Archive for New York City

The Tax Day March in NYC

Posted in CULTURE & POLITICS, Protests with tags , , , , on April 16, 2017 by travsd

This year Tax Day fell on Easter Eve, and the timing was fortuitous; the Resistance was in need of some renewal and regeneration. After attending constant protests in the first two months of this year, sometimes several a week, I am startled to notice just now that I hadn’t been to one in nearly two months. But the Tax Marches had been in the works from the beginning — 45’s refusal to show his returns is a major sticking point, and has been, long since before the election. This one isn’t even a political issue, a left vs. right thing. It’s honest citizens vs. an extremely sketchy job applicant who managed to fast talk his way into the most powerful office in the world.

There were 150 protest events all over the country yesterday. I’m told 45,000 people came to the one in New York, and I’m here to tell you that this wasn’t some hippie lefty “radical” thing; I found myself surrounded by families, old people, veterans. Average Americans who are outraged that this man has hidden the amount and sources of his income. There can be no legitimate reason for his secrecy.

It started with a rally at Bryant Park, featuring speakers Sarah Silverman, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and  Congressman Hakeen Jeffries.

The crowd at Bryant Park

At this point I became vaguely aware of movement out of the park and realized that the rally was turning into a march. I looked across the street and was startled to see that many more thousands of people had amassed for that component.

Here’s where I joined the march. My phone was running out of juice so I only got a few snaps from within the actual march. People were chanting, “We want a leader, not a tax cheater!”, “We wanna know! Who You Owe!”, “Liar, Traitor, Tax Evader!” The march moved up Sixth Ave — we shouted appropriately nasty thing as we passed the News Corp. Building, home of Fox News, and the climax was the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue, where people pointed and wagged their fingers yelling, “Shame!”. Most cathartic.

New York and the Titanic

Posted in Travel/ Tourism with tags , , on April 15, 2017 by travsd

Today is the anniversary of the 1912 sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic. The disaster took place in the Atlantic, far from New York City, but NYC has always had a strong connection to the event. This is where the ship was headed when she sank. Consequently, Titanic buffs like myself have been known to make admittedly morbid pilgrimages to sites associated with the event. I’ve visited at least three.

There is the building in Lower Manhattan where the White Star Line’s offices were located, and where desperate family members and friends and members of the press flocked to find answers in the hours after the news of the sinking broke:


There are the Chelsea Piers on the west side, where the Titanic was scheduled to dock. I happened to take this photo at Chelsea Piers; the paddle wheel, while charming, is irrelevant:


Lastly, there is the Titanic Memorial Lighthouse, formerly located on the East River, but part of the South Street Seaport Museum since 1967:



May all her dead rest in peace.

A Cultural Plan for New York City

Posted in Indie Theatre, PLUGS with tags , , on December 28, 2016 by travsd

Just learned about this last night at a special meeting at Theater for the New City. Given what will be happening at the federal level, such plans may be essentially moot, but it is good to know about


The NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Hester Street Collaborative have launched the development of New York City’s first-ever comprehensive cultural plan. NOCD-NY is excited to be a partner in this process. Through intensive public input and an in-depth evaluation of the city’s cultural assets, the plan will become a roadmap for supporting the entire creative community and expanding opportunities for residents to access and participate in the city’s rich cultural life. For the plan to be successful, we need to hear from you! Visit to learn how to participate in the process.

photo: etccdb (West Indian Day)

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3 More Days to See a WWII Liberty Ship in NYC

Posted in AMERICANA, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2016 by travsd


