Tag Archives: Henry Miller

92-Year-Old Greek Diner Shut Its Doors in Literary Neighborhood

24 Jan

Ninety-two-year-old Greek diner St. Clair has closed down, reports Grub Street, after learning the news from Brownstoner.

Owned by five Cypriot brothers, according to New York magazine, offered various Greek dishes such as the Greek Delight Platter, Corfu Salad, and Greek Moussaka alongside classic American dishes like The Best Baked Meatloaf and 14 Oz. new York Cut Sirloin Steak Sandwich. Brooklyn Daily provided a little history that when the diner was revamped in 1967 it was opened up as the New St. Clair by the Costa family. In 2007, they sold it to Spiro Katehis, who also owns the Carroll Gardens Classic Diner. The Greek diner was at the corner of Smith and Atlantic in the Boerum Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn.

In The Town and the City, Jack Kerouac housed the parents of his main character in Brooklyn and mentioned the Boerum Hill neighborhood. Of course back then, the neighborhood hadn’t gone through its yuppie gentrification—Kerri Russell and Michelle Williams have called it home—and was known as South Brooklyn or North Gowanus.

Considering the establishment had already opened in 1920 and Kerouac was in the area in the 1940s and ‘50s, it’s possible—though not proven—that he could have stopped in the St. Clair Diner.

The neighborhood is famously home to another writer: Jonathan Lethem, who told the New York Sun,  “’My image of the writer came from people like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac.’” When he was younger, Letham hitchhiked to California and worked at used bookstores. In 2011, he was the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, where I studied literature and Classical Greek.

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Jazz for Peace

10 Dec

When my dear friend Sue, whom I’ve known since first grade, invited me to a jazz show fundraiser I immediately said yes. As I’ve been studying Jack Kerouac, I’ve been reading a lot about how he frequented the jazz clubs of Harlem and wrote jazz reviews. I’m kind of a method writer, and I like to get out and experience what I’m writing about. And of course it’s great to be able to help others just by doing something you love — listening to music and eating great food. And when I say great food, I mean they had fried olives stuffed with blue cheese! Afterwards, I asked Sue if she’d be interested in doing a little write up, and she not only agreed but was so enthusiastic about it.  Below she shares about this worthwhile fundraiser, the great music, and the cute moment we shared with people at our table:

Jack, Josie and I hurriedly rushed into the restaurant.  We finally arrived at Lura Restaurant Lounge at 949 Columbus Avenue (Duke Ellington Blvd and 106th Street), way uptown.  We were running late for the Jazz for Peace Event, the Global Alliance for Community Development’s (GACD) 2nd Anniversary Fundraiser.  Jack serves on GACD’s Board of Directors, and the three of us work for the same company in midtown, where we were rushing in from.  I was to meet my friends, Mike and Stephanie, at Lura by 7pm.  I walked in and looked around.  To my left, Steph sat alone at a table, dressed in black, buried deep in a book.  Mike was off to my right at the bar, looking directly at me and smiling. 

Josie and I gathered Mike and joined Steph at the table.  I know them; they know of each other.  The usual chatter ensued, and drinks and food were ordered.  Lura has an exceptional menu, and we had a hard time deciding what to get.  Everything looked (and was) scrumptious.  As we settled in, David McCoy, Executive Director of GACD, stood up in front of the room and talked about the work they are doing and aspire to do and the results of their labor up to that point.  One of the most inspiring initiatives that he described was the water programs GACD has designed in collecting and filtering rainwater for communities. It made one feel so proud to be a part of this great cause in some way and was an appropriate reminder of what was going on outside of the room.  He turned our attention over to Rick DellaRatta and Jazz for Peace* and, appropriately for a late October evening, they opened up with “Autumn Leaves.”

