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BETTER THAN HEARSAY - The Bliss of Maisie and Blissville

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 4/17/24 | 4/17/24

By Michael Ryan

EAST JEWETT - One of my favorite writers, Joseph Campbell, talks a lot about following your bliss which for some seems simpler than for others.

I’m not sure I’ve ever found mine, except for breathing, so I was naturally drawn to a film created by East Jewett resident Hank Linhart.

It is called “Blissville” and is about an interesting little community in the New York City borough of Queens, and I thought, “what a wonderful spot that must be, everything euphoric and flowing,” 

Silly me. Turns out Blissville is an almost forgotten place although Linhart brings it to life again in his feature-length flik which he was scheduled to show recently at the Main Street Community Theater in Windham.

Then a spring snowstorm hit and it got cancelled but Linhart is hoping to screen it in Hunter sometime soon along with other documentaries and shorts produced by more independent filmmakers.

There is a fun story about him previously showing “Blissful” at the Arts Center in Prattsville and his beloved pup Maisie which we will get to.

First, a bit about the movie which, according to an overview on the Brick Underground website, happened after Linhart took a by-chance walk through “Blissville,” unexpectedly feeling inspired.

Labeling it a “docu-poem,” Linhart is quoted in Brick Underground as saying it is, “sort of about looking at the overlooked places and the overlooked history of places.

“It’s also about looking at places that you drive through and you don’t think anything of,” Linhart says, collecting interviews with past and present residents of the neighborhood.

The actual Blissville is a “slice of Long Island City bordered by Calvary Cemetery, the Long Island Expressway and Newtown Creek, a rough-hewn, mostly forgotten outpost of New York City,” the website states.

“Once a bustling industrial hub, most of Blissville today is occupied by warehouses, auto repair shops…and still some factories. 

“There is also a light sprinkling of homes and storefronts, and much of the building stock dates back to the 19th century. 

“Calvary Cemetery looms along the length of Greenpoint Avenue, the main drag of the neighborhood. 

“The walls surrounding the cemetery, and some of the nearby streets, are littered with broken bottles and other trash, giving today's Blissville an unloved look.

“The gated cemetery is the only swath of green in the neighborhood—there are no parks or playgrounds.  

“In the neighborhood’s odiferous glory days in the 19th century, its location on the banks of Newtown Creek is what made Blissville a place to know.

“By the 1850s, the creek’s banks were lined with glue factories, smelting and fat-rendering plants, refineries, foundries and other heavy industries, connected to the rest of the country by trains that ran through the area.  

“In the 1600s the area was said to be a center for piracy, home to some of the folks who sailed with Captain Kidd. Legend has it that one of Kidd’s friends let him stash some of his plunder in the area.

“According to a study of Newtown Creek by a group of Columbia University graduate students, Peter Stuyvesant couldn't persuade anyone in New Amsterdam to settle in the area in the mid 1600s.

“By the 1700s farms were being established and settlements began to appear. The land that is now the [Calvary Cemetery] was once a prosperous tobacco plantation,” the website states.

“The cemetery is a popular movie and television location: Bruce Wayne’s parents and Spiderman’s Uncle Ben are buried there, and it is the final cinematic resting place of Vito Corleone.  

“In the 1830s and 40s Neziah Bliss, a forward-thinking businessman and industrialist, bought up much of the land that is now Greenpoint and Blissville.

“Much of Bliss’s commercial success can be traced back to the early 1800’s when he began a fortuitous friendship with Robert Fulton, the man who, although he did not invent the steamboat, was responsible for making it a commercially successful means of travel.”

There is more to the cinematic story, such as Blissville having the world’s largest fortune cookie factory, a factory holding exclusive rights to make reproductions of Statue of Liberty and proud Romanian gypsies.

Maisie, who has since passed, enters the scene as part of Linhart earlier touring with his film, stopping at 49 locations and a state prison, always accompanied by his precious pup.

“She went to all the screenings,” says Linhart, a former video arts teacher at NYU, noting he’d close the night with a question and answer session.

“Maisie got into this thing where after four or five questions, she would pick up her leash in her mouth and walk over to me, saying, ‘it’s time. Let’s get out of here.’ It cracked me up.”

Linhart hopes “Blissville” will soon be coming to a theater near you, sharing with the audience, “an isolated, remarkable place.”


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