It seemed for awhile as though I would never get to see the Liberty Ship  S.S. John W. Brown during her current stay at Pier 36 in New York. Originally scheduled to arrive on September 9 (last Friday), she was delayed for two days by Tropical Storm Hermine. Ironically, on September 11, the day she steamed in, I was extremely close to where she’s docked but didn’t know it. I’d heard about the Brown’s arrival through the Lightship Lilac, so I assumed (for no good reason, now I think of it) that she’d be docking on the west side. I happened to be at Abrons Arts Center, quite close to the East River. I actually didn’t know there were still east side piers north of South Street Seaport. By September 12 (Monday), I figured out that she was docked on the east. On that day, I happened to have a meeting on the Lower East Side that day and I had a (very) little extra time, so I got off the F train at East Broadway and popped over to the waterfront real quick to see if I could just catch a glimpse of her. Again, ironically, I didn’t know it but I was quite close to her, but I had to get to my appointment. On September 13 (Tuesday), I got the idea that I’d walk there from my house via the Brooklyn Bridge (it’s about six miles). The pedestrian entrance to the bridge wasn’t where I thought it was though and I got frustrated trying to find it, and ended up walking back home. (That sounds like a bigger deal than it is; I walk that far almost every day just for exercise). On September 14 (Wednesday), I thought to LOOK UP where the pedestrian entrance was before I departed and did manage finally to make it all the way to Pier 36, arriving at 4:30pm. But they were closed for tours; they close at 5pm! Finally, yesterday, I achieved success.

Absolute pills will say, “I guess you’ll get directions first next time, eh?” I’m not so sure. I discovered several major things about the geography, history and sociology of New York during these wanderings, things that have direct bearing on my future writing. I wouldn’t have stumbled on them if I’d gone straight to my destination. They’re all just as important to me as what I learned on the Brown, and my experience on the Brown was MIGHTY DAMN COOL.


But you’re probably wondering what the John W. Brown even is. It’s a class of vessel called a Liberty Ship, a World War II era cargo ship. An astounding 2,710 of these ships were manufactured in an extreme hurry when America got into World War Two. They’d originally been designed for Britain during the Lend-Lease period but within months the U.S. needed them, so with some tweaks in design, they went into mass production domestically. As the war progressed, women increasingly became part of the workforce that built them. And they just churned them off the assembly line. One Liberty Ship was built in a record nine days (hopefully some of my photos will show why that is jaw-dropping).


The Liberty Ships were used to transport anything that needed moving over to where the war was happening: vehicles, weaponry, foodstuffs, troops, and even (early in the war, I’m guessing) horses. It’s a similar idea to the setting of the play and movie Mr. Roberts, although with this major difference. The ship in Mr. Roberts was a navy cargo ship; the Liberty Ships were part of the Merchant Marine. There were only a couple of hundred navy cargo ships. I’m the opposite of an expert, but in photos they long more heavily fortified and streamlined, and I’m guessing they were safer. But as we said above, there were nearly 3,000 Liberty Ships in the Merchant Marine. They were basically built to be disposable, do their job for the duration of the war and that was it.

The bridge on the "Brown" is not nearly as luxurious as the one we see beyong Mr. Roberts (Henry Fonda) on this navy cargo ship

The bridge on the “Brown” is not nearly as luxurious as the one we see behind Mr. Roberts (Henry Fonda) on this navy cargo ship, and that’s putting it mildly

But some lasted longer. The John W. Brown served the military into the post-war period. Then, from the 1950s through 1982, she was used as a New York City Merchant Marine high school! I’d never heard of that. I met two of the alumni during my tour. After that, she found her way down to Baltimore where she now operates as a museum. She is one of only two operational Liberty Ships still in existence.

Yesterday I told someone I someone was coming over to see the ship, and she asked, “Yeah, you interested in that sort of thing?” And defensively I conjured all sorts of good reasons which I didn’t get the chance to articulate: my brother and father-in law were in the navy, my father worked in a naval shipyard, my great-great-great grandfather was a ship’s captain, I grew up surrounded by boating in the Ocean State, I worked in a history museum for six years, I often write about history museums, and I’ve previously spent a great deal of time exploring places like the Intrepid, the South Street Seaport Museum, the Lilac, the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia and even the Brooklyn Navy Yard. But really none of that would need to be true. A better response would be , “How could you NOT be interested?” It’s an intrinsically exciting experience, like visiting an amusement park. The scale of it is awe-inspiring. The achievements associated with it, not just the construction, but the feats the vessel and its crews accomplished during its working life. And heroism — the Merchant Marine sustained the highest ratio of casualties of any service branch during the Second World War. But if that doesn’t impress you, it’s simply a cool experience to have, one you don’t get to have every day.

