Archive for April, 2009


The Brooklyn sunset seen from the roof of my girlfriend’s old place in Fort Greene.


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From the New York Press: 

What You Make

A surprising analysis of what mostly white kids, 22 – 32, make in New York. The answer is, apparently, not much – a lot of folks in this city, established, professional, educated, or not, make less than 30 grand a year. 

And here I thought it was just me that was broke.  Small comfort I guess . . . 

This parallels the situation in London where I knew many 20 something producers, directors, graphic artists, admin people,  and so on, who survived on more or less the same – and London is still more expensive than New York. I made more as a housepainter – not that I made much. 

When the folks on Wall Street, the City can make stratospheric salaries for, I don’t know – failing – there’s something wrong here. 

The article would have been a lot stronger if they’d profiled what, say, a black working man in Brooklyn is making, but this gives a good example of the gross income disparity in our society . . .

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Old-time sign over Farrell's Bar and Grill

Old-time sign over Farrell's Bar and Grill

 Visited Farall’s, just south of Prospect Park on 8th Ave . . . 

Farrall’s has been around since 1933, a holdover from the days when Park Slope was an Irish neighborhood. Not so long ago, it was the haunt of Irish New York luminaries like Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hammill. I’d walked by but never gone in.  From the outside it looks like any old time New York bar – long wooden bar, big glass windows. I’d heard it had been taken over by cops and firemen who were generally hostile  to anyone not one of the above but on that Sunday afternoon it was almost empty. Two men behind the bar – one young, one old, the older guy talking about how a rich mayor like Bloomberg could never be good for the New York working man. 

People came and went, some hipster types like me, or youngish couples grabbing styrofoam cups of beer with the plastic lids at the bar then going back outside, presumably to enjoy the sunny afternoon in the park. I started talking to the old guy. When I said I was from Canada, he said he used to go to Montreal in the 50’s and early 60’s, back when “everyone stayed up all night, every night” reminding of that part of my birth city’s history when the NY jazzmen went up to play in the clubs, when the strip shows, the gambling joints,  made Montreal the decadent – and deeply corrupt – outpost of New York and Boston, indeed the entire northeast.  He told me Farell’s used to be the haunt of a lot of Mohawk Indians, down from Khanawakhe, the same Mohawks who came down for almost  a century to work as high steel ironworkers, whose lack of fear of heights was legendary – some 500 Mowhawks, I’ve read, worked on the World Trade Center (In looking up basic info on the Mohawk ironworkers, I found this excellent post about the Mohawks by undercoverblackman including a link to a radio interview with one of the ironworkers and some great comments with more stories). 

Flag of the Mohawk Warrior Society

Flag of the Mohawk Warrior Society

The bartender said they used to live in the area. “They had to spend a certain amount of time on the reserve to keep their treaty status so they’d just declare their neighborhood in Brooklyn a ‘reseravation’ and claim their treaty status that way. They liked to drink beer – some of them even drank beer before they went up to work – but they couldn’t touch hard liqour, they’d go crazy and you wouldn’t even recognize ’em.” He said they all went back to Khanawakhe (just south of Montreal) in the summer of 1990 when the Mohawks in Khanawakhe and neighboring Khanasatakhe faced down first the Quebec police force, then the Canadian Army. In that long hot summer, they blockaded the Mercier Bridge, cutting off 6000 suburban Montrealers from downtown, inspiring blockades by native Indians across Canada. Since I was raised in western Canada and saw first hand the desperation of native life, the Mohawks had my full sympathy, and I was glad the Canadian Indians had rallied together and put Canada on notice. When I came back to Montreal that fall, the city felt like it had been occupied, with army helicopters and APV’s buzzing around, heading for the two reserves – each less than five thousand people  – south and east of the city. 

The barman intimated that the Mohawks hadn’t been around for awhile and I didn’t ask what had happened. In Joseph Mitchell’s  excellent essay ‘Mohawks In High Steel’ he mentions that they were centered in the Gowanus region, in the area now called Boerum Hill, but perhaps some lived around Park Slope as well. The links with the Irish go way back – many Mohawks have Irish features, with square faces and even freckles, a legacy of the 18th and 19th centuries, when the Iroqouis Confedaracy was strong enough to play off the French, British, and the Americans, when their relative prosperity made them attractive enough that many Irish immigrants simply went native. St. Catherine Tekakwitha, the only native American Catholic saint, comes from Khanawakhe. Yet I wonder what happened to these legendary Mohawk ironworkers, why they didn”t come down anymore, especially since unemployment on the Mohawk reserves, I’ve ehard, has shot up in recent years . . . 

And it’s funny, in the ever-changing tableua that is Brooklyn, America’s clearing house, to see these links with a past that has been swept away.

Mohawk Warriors at the blockade during standoff.

Mohawk Warriors at the blockade during standoff.

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Why go to the riots when you can read about them on Vice?

Do they owe us a living?

A blow by blow account by blogger John Knight. Great pix by James Pearson-Hawes (aka Queenie) and Jamie Teate.

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New York Times Photography special:

Picturing The RecessionPicturing the Recession

Readers and journalists from across the world send pictures detailing the impact of the recession.

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London Calling . . .

Video of protests erupting at G20 summit in London

Kinda makes me wish I was there. Though some figures only put the demo numbers at 4000, they had the gumption to storm the cops, and break into the Royal Bank of Scotland  building (using a compter keyboard to smash a window) and smash a few things up. Not that I’m in favour of mindless vandalism, nor even most of the political factions – anarchists, socialist workers, radical enviromentalists and so on, who were very likely behind this. But you have to admire the energy. I haven’t seen anything this sustained since the last of the anti-globalization protest/ riots in Quebec City in summer, 2001. 

When I moved back to London a couple of years ago, after twelve years away, it amazed me the degree to which the financial district had hijacked almost every sphere of London life. A kind of frenzy dominated everything, accelerated up to and after the Crash, with people barking into their cellphones, and advertising and PR and finance the only gods that mattered. Hey, capitalism isn’t all bad, but anything that takes high finance down a few notches isn’t all bad either, and maybe these protests are the beginning, or more than the beginning, of a basic restructuring of British society . . .

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