Saturday, June 30, 2012

Italy vs. Germany in Queens

Wimbledon has been eating into my time for political blog research.  So, too, have the US Olympic Trials, and now it’s European soccer.  On Thursday, my friend Stephen lured me to join him at a Queens beer garden he recently discovered to watch the Euro 2012 semi-final between Italy and Germany.

And so, this post documents a little bit of Thursday’s foray into Queens.  With our friend, Linda, Stephen and I squeezed into his Suzuki Sidekick and headed over the Triborough Bridge into Queens.  This bridge, re-named the RFK Bridge in 2008, actually consists of three different spans, several smaller bridges and viaducts, and over fourteen miles of approach roads.  

Bronx, NY, Triborough Bridge, Hell's Gate span
This photo shows us crossing the East River suspension span, also known as the Hell’s Gate span.  Triborough Bridge construction began on the on October 25, 1929, the day after “Black Thursday” and the beginning of the Depression.   Work soon halted and would not resume until 1932-33.  But when completed on July 11, 1936, this complex ranked as one of the largest public works projects of the Depression Era.  It was larger, in fact, than Hoover Dam.  As the site, Big Apple History, reminds us, “completing the bridge took 31 million work-hours, in 134 cities, across 20 states.  In the middle of the Depression this project was so huge that it alone buoyed the economy of the whole country.” 

As you can see form my first photograph, the Triborough Bridge lacks the imposing monumentality of a Hoover Dam, and maybe it only can be appreciated if viewed from the air.   Nevertheless, it not only helped to rescue America from the Great Depression; it also continues to serve us well, carrying approximately 200,000 vehicles per day.

This bridge-and-highway complex should make all Americans proud, as should all the other products of the New Deal--FDR’s program which “established the concept of economic security as a collective responsibility,” in the words of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Michael Hiltzik.

Yet, today’s Republicans and conservatives voice nothing but contempt for the New Deal,  and this sorry state of affairs has Hiltzik asking a question that all Americans need to be asking today: “Do conservatives who attack the New Deal actually know what America gained from it?”

How can a significant proportion of our electorate idiotically deny the obvious: that, in Hiltzik’s words, “the New Deal physically reshaped the country. To this day, Americans still rely on its works for transportation, electricity, flood control, housing, and community amenities?”   Consistent with such denials of America’s past history, today’s Republicans refuse to join President Obama and their democratic colleagues in support of a single public works project.  This not only threatens our ability to rebuild America's economy and create jobs that we desperately need.   It also robs future generations of Americans of the opportunity to look back as proudly on this decade as we have looked back at the New Deal.

Did I intimate that this blog post would not delve into politics?  My apologies, but how can I help myself when I can’t even drive five miles without encountering the physical and social benefits of our enlightened political past, nor need I reach further than my pocket to pull out my Social Security and Medicare cards?  But let us proceed to that beer garden and the soccer match.

Queens, NY, Rite Aid store, 36th Street & Broadway
As we drove through Queens on Broadway, I saw a Rite Aid store with some elegant terracotta cornice work.  My first thought was that it might have been an automobile dealership from ca. 1920, but we passed it too quickly for me to get a good look at its sculptural details.   On Googling the address, I discovered that this had once been a Child’s restaurant, and so I at least had the date right. Childs was one of America’s first national dining chains, and by the early 1920s it had expanded to around 125 locations. Close-ups on Google of the sculptural details revealed marine motifs, such as fish, seashells, and seahorses, which were common with Childs restaurants; obviously, this was no auto dealership.  Still, during this period, both sorts of commercial establishments made use of such terracotta decoration and often employed highly reputable architects.  Childs, so I found out, even engaged such respected architects as William Van Alen and McKim, Mead and White. 

Queens, NY, Studio Square, 35-33 36th Street

Queens, NY, Studio Square, interior from entrance
Our destination, Studio Square, appears to be part of a recently renovated, six-story industrial building in Long Island City. Its exterior is plain, and its interior is simply functional: funnel the crowd past the cash register and the first of several bars on the way to the outside beer garden beyond. 

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden
We selected our first draft, proceeded to find our places at long picnic tables, and sat down to watch the game. In deference to Germany, our first drafts were a good Kölsch beer. However, as we sat down, it was clear that the fan base at Studio Square was Italian. 

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden, Carmelo

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden, David
Seated behind us at our table was an entire row of Italy fans. Carmelo not only wore an Italian tee-shirt; he also wore the Italian flag as a cape. A few seats down was, David, wearing his green Italian tee-shirt. 

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden, Celebrating Balotelli's first goal
I’ll leave the game description to the professional sports writers. However, here’s the response to Italy’s first goal, scored by Balotelli, who headed-in a crossing pass from Cassano. This was the twentieth minute of the game. The Studio Square crowd went wild with cheers, song, and chants of “Italia.” In the foreground are my companions, Stephen and Linda. As you can see, Linda seems completely caught-up in the festive atmosphere, even though she has such strong ties to Germany that, naturally, she would have preferred an opposite result.  Linda is nothing, if not a good sport!

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden, Celebrating Balotelli's second goal
Here is the crowd response to Italy’s second goal, also scored by Balotelli.   He took a long pass from Montolivo, sixteen minutes later, controlled the ball well, then sprinted forward and kicked a blazing shot into the top right corner that seemed to freeze the German goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer. 

Queens, NY, Studio Square beer garden, The Italian Flag
The Italian fans had lots to cheer about. Their team had completely outplayed Germany.   Tomorrow, I will watch the final as Italy plays Spain.   Then, it’s back to deciding what my next political subject will be. 

In the meantime, I wish you all a happy and safe Fourth of July.

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