So forgive me for inundating you with all these photographs. You’ll find details at the bottom about how and where to visit the John W. Brown.








As a confirmed Poseidon Adventure fanatic my favorite spot on the tour was the engine room. I was like a kid in a candy store and spent most of my time there picturing the place upside down. It’s several decks high, and you enter from above, looking down through a three dimensional maze of catwalks, steampipes, valves, boilers etc. I snapped pictures like crazy (sometimes recklessly, the footing can be treacherous) but none of these photographs begin to convey how thrilling it is. A 3-D camera might do it. In looking at these pix, try to see past the foreground and middleground for the full perspective.




Shaft Alley. As Eric Shea precociously intones in "The Poseidon Adventure", "Nowhere is the steel hull thinner!" It's the passengers' final destination in their race to the bottom/top. This is a smaller propeller shaft than you'd find in a luxury liner of course. Here, it's just a crawl space.

Shaft Alley. As Eric Shea precociously intones in The Poseidon Adventure, “Nowhere is the steel hull thinner!” It’s the passengers’ final destination in their race to the bottom/top. This is a smaller propeller shaft than you’d find in a luxury liner of course. Here, it’s just a crawl space.


Troop bunks, stacked five high.

Troop bunks, stacked five high.

The Liberty Ship John W. Brown will depart New York on September 19. She is docked at Pier 36, which is frankly not easy to get to (unless you travel by car). Perhaps a 20 minute walk from the F train’s East Broadway stop. It is hidden behind some municipal buildings (sanitation and the fire department, it looked like). But, as I hope I’ve demonstrated, it is worth the trip. Tours are a $10 suggested donation. On Saturday, the 17th, there will be added treat — they will run the engines, so folks can see it in action. And the biggest treat of all will be on Sunday, September the 18th, they will be having a benefit cruise. Tickets to that are $195. The John W. Brown is a not-for-profit museum. It exists on donations; and its staff is all-volunteer.  Info and tickets can be found here. 

Lastly, if you miss it in New York, you can always tour it when you visit Baltimore. That’s where she lives most of the time.

Ten 9-11 Stories

Posted in September 11 with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2016 by travsd


In remembrance of the day, a little wrap-up of some of our past articles posted here on September 11 in years past. Just click on the link to get to the post. Here at Travalanche we NEVER forget:

Sept 11. and the Theatre: Then and Now

A Vaudevillian 9-11 Story (on magician and hero Wm. Rodriguez)

Philppe Petit’s Wire Walk

The Tribute in Lights

Memory from the Top of the Woolworth Building

The Little Known Miracle of NY Downtown Hospital

Marie Roberts: 22 Drawings of the Pile

National September 11 Memorial and Museum

Jason Thomas: The Lost Hero of 9/11

American Dunkirk: The Waterborne Evacuation of Manhattan on 9/11




Photo Essay: Yesterday’s Protests in NYC

Posted in African American Interest, CULTURE & POLITICS, ME, Protests with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2016 by travsd

I was just about to leave for The Iron Heel rehearsal yesterday when I heard that protests about the Baton Rouge and Minnesota killings were taking place at Union Square, only a couple of blocks from the rehearsal studio. So I left a few minutes early to see what was going on.


My train let out at 6th Ave — a couple of blocks west of Union Square — and immediately encountered a stream of protesters. They had gathered at Union Square, but were now on the march (to Times Square, I later learned). As I took this picture, they were chanting “Hands Up; Don’t Shoot!” As I walked along the march, different groups were chanting different phrases. “Black Lives Matter”, “No, Justice, No Peace!” I passed hundreds of people along 14th Street.


As I approached the core demonstration I saw 6-8 police wagons speed in the direction of where the march had headed. (I later learned over 3 dozen demonstrators were arrested at Times Square)


This was the scene at Union Square.




