(in Williamsburg on Grand Street between Graham Ave & Humbolt Street)
Alas I am not doing any scuba diving these days (I’m strictly a warm-water diver and anyway not in any shape for athletic activities at the moment), so this isn’t a proper neon visit post, as there isn’t anything I need at Stingray Divers, but I was very much in need of a pick-me-up this evening, so I took a short walk up Grand Street in my neighborhood and took photos of a few local signs including this one. A short walk is all I’m up to for now, but the earlier evenings are getting me antsy for a longer neon expedition. Hopefully soon!
By the way, there are currently a total of 938 Project Neon Tumblr followers and RSS subscribers. When the total hits 1,000 I’ll have a big give away of items from the Project Neon shop, OK? OK!
Momofuku Milk Bar
(Williamsburg Location on Metropolitan Avenue between Havemeyer Avenue and Marcy Street)
The neon expedition I was wanting to undertake won’t work as well on weekends, which is probably all for the best as I should take it easy for another day or two. But I just remembered that I actually did stop in at a neon spot earlier this week — Momofuku Milk Bar. The photo above is from the East Village location, but I stopped in at the Williamsburg branch this week. Man, they have a LOT of outposts now! I gotta say, seeing the sign all over town lessens the neon appeal a bit. But still, dessert!
Somehow, I’d never been to Milk Bar. Crazy, I know, for a dairy queen like myself — I’ve even made Lucky Charms ice cream inspired by them. It was on my mind, too, because my friends are getting their wedding cake there. I’m looking forward to that! It’s hard to believe I resisted a giant MILK sign for so long.
Sadly, though, I was not really in love with the cereal milk soft serve I got the other day. The texture was great and the serving was generous, but the flavor was like the milk left over from bran flakes, not Froot Loops or Apple Jacks or something yummy. Next time I’ll go for cake truffles or an espresso shake, and I bet I’ll be happier.
The neon signs are the same in all locations — all milky white and gooily squashed like a delicious dessert. They’re medium-sized window signs, and a bit hard to photograph as the white neon isn’t terribly bright, but I think they’re pretty perfect for the shops. I usually hate sloppy-lettering in neon, but this is right in the sweet spot (so to speak) between precise and slapdash. Just right for carefully designed but slightly messy desserts.
(on Nassau Avenue at Guernsey Street, in North Williamsburg/Greenpoint)
Soundtrack: Okkervil River’s “He Passes Number Thirty-three”
Hello there, neonistas, some newses for you, rather than a neon visit today (hopefully I’ll get one in later this week once the rain stops its raining):
* I walked by Old Town Bar earlier this week, and the sign was in dismal condition — flickery, dim, and choked by some new scaffolding. I very much hope this is a temporary condition.
* Murray’s Sturgeon, alas, reports that their sign is likely to be hidden by scaffolding (which they have no control over) for some time to come. I really want to get a good picture of this great sign…
* A nice little round up of cool neon things, including, ahem, a small mention of this very blog over at Imprint.
* A fascinating look at an American footnote to the early history of neon sign development from The Atlantic.
* I was going to keep this secret a little longer, but maybe you’d like to know that I’m working on a collection of longer essays, each one centered around a particular New York neon sign or two. They’re likely to be a bit rambling (duh, it’s me we’re talking about), but will be about the urbanism, design, and various civic things I think about when I’m walking around the city on neon hunting expeditions. Also about bars, Coney Island, and small shops in the age of mega-word-infinity-chains. And neon! And New York. And lots of other things. I imagine I’ll self-publish this somehow or other with a lot of photos (unless someone wants to hook me up with a publisher?), but we’ll see what happens. Who knows how long it will take, but I’ll keep you updated on progress. I apologize if this cuts a bit into posting here, but there are, of course, only so many hours in the day. Suggestions for good places to write that are quietish and don’t mind lingerers are encouraged! (The first chapter is about Dublin House — here’s to the regular who bought me Guinnesses last time I was there. You are supporting the arts, sir!)
