USA | NYC
 


Day 1583

Still walkin’

April 30th, 2016

I'm still walking and still regularly posting photos — I'm just working through a big backlog right now. See below for the latest posts. (The dates on the posts are the dates I took the pictures.) The progress map linked at right is up to date, by the way, even though the photos aren't.

Day 1218

Funky fan facade

May 1st, 2015



After photographing this bizarre facade (just two doors down from the Little Brown Jug), I discovered that it makes an appearance as the exterior of a mobster warehouse in the 1990 movie Quick Change, starring and co-directed by Bill Murray (his only directing credit to date, in fact).

You can just barely make out the fan pattern as the main characters open the door at the beginning of this scene, in which they encounter the mobsters. But the building is easily recognizable, though partially painted blue and graffitied, in this subsequent scene, at 2:36, when Mario, "that big bald giant with the stupid sunglasses", walks up to the door.

Day 1218

Little Brown Jug

May 1st, 2015



This bar is named after a jaunty old folk tune that celebrates the joys of alcoholism.

'Tis you who makes my friends my foes,
'Tis you who makes me wear old clothes;
Here you are, so near my nose,
So tip her up, and down she goes.

Ha ha ha, you and me,
Little brown jug don't I love thee.
Ha ha ha, you and me,
Little brown jug don't I love thee.


In 1948, Famous Studios released a mildly disturbing Screen Song animated short called "Little Brown Jug" in which an array of animals, many of whom are babies, get plastered by drinking from a cider-filled river — or by being born to, or suckled by, a drunken mother. The boys and girls watching the cartoon are invited to sing along to a version of "Little Brown Jug" with new, though similarly themed, lyrics.

Fellows caught in swinging doors,
Faces on the bar room floors.
Old men full of pep and zing,
And it all comes from just one thing.

Ha ha ha, hee hee hee,
Little brown jug how I love thee.
Fiddle dum and fiddle dee,
Little brown jug oh you're for me.


The song concludes with the titular little brown jug and a quartet of hallucinatory pink elephants performing the final line of the chorus together.

You can watch the film here. It's best enjoyed with a bowl of buttery popcorn and a jug of your favorite intoxicant.

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Day 1218




7-24-72    8-30-89

Day 1218

Need things?

May 1st, 2015


Day 1218

Wallenberg Square

May 1st, 2015



Born into a wealthy Swedish family in 1912, Raoul Wallenberg studied architecture at the University of Michigan (and spent some time hitchhiking — "travel[ing] like a hobo" — around the US) before returning to Sweden, where family connections helped land him a job at an export-import firm. It would be fair to say that he seemed like an unlikely candidate to become the savior of tens of thousands of Jews during the Holocaust.

But in 1944 he was recruited by the US War Refugee Board to enter Hungary under Swedish diplomatic cover and lead an operation to save as many of the country's Jews as possible from being sent off to concentration camps. He turned out to be brilliant and fearless in this role, as illustrated by the following excerpts from this case study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies in 1998:

[Wallenberg] conceived a plan whereby false Swedish passports . . . would be created and used to give potential victims safe passage out of Nazi-controlled territory. In conjunction with this, a series of safe-houses would be established within Hungary, in the guise of official Swedish legation buildings under diplomatic protection.

. . .

Sandor Ardai was sent by the Jewish underground to drive for Wallenberg; Ardai later told of one occasion when Wallenberg intercepted a trainload of Jews about to leave for Auschwitz. Wallenberg swept past the SS officer who ordered him to depart. In Ardai's words,
"Then he climbed up on the roof of the train and began handing in protective passes through the doors which were not yet sealed. He ignored orders from the Germans for him to get down, then the Arrow Cross men began shooting and shouting at him to go away. He ignored them and calmly continued handing out passports to the hands that were reaching out for them. I believe the Arrow Cross men deliberately aimed over his head, as not one shot hit him, which would have been impossible otherwise. I think this is what they did because they were so impressed by his courage. After Wallenberg had handed over the last of the passports he ordered all those who had one to leave the train and walk to the caravan of cars parked nearby, all marked in Swedish colours. I don't remember exactly how many, but he saved dozens off that train, and the Germans and Arrow Cross were so dumbfounded they let him get away with it!" (Bierman 91)
As the war situation deteriorated for the Germans, Eichmann diverted trains from the death camp routes for more direct use in supplying troops. But all this meant for his victims was that they now had to walk to their destruction. In November 1944 Eichmann ordered the 125-mile death marches, and the raw elements soon combined with deprivation of food and sleep to turn the roadside from Budapest to the camps into one massive graveyard. Wallenberg made frequent visits to the stopping areas to do what he could. In one instance, Wallenberg announced his arrival with all the authority he could muster, and then,
"You there!" The Swede pointed to an astonished man, waiting for his turn to be handed over to the executioner. "Give me your Swedish passport and get in that line," he barked. "And you, get behind him. I know I issued you a passport." Wallenberg continued, moving fast, talking loud, hoping the authority in his voice would somewhat rub off on these defeated people... The Jews finally caught on. They started groping in pockets for bits of identification. A driver's license or birth certificate seemed to do the trick. The Swede was grabbing them so fast; the Nazis, who couldn't read Hungarian anyway, didn't seem to be checking. Faster, Wallenberg's eyes urged them, faster, before the game is up. In minutes he had several hundred people in his convoy. International Red Cross trucks, there at Wallenberg's behest, arrived and the Jews clambered on... Wallenberg jumped into his own car. He leaned out of the car window and whispered, "I am sorry," to the people he was leaving behind. "I am trying to take the youngest ones first," he explained. "I want to save a nation." (Marton 110:11)
This type of action worked many times. Wallenberg and his aides would encounter a death march, and, while Raoul shouted orders for all those with Swedish protective passports to raise their hands, his assistants ran up and down the prisoners' ranks, telling them to raise their hands whether or not they had a document. Wallenberg "then claimed custody of all who had raised their hands and such was his bearing that none of the Hungarian guards opposed him. The extraordinary thing was the absolutely convincing power of his behavior," according to Joni Moser. (quoted in Bierman 90)

