Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Just because

Michael O’Donovan, Harriet Rich O’Donovan (later Sheehy), and their child Hallie-Og -- Og being Gaelic for “small” or wee one. They lived on Hicks St, Columbia Heights, and Pierrepont St. in the late 1950s and early 1960s, between peripatetic transcontinental and trans-Atlantic wanderings. The photo is undated, but based on the Og’s 1958 birthdate, we may safely assume early 1960s. Michael O’Donovan (1903-66) was better known as Frank O’Connor, one of the great short story writers, and another in a long line of Ireland’s exiles. This image isn’t in color so you’ll have to imagine his “pink Fenian face,” as Roger Angell described it, although he doesn’t look so Oirish to me. He was, however, imprisoned by the Free State from 1922-23, so his Fenian credentials seem secure.

But meanwhile, look at that majestic skyline! Before all the bland boxes were put up on South Street by the sq-ft-nimrods. From an imaginary line rising between from baby and mother, you have 20 Exchange, with its chamfered tower; going right, fading, is 1 Wall, then 40 Wall, then 70 Pine. But, oh-oh, what’s that pale rectangular block looming behind 70 Pine? Smells like a Rockefeller to me. It’s Chase Manhattan, completed in 1960; thus spake David, and behold, Midtown would not triumph. Nor, of course, would the waterfront. There’s actually a ship tied to the pier to the far left. The FIRE boys put all the eggs in one basket (and you know what happened to the golden goose, or was it a fatted calf?); they didn’t want any of that dirty stuff soiling the city. At long last they got their wish, killing industry in the city, throwing a small minority to the top of the heap, crippling the working class. Those warehouses below the Promenade, mostly dead in the years I’ve lived in Brooklyn, have now all been torn down, although some of the frames have been left in place. For a rock-climbing folly, perhaps?

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