New York City Blog Aug. 22 — Aug. 28

I saw Florence Foster Jenkins. Fine acting by pros Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. It’s a remake of the children’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In this case, the one person who speaks and writes the truth, The New York Post’s critic, is portrayed as the villain for reviewing honestly Jenkins’s Carnegie Hall recital. I didn’t see the point of the movie and I didn’t like Jenkins. She embodied our American mantra: money talks. She manipulated people through her wealth. Florence Foster Jenkins is surrounded by older ladies who are either very, very stupid and honestly think she can sing or they’re dreary social climbers dazzled by her $$$$$. As a gigolo, Hugh Grant is very good at playing a man who’s playing a part. Question: Why should a rich white lady be encouraged to delude herself? Answer: Because she’ s a rich white lady. What do people of color think of Florence Foster Jenkins?

Employees Only is a wonderful restaurant on Hudson Street. Forget the weird name but remember it until you arrive at 510 Hudson. It has a dated speakeasy ambiance, so beloved by us sentimental New Yorkers. Are the five owners/ bartenders pictured in the retro photo? After you arrive at 510 Hudson, you give your name for admittance and enter a dark crowded bar. Oh, where is the cigarette smoke of yesteryear? Then you proceed to a surprisingly bright room with a skylight. The food is delicious. The knockout lamb chops wrapped in bacon, the fresh and tasty succotash. The word conjures up tired veggies but not at Employees Only. Lovely service and lots of fun. Watch out, Minetta Tavern. You have the buzz but Employees Only has the food.

Employees Only

Employees Only

Employees Only Dining Room

Employees Only Dining Room

 

New York City Blog – Aug. 15 — Aug. 20

The Film Forum has had a stroke of genius. It’s offering twofers. For the price of one movie you can see two. They have quite a lineup, starting with Rear Window and Vertigo. I ordered my ticket online. By the time I arrived at the Film Form, sold out signs were posted. Something you don’t often see at the Film Forum. Rear Window was packed. Extra chairs were set up at the back of the theatre. I am an Alfred Hitchcock fan. Rear Window is a great favorite and I’ve seen it numerous times over the years in movie houses, drive-ins and on TV. There’s nothing like an old fashioned movie house packed with fans. The audience was hushed, like children listening to a well loved fairy tale. There’s always something new in a Hitchcock film. This time I concentrated on clothing: Grace Kelly’s lavish Edith Head wardrobe, Wendell Corey as the best dressed NYPD detective ever, the spotlessly attired 21 Club waiter who delivers a lobster dinner, just the thing to serve the world famous photographer and temporary invalid, James Stewart. Hitchcock made his American movies when many people were wrapping their tuxes in mothballs and switching to jeans. Hitchcock preferred bespoke costumes especially for his blonde stars. Didn’t he escort Eva Maria Saint on a Bergdorf’s shopping exhibition for her North by Northwest wardrobe? Rear Window was made in 1954, pre-air conditioning, which is underlined by the couple sleeping on the fire escape but there were Kelly, gossamer in her divine confections and Wendell Corey, dapper and cool in sweltering NYC summer humidity, Thelma Ritter, in a very cute summer dress, dragging a large shovel up and down stairs and ledges as Kelly climbs a few stories in a princess like outfit to the murderer’s lair. Was Hitchcock obsessed with clothes? Wendell Corey comments on the victim’s wardrobe as dated but serviceable. James Stewart comments on the impossibility of Kelly and her wardrobe making do in the wild. The last scene shows Stewart snoring away with two broken legs, while Kelly, dressed down – in jeans! – sneaks a look at Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t stay for Vertigo. Unlike many people, it’s one of my least favorite Hitchcock films.

New York City Blog – Aug. 8 — Aug. 14

The week began with Frick Education Day. It’s held on a Monday, the day the Collection is closed to the public. It’s packed with artsy activities such as making your own Meissen cup.The Girl with the Extra Earring demonstrated how to repurpose old jewelry. There’s orchid repotting, talks about Rembrandt’s self-portrait and about Clodion’s sculpture, I attended a walk-through of Watteau’s military drawings, was photographed in a Renoir painting and ate my lunch in nearby Central Park.The Staff Art Exhibition is a highlight. Eat, Drink, Page! pictured below on the left was done by Ian Rafael Titus in collaboration with Lorenzo De Los Angeles.

 

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Monica Seldom's Cross-eyed Introspection

Monica Seldow’s Cross-eyed Introspection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Davis is one of my favorite American artists. His splashy colors and script move. His signature alone is a work of art. Davis started out drawing commercial products and went on to give Cubism a bold American flavor. The Whitney has mounted a big exhibit that’s on until September 25. Afterwards, we dined in Untitled, the Whitney restaurant. Lovely food, attentive service, lashings of red wine and great conversation but isn’t that a dopey name for a restaurant?

