Long time no write, huh, Scraps?
Well, I’ve been a smidge busy.
Besides falling off my bike, recovering from that, taking up running after a 29 year hiatus, learning how to be a Brooklynite, playing with my kids, and teaching, I’ve also been hard at work with my colleagues Juanita But and Mark Noonan in the arduous task of writing/editing/proofing a textbook. Well, after a year-and-a-half, it is finally finished:
As you can see from the title, this book is a composition textbook, or reader, that focusses on New York City. The Place Where We Dwell introduces college students to many interesting essays, poems, stories, and art pieces that are about, you guessed it, New York City. The goal of the book is to help students understand, or read, New York City in new ways and to encourage them to practice critical writing, reading, and thinking methods.
About the cover art. The artists name is José Parlá–a Brooklyn-based artist who uses many forms of painting, calligraphy, and layers to create pieces that look like they are part of the city. The cover art is a reproduction of his painting titled “Your History.” Hats off to the publisher Kendall/Hunt for working with the Parla to promote the art work. Check out the full cover:
In this photo, you can see the words “Your History” better. Oh, I’d like to thank Clara Scanlan for helping me with this photo–that’s her finger at the top.
Let me know if you are interested in the book…perhaps you are teacher in New York City, or perhaps you want to teach a composition course on global cities, or perhaps you teach an introductory course on culture studies or urban studies. Or, maybe you just want to read a lot of great writing on New York City. Hopefully, local book stores and Amazon and other places will soon start selling it.
Amazon has a page for it, but it seems they are temporarily out of stock:
You can also go directly to the publisher’s website:
Here is the ISBN: 978-0-7575-9017-7
And here’s my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For that close friend (spouse?) who became unnecessarily anxious that the public might think strange thoughts about my frozen-wet-diaper-treatment, I want to go on-record and say that I used filtered Brooklyn water to wet the princess diaper. It was a name-brand filter, by the way. But I won’t tell readers the name because they do not sponsor me.
Scrapes (formerly Scraps)
It looks like I will be taking up a new sport. Why? Because I crashed. I hit the pavement. I wadded it up. I bit the dust. I wrecked. I took a nose dive. I crumpled the paper. I wiped out. I failed, epically.
On June 25th of 2011, I was in a local race at Floyd Bennett Field in Coney Island in the fair borough of Brooklyn. 80 racers in a Cat. 4 race. Three laps to go, I went off the front for a while, parce-que I had some excess energy that I needed to donate to the road. Last lap, I felt good, was riding about 25th wheel when two guys tried to tune my front wheel with their handlebars. Basically, I was taken out. I was choiceless in the matter. It’s not like I had to swerve to avoid them. They dove into my front wheel. I went ass-over-teakettle. About 8 guys went down. I had the worst of it.
How did I know that I got the worst of it? Because some guy said, “Oh, shit, look at that dude!” I turned around and nobody was behind me. I was that dude. I could see my left shoulder in a place that was not good. Not good at all.
Here’s what my shoulder looked like few weeks later:
Here’s what a close-up looks like:
Here’s what the x-ray revealed: An AC separation. No, it was not dislocated (nice try amateur orthopedic surgeons!). No, it was not broken, you part-time physical therapists.
What you are looking at is a Category 2–out of 5 categories– (I always wanted to be a Cat. 2 rider!) AC separation. That stands for Acromioclavicular Joint Separation.
A close friend said that frozen wet diapers work really well on sore shoulders:
She was right, but the embarrassment factor does come into play.
Scraps tries to run (again, after a
20 year 29 year hiatus) with not much success.
Public art has been around for a long time.
Public art is sometimes commissioned, sometimes it is not. Graffiti is used to transmit political, personal, and artistic statements with or without permission of the property owner. Graffiti is powerful because it is unsanctioned, but it is also uncomfortable for a street theorist because it is beautiful and illegal–what is the political stakes of studying it? But this art form is all around us in Brooklyn. Our students see graffiti—tags, stickers, murals, advertising— in the place where they dwell. My interest in graffiti is in the way that it is a form of personal writing, a form of consolidating one’s identity. Writing one’s name on a wall says many things, but at the very least, it says: I exist.
