Friday, December 15, 2006

No Return

There was a time when there were no laundromats in Blissville. I had to cart my laundry to the single laundromat in a neighboring community. On Saturdays doing the laundry could take half a day or more. How we managed I don't know. Now we have seven in Sunnyside and one in Blissville.

But I've stopped spending even an hour there, not that I have a washing machine. One day four years ago, needing the time for something else, I dropped it off. I told myself that this was a single indulgence, that I would return to doing my own laundry the next time.

My clothes came back perfectly folded, as if they'd been pressed. The pile smelled, fresh, clean, pure. The sheets shone with whiteness. How could I go back to doing my own laundry again?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Only the old timers who still live here remember the days of PS 80 where boys entered through one side, girls the other.

Then the war happened, and many enlisted, most returned. The school closed in those years. The neighborhood changed. The Satmar bought the building a few years later and made it into a yeshiva.

Then they left, and the school stayed closed until someone came along and envisioned it as something else. And now it's a hotel.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Future Blissville

All around me, buildings I have loved are coming down, and in their place new ones are going up.

This was once a stone mason's. He made gravestones for the cemetery a block away. We nodded to each other, but I never spent time with him. And now he's gone.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New Blissville

One evening just out of the subway I met an actor. He was lost in Queens, trying to find his way to an audition for The Sopranos. I walked him to Blissville, to the studio.

I never knew if he got the part. I didn't have cable, and so I missed the series.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Old Blissville

Rents all over the city are rising. In Blissville, too. After all, the neighborhood is just a mile from Manhattan, at the intersection of two major highways.

But some businesses hold on as they always have, and I cherish them.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


St. Patrick's Cathedral bought the land in 1848 to bury the overflow dying from the cholera epidemic raging through the city. By 1850 there were 50 burials a day there, most of them Irish. Half of those laid into the ground were children under seven. They had survived whatever the famines in the old world, but not life in the new.

Today it's Old Calvary Cemetery and dominated by grand monuments and mausoleums. In the early 1930's it was the resting place of certain mobsters such as Stefano Ferigno, Vito Bonventre, and Bonaventura "Joseph" Pinzolo. It also holds its share of silent movie stars, veterans, writers and politicians. (The more humble are buried in New Calvary now, which lies over the expressway and sprawls out through Maspeth.)

It's a landmark in Blissville, sitting at its northern border, only a block away from where I live. But I don't visit it much. I prefer to let its spirits lie within its walls.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Ticky Tacky Houses

Aluminum siding, fake brick, molded stone – these are the architectural surfaces of Blissville. But whatever its facade outside, inside it's home.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Traces of History

Eliphalet Nott bought the triangle of land that is now called Blissville with his partner Neziah Bliss. It was farmland then in 1837. But within twenty years the pastures were gone. Factories had sprung up along the river and the canal. In another ten years, the Civil War would arrive and with it, even more factories.

Apartments and houses grew up for the workers in the neighborhood. When they burned down, new ones sprung up in their place. And then a school. And a hotel, a few stores and bars on every corner. Then a railroad. Even a trolley.

When I first moved here, some of the roads were still cobble-stoned. Downpours left roads flooded. Some storms left Blissville a virtual island. Those streets are paved now, and now the rainwater drains with ease. But where are the remnants of that earlier epoch?