Tag Archives: Manhattan

Throwback Thursday: The Roosevelt Island Tramway in the early 1980’s!

I found a couple of videos online the depict The Roosevelt Island Tramway around 1980.  (The picture below of the tram arriving in Manhattan dates from 2006, as I couldn’t find any vintage public domain photos.)

The first video I am linking to here was posted by Richard Cortell; he completed it as a long ago student project for The New York Institute of Technology.  Parts of the video are quite dark, but it’s still a terrific glimpse in New York City’s past.

The second video is also Cortell’s; this one is dated 1980.  It focuses more on life on Roosevelt Island — the tram is seen only at the beginning and end.

I’ve never been on the tram — or to Roosevelt Island.  But just seeing it brings back memories of my early childhood.  My Dad used to occasionally take me on trips to New York City, and I remember seeing it depart from 60th Street and Second Avenue in Manhattan.  I was pretty damned awed by it.

But I didn’t ask to ride on it.  My Dad took me to all sorts of places in NYC that were fun for a kid, but the sight of that hanging tram car made me pretty apprehensive.  Hell, I’m not sure I’d want to ride it as an adult.  (There was a malfunction in 2006 that left 80 people trapped up there for around 90 minutes.)

I didn’t know it at the time, but the tram would have actually been relatively new at the time that I saw it (and at about the same time Cortell filmed his videos).  It opened in July of 1976.

Postscript — there is actually a shot of the tram in that old “Million Dollar Movie” intro that everyone loves.  It’s right at the start, five seconds in.


Photo credit: Kris Arnold from New York, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

“Poe on the High Bridge,” Bernard Jacob Rosenmeyer, 1930

Today is Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday.

Rosenmeyer’s lithograph below depicts him on one of his characteristic solitary walks; this one is on the High Bridge between Manhattan and the Bronx.  For a little interesting background on it, see this entry at the Ephemeral New York website.


Throwback Thursday: Erik Cigars!!!

This is just NUTS.  No, I am not quite old enough to remember this late-1960’s advertisement for “Erik” cigars — I happened along a few years later.  But I was named for it.

My father told me when I was growing up that he named me after hearing the name “Eric” in a cigar commercial … I guess I was just never 100 percent sure if he was kidding or not.  (My parents also came very close to naming me “Christian.”)  Just a few days ago, through the magic of the Internet, I finally discovered the ad itself.  (Thanks to Youtube user “blegume” for uploading the vintage commercial and solving this longstanding personal mystery.)

The ad itself is actually kind of funny.  It makes smoking look entirely slick and telegenic and badass, and it underscores the point metaphorically with footage of a goddam viking ship sailing around Manhattan.  (That’s the Brooklyn Bridge you see in the background.)

And, in this politically correct age, the ad manages to be at least mildly offensive to two groups: women and … Scandinavians.  (Its product, it boasts, is “the most interesting idea from Scandinavia since the blonde.”)

My self-esteem would be incredibly high if people started proudly proclaiming “ERIK” in the same manner as the robust male narrator.  I might try to create a wav. file of that and program my laptop to belt that out randomly like twice a day.  Besides, I figure it could be worse — my father could have named me “Newport Menthols” or something.  (Maybe it would be fitting; I’m slim and smooth, yet ultimately hazardous to your health.)

The Kirk Douglas lookalike you see in square-jawed profile is actually a Scandinavian named “Erik,” the video’s comments section informs me.  He is none other than Norwegian Erik Silju, and his credits include episodes of both “Route 66” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Here’s the kicker, though — I found four other guys, in the first page of the comments section alone, who were also named “Erik” after their parents saw this ad.  That’s gotta be some kind of record.

Life is so weird.



Car fire today on West 34th Street, Manhattan (Photos)

This happened just before 1 PM outside The Javits Center.  The driver sprang out.  True to form, the FDNY was there in minutes.

Watching them at work was educational.  They do not simply hose a vehicle down and take lunch.  They have to actually tear it open in places to hit its insides everywhere with water, to make sure there is nothing smoldering, I guess.

Also, there were two tremendous “POP”s as flames enveloped the vehicle.  To a guy who’s seen a lot of war movies, it sounded like ammunition cooking off.  A bystander helpfully informed the rest of us that this was the sound of the airbags exploding.

In some of these shots, you can see the Empire State Building in the background.

Hey — while we’re on the subject of public safety in Manhattan, the members of the United States Army guarding Penn Station were looking as tough and professional as always.  I actually did feel safer traveling.  If you know someone who serves in such a capacity in NYC or elsewhere, thank them for their service.











“Those were the dark days of America’s infancy.”

Following up on yesterday’s blog post about Nathan Hale for July 4th —  I actually wrote briefly about Hale and New York’s revolutionary history in “The Dogs Don’t Bark In Brooklyn Any More.”  It was background information about Brooklyn’s Prospect Park; the novel’s story, of course, takes place in a fictional future.

I actually made up the “local legend” about Hale’s ghost brooding around the arch.  I have no doubt that the park has its share of ghost stories, but this one was only a bit of poetic license on my part:

“[Prospect Park] is a haunted place. Many men have died in the vicinity of its gently rolling hills, though the occasion of their passing predates the park’s mid-nineteenth century creation. The area around Prospect Park is the site of the Revolutionary War’s first and largest major battle, fought in the waning summer of 1776, not two months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

“The fledgling United States fielded its first official army there, with heartbreaking results. The Battle of Brooklyn was a disaster for America, whose sons were outnumbered two-to-one by 22,000 English and Hessian soldiers. George Washington, flush with his victory at Boston, found his forces routed. He barely escaped to Manhattan in a desperate, stealthy evacuation of more than 9,000 troops. On the morning of August 30, he and his retreating men were met along the Brooklyn hills with a miraculous surprise – a dense morning fog that concealed their perilous exit. To Washington and his war-weary comrades, it must have seemed like nothing short of divine intervention. 

“Those were the dark days of America’s infancy – Nathan Hale would not long after be captured on a mission of espionage in Manhattan, disguised as a Dutch schoolteacher, and would be hanged, after his immortal lament that he had but a single life to give for his country. The defeat in Brooklyn also cleared the way for the Crown’s capture of all of New York City. The Great Fire of 1776 would ravage Manhattan. And the city would remain in England’s hands until the end of the war. 

“Ironically, the park’s principal monument is devoted to another war entirely – one in which America turned upon itself. This is the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Memorial Arch, a massive structure dedicated to the Union Army during the Civil War. If there is an afterlife, then perhaps it might break Washington’s heart – and Hale’s – to see the Arch as it stands today, a memorial to Americans killing Americans. Indeed, a local legend holds that Hale’s ghost occasions the site of the Arch and hangs his gaze upon it, glum with the knowledge of a nation divided and torn.”