Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Loew's Valencia Theater and More!

This past week-end started off Friday evening. I met a friend to see the play, "The Winslow Boy," and having some time beforehand, we went to sit in Bryant Park to watch the crowd of square dancers, bopping to the fiddlers and the caller's directions. A beautiful fall evening in midtown.

Saturday found me heading out to Jamaica, Queens, to tour the former Valencia movie theater, now a tabernacle church. It has been lovingly restored by the congregants and the interiors are something else. I met up with 3 childhood friends and we shared memories and laughter. Sister Forbes led a rousing program, talking about the history of the Valencia and detailing the work that went into its restoration. I am always so happy when an older building is brought back to life and not abandoned, especially one such as over-the-top as this 1929 terra cotta movie palace.

Our reunion didn't stop there though, as we headed off to have lunch at the original Ben's Deli on Queen's Blvd. in Rego Park. Corned beef, pastrami and turkey sandwiches, Dr. Brown's sodas and a potato knish. The trip down memory lane continued on as we headed over to Forest Park in Woodhaven, to check out the landmarked carousel that has happily found a new owner and was up and running after several years. It's a beauty, and there are not many of them around anymore. Forest Park is a very "woodsy" area, and a nature preserve is there, just steps from heavily trafficked Woodhaven Blvd. It was a quiet and contemplative spot in the middle of the city's hubbub.

Not finished yet, we headed over to the Richmond Hill Library to check out the WPA murals. Sadly, the library was closed on Saturday. Due to budget cuts? Or due to the fact that kids do their research these days online in front of their computers at home, making the brick and mortar libraries not the places they once were. Jahn's Ice Cream Parlour across the street, another favorite childhood destination, has been closed for several years, so we headed over to Eddie's Sweet Shoppe on Metropolitan Avenue. The store has been around for close to 100 years, and walking inside is walking into the past, as little has changed.

It was back to Queens on Sunday as I attended the funeral service of my friend's Dad. Not many left from his generation. I gathered with other friends from childhood and we shared yet more memories. Then it was off to lunch at Lenny's Clam Bar on Crossbay Blvd. This was the road leading to the Rockaways, and I traveled it every week-end in the summer as a kid as I headed out to the beach.

Subwayed it back to Manhattan after a very full week-end. Having taken a bunch of photos on Saturday, I am hoping share a painting or two in the future from this week-ends events. Is it any wonder why I love my hometown?

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Changing of Little Italy

The annual Feast of San Gennaro in what is left of Little Italy has begun it's 2013 season. Will it survive the gentrification of the neighborhood in years to come? An interesting blog post in Jeremiah's Vanishing New York written a few years ago explores the topic. A look at the history of this tradition and its future - or not. Here is a link.

"Mulberry Street Reflections"
Oil on canvas
12 x 9 inches

"The Feast of San Gennaro"
Oil on canvas
30 x 36 inches

Two of my paintings of the Festival and the neighborhood. My painting, "The Feast of San Gennaro" was used as the cover image for a sociology textbook, "Society Myths and Realities, An Introduction to Sociology" by Alex Thio, published in 2007 and then again when the book was reprinted. In the crowd scene depicted in the painting, there are many people portrayed, different ages and from different ethnic backgrounds. This is what New York is and has always been. But, year by year the face of the city is changing and neighborhoods are losing much of their diversity - that which made New York such a vibrant place like no other.