Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Brooklyn Terminal Market, Carnarsie
April showers brought May flowers. And that meant a trip to Brooklyn Terminal Market. It's in Carnasie, but now that Brooklyn has surpassed Manhattan as the most expensive place to live in the US, who knows how long it will be there before moving to the Bronx - maybe next door to the Fulton Fish Market. I haven't traveled to the Bronx to see the "New" Fulton Fish Market, as it is called, but I did visit it when it was on the Lower East Side of Manhattan near the Brooklyn Bridge. It opened in 1822 and was exiled in 2005 when real estate developers pushed it out.

But, in the meantime, you can still visit the Brooklyn Terminal Market, which is a bit newer. It was opened during World War II (1942) by Mayor Fiorella LaGuardia (for whom the airport is named in case you haven't figured that out.) Food rationing started in 1940, but rationingn didn't apply to produce (only meat and dairy). There were still farms on Long Island so New Yorkers had a source of fresh food during the war. Currently, there are 33 vendors open every day 4 a.m. to 6 p.m.selling produce and plants. I have no idea where they come from. Could be some from upstate, maybe Pennsylvania. Where do we still have produce grown in the US? ***

Hard to believe this is the middle of Brooklyn
I went to the Terminal Market a couple of times on a Sunday morning with my landlord. You can get there by bus or taxi (subway isn't nearby), but we rode bikes. There isn't much traffic on Sunday morning in Brooklyn, so we rode down Flatbush Avenue to Clarendon Road and headed east. At the corner of Clarendon and Ralph Avenue, he pointed out the Wyckoff House Museum, telling me that was the oldest house in the United States. He got that wrong. It is the second-oldest house in the US and was built in 1650, amazingly. The oldest house is in Plymouth, Mass. [the oldest building is in Taos, New Mexico - 1000 years old]. The Wyckoff House is a one-room house that sits back from the street on 1-1/2 acres of land.

Anyway, our purpose in going to Terminal Market was that my landlord wanted to buy garden plants. I never bought any plants because he wouldn't let anyone touch his garden let alone plant in it. However, without asking, he didn't mind jumping the back fences and planting in a neighbor's backyard or pruning their trees. [Not kidding.] There were also little square plots of garden in front of our row of houses, then a little wall, then the 10-foot wide sidewalk. My landlord planted flowers in other people's front plots as well as his own. That way, he could still buy plants when his garden was completely full, which it pretty much was at all times.

The plants at Terminal Market were in rows and rows mainly in the sun, like you find at Home Depot, but somehow different. Partly, it's the choices - the chain stores have to buy the same plants, whereas the vendors at Terminal Market get to make choices. And partly it's the people - Terminal Market is made up of 33 different small stores, some wholesale and some retail, and they are more vested in their work and more knowledgeable than the hourly workers at the chain nurseries.

Some plants were in stores inside the building, alongside aside the produce vendors who sold by the pound and in bulk. You could get a 50-pound bag of potatoes. I didn't. I don't recall buying anything, actually, but it was really nice walking around all the flowers and plants and the mounds and mounds of fresh fruit and vegetables. Vendors also had flower-shop supplies - vases, florist wire, green tape, that sort of thing - and holiday decorations (all holidays).

Brooklyn Terminal Market, a bit of Old Brooklyn. Visit it. Before it's gone.

*** [The area around Redlands, California where my aunt lived used to be a heaven of scent in April because it was covered in orange trees in bloom. Now it's covered in houses and cement]

Wednesday, May 3, 2017


There are several entrances to Grand Central Station. If you enter on the east, you can pass through a market filled with fresh loaves of bread, cheese that can be sliced to your order, jams, jellies, caviar, fruit, vegetables arrayed like they are ready for their close-up. If you enter from Vanderbilt Avenue on the west side across the street from the Yale Club, you'll find restaurants and shops. The north entrance seems the least interesting, but has some fine restaurants.

Photo by R_Murphy

But, really, the best way to enter the station is from 42nd Street, especially if you can walk north a few blocks toward it and see the old Pan Am building behind the station like a backdrop. Above the entrance is the Tiffany clock surrounded by Roman gods - Mercury, Minerva, and Hercules. You begin to expect something grand from this viewpoint.
You'll pass through heavy oak and glass doors into a room that houses the photography and art exhibitions whenever they are held. Then you pass into the main terminal with it's vaulted, and exalted, ceiling painted with the constellations of the zodiac. The old ticket windows are still there along the wall, and the four-faced clock is the above the information booth. Across the way are the numbered entrances for the tracks for the trains heading out to Westchester County or Connecticut. And there are people many people, crisscrossing the room, going somewhere, coming from somewhere.

...the million tongues of the unceasing, the fabulous, the million-footed city...(Thomas Wolfe)  

This is New York.

Most of the station's 49 acres is underground. Beside the Metro North trains, you can get subway trains 4, 5 to the Bronx or Brooklyn, the 6 train north to the Bronx, the 7 train to Queens, or S train to Times Square. There's also a special underground line - no longer used nor available for public view - from Grand Central to the Waldorf Astoria. This was so that Franklin D. Roosevelt would not be seen by the public as traveled to and from the hotel and was helped in and out of the train due to his physical disabilities.

The Oyster Bar, which opened in 1913 along with the Station, is also underground.  You can still sit at the bar, or a table if you prefer, under the vaulted ceilings and think about all the people who have eaten here before you.  Since almost a million people a day pass through the station on a daily basis, that would be a lot.