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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

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!

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

With $50 million earmarked to renovate the 1930s WPA landmark, Williamsburg and Greenpoint residents are getting out their wishlists. In community planning meetings so far, the skaters have shown up in full force.

Other popular ideas include steam baths, rooftop greenhouses/patios, a waterslide from the tower, geothermal heating for year-round swimming, and space for classes, dancing and martial arts practice. Bike racks, lockers and wifi would be great. I would love to see local businesses provide a range of food and drink.

The current use for concerts and movies has drawn thousands over the summer — I’m there sometimes twice a week. How exciting to get some support from the city in improving our rapidly-growing neighborhood.

Here’s the survey to print and fill out 

And mail to:
Attn: McCarren Survey
Partnerships for Parks
Litchfield Villa
95 Prospect Park West
Brooklyn, NY 11215


Please return the survey by: Friday, August 31.

Paterson Doors.jpg

Originally uploaded by Reversible Skirt

We wrapped up the project with a proposal for a monument in the shape of a spiral which overlays the map of Paterson, a path that you can follow and mark according to its significance to you. I.e., Paterson mapped by restaurants, or indigenous plant life. Paterson as defined by the special buildings that fall on the spiral. Anecdotal Paterson.

I am planning an outdoor screening of The Cousteau Odyssey Vol. 5: Clipperton: The Island Time Forgot in Red Hook, because of its maritime scenery. This will probably take place next Sunday July 29th. Please comment if you would like to come.

The Eveready Diner, image c/o

The past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to get out of the city and visit some of the amazing diners nearby. The Eveready, in Hyde Park, New York, is a gleaming spectacle that evokes a vintage traincar inside — birds-eye wood paneling and plenty of chrome. They offer local ice cream from a nearby farm (sadly, I was way too full to have it!) This kind of place shows up a Gunther Toody’s or Johnny Rockets franchise as the overblown, corporate facsimiles they are.

Click here for a set of images in loving detail of the Egg Platter Diner’s amazing wallpaper, taken by my friend Joe.

We grabbed breakfast at the Egg Platter in Paterson, NJ — the average plate (all or most involve eggs, of course) runs about $4.

Image from the great Diner City Web site.

The Herald News sent a reporter to cover our tour yesterday; here’s her story.

Photos and recap to come! I’ve been exploring Paterson for a few days, from the abandoned Hynchcliffe Stadium to a church at 440 River Street that has been lovingly rehabilitated by a restorer from Colombia and his son, a passion project over the last 15 years.

And this morning we are going to the Egg Platter!