. . .

Tommy Lapid was 13 years old in 1944 when he was one of 900 people crowded 15 or 20 to a room in one of the Swedish safehouses. His account illustrates not only vintage Wallenberg tactics, but also how Wallenberg epitomized hope and righteousness, and how his influence extended throughout the land as a beacon to those engulfed in the darkness of despair.
"One morning, a group of these Hungarian Fascists came into the house and said all the able-bodied women must go with them. We knew what this meant. My mother kissed me and I cried and she cried. We knew we were parting forever and she left me there, an orphan to all intents and purposes. Then, two or three hours later, to my amazement, my mother returned with the other women. It seemed like a mirage, a miracle. My mother was there--she was alive and she was hugging me and kissing me, and she said one word: "Wallenberg." I knew who she meant because Wallenberg was a legend among the Jews. In the complete and total hell in which we lived, there was a savior-angel somewhere, moving around. After she had composed herself, my mother told me that they were being taken to the river when a car arrived and out stepped Wallenberg--and they knew immediately who it was, because there was only one such person in the world. He went up to the Arrow Cross leader and protested that the women were under his protection. They argued with him, but he must have had incredible charisma, some great personal authority, because there was absolutely nothing behind him, nothing to back him up. He stood out there in the street, probably feeling the loneliest man in the world, trying to pretend there was something behind him. They could have shot him then and there in the street and nobody would have known about it. Instead, they relented and let the women go." (Bierman 88-89)
You can read more about the man, and about his reported execution in a Soviet prison in 1947, here.

I'll end this post with two pieces of Wallenberg trivia:

1) In 1981, he was posthumously made an honorary US citizen. At that time, only one other person had ever been given honorary US citizenship: Winston Churchill. (Six others have in the years since.)

2) One of the Hungarian Jews he saved was Tom Lantos, who would go on to become the only Holocaust survivor to serve in the US Congress.

Day 1218

115-98 Park Lane

May 1st, 2015



This stately Kew Gardens residence appears to be unoccupied, and probably has been since late 2010, when the Department of Buildings issued a "full vacate order" after it determined, in response to a complaint, that the place had been turned into a "transient hotel" with 48 beds in 14 rooms. The house was forfeited to the federal government in 2011 along with four other properties owned by Irina Khaimov and her family that "constitute[d] or [were] derived from proceeds traceable to the commission of bank fraud and . . . [were] involved in money laundering".

Many years ago, 115-98 Park Lane was home to Lillian Lemmerman and (I would imagine) her husband Fred. At the time of Lillian's death in 1929, Fred was president of the Queensboro Chamber of Commerce. In 1933, he was appointed by Mayor O'Brien, a Tammany Democrat, as one of the three commissioners of the new Triborough Bridge Authority, a public authority charged with funding, building, and operating the bridge-to-be.

Shortly after taking office in 1934, however, Mayor La Guardia ousted Lemmerman and another commissioner and replaced them with appointees from his own party. One of those appointees was Robert Moses, who had drafted the legislation that created the authority in the first place, and who would go on to lead the authority until it was merged into the new MTA in 1968. Much of Moses's legendary power as New York's "master builder" came from his control of the tremendous revenues generated by the bridge's tolls and by tolls on other crossings later operated by the authority (which became the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority in 1946). This huge money pot provided him with an independent source of funding for his infrastructure projects that was "free of any public or governmental interference".

Day 1218




Early on in my walk, I primarily came across this invasive wildflower in the Bronx, but I've seen a lot of it in Queens's Forest Park and the adjacent neighborhoods of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven in recent days.

Day 1218

Wildlife camera

May 1st, 2015



in Forest Park

Day 1218

Walkin’ the rails

May 1st, 2015



I crossed paths with a couple of hobos-in-training out on the tracks today.

Day 1218




Some freight trains still run on the Lower Montauk Branch, but the last trickle of passenger service dried up back in 2012.

Day 1218

Life goals

May 1st, 2015



One day this award will be mine.

Day 1218




A relevant read from Slate: "Pop Art: The brilliant redesign of the soda can tab".

And if that's not enough for you, check out this surprisingly captivating video: "The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can".

Day 1218




Forest Park may not boast a large, sanctioned dirt jump course like the ones we've seen in a couple of other parks, but it is home to at least one rogue jump tucked away among the trees.