Eddie’s Tower of Toys is coming down…

My first home away from home in New York City in the late 90s was just around the corner on 5th Street, in Eddie’s building. He was a reliable sight on the block, grizzled, tall and draped in fake pearls. On hot days he could be found wrenching open the fire hydrant to make a fountain.

via Tommylane on flickr.

He and I would sit on the roof eating chips and drinking Gatorade. He was born in that building and continued to live there after his parents passed away and his brother moved. He told me that when he was a kid, there was a movie theater next door (on the corner occupied by a senior center), and he and his friends used to clamber from roof to roof to sneak in.

via luckyolive on flickr

Eddie hadn’t left the 3-block area in at least 30 years. His last trips away included visits to the emergency room when he would nearly kill himself drinking. His advice was to stagger in and hit the wall so that the nurse would attend to you immediately — you wouldn’t have to wait. The sweetest sight was the nurse coming with the shot.

He was a devotee of Sophie’s bar on the block, they let him sweep up and he ogled the young boys there – the golden boys as he called them.

He climbed the tower for me once, to show me how he’d built it. He’d created broken toy sculptures all over the garden – they only became a tower after the other folks asked him to confine them to one small square. He said he could look out over everything, from the top. He could see far past the three blocks he hadn’t left in years. Goodnight Eddie, and goodnight tower.


An interesting prediction from The Big Picture about banks choosing to abandon foreclosed low-value homes, rather than pay taxes and assume responsibility for the ever-increasing inventory…

And I just read about the newly-minted phenomenon of “jingle mail” where homeowners find it easier to abandon their homes than to declare bankruptcy or get out of credit card debt.

I’ve been researching and exploring hollowed-out cities, failed amusement parks and other ventures for a few years now — and always wondered what it would take for the quick-built sprawling suburb to similarly fall out of favor. Looks like the time is now, thanks to rising oil prices and the housing crash.


Phoenix Trotting Park, a race track that closed almost as quickly as it opened in the 1960s when the price tag to complete it soared from an estimated $3 million to $10 million, effectively bankrupting its east coast builder. Other factors helped lead to its demise, however, including cold temperatures, flooding, and the long, 20-mile trek (at the time) from Phoenix. — photo and caption by Scott Haefner

I’ve been stopping into Manny’s Millinery Shop on West 38th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues) on the regular these days.

It’s the only place to get hatmaking supplies left in the Garment District, and it’s closing within the month.

Here’s a great article from the NY Sun about the end of an era. They mention a possible special commercial zone intended to protect the remaining garment industry in Manhattan…the city had better hurry, so there will be something left to protect.

A London Times article about an underground group that is now being prosecuted for fixing a historic clock in the Pantheon in Paris.

My eyes started to bug about 3/4ths of the way through! Very inspiring — renegade restoration — a step beyond the usual picture-taking and skulking around in dark outfits of urban exploration.

Amazon link to Camilo Jose Vergara’s book, American Ruins

Recommended by my friend Gayle who can be found at Urbanlandscaped.

I’ve been re-immersing myself in documentary photography, a field I studied in college under Michael Lesy…I want to set out in an RV with Jenene to document — what, I’m not exactly sure yet.

Susan Orlean’s articles are some of my favorite examples of documentary story-writing…I loved her book Saturday Night which covers how different communities spend that weekly night letting loose…

Telway 2.jpg

Originally uploaded by Reversible Skirt

The most amazing little burger joint. the whole place is about as big as my brooklyn kitchen (i.e. not big). the youngest person at the counter was probably 65. one guy kept winking exaggeratedly and making flirty faces at all the women lined up for takeout.

there is a special takeout area where you order at one window and pick it up at the adjacent window from one of the elderly waitresses who have matching dyed black hair.

you can get a bag of burgers (4) for $2. Everything else there is like $1.15 except the fries which are 65 cents. I ordered lunch for eight people and it was like $12. Also when people were ordering, they were saying all kinds of things that are not on the menu, like “Let me get three double-doubles and a triple and a neighborhood.” WTF?! I was too shy to get a tutorial unfortunately but I’m sure my newbieness was obvious when I got up there and ordered stuff that was actually listed on the menu. Viva la Telway forever.

Also everything in there is the same as it was when it opened in like 1952. I love that!

Link to Flickr Set

After only four days in Detroit, I became attached to certain spots. The formerly grand row of mansions leading up to the bridge to Belle Isle (a circa 1848 island park, complete with abandoned zoo, Tudor aquarium and greenhouses, boat club and Art Deco lighthouse). The big neon sign across the Museum of Contemporary Art:

The crumbling 2-story 20s buildings of Del Ray, festooned with angels. And of course the enormous hulking landmarks — the Michigan Central Depot and the Packard Plant (where some friends had to dodge a fire set in the stairwell they’d entered by…)

This Harper’s article from last July shares some great history and context, and some hope for the future – mostly in urban farming. Rebecca Solnit is right — a city full of empty buildings (firehouses, commercial, castles, churches) looks pretty good to a bunch of space-starved artists from New York City.

One of the most remarkable people I met there was the proprietor of the Temple Bar, an Art Deco bar that his father and uncle built and ran together until the late 60s. The bar served the nearby Masonic Temple until they built their own inside. George works with the Cass Corridor Local Development Corporation — a nonprofit that provides affordable housing while preserving buildings in that area, the former estate of Lewis Cass. It was really wonderful to run into someone so active and interested in his community and neighborhood — while he served us $3 cocktails during karaoke night!

“Coney Island” means “diner” in Detroit and it also means “hot dog.” There are all different competing coney islands.

I think you could even say “I want to go to the Coney Island to get a Coney Island.” It is really weird!!

Much more to come re: Detroit.

bad education

Originally uploaded by gsgeorge
I’m heading there this month for my first visit! I’ve been reading about it for years, and writing a little about it last spring for my thesis (on arts groups reusing vacant and abandoned places.)

Stories of Detroit’s hollowing core, the farm downtown and the skyscrapers with graffiti faces in each window were part of the mythologies that led me to get interested in urbanism.

I’m going with the legendary Dark Passage crew. If anyone has tips on the unusual and unmissable — or just where we should stay — please share.

Some Detroit links:
The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit
Forgotten Detroit
Detroit Blog