I only had a few minutes there and then I had to get to rehearsal, which was a surreal experience. Socialist action is a central part of the play I’m in. At one point in the play, we hand out socialist literature. Someone had handed me a piece of socialist literature in the street just minutes ago. This is the right play to be doing.

Rehearsal ended at 10. I’d heard by now that the protest had moved to Times Square, 30 blocks north. I’d also heard that there had been arrests. I debated whether I should go; my assumption was that it would be over. The closer I got, the more I began to get the feeling it probably was. So many families and tourists were out, behaving normally, taking walks, eating ice cream cones. But when I got to 42nd Street (about 10:30) I found the demonstrators  were still out in substantial numbers. The odd thing about this location is that protestors were surrounded and far outnumbered by tourists, some of whom watched them as a kind of local spectacle for their enjoyment as a tourist experience (“Hey, look at this characteristically crazy New York thing they’re doing”) and others of whom were more concerned with Elmo and Grover and where they were going to go for after-theatre drinks.  Few that I noticed heeded the protesters call to “Join us” but I was heartened to see that some did. I had time to observe the protesters now. They were all colors and all ages and peacefully coalescing to get their message across.


They were coming down the Broadway sidewalk when I first encountered them. The banner says “It Stops With Cops” It features a painting by artist Michael D’Antuono, whom I later spoke with that night without realizing it.




At this point, the protest spilled into the middle of the intersection (in the middle of the street in the busiest intersection in the world) and stayed there.




After a few minutes police arrived to remove them and it turned into a standoff.


The commanding officer got in front of his men. Then a pre-recorded announcement came over the police van’s P.A. system (not unlike the subway narrator’s voice but more ominous), declaring that was an “illegal assembly”, that it was illegal to block traffic, and ordering the crowd to “disperse” or be “subject to arrest”. Somewhere around this time, I looked over and there was Spike Lee, watching. He saw me see him (how could you not stare?) and I didn’t want to be so crass as to photograph him, but it was him.


This group of officers came up behind, on the other side of the protesters. I’m not sure the protesters realized it but they were encircled in a kind of net. A third line of officers was actually lined up across 7th Avenue. If there had been a rout and protesters had tried to run in that direction they would have run into a wall of cops.


The demonstrators doubled down at this stage and sat down right in the middle of Times Square. Can you see the line of cops standing next to them? They almost get lost in the sea of people.

At this juncture, the protesters decided not to push it; they left the street and started heading north through the pedestrian mall, past the Elmos and the Naked Cowboy, etc.


There were several of these militarized S.W.A.T. guys by the old recruiting station. Hard to know in these crazy days if they were there for the protests or if they were part of ordinary Homeland Security ops.

By this point, the protest seemed to get swallowed up by the tens of thousands of ordinary people who happened to be in Times Square. For a while there, I actually lost the march!


Then I spied a bunch of cops heading north and headed where they were going.


The protesters now occupied 46th Street. The cops returned and resumed their P.A. announcements. Here, they were fairly effective at breaking things up. Lines of cops separated the sidewalks from the streets so the march wound up in three groups. It got hard to see the group in the street. I heard a scream at one point, but it was a false alarm. Someone shouted “Fuck Da Po-lice!”


Protesters and onlookers intermingled, with an ironic Broadway show as backdrop.


As you can see, walls of cops block both sides of the street.


Onlookers. Even Lady Liberty is photographing the event.


By this stage my phone battery was dying so I made for home. Heading east on 46th Street I passed several police wagons, standing at the ready for mass arrests. I tried to get a shot of whoever was sitting in the van, but I didn’t dare get too close or be seen — I didn’t want to be the one in the van.

In the middle of all this, a good friend had let me know about Dallas. It wasn’t until I got home around midnight that I heard the awful news in its entirety, which changes the dynamic of events yet again. I’d had a busy day and hadn’t even caught up properly with the Minnesota story yet. Events are unfolding so rapidly it has become impossible to keep up. It goes without saying, I hope: the unacceptability of random killing is the bottom line. I want police officers held accountable for their own murders, and I want those guilty of killing police officers held accountable every bit as much. Those five Dallas cops weren’t the guys who shot those African American men, and even if they were, we have courts to address their cases, and legislatures to address the systemic problems. Electing leaders who are committed to addressing these problems is the only way, since peace, not bloodshed, not revenge, is the goal. Do we want guilty cops put on trail and held accountable? Yes. Do we want random cops KILLED? No way. My cousin’s a cop, my fiance’s cousin’s a cop; cops caught the burglars who robbed my house; the bravery and heroism of the NYPD on 9-11 is the stuff epic poems are written about. Day in, day out, they do some of the most important work there is to be done in this world. All anyone is saying is don’t give them a blank check, a license to kill. That’s not how it’s supposed to work in a democratic republic. The guilty must be held accountable.





Windows on the Bowery

Posted in Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, CRITICISM/ REVIEWS, EXHIBITIONS & LECTURES, ME, PLUGS, Travel/ Tourism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2016 by travsd


The Bowery Alliance of Neighbors has just launched their terrific new “Windows on the Bowery”” project, to which I was honored to contribute in a small way. To learn all about the who, what, where and why of the project read my new article in The Villager here. 

I was at the project’s launch event at Cooper Union this past Tuesday (July 5, 2016) and documented it for your delectation:


The indefatigable David Mulkins of Bowery Alliance of Neighbors gives remarks.



A good crowd of press, dignitaries and public for a Monday morning! Among those assembled: feminist scholar and author (and longtime Bowery resident) Kate Millett, poet and novelist Paul Pines, and the grandsons of Eddie Cantor (see below) and CBGB’s Hilly Kristal


Cooper Union’s Mindy Lang, who headed up the design aspects of the project


I wrote the text for the panel in the upper right quadrant!


Likewise, I wrote the text for the panel in the upper right quadrant here as well!


Your awkward correspondent with Brian Gari, Eddie Cantor’s grandson, a talented entertainer in his own right


Mulkins dishes it out to NY-1

Mulkins dishes it out to NY-1

When the press conference wrapped, I took a little stroll down the Bowery to see which of the storefront signs I could spot. We had done a similar excursion before when we took our Bowery Ghost Walk, but this time we took pictures some of what we came across.



See the photo below for a close-up which reveals the identity of this once notorious location, which will ring a bell for fans of Luc Sante’s “Low Life”.



Somewhere around here I passed the Bowery Mission. I was sorely tempted to take a picture of the long line of men I saw waiting at its door, but shrank from the task as bad manners, which is only one reason why I’m a bad photographer. But it did occur to me that my Villager article is skewed towards the Bowery’s entertainment history. The fact is that charitable missions and flophouses are an important part of its storied past as well.


This location might be of interest to fans of my book “No Applause” seeing as how it was….



This one tickled me mightily for it is a beer hall, not dishonoring in any way the space’s former occupant, which was…




This one didn’t have a sign, it’s just a cool old business that’s been in the Bowery for ages, and I was in a picture taking mood


One of the few remaining architectural links to the Bowery of old. The Bowery Savings Bank at 130 Bowery was designed by McKim, Mead & White and opened in 1895


Down the street at Bowery and Canal is the HSBC Bank, which has an interior display of many of the placards describing the lower end of the famous thoroughfare:




I’ve noticed this building many a time without suspecting its significance. In many cities and towns it probably wouldn’t raise any eyebrows, but in NYC, where most old buildings have been torn down, it stands out. See what makes it distinctive below:




Most of today’s Bowery is now Chinatown, and given the delicious aromas emerging from this bakery, it was hard to imagine any real regrets about the transformation. But what was here before was also cool:


Chatham Square is where I peeled off and made for the Brooklyn Bridge and home. But know that the are DOZENS more of these signs in addresses all down the Bowery! It’s well worth the excursion for NYC history buffs, especially now that the weather is nice! And once again my full background article on this project is here.


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