Mark and I have had the good fortune to be able to work with a local artist, José Parlá, who writes in his beautiful book JoséParlá: Walls, Diaries, and Paintings(2011), that:
Historically, walls have exhibited the voice of the people. My earliest paintings were made on walls at night. My thought and impulse behind the gesture was as primitive as that of cavemen marking and drawing in their dwellings to assert their existence in a place and time. As my works evolved, be it paintings, signatures, or even the documentation of these early ephemeral artworks throughout city walls, the works took on the nature of personal journals based on empirical experiences. The organized black books and photo albums also became my diaries. […] As a result, these works are time capsules, mixed documents of memory and research.”
José Parlá could almost be talking about General Education; Gen Ed is a process of mixing memory and research within (sometimes against) the maelstrom of the college student’s total experience. I have tried to turn both my fascination with Parla’s extraordinary art and my desire for my students to write what they know and what they need to learn into writing assignments. One such assignment involves their writing about themselves as a collage of information. The walls of Brooklyn have helped me with this assignment.
“Nevins Street Jargon,” by José Parlá
I have not been able to find out if this plywood fence is a found artwork photographed by Parlá, or if Parlá had a hand in it. Either way, it is a palimpsest of neighborhood signatures–a local cryptography.
Then I saw this installation at the corner of Fulton and Adams–where a Shake Shack burger joint is going in. Here, on these black walls, the point is not to deface. Instead, the point is to put your own message next to your neighbors, to read other desires, to engage, to create a community “mixed tape” of memory and research and performance. Several times, I have added my own writing, my own tags, my own effort to say that “I exist.” And I plan to go back often. I encourage you to take part in the performance of the “Before I die…” installation.
For the next 15 minutes, let’s create our own memorials to this seminar, to City Tech, to our own small groups, and even to our own identities.
Each group collaborates to make their own “Jay Street Jargon.”
Rule 1: each writing must overlap another writing, even if only a little.
Rule 2: no erasing.
Rule 3: there are no rules in graffiti.
1. Write down three academic words in your field that you hate. (vertical)
2. Write down three academic words in your field that you love. (diagonal)
3. Write down the your nickname in big, bold letters. (upside down)
4. Name your favorite teacher. (left handed)
5. Name your favorite moment in this seminar. (in a circle)
6 a. Write this phrase and fill it in: My job rocks cuz ___________________. (in all caps)
6 b. Doodle. (no shapes, just wriggly lines)
7. Write this phrase and fill it in: Before I die _____________________.
8. Who is your favorite artist? (backwards)
9. What is your favorite number? (then scratch it out)
10. Ruin at least two of the answers or writings on your wall that you like. (because)
11. Are you looking forward to the shared lunch with Karen and John? (in another language)
12. Favorite food? (inside a rhombus)
13. Doodle. (shapes!)
14. Write this phrase and complete: Where I’m from __________________!
Thanks for reading, and feel free to share this assignment widely!
Sean Scanlan, PhD
City Tech, CUNY
by Sheila Packa
I learned to ride
the two wheel bicycle
with my father.
He oiled the chain
clothes-pinned playing cards
to the spokes, put on the basket
to carry my lunch.
By his side, I learned balance
and took on speed
centered behind the wide
handlebars, my hands
on the white grips
my feet pedaling.
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn’t know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
Beneath the trees in the driveway
the distance increasing between us
I eventually rode until he was out of sight.
I counted on him.
That he could hold me was a given
that he could release me was a gift.
“Not Forgotten” by Sheila Packa, from Cloud Birds. © Wildwood River Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
Grabbed from: The Writer’s Almanac. May 18, 2011.
I dedicate this poem to my daughters, Katie and Clara. The older of the two (Katie) can ride without training wheels and has exhibited a small hint of what the poem above describes. The younger of the two (Clara) will probably learn to ride without training wheels this summer. I think she is a bit young, but she is committed to doing what her sister does.
Will I let them race bikes in a few years. Not a chance. No way.
But, seriously folks, what choice do I really have in the matter?
Next thought…should I get the new super-awesome saddle with carbon-braided rails, or should I save my money for when my daughters ask me to buy them carbon-braided rail saddles?
