that neighborhood.  Many neighborhood joints and Ma and Pa chains go by the wayside because Ma and Pa retire, and no one wants to or has the talent to maintain such places.

The very fragile nature of these places makes them special, and they also serve as guideposts and historical markers for the changing fabrics of neighborhoods.  Support your neighborhood joint!  You’ll at least have great memories to share.

I leave the blog  Queens Crap to have the latest word on the closing of the Richmond Hill Jahn’s.   Be sure to check out the comments.