Stuart Davis's Signature

Stuart Davis’s Signature

Stuart Davis: Unfinished Business

Stuart Davis: Unfinished Business

Back to the rock face. I’m finishing the second Steve Kulchek police procedural, Graphic Lessons.

 The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons

The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons

New York City Blog Aug. 1 — Aug. 7

Five and a half hours to fly from Portland, OR. to NYC. I find that amazing, crossing a continent in less time than it takes to drive to upper New York state.

The Airbnb saga has taught me a valuable, expensive lesson. Check descriptions of the property very carefully. Make sure there’s an indoor toilet. Get in touch with Airbnb if you realize you’ve made a dreadful mistake. When you arrive at the property and realize that the owners are trick photographers, take photos of the garage interior that has the fanciful label, The Garden House.

When I return each July from Portland, Oregon I’m concerned that I’ll find my hometown too gritty, rude, pushy, crowded. Not at all. It’s NYC! The Italian saying, autumn begins in August, applies to NYC. The diagonal lighting, the shadows, the summer crowd returning to Manhattan are precursors of fall. Walking by the Carlyle’s Bobby Short Way, I recalled that wonderful singer’s rendition of “Autumn in New York”.

I went to the Met Breuer at 75 St. and Madison. In its previous incarnation as the Whitney I didn’t appreciate the bunker-like building. Now, I do. Is it cleaner? The Met has tweaked the building’s surfaces, crannies and corners. Before, it seemed dusty. Now it seems polished and open for business. It smells like a new car.The enormous elevator, the bluestone floors, the exhibits that go on forever spell Manhattan writ large, 1966 style with 2016 panache. Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible is a wonderful exploration of when is a painting finished. Formerly, the exhibits were artsy, exhibits themselves. Now, they present the work in an exciting but understated way. Strolling from one Diane Arbus photo in a current exhibit recreated lonely aspects of 1950s NYC.

New York City / Portland Blog July 24 – July 31

It’s my third and final week in Portland, Oregon.

This was my second year at the Northwest Book Festival. Last year it was rained out. This year, July 30 was balmy and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room, was packed with tourists. I sold copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announced the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons, honing my selling skills by borrowing ideas from Ben Adams, the author of The Enigmatologist, with whom I shared the booth. It was exhausting but relaxed in the Portland way.

Setting up a tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Setting up a tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

 The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons a Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

A friend and I went to the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, drove by ice capped Mount Hood and had lunch overlooking the Columbia.

Lunch overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

Lunch overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

 

Food has ranged from 1950’s Otto & Anita’s Schnitzel Haus’s Dill Pickle Soup to contemporary raw fish at Murata’s in southwest Portland and wonderful seafood at Jake’s. NYC’s Union Square Farmers Market takes an honorable second place to Portland’s Farmers Market. It’s located on the Portland State University’s campus. It provides shady trees, serenades by various musicians and purveyors of everything from oil to wine and stupendous Italian sausage panini/hoagies/grinders.

My Airbnb adventure taught me a hard won lesson: Always read websites thoroughly. I had had excellent experiences on VRBO and assumed that Airbnb owners would be as ethical. I was wrong. I had paid $2700 in advance and was refunded $701. Luckily, my friends found me a housesitting gig and I landed in a charming cottage with a lovely garden.

New York City / Portland Blog  July 17 – July 23

It’s my second week in Portland, Oregon. It’s been a feast of northwest trees. We visited the Lone Fir Cemetery. From one fir, still standing, in the late nineteenth century to 700 trees and representing 67 species in 2016, Lone Fir Cemetery is Oregon’s second largest arboretum . A woodcutter union honored deceased members with tombstones sculpted like tree trunks.

Woodcutters tombstone in the Lone Fir Cemetery

Woodcutters tombstone in the Lone Fir Cemetery

We walked through the Japanese Garden on a balmy day. On its 5,5 acres, the garden has a plethora of ponds,waterfalls, gardens, rocks and northwest trees: giant Sequoia, Douglas fir.

Portland has old time movie houses that, miraculously, were not demolished. There’s the Baghdad in the Hawthorne area. In addition to roaming in the gilt splendor of the 1940s and seeing movies, you can order wine, beer and food, delivered to your seat. The same is true of the Hollywood movie theatre. It’s such a landmark that the northwest area is now called Hollywood.

 

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

I’ll be attending the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.

