Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

Another day, another walk

This morning, though it looked like it might rain and the wind was switching every which way, I went for a rather long ramble. The strange sights of the street rarely fail to make my day: in Sunnyside, a sticker with a phone number was slapped on a lamp post, and the words "Pranks accepted!" were written beneath; on Skillman Avenue, I found a discarded notebook filled with high school calculus, as well as a printout of lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" tucked into the front pocket; on a building in Greenpoint, graffiti hearts covered a door and were accompanied by a scribbled reminder to "buy candy." And the flowery chalking on a Brooklyn side street, above, was also quite charming.

Office in the sky

Yesterday, early, before it got too hot, I walked down to Socrates Sculpture Park. It hadn't been too long since I last dropped by, but I did notice something I had overlooked before: a piece by Natalie Jeremijenko, TREExOFFICE, a "co-working" space that is a treehouse. The workspace "overlooks the East River and has magnificent views of the Manhattan skyline, wifi and locally-produced power." The poplar, your new boss?


By hand

I've always been a writer of letters; when I was 8, I was already keeping up with several pen pals, including one in Ghana. The correspondence doesn't always last, but there's something poignant about taking time out of your grind to put a thoughtful pen to paper. When The Rumpus announced "Letters to Everyone," I thought I'd join in. (The gist, from the site: "You send in a letter, single page (double sided OK) and include a regular size # 10 self-addressed stamped envelope. We’ll make copies of all the letters and send five letters back to you in the stamped envelope you provided.")

I sent off my missive a few weeks ago, then got absorbed in the day-to-day and nearly forgot that I was to receive a packet of responses. And then, on Monday, my envelope showed up, four letters folded inside. 

Magic. Just magic. I heard from a woman who had a 10-minute love affair, a guy proposing a sort of "choose your own adventure" writing project to be conducted through the mail, and a geoduck farmer who lives not more than four hours from where I grew up. Now I just need to write them all back: it begins.

To market, to market

Queens County Market popped up in Sunnyside again yesterday, and we braved the heat to walk over. And good thing we did! We picked up alfajores from Buenos Angie's, a rainbow of savory Finnish tarts from Northern Rye, some chipotle salsa from Gustavo's, and a few spice mixes from Sabba's Spicery (pictured above; the "Medieval Melange," apparently recreated from a 14th century recipe, added great depth to a pumpkin spice bread I baked today).

We also sidled over to the Sunnyside Greenmarket, at Skillman Avenue and 42nd Street, open Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through December 22. Purslane and rhubarb looked tempting, but we stuck with a gorgeous bunch of carrots, some fresh smoked cheddar, and corn tortillas. It's been a good weekend of cooking and eating!

Revisiting Joseph Mitchell

Joseph Mitchell is one of my favorite New York writers; I find myself pressing his essay collections into the hands of my friends when they come to the city. "You'll love it! And maybe you'll start your own Oral History!" The Oral History is a reference to the project at hand in Joe Gould's Secret, which you could start with if you want a quick taste of Mitchell's work, or Up in the Old Hotel offers a good survey of his pieces from the New Yorker; The Bottom of the Harbor is also stellar (though its essays, I believe, are all included in Old Hotel). 

I'm revisiting My Ears Are Bent, a collection of his pieces for the World-Telegram and the Herald Tribune -- work that came before his New Yorker period. The essays are a little rougher, less polished, but no less enchanting. It's the way he captures people that really stands out; and it's no wonder. Mitchell writes:

I believe the most interesting human beings, so far as talk is concerned, are anthropologists, farmers...and an occasional bartender. The best talk is artless, the talk of people trying to reassure or comfort themselves, women in the sun, grouped around baby carriages, talking about their weeks in the hospital or the way meat has gone up, or men in salooons, talking to combat the loneliness everyone feels.

Front yard, back yard

We've been in our apartment for three years, but we've never seen the apricot tree out front bear fruit. Today, I plucked one off the branch and took a bite. Very sour, but fresh-picked apricots in Astoria? Magical.

In our little backyard garden, the hydrangeas are beginning to bloom. The overbearing heat will set in soon, so we're enjoying it while we can!

Neighborhood garden

Flux Factory's latest show, Bionic Garden, asks visitors to reimagine urban spaces both public and private. The art space incorporates a rooftop garden, a seed-sharing station, and plants rigged with wireless sensors that trigger an LED when they need to be watered. I found the seed-heads by Daupo, above, fanciful and functional.

We may have a hard time getting much of anything to grow in our backyard, but I suppose we'll try planting the tulsi seeds we picked up and hope for a little more luck with it than we've had with our ill-fated flowers.

Flux Factory, 39-31 29th Street, Long Island City, New York, 11101; exhibit closes June 24; open weekends, noon to 6 p.m.

Locks of love

They're commonplace in Paris (on, say, the Pont de l'Archevêché and the Pont des Artes) and they show up even farther afield -- in Cologne, Florence, Uruguay, Taiwan. But I haven't before seen any "love locks" in New York.

Is this single lonely lock -- painted purple, pink, and white, and signed with the initials J and G -- affixed midway across Pulaski Bridge the start of a trend? 

Tentacular

Took a long (LONG! Ten or twelve miles total) walk yesterday, winding my way from Astoria to Long Island City and then to Bushwick, all before looping back to Queens by passing through Greenpoint. A lot of rubber was burned.

I happened upon two artful octopi. The pasted-up drawing above was on a  hoarding in LIC; the vibrant painted fellow below was in Bushwick.

A house party

Browsing Google Books (searching, originally, for old reviews of Bertha Runkle's work, I think?), I stumbled upon a volume from 1901: A House Party: An Account of the Stories Told at a Gathering of Famous American Authors.

I haven't read the book entire, but the premise is intriguing -- invite a number of authors to a party, require them to submit a piece of fiction before the party, redact their names, then distribute the "anonymous" pieces to guests and have them try to guess who wrote what. Now, if only I were friends with people like Sarah Orne Jewett: what a party it would be.