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Insomnia Cookies on Amsterdam shows all the signs of a closed NY business. Windows papered over and barred and doors that don’t open no matter how hard you pull.

However, on closer inspection, the brightly garish awning does not appear to have ever been subjected to the mood swings of a full suite of New York City seasons. Plus I would have remembered cookies, good or bad, in my own neighborhood.

…and, then there’s this article announcing that it’s opening some time soon. When? Where are my cookies? Until there are cookies present and people coming and going eating them, this counts as a pre-closed business.

Also, West Branch closed this summer, much to my disappointment amid widespread public indifference. It lacked something and therefore, while usually busy, was rarely packed. The bartenders made a terrific martini and served decent beer. The UWS continues its mournful, desperate howl for good restaurants.

This restaurant last served a meal on New Year’s Eve. Normally an abandoned building in decay adds some character and history to a landscape or cityscape, delighting and intriguing anyone lucky enough to stumble upon it. But as this photo shows, this structure is clearly a blight and should be torn down and its construction components returned to the corners of the globe from whence they came.

In the first TFW, we discussed how to prepare to write. And by now, you should be ready to put pen to paper, key to keyboard, gray to matter. Today’s article focuses on things you can do while  writing. This list, while exhaustive, is in no way complete or comprehensive. You may have thought of things to do while writing that is not on this list. Send your suggestions to

  1. Chew your food deliberately.
  2. Stare out the window, or wish you had a window from which to stare.
  3. Look things up.
  4. Check your phone for texts, tweets, voice messages.
  5. Make eye contact with someone, then look away at the last second.
  6. Mentally mock writing groups.
  7. Back up your hard drive.
  8. Listen to a “Moth” podcast.
  9. Defy gravity.
  10. Type with your eyes closed.
  11. Tap your leg.
  12. Spill coffee on your keyboard.
  13. Boil spaghetti or linguine. Lay each piece carefully across your closed laptop, tying the ends together, creating a long single strand that wraps around your laptop. Wait overnight for the pieces to harden. Voila! You have a pasta laptop hard case that will amaze your friends.
  14. Run your few remaining dollars through the shredder along with some plain ordinary paper. Tape the pieces together, mixing the plain paper with the dollar bills. Use a green sharpie fine point marker on the plain paper to connect the marks on the dollar paper. Voila! You have increased your spendable money by several dollars. Warning – your new money may no longer be accepted.
  15. Sharpie your laptop screen, then clean it with Borax cleanser (this is in no way an endorsement for Borax, nor is it a condemnation of Borax. It’s just a brand that I know. I could just as easily have said Ajax cleanser. Also, any permanent marker will ruin your screen, not just Sharpie.) Kick yourself for doing something so stupid.

You know, I don’t just take stunning, blurry photos of business decay. I also write words in American English just like the ones you’re reading. I’ve been doing so for most of my life. Along the way, I’ve picked up a few tricks that I’d like to share with you. This is the first in what may be a never repeated feature: Tips for Writers (TFW).

Today’s article focuses on the often neglected practice of preparing to write. As important as it is to sit down and write, and then to edit and re-write, tear it up in frustration and start over, it is just as crucial to get ready. This article discusses simple strategies for preparation that writers new and experience can immediately use.

1. Location is everything
Find the perfect location. If you’re at home, leave. If you’re out, come home and then leave. If you’re at a Starbucks, go to another Starbucks. There’s probably one only a block or two away. Once you’ve done that, try another table. Covet the table by the window. You don’t want a place that’s too full, or too empty. It has to be just right or you’re writing will suffer, so spend as much time as you can finding that perfect space.

2. The medium is everything
As important as location is, the medium you choose for writing is even more importanter. If you like writing on lined paper, try quadrille. If you use a PC, switch to Mac. You’ll like Mac. The keyboard shortcuts are different and it will take you awhile to adapt.

Your computer is old. How could it not be: you’re a writer. Snow Leapord has been released. Windows 7 is coming. For god’s sake, man, you have yet to experience Linux. Your computer doesn’t have all the features you need for writing. WiFi, a decent graphics card, voice activation, thumbprint security: all essential to putting together the perfect story: your story. Start to comparison shop on the web. But to really have an idea of the kind of writing you’ll be able to crank out on your next machine, you have to try it out. Go to the local computer store.

Get the right keyboard: you can’t masterpiecify with a mushy keyboard. You need a clicky tactile response. Ask questions about RAM and ROM and furrow your brow. Abruptly leave because you feel inspired. Walk home quickly. Pass a homeless person and become annoyed. Enter into an inner dialog about why it’s OK to treat the homeless as if they didn’t exist, how your indifference is good for them. Feel bad about even thinking those thoughts. Arrive home dejected and stare morosely at the computer screen, the typewriter, the quadrille writing tablet and the Apple brochure.

Turn on the news for inspiration. After three well-spent research hours pass, pack up your laptop and head back to Starbucks. Eye the table in the window corner and order yourself a well-earned cup of coffee. But someone grabs that spot while you were in line. Go to the other Starbucks a few blocks away.

3. Formatting is everything
Once you have location and medium down for the day, you’re ready to move on to formatting. Whoever said that you should just write, get into the flow and worry about formatting later has not received proper schooling in formatting and simply doesn’t know any better. Pity them and smile.