New York City / Portland Blog – July-11 – July 16

I’m in Portland, Oregon to visit friends, to get to know this charming city better and to attend the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

For my sins I used Airbnb to rent a place that was probably a converted garage with a curious shed called a moon house. Being a New Yorker, I thought the term, moon house, was a touch of quaint Portlandia and didn’t pay the attention to it I should have. It’s an outhouse. Since we don’t have outhouses in NYC, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I inspected the moon house which is attached to the owners’ house – plumbing, you know. It’s about twenty paces across a crab grass garden. The moon house is a tiny space with a tiny toilet, a tinier sink and a shower that shouts defunct summer camp. The ex-garage or the garden house, as the owner call it, is a dismal room that conjures up the film Psycho, not the Bates motel (if only) but the house on the hill where mom lived. It reeks of solitary confinement and has no running water. For that refinement, you have to go to the moon house. I give the owners full marks for their sense of humor. The wifi password for the ex-garage is goldenroom. They are also superb trick photographers.

Last Friday I was in Cooperstown, N. Y. attending the Glimmerglass production of Sweeney Todd, staying in a wonderful 1950’s motel and having grits and shrimp by the Otsego lake. This week I’m on the west coast, near the Columbia and having green lipped mussels. Somebody’s got to do it.

West coast green lipped mussels

West coast green lipped mussels

East coast grits and shrimp

East coast grits and shrimp

New York City Blog July 1 – July 8

I spent the July 4th weekend at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. Its 1200 acres are adjacent to The Mohonk Preserve, an additional 7500 acres in the Shawangunk Ridge. Hiking friends shorten that to the Gunks. If you like to walk, hike, read, ride, swim, sail, play golf and play shuffleboard, Mohonk is for you. It was founded by a Quaker family, the Smileys, who are still involved in the running of the mountain house and the preserve. Service is a combination of restrained American friendliness and very un-American efficiency. The rooms are spacious. They harken back to a former time with soft lighting and working fireplaces but have very modern, discrete appliances. I felt like a junkie when I discovered I didn’t have a TV in my room. No TV in the rooms??? I had to resort to reading. Lots of delicious food was served in a formal dining room. If you preferred, there was a less formal dining room, buffet style, and a picnic place in the woods.

Overlooking Mohonk Lake

Overlooking Mohonk Lake

Mohonk Gazebo

Mohonk Gazebo

My friends spent the early part of July 4 hiking around the Mohonk Lake. I spent it in the indoor pool. Miracle of miracles we, actually the driver, found a route back to Montclair that was devoid of traffic. I jumped onto the DeCamp Bus and was in Port Authority within the half hour. Mr. Macy had graciously arranged for the Manhattan fireworks to be staged outside my window. As I unpacked, I snapped a few.

July 4. 2016 Fireworks from window

July 4. 2016 Fireworks

Fireworks, July 4, 2016

Fireworks, July 4, 2016

 

 

New York City Blog – June 26- July 1

On Sunday I probably attended more church services than the Pope.

First, breakfast with two wonderful buddies at Cafe Reggio on MacDougal. Early morning is a throwback in time on MacDougal. The usually crowded street is empty except for a few early risers and the sanitation trucks that squirt mysterious substances that smell very New York. Cafe Reggio is a dark, small den with 1920s metal chairs and heavy furniture. It’s the perfect place to meet for delicious strong coffee and gossip. A few blocks away, Judson Memorial Church geared up for Pride Day. An inspired minister told about his father, also a minister, waiting for the younger man to declare his sexual orientation. When the younger man did, his father said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Some father, eh??

 

Judson Memorial Church Gay Pride

Judson Memorial Church
Gay Pride

In the afternoon I scooted to Brooklyn’s Baptist Emmanuel Church for Jazz Vespers. The vast church was filled with the big sound of Gordon Chambers, the vocalist and composer. Chambers glided his way through My Funny Valentine, and Bob Marley’s Redemption. He introduced Deah Harriott, the vocalist and organist. Ms. Harriott like Mr. Chambers is Jamaican. They were backed by a wonderful band. Among others were Trevor Allen on bass, Chris Rob on piano. One of the high points was Gordon Chambers and Deah Harriott romping and singing up and down the aisles of Emmanuel Baptist Church. The place burst with sound. The day ended with a delicious supper at Olea on Lafayette.

New York City Blog – June 20- June 25

June 20 was the summer solstice and the full moon known as Strawberry Moon. It was called the Strawberry Moon by the Algonquin because it occurs when strawberries were harvested. This is the first time in fifty years the summer solstice and the full moon occurred together. The last time was 1967 and it won’t happen again until 2062. I caught a glimpse of the lovely pink moon on Monday