I noticed that Josie was talking to an elderly couple at the next table.  The man was keeping half-time with his hand on the table and on his knee, joking that the music was too fast for old people to dance to.  Josie, who was sitting closest to the woman, was deep in conversation, probably partly due to the fact that one could hardly hear anyone unless he or she was right next to you.  After a few moments, Josie revealed to us that this couple happened to be, in fact, the parents of the keyboardist and vocalist, Rick DellaRatta.  The man, DellaRatta’s father, had been a musician in the War, and his wife, DellaRatta’s mother, was a pianist who had played with him.  They’d been married for over 50 years.  DellaRatta’s father displayed so much insight into the music being played, the technicalities of it, how each instrument contributed to the overall sound.  The bassist plucked away, with all ten fingers at one point.  The drummer, who looked like a teenager, blew everybody away with the seeming madness of his drumming.  He paused and syncopated with so much force, yet absolute grace and control.  The saxophonist, who stood in front, slightly to the right of the stage, whenever I looked over at him, would just be standing there, still, looking out at the audience.  Every so often, you’d hear him first, the singing, soaring sounds of the sax, running up and down the octaves where his fingers, all of a sudden, were a blur, a complete contrast to his previous state of inertia.  The energy emanating from the stage forced one to stop what one was doing, or even thinking about, and to just feel the music, to let the symphony flow through you and move you.

The next day at work, Jack and I agreed that the night was too short.  Josie and I were anxious to see the pictures Mike had taken of us inside and outside the venue. 

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Please see links for more information on GACD and how you can help support them and their more-than-worthy cause to combat poverty.  Hope to see you at GACD’s 3rd Anniversary Fundraiser!

Sue J. Chang lives in Manhattan, NY in Battery Park City and publishes mixes on 8tracks.com.

* Via: On September 25, 2002 Jazz pianist and vocalist Rick DellaRatta was invited to lead a band consisting of Israeli, Middle Eastern, European, Asian and American Jazz Musicians in a concert inside the United Nations for an International audience in what is now considered one of the significant cultural events of our time. Rick named this band JAZZ FOR PEACE™ and has since performed over 800 Benefit Concerts to raise funds, publicity and awareness for outstanding organizations in need worldwide. In addition Jazz for Peace performs educational programs bringing music and Jazz back into the schools and donates musical instruments to underprivileged children. Jazz for Peace concerts have featured Rick DellaRatta along with such notable jazz artists as Paquito D’Rivera, Victor Lewis, Lenny White, Eddie Gomez, Dave Valentin, Ray Mantilla, Rick Margitza and many others. Mr. DellaRatta’s Jazz influenced orchestral composition “Permutata” was recently recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra.  For more information please visit http://www.jazzforpeace.org

 

Overarching Writing Tip from Big Sur Writers: Don’t Censor Your First Draft

17 Oct

If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, you’re probably a fan of the Beat Generation, which means you’ve probably read Jack Kerouac’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose.  In a recent fit of procrastination, I stumbled upon Henry Miller’s Commandments while browsing the blog a lovely being.  Then through a rabbit hole that began on Poets & Writers, I discovered John Steinbeck’s writing rules on brain pickings.

As I scoured their tips for jewels of wisdom, I considered whether there were any repeating schemes amongst the three authors, who each lived at various points in their career in the Monterey area of Northern California.  The theme that emerges is one of writing with the force of one of the ferocious waves in Big Sur—quickly, spontaneously, wildly, freely, bravely, deeply, purely.

John Steinbeck: Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

Henry Miller: Don’t be nervous. Work calmly, joyously, recklessly on whatever is in hand.

Jack Kerouac: Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better

In other words, while you’re composing, just get it all out there on the page.  Don’t concern yourself with censoring your thoughts, diction, or punctuation.  You can always go back and fix things later, but for the first draft, at least, it’s better to let the story take shape naturally.

I’m generally not the type of person who subscribes to a set of writing rules, mainly because I believe everyone has their own technique and process, but I am a huge fan of lists.

Through Poets & Writers, I also discovered Kyle Minor’s “Advice to My Younger Self” and Margaret Atwood’s advice to writers, through which I consequently found similar lists by Zadie SmithElmore LeonardKurt Vonnegut, and David Ogilvy.

What are your tips for writing?