Matt Levy’s Lost in History: All Boro Bonanza

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07/29/2008 3:03 PM |

By Matt Levy

Damn you, Flux Factory. Are you really that good? Can you truly tell the secret whims and desires, the wants, needs and must-haves of a bunch of New York City artists/adventurers/self-proclaimed geeks/cheese-bus aficionados/travelers/cheapskates/ and those in the know? It seems that way — and 54 people can prove it.

Two weekends back, Flux hosted another one of their fantastically popular, terrifically peculiar, all-day extravaganzas titled Going Places, Doing Stuff. The premise behind GP, DS is that there’s a whole lot of awesome to see in our city. And yet, people generally take this city for granted. Since Flux lost its lease on their gallery-cum-home in Long Island City (they have to move by October), lead curator Jean Barberis (full disclosure: a fine friend of mine) came to the realization that one doesn’t need a static indoor gallery to display the art or performance of New Yorkers — one can do just as well in the city itself. So Flux asked a half-dozen writers, artists, historians, and so forth to create an adventure-slash-tour, on board a yellow cheese bus, in which participants would have no idea of where they were headed — just a title, a list of supplies to bring and a departure time and place. Get on the bus and take off to points unknown.

I was asked to lead the first Going Places, Doing Stuff, and we delved, mind, body and soul into weird religious spots in Staten Island. The second GP, DS took us into the wilds of Pennsyltucky, courtesy of artist Douglas Paulson. Two more adventures were led — one by Fluxer Annie Reichert, in which she brought a busload of explorers to her native suburban New Jersey and accompanied her dad on everyday dad stuff; in the journey called Wandering Restaurant, Portland, OR artist Gary Wiseman brought people to delectable spots in Queens. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend either of those two escapades. But nothing was stopping me from attending the Flux-curated expedition on July 19th. What’s more, it was the only one in which I truly had no clue where we were going.

We went All Boro. Five boroughs in one day. Ambitious? Insane? Brilliant? Check, check, triple check. Flux Factory’s Senior Team of Jean Barberis, Stefany A. Golberg, Morgan Meis, Jason D. Brown, Chen Tamir and Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria compiled the days’ events from their personal favorite places and stuff. We met at the Staten Island Ferry terminal at 9am, in order to knock off the most estranged borough first. Also, the SI Ferry is one of the only places in NY where you can drink in public (I’ve done extensive research on the subject). Once we disembarked at St. George, we boarded our cheese bus (54 adults on a machine that should only hold 40) and the journey began. First stop was a private gallery in the backyard of a home in St. George. Some Chilean sculptor who was related to another, more famous Chilean painter. I had had a few rum and iced coffees by then, so I didn’t quite catch the guy’s name. Following the sculpture gallery we made our way down onto the North Shore, immediately across from Snug Harbor, to discover the coolest spot of the day — a DIY BMX bike track hidden in the overgrowth on the shoreline of Richmond Terrace. After running around like maniacs on this totally badass BMX track, we returned to the cheese bus to discover our very own Staten Island cocktail! It was 10:30am, we had four more boroughs to tackle, and people were getting nice and soused.

Over the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn and to our next stop: Floyd Bennett Field, NY’s first municipal airport. Opened in 1931 at the southeastern tip of Brooklyn, FB Field was home to a number of daredevil pilots just as aviation was cruising from the airplane age to the jet engine age. Wiley Post, Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes and more all made Floyd Bennett Field a space-age wonder in a pre-World War II New York. After a quick tour of Hangar B — home to dozens of out-of-commission Army, Navy and government aircrafts, complete with septuagenarian Brooklyn boys building a replica of a Jenny bomber out of wood — we went to the Aviator indoor stall for a picnic lunch and more Brooklyn booze.

Onto Queens! Way up north in Queens: the neighborhood of College Point, and the art gallery and brilliant loft-garage-home of local artist John Norwood, a friend to Flux. Again, more art here, some of which was wonderful and some of which was just weird. I took off to explore College Point Boulevard and score some scrumptious Columbian fresh-fruit drinks called Cholada. The day was long and hot, and brains were addled with liquor and other, more illicit substances, so a nice long respite in Mr. Norwood’s air conditioned home was just the ticket. We watched airplanes take off from LaGuardia Airport, just across from Flushing Bay. We drank a special Queens cocktail that was just as nauseous as the first two. We soaked in the A/C and tried to ignore the fact that eventually we would have to reboard that 40 pax bus, all 54 of us, in 92 degree humidity, in the northern-ass-end of Queens. Which we did, eventually (who the hell wants to get stranded in College Point?!?) and headed northward, to the only borough that attached to the mainland of America.

The Bronx. Fort Apache. Burning tenements. Yankee Stadium. Yachts. Lobster shacks . . . quiet, serene, Maine-like fishing villages?!? Welcome to City Island, population 4500. Commonly referred to as "New England in New York," this impossibly picturesque spit of land off Pelham Bay is famous for seeming completely outside of NYC, yet within the five boroughs. We parked the cheese bus and wandered around the Pelham Cemetery, purportedly the only final resting place in New York City right next to a body of water. We hiked our way down the 1.5 mile City Island Avenue to the southernmost point, which was when we split for dinner. Some went the fried and greasy route, some went the burgers and fries route, I went the whole lobster and clam bake route. It was a well-earned crustacean.

There’s only so much All Boro a New Yorker can handle — so after yet another impossible-to-swallow Bronx cocktail, we piled onto a magical yellow cheese bus and whisked our way back to the city, via the Major Deegan and miles upon miles of traffic. They said it couldn’t be done — All Boro in one day. Flux Factory did it and then some.

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