Category Archives: The Bronx

The City Island Conspiracy Continues

Uncovering the City Island Freemason Conspiracy (three picture deal currently in negotiation) really gave me an appetite. So, I headed back onto the main drag, known for its mediocre yet proliferous seafood joints. However, on the way to the south end of the island, where you can’t throw a cat without hitting a restaurant, I found myself waylaid by a rather uncommon sign.

Maybe the word, “Nautical,” which is such a great and underused word, drew me in. Or perhaps the excellently painted sail boat was to blame. Either way,  around the corner  I found a single room store chalk-a-block with all things maritime.

Antique Barometer

Model Santa Maria

Is he suposed to be Italian?

The purveyor of this most curious store? Trader Joe. (John really, but everyone seemed to call him by his nickname.) He lived up to his nomenclature,  in my opinion, when one customer walked in with an anchor, and Trader Joe said, “You’ve got good taste in anchors.”  Indeed.

While full of verve, Joe looked like this was not his first trip off the dock and I asked him if the island had changed much over his lifetime (almost all of which was spent here). Definitely, he replied. Once a thriving seaport, City Island now relies on the tourist industry for economic sustenance. It’s a “restaurant island” were Trader Joe’s words.  I for one would have preferred an isle full of swarthy seagoers, like the ones that must have once supplied our dear Trader with his wares. Life isn’t always fair, as they say, but you can still get popcorn shrimp. Right?

Walking south, my stomach growled, expectant of the  aforepromised battered decapods. However, my wallet demurred. Sammy’s Shrimp Box wanted $15.97 for a basket with fries. What are they trying to pull?  I wondered and stepped back outside to sample one of the many other eateries. But then I noticed something disturbing. Something perhaps even more chilling than the Freemasons. Just look!

Sammy, whoever he is, has not 1, not 2, but 3 restaurants AND a parking lot for each location. So who is behind this fishy monopoly? (Sorry about the pun. I can’t help myself sometimes.) I asked one of the waitresses in le shrimp box, who referred me to the manager, who shall remain nameless because of the following statement. Mr. Manager was having a meeting at the main branch with a man I imagined to be the assistant manager. He said, and I quoth, “You have to get your own crayons and balloons! You’re own your own now.” He then stormed out, leaving his clipboard behind, leaving me to think he would be returning soon. Not so. In the meantime, I became distracted by an acne medication info-commercial they had playing on the bar TV.

“Are you watching this?” asked the bartender.

“Not really.”

“I miss the good old days,” he said, switching it off. “Before they had TVs. People used to talk to one another.”

Now this barkeep philosopher was not some weathered old man just come in from the sea, as it were. Rather fresh faced (I’ll end my description there in case Mr. Manager should ever read this) he went on to describe how technology was tearing our social fabric apart. I concurred and neglected to mention this blog.

After this exchange, I didn’t really care who Sammy was anymore. A Grand Master Freemason no doubt. Better to leave these sorts of things alone. I just wanted my fried shrimp! And I found it at the very end of the island at Johnny’s, a cafeteria-like establishment where my order took all of two seconds.

A little rubbery, but totally passable, I took my lunch  outside to enjoy the view.

Not bad for New York City’s littlest island.

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City Island: The Bronx Riviera

Recently, people have been asking if I do any research before visiting these various and varied neighborhoods. The short answer: No.  I find it far  more interesting to enter a place without any foreknowledge. And so, ignorant with open eyes, I disembarked the bus, you know, wherever on City Island.

In the time that it took to solve the algebraic equation of public transportation necessary to get to this little isle off the Bronx coast (F to the L to the  4 to the  BX-29 = 2.5 hours), I could have flown to Florida. That being said, City Island somewhat resembles the sunshine state and I headed down to the beach, a mere 2 blocks away. In fact , where I got off, the island was a whole 3 blocks wide, which makes one wonder if the inhabitants are at all worried about rising sea levels. But we’ll save that conversation for another day and just enjoy the view for now.

Just look at those condos...

To be honest, I don’t really like the beach. Besides the sand factor, there’s a lot of pressure to “enjoy” oneself and to “relax.” Trying to relax stresses me out, so I spent only enough time there to really start yearning for pavement, all of about 3 minutes.

Walking the streets of City Island a single word came to mind : Cute. Everything is cute and/or cute-cute, sometimes even, regrettably, cutesy. Take for instance, this house:

Cute, no? But with this next house, we’re moving in to cute-cuteville, as in, doesn’t this house look just like a house in Nantucket?

Finally we have cutesy:

hmm… lawn ornament deer reclining beneath a flowery tree. But wait, what’s that behind it? Pink Flamingos. Right. However, we should at least be a little thankful to City Island. After all, how many times do you get the opportunity to say, “Aw, isn’t that cute?” in New York City? NEVER. Except for on City Island, and sometimes, even cutesy is kind of nice.

Still, a little bit goes a long way, so thankfully, I happened upon a graveyard before my eyes glazed over with honey.

eternity with a view

Now, while all these people may be dead, there’s nothing like seeing the span of a lifetime in two numbers and a dash to remind you of how long life can be. This couple for example

lived through both World Wars, the majority of the Cold War, Vaudeville, Elvis, the 60s, and Depeche Mode. That is a lot of life, to say the least.

But reveling in the strange beauty of life and death as we know them was not the only point of interest in this place of rest. Like any halfway decent graveyard, this one had its mysteries and many of its headstones bore the ominous sign of the Freemasons:

Not just for gravestones, later on I saw this famously infamous sign on the sides of buildings and on the lapel of a jacket I almost bought at a yard sale. (It was a little too big.) I had to uncover this clandestine mystery so close to the shores of the center of American finance and culture. What scandalous plan could they be hatching? Is our very way of life at stake, held in the hands of this uber-secret society? For answers, I went straight to the source –  www.bronxmasons.com, their website and clicked on the “Got Questions?” link. As if to beguile the viewer, their website is pretty poorly designed and hard to read. Also, the writing isn’t that good, I mean, the writing is cryptic! But as far as I can tell, some fishermen and sailors got together in 1918 and started a Lodge to take care of member’s widows, orphans, and business interests. But when I clicked on “Famous Masons part 1” I received the enigmatic message: “404 Not Found, sorry but the content you request could not be found.” I suppose it should have come as no surprise that these cloak-and-dagger cultists should keep their hand close. Well, score one for the City Island Freemason’s – but I’ll be back!

Later this week: the original Trader Joe. Rest assured, he doesn’t sell organic snacks and moderately priced hormone free meats.

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