Peace and end-of-semester grease.
Should I mention that I raced in a real bike race last week? More later.
The pomp of colors
though dank now
Soon aching greens sprout
Muscles upward and out-
[A map of Prospect Park, Brooklyn, New York]
Nor the Slope
Nor the falling temperatures dint my course
Allow me to intimate my plan for the season
of pain, beautiful pain-
Five full training exercises have I blessed
How resurrect my ashes from the forgotten form
Of last August-
A question or a statement
By laps not time not distance
But by the 3.39 mile loops that guide my wheels
And not a Heart
Not a Rate
And not a Monitor shall encroach upon my path
My brain is fingering the road
Past the runners the joggers the baby strollers
I bide my time my sweat my Accelerade
Pass me dear titanium dear aluminum dear carbon
Leave me to train to dream to provoke my own knowledge
Of the coming storm of spring classics
In far off lands
I deny myself the urge to sprint
So that I can calibrate my afternoons as they
Bleed sweetness into the sore legs
Legs that will not only bless this park
But will bless the summer races region-wide
Where I will
Triumph again and again and again
As I crush and crush and crush all metal out
Of my frame
These five rides have begun what cannot be undone
And there is much to do
Before I sleep before I race before I die
(note: I found this poem written in precise script with a blue Sharpie on an abandoned water bottle in the gutter of Prospect Park West three days ago–ed.)
Prospect Park State of Mind
Can you believe all the things that there are to do here, in this city, the largest city in the US. How big? Over 8,000,000. The next largest city? LA: 3,500,000.
So, it follows that several biking events are on offer in the summer. For example, a month ago Bike Snob read from his book at Rapha Bike Shop. And recently, David Herlihy read from his new book The Lost Cyclist at Bicycle Habitat.
You can go on an organized ride seven days a week. You can find a well-organized century tour every Saturday and Sunday in September and October.
During the summer there are races at Central Park (Manhattan) and races in Prospect Park (Brooklyn). Luckily, I could not race in any of these late summer races because the fields were full (whew!). Also, I don’t have a license. And I generally don’t know the system here yet. But, I learned that if you really want to, you can talk your way into the Cat. 5 field. So, as usual, I just didn’t want to race.
On August 14th, I wrote the following and have been remiss in publishing it.
Here it is:
I showed up at 7 am to check out and ride around Prospect Park. I sorta knew that there was a race this morning, but it started at 6:30. Registration was at 5:30! Ouch. Anyway, it was a beautiful morning and I got on the wide bike lane (almost four full lanes wide!) and started soft pedalling. Then the Pro-1-2-3 group passed me. Ker-pow! That was cool. Full field at 90 riders.
I stopped by the start/finish to get the skinny. First, I was amazed at the large crowd and all the different teams and bikes. I saw sweet rigs: Ciocc, Van Dessel, BMC. And I saw a Scattante with Cosmic Carbones! Well, I learned that if I had my head screwed on right, I could have raced today. I would have needed to re-up my license online and then wait in line until 6:15, at which time the stand-by riders would get a chance.
The best kits were, by far, the Mexico New York City Cycling team. A close second was the Major Taylor kits. Also saw Kissena, G.S. Mengioni and Ride Brooklyn kits. Very cool scene.
I saw the finish of the 4 race. I don’t know any names but this freight train of a guy from Major Taylor led out two of team mates and I think they went 1, 2, 3. Very sharp riding.
One of the race organizers, Anthony VanDunk, told me to race tomorrow. But after 6 laps, I was weezy. Anthony runs the website: http://newyorkbikeracing.com.
Maybe I’ll head out to Floyd Bennett Field near Coney Island for the evening race. Just as I was about to leave, Anthony looked at my Goosetown Racing kit and said “it looks as if you might need to join a New York team. Give a call when you do.”
Did he say “might want to” or “might need to”? At any rate I will take in the positive sense.
I will end this post here. The problem with this place is that there is simply too much to report, too much to look at, too much to do and experience. It can be stultifying to try to write about even little slivers of New York. So, in order to start up the blogging engine again, I will submit brief reports, instead of my usual, longwinded palaverings.
Scraps (in BK)