* Photos from New York City in 1971, over on Retronaut, including some great neon signs. A very important year, because it is the year of my birth. Yes, I am that old!
* Gonna try out a monthly neon group post, beginning next week, if anyone’s interested. So get your best neon photo ready to share! You will have to have a Tumblr account (I’ll be trying out the photo reply feature), but hey — they’re free, so why not?
* This is not neon related, but news from another project I was a part of: the Hypothetical Development Organization is going to be part of the Venice Architectural Biennale! I am so honored to have a part, however small, in that august architectural shindig. (I made two huge drawings for the project, though I’m not sure what the actual installation will look like.) Wish I could jet off to Venice to see it. It’s especially pleasing as I’ve been feeling glum lately about the diminishing possibilities for me in the field, but that’s a real resume builder, eh? The New York Times’ 6th Floor Blog has a brief write-up.
(In Williamsburg on Graham Avenue at Skillman Street)
This morning I needed to mail off an Etsy order, so I headed up to Graham Avenue (aka Via Vespucci) where there’s a friendly contract post office. After sending the photos off (thanks for the order, hothands!), I stopped in a place I’ve been meaning to visit for years. Grande Monuments (aka Grande Memorials) is a headstone & monument shop of Italian extraction (like much of this area of Williamsburg) that also happens to offer prosciutto bread, olive bread, and some other brick-oven baked loaves on Fridays and Saturdays. (I recommend that previous link to a story from WNYC about the shop.)
Man, I have missed prosciutto bread! I used to get it years ago from a place on the Northside called Joe’s Busy Corner, but they expanded and changed and when I stopped in to ask for it a few months ago they didn’t even know what it was! This prosciutto bread is very different from what Joe’s used to sell — the bread is denser and sweeter, and the prosciutto is in cubes instead of thin shavings. A slice of this stuff is almost like eating a ham sandwich — and I bet it would make amazing French toast (if I don’t eat this whole loaf straight up maybe I’ll give it a try). The loaves aren’t cheap ($5), but they’re worth it.
The neon wasn’t on this morning, but I’ve walked by it a million times and have photographed it at night as you can see above. It’s just very simple window neon, one side red MONUMENTS and one in my favorite aqua Grande MEMORIALS. Not as fancy as most of the funeral home neon, but still great. The non-neon signage is great, too. (Eating in Translation has a good photo of the bread sign in the window that I’ve somehow never photographed in all these years.) Afterwards I picked up some Brooklyn-roasted Stumptown coffee at Variety and some juice oranges at the greengrocers down the street — a perfect neighborhood brunch.
If you want to pick up some bread yourself, stop in early on Friday or Saturday — I’ve often seen the bread racks empty by mid-afternoon. Joey, an older gentleman in front of me, bought 7 loaves (6 for himself, and one for a friend), then I got my loaf with lots of “Sweethearts” and the advice that with this loaf & a bottle of wine, and I’d be set. A worried-looking woman behind me asked me about prices, and as I left more people were heading in. It’s a very bustling, very Brooklyn scene.
EDIT: made the prosciutto French Toast. Amazing!
Hey, will you be coming to the opening of the Project Neon photo show on Friday the 23rd? Please do! If you like neon signs, if you like New York, if you like the fantastic City Reliquary, or if you’re just curious about any of the above, you should definitely come.
And you guys, I have SO MUCH work to do between now and then. I have to finish a bunch of stuff for the app tonight, send out the last few Kickstarter rewards over the next couple of days, do show planning over the next week, print & trim photos, install, etc. etc. It would be a great favor if you could help me spread the word. Thanks!
The photo above is a fantastic neon sign provided by Project Neon sponsor NeonSigns4U.com. It’s the sign (which is about two feet in diameter) sitting on my kitchen table. It’s so bright! And the lightning bolt and light rays coming off of it can flash (or be steady). I had a very busy weekend following up on a previous project, so I just now got to unpack it and plug it in. Very cool!
You can see the sign in person at the show—it’ll be hanging in the window. I hope to see you there!