OK, choose the right font. No one element, after location and medium, is more important than the right font. Maybe margins, spacing and headers, but no, those are all distant seconds, thirds, fourths and fifths. No matter. Concentrate on the typeface, or fontage, as it’s also known. Try out a few of the different fonts – first type a paragraph or two of nonsense text. Check the text carefully to see if you’ve written any actual words. Laugh if you did. Your default font is probably Times New Roman. This won’t do. Nor will Arial.

Go through the font list alphabetically one at a time, and imagine how your manuscript will look in that typeface, how an editor will respond to it. After about a half hour of this, wonder if there’s some kind of freeware tool out there that will print all the fonts on your computer so that you can save some time. Google font tools. Go to a minimum of eleven websites and download some tools. None of them really do exactly what you want. Write an e-mail complaining to the tool’s website. Involve your significant other.

Let’s assume you’ve found THE FONT, downloaded and installed it. Now put some thought into the other aspects of your printed page: margins, headers, footers, page numbering and so on. These are all very personal choices; there really aren’t any standards and editors appreciate creativity here. When in doubt, use lots of colors and visual elements and flourishes.

Final checklist
Now that you have your location chosen, your medium (computer), your font and formatting settled, take a break, you’ve earned it. Call your Significant Other or look up old high school friends. Write a few e-mails. Google some odd word combinations and see where that takes you. Put off as long as possible the typing of words on page – once you’ve done that, there’s no turning back and you don’t want that. You don’t want to get distracted. Sit back in your chair, put your feet up on your desk, take keyboard in hand. Now, you’re ready to write. Begin writing.

Next: things to do whilst writing.

I emerged from the subway to a sound I hadn’t heard in many a long year: peaceful expression of first amendment rights. The echo of a man urging the crowd via bullhorn: “What do we want?!?” The crowd, many holding signs, replies: “Lunch, perhaps a nice pita sandwich and fizzy water.”
“With or without mayo?!?”
“With, and chips would be nice, too!”




I like peaceful demonstration, and even admire demonstration that gets slightly out of hand without involving any violence and afterward the police and the overly enthusiastic revelers settle it over root beer floats. It’s what makes reasonable America so darned interesting.

Does anyone know why the woman in the foreground in focus, but the rest of photo is not? I welcome your photography tips.



Man sitting on truckload of wood wondering whether his plan would cover him in the event of a catastrophic scaffolding collapse…


This blog isn’t about anything as serious as climate change or decimation of species diversity. And frankly, we don’t acknowledge the existence of anything as anything but the pure fabrication and continued hyperbole of the elitist media. Stop elitist media now! More newspapers, less stuff that I disagree with! There, Closed for Business has stated a position.

So our traipse around Alaska last month brought us to the shrinking Mendenhall Glacier. The lake in front of the glacier used to be the glacier. It has formed in the last few years. There are two waterfalls in the photo. One to the immediate right of the glacier, and another farther to the right pouring out of the mountain. Each is relatively recent. You can read all about the rise and fall of Mendenhall anywhere online. You know how to use a search engine…


The path leading to Mendenhall Glacier has occasional markers of its former edge, like the one pictured below. Our guide suggests that within our lifetimes Mendenhall will close for business, simply melting and receding into the distance.


A bald eagle, Mendenhall Glacier.


Moss on a roof, Juneau, AK.


Plywood in use in Juneau, AK.


Ship and wheelbarrow in the mist, Auke Bay, AK.


Closed for Business went on vacation, but returns with images from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. You won’t see whales, bears and bald eagles here, but signs of the times, beginning with these found on a street in Seattle. In the shadow of the monorail.


The above sign leaned against the below building.






I like irony as much as the next guy. This sign proclaiming that “businesses are open” stood steadfastly on the corner of the street with a row of closed businesses in the shadow of the monorail in the middle of the hottest stretch of weather in recent Seattle prepositional memory.


The monorail casts its long shadow.


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Are the Washington Square Tar Mounds, which last erupted in 1893, a threat to public safety? The Tar Mounds, the only known such natural formation on the east coast, have long fascinated visitors to the park. Oddly enough, the parks service, the city’s 311 information system and the National Society of Geological Phenomena (NSGP) make no mention of the Tar Mounds. And these potentially volatile formations have at one time even been used by skateboarders.


In the relative geological calm of the last century plus, life has returned to reclaim some of the formerly barren landscape.


The constant threat of eruption has prompted city officials to enclose the Tar Mounds, creating a safe boundary for viewing by throngs of thrill-seeking tourists.


St. Brigid’s Church, the oldest Keely church still standing in the US, has been closed since 2001. The Committee to Save St. Brigid’s Church has a website describing the condition of the church, photos of the interior, and their efforts to raise funds and restore the building.

The view across from Avenue B. Windows boarded, garbage accumulating on the steps.



A pawlonia tree has taken root in a crack in the base of the building. These fast growing trees do a lot of damage, widening cracks, allowing more moisture to creep in.



In St. Marks Place the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in St. Marks Place. Most places were open, a few places closed, but all the colors much brighter than anywhere else in the city. You’ll see.




Is it open, closed, a business, a home…who knows… But it’s purple!


This is the orange door you heard about.




An editorial.




She made me promise to show things moving in, too.




In St. Mark’s Place, single bicycles come buoyed by the slim hope of meeting their perfect mate only to be ensnared by the insidious Venus Fly Rack. In these photos, often ghoulish and grisly in their stark depictions of bicycle decay, see the result that awaits the unwary traveler.







August 2020

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