Wednesday, October 1, 2014

A Cider Press in Greenpoint

Let's start with a simple question, in the category of sights from your kitchen window: can you get more perfect than a man standing in a pear tree, holding up a painter’s pole with a tin can tied to the end, enclosing and pulling pears off the branches like a fisherman pulling catch out of a stream?
Not when it’s sunny, and the tree stands within a verdant Greenpoint backyard, surrounded by more backyards, weathered wooden fences, and old brick and stucco walls. Not a chance.
As the fruit fisher plucked away, the tree’s burden was incrementally relieved. Lots of pears hung out of his reach near my fire escape, where I watched the operation. My neighbor, Joe, passed me the pole to remove a few.

“I’m just so happy for the tree,” he said. “It can relax.”
The harvesting was a revelation, because we in the neighborhood are wary of the soil. In 1979, an oil spill along the nearby Newtown Creek contaminated the ground, and toxic ash from a waste treatment facility also poisoned locally grown fruits and vegetables.

But Joe and Elissa, who own the yard where the tree stands, hired an expert to test the dirt. Nothing wrong, the man said. Eat away.

And soon, drink. The couple's friends, Chris and Marty—Chris stood in the tree, and Marty fished from the ground—spent part of the following weekend in their own backyard on Java Street, grinding and pressing the brown and green fruit with some friends to make cider.
On the morning of the People’s Climate March, Chris invited me into his basement and showed me three glass bottles, or carboys, filled with yellow-green liquid. Tiny bubbles floated to the tops of each, the carbon dioxide excretions of cider yeast eating the sugar in the juice, he explained.
And then he showed me a fruit grinder with a screw-studded wheel, powered by a washing machine motor.
“It’s medieval, isn’t it?” he asked.

The press itself was partially disassembled, but Chris shared the funky name of its intended object, a stack of rectangular, cloth parcels of ground fruit pulp called a cheese. The hybrid brew--Concord grapes from Chris and Marty's backyard also tasted the screws--will be ready in spring, “when the first cuckoo sings,” Chris told me.

A bottle for a blogger and cuckoo, please.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gallery-going at the Terminal Market

The Greenpoint Terminal Market, that is. Just around the corner from where I live, the building at 67 West Street houses a warren of smoothed wood floors and various spaces where artists and makers of all kinds do their work. Even Phin and Phebes, ice-cream makers whose pints are available at The Meat Hook, have a room there. I wonder how many artists knock on their door for free samples.

I walked to 67 West last night to attend an opening at Calico, a small gallery that just moved into a larger space on the second floor. Owner, artist, and woodworker Scott Chasse, an ex-Boston guy, stood behind a backroom bar and served tall boys of Narragansett beer. In the gallery, pieces of sculpture in play-doh-like colors resembled miniature kegs, which dispensed pink ooze. (That's the word artist Adams Puryear used to describe the stuff, and it's accurate.) Vincent Stracquadanio's paintings of organic, funny forms hung on opposite walls, and Claire Typaldos' array of small gray and watery dark blue slabs of gypsum cement stood atop a platform in a corner.

After leaving Calico, I walked to another opening at Dose Projects Space, a tiny gallery-within-a-studio just up the hall and around a few corners. Claire Falkenberg's work consisted of pieces of thin, crinkled glassine--almost like flattened plastic bags--that covered cardboard backings. One piece roughly evoked the shape of a large country on a pull-down schoolroom map. It had a sky blue tint, and a similar-sized piece across the room had a pink one. This pairing was effective: sunset, childhood, and nascent impressions came to mind.

One floor up, Brian Willmont's show met the challenge of his boldly named space, Greenpoint Terminal Gallery. Groups of pieces in different styles worked as individual blocs and as good neighbors. I was drawn to a rectangular wood canvas with a--surprise--pink and blue border surrounding what looked like a blown-up image of a cell, or perhaps brain tissue. It seemed characteristic of art-making in North Brooklyn: the effort to express the interior amidst vivid pop ephemera. 

There's that pink and blue border at left. In the larger image, the rods alter the impression of the gray matter.
Willmont wore a black Carharrt vest and a pair of throwback, white-soled work boots to his opening. (I probably would have noticed anyway, but reading this Bedford + Bowery piece about Greenpoint Gallery Night may have helped.) Two women sold beer outside the gallery, as well as booklets of black-and-white reproductions of past shows. On the first page of one called "Tip Top," a Charles Bukowski quote reads as follows:

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
typewriter searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody else,
forget about it.

I don't know if I agree with Bukowski's advice about rewriting. Maybe it depends on the spirit with which we rewrite. But his ending, with the formal version of the classic NYC colloquialism, sounds great.