Thursday, August 21, 2008

Spider John

I did indeed get to see old pal Spider John Koerner after ducking out of my nieces birthday party. The party was in Park Slope but a call to a car service had somebody there in just a few minutes and it was a fairly short ride to Jalopy over at 315 Columbia Street, tucked into a corner defined by the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and the entrance to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel.


And right next door to Jalopy is Moonshine, a pretty decent full-fledged bar.


It is still a pretty hard-scrabble neighborhood, but getting more gentrified all the time.

The Mean Streets Of Red Hook

It wasn't too many years ago that there really wasn't anything on Columbia Street worth going there for. Now there just isn't much. But what is there is pretty interesting, Jalopy, for example. More of a performance place than a bar. In fact the bar is really small and I think they only have wine and beer. You grab the beer you want from a refrigerated display case and bring it to the cash register where you pay for it. They do have a decent wine selection though.

Bar Man At The Mini-Bar

Across from the "bar" is a display of musical instruments, all for sale.

A Music Store Too

There is a music school here, or at least they give lessons, and they also repair instruments. Just a small space that they also rent out for special performances and loan out for worthwhile causes. Their was a friendly crowd of regulars who showed up so it was a great venue to see some old-school folk music. The place is quite small, just several rows of what like church pews, but it was pretty packed, standing room only, in fact.

I misunderstood what time the music started so we got there about an hour early. That was fine with me, got a great seat in the front row. The front row only held four people, and the other couple were real Spider John fans. The guy had an old album in pristine condition that he brought in to be signed. I own the same album, "Spider Blues," but never thought to bring it along. Also, I have not taken as good care of mine as he had, sadly.

Before the music started I had a chance to take a look at the somewhat eclectic display of paintings hung on the walls.

A fellow noticed me looking at them and asked me if I liked them. I said "Sure," and said the reminded me a bit of Dali. The guy was Eric Richardson and he was the artist. All of the art is for sale and you can see more at his website:


  • Hanging With The Artist

    By the way, I had another picture posted on this blog but after a day it was removed by Photobucket due to what they considered to be inappropriate content. They must really have a thing about the depiction of the female breast, whether it is in an exhibit in a museum or the work of an artist. Very bizarre, if you ask me. I wonder just who makes these decisions.

    Anyway, we weren't at Jalopy for too long when the opening group, the JD's showed up in their vehicle that seemed more than appropriate for the area.

    The JD's Limo

    The JD's, with lead singer Bob Musial and son Jake on guitar and backing vocals were a local favorite and had quite a following in the crowd. They refer to their music as Polish Calypso, but I have to admit that I didn't see the connection to what they played. Mostly coffee-house style folk music, some of it autobiographical in nature. They were pretty good though and the audience responded enthusiastically after every song.

    The JD's, Live And On Stage

    You can see the back of the Mysterious Chinese Woman's head in the picture and, sitting next to her, the two die-hard Spider heads.

    And then, the man I had been waiting for:

    Spider John Koerner And Bar Man

    I was happy to see that his hasn't lost a thing in terms of his singing and playing and that his jokes are as excruciatingly bad as ever..."Hear about the Norweigen farmer who loved his wife so much he almost told her?" It goes over big in Minnesota.

    Still Hootin' and Hollerin'

    By the time he was done and I decided to head next door to Moonshine for a beer and a shot there was quite a crowd on the street, both from Jalopy and Moonshine. Kind of a Friday night get-together of the locals.

    Just Hangin'

    The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I had only been sitting at the bar for a couple of minutes when who should come in and sit at the stool next to us?

    Old Friend John

    Well now, that was an unexpected treat. I bought him a drink and we sat and chatted for about an hour before he had to head out to Connecticut where he was going to visit his sister. It sure was fun to talk about the old days and the old bars. Brought back a ton of memories.

    We decided to walk home, something that would have been unthinkable not too long ago. As I said, this used to be a real rough waterfront neighborhood. One advantage of walking home was that I had to pass Montero's. You can probably see why I had to stop in.

    There Was Only One Way To Go

    There was only Allen, the bartender, and one other guy, who had also just come from hearing Spider John, in the place. Well, it was almost two in the morning.

    Nevada Allen, Settin' Em Up

    I had a couple more beers and shots and then it became apparent that it was, indeed, time for me to toddle on home.

    Definitely Time To Go

    All and all it was a most enjoyably memorable evening. Turned out even better than I expected, especially with the little post-concert tete-a-tete with John.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008

    Cyclones/Yankees Part Two

    Well, it took me long enough to get here, but at long last, the game itself. In fact, it has been so long that I have forgotten the score. I do know that the Cyclones won though. That makes them 2 and 0 against the arch rival Yankees when I have been at the game.

    Heading On In

    As always, the seats are great, the prices are cheap, and the games are a lot of fun.

    Close To The Action

    Of course the best part is always the wacky mascots doing their best to embarrass a few hapless fans.

    Beating On The Baldies

    And it is always fun to watch a game as the barges going by.

    Barges And Baseball, As American As It Gets

    And, being just a big kid at heart, I always love the fireworks. And these didn't disappoint.

    One of the things that I like about Puerto Vallarta is that they have a lot of fireworks. In fact, there is a "pirate ship" that goes out every night for a booze cruise and when it returns it always shoots off a few fireworks. Most of the time I can see them from my window. Of course they only last about five minutes so you have to run when you hear them start to go off.

    Then it was time to get on the ferry and stand in line for what would be my last beer of the night.


    And I had plenty of room to enjoy my beer during the return to Manhattan.

    Stretchin' and Chillin'

    One thing that is really nice about where I live in Brooklyn is that it is only a few blocks from so many subway lines. And just a few steps from the ferry terminal was the subway that took us right home. A very nice night, the ferry rides, dinner at the Cargo Cafe, the game, the fireworks.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Cargo Cafe

    Just a short walk from the Ferry Terminal on Staten Island is the Cargo Cafe. I was heading to a Cyclone/Yankee game but the Cargo Cafe is reason enough to go to Staten Island.

    Cargo Cafe

    And I love the giant killer parakeets that welcome you.

    Where Is The Fifty Foot Woman?

    The artist, Scott LoBaido has a somewhat twisted sense of humor. A number of interesting paintings by him adorn the walls and the large painting above the bar certainly catches your eye.

    Bar Man And His Martini

    The martini was fine, but not what I really wanted. They didn't have enough Bombay Gin to make a martini, which I thought was strange. Usually bars keep back-up bottles and it isn't too often that you see a bottle behind the bar and can't actually get a drink out of it. I am flexible though so I ordered a Beefeater Gibson instead. Well that didn't work out either because they didn't have any cocktail onions. No big deal, I had it with an olive instead. At least they didn't have those huge olives that are totally inappropriate, but the little ones that they had did have pimentos. I prefer the olives without them, but then I am kind of fussy.

    The interior is quite cozy while still being spacious.

    A Comfortable Atmosphere

    There is a pool table up front that was getting a bit of action and several people were having an early dinner. The couple at the bar was having a drink while they waited to get some food to go.

    There is a fairly large back room and they have live music twice a week. Mostly local musicians and there is no cover charge. Dominating the room is a wall featuring the Rat Pack.

    Just Like Vegas

    They have n nice menu that has a number of Mexican dishes as well as an interesting selection of, I don't know, American maybe, selections. Traditional burgers are available but they also have things like a Jamaican Jerk Pork Wrap with pepper jack cheese and caramelized onions.

    We started out with pierogis served with brown butter and onions and a generous dollop of sour cream.

    Simply Delicious

    These were really good and would easily make a light meal for one. They were nicely crisped and not at all heavy and doughy like you find in some places.

    For the main course I opted for Mamma Dave's Beef Short Ribs with a chipotle and orange sauce served over mashed potatoes.

    Nice Looking Ribs

    As you can see, the portions here are most generous and the ribs were done to perfection. Nicely crisped falling off the bone tender. My only disappointment was that they were a bit on the bland side. But I am a bit of a chile head and I was hoping for more of a kick from the chipotles. Now don't get me wrong, these were very good and I would certainly consider having them again and would have no hesitation recommending them to someone else.

    The Mysterious Chinese Woman opted for the Garlic Rubbed Grilled Mahi Mahi that came with fresh tomato and arugala and a large portion of French fries. I can attest to the fact that the French fries were great, nice and crispy. I suspect the Mahi Mahi was good as well, although I didn't get to taste it. I was offered the pickle, though.

    Fish And Chips, Cargo Style

    The last time I was here I had the Skirt Steak with and Adobe Garlic Rub that came with mashed potatoes and onions and I remember that I really liked it. I think that is what I will have the next time I come here, and I will come here again. You get a lot of bang for you buck, the Mahi Mahi sandwich was only $9 and the Mamma Dave's Short Ribs were a reasonable $19. And before I get any comments, "Mamma" is spelled that way on the menu, I double checked.

    I couldn't help but notice a row of high-heeled shoes hanging from the ceiling. Reminded me of a limerick about a woman from Norway hanging by her heels in the doorway, but we won't go into that here.

    Heels Hanging From The Ceiling

    Of course I spent the entire meal pondering why they were there before nocticing this sign on the back wall.

    Free Drinks For The Ladies

    This really is a great restaurant and a decent enough bar. If it was in my neighborhood I would certainly eat here on a regular basis. As it is I will have to make a point of heading here again in the not too distant future. Maybe on a Wednesday or Thursday when they have their live music. I will probably avoid Sunday nights though when they have a trivia contest. Well, maybe not. I kind of wonder what the host, Kosmic Kevin, is like.

    One word of warning, there are two bathrooms, one up front by the pool table and one in the back by the kitchen. Neither one is marked, but traditionally the men use the one up front and the women use the one in the back. I was informed of this on my way out of the "women's" room.

    Cargo Cafe on Urbanspoon

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Cyclones/Yankees Part One

    Well, as I mentioned before, I lost the pictures and the container they were in (my camera) of the Cyclones and Yankees game in Coney Island. I had better luck at the game in Staten Island.

    Of course if you are going to got to a game in Staten Island you have to get there. This means either by bridge or ferry. Seeing as how I don't have a car the ferry is the only way to go. And you can't beat the price, it is free. They also have a relatively new ferry terminal so it is a lot more pleasant trip than before. Plus, there are new and larger ferries.

    The Newer Ferry Terminal

    Fairly large crowds are always waiting to take the ferry, even late at night, but it looks worse than it is.

    A Floating Cattle Car

    Despite what looks like a crush of humanity, there was plenty of room on board. We scooted upstairs to get an outside seat on the Statue of Liberty side and watched as Manhattan receded into the distance.

    So Long, Manhattan

    I then headed down to get a beer. The concession stand on the new ferries are configured a bit differently. They used to be open and you could access them from either side of the boat. Now they are built into a room that also has limited seating. As a result you have to enter from one side of the boat only and that slows down the process somewhat. Still, there aren't that many things you can buy and the line moves quickly.

    Bar Man With His Prize

    Another thing I noticed, the new ferries are a lot faster. You have to be quick if you want to finish your beer before reaching your destination. And they frown on you taking the beer with you when you leave.

    As I said, we got seats on the scenic side of the ferry. This would be a fun trip even if you didn't have any reason to go to Staten Island. The only problem is that you do have to disembark and then wait in line to re-board for the return trip.

    The View From The Rail

    It was so romantic, almost like a honeymoon cruise.

    Almost, I Said Almost

    And soon, picturesque Staten Island loomed up before us.

    Well, Kind Of Picturesque

    We had time to kill before the game and decided to go to the Cargo Cafe for a before-the-game dinner. You may remember the Cargo Cafe from a previous post of mine. It has undergone a bit of a face lift, or, at least, a paint job.

    Cargo Cafe Before

    The New And Improved Cargo Cafe

    Now you might say How pretty, parakeets. But look closely, these are not your average parakeets, they are the:

    Giant Killer Parakeets

    Kind of reminded me of a parrot my sister has. It lands on your shoulder and says "Kiss Kiss" as it creeps towards your ear and then gives it a nasty bite. Actually, I am not sure if she still has that parrot, although she does still have two of them. I think the nasty one pulled that "Kiss Kiss" trick on her dog and he killed it.

    More on our trip to the distant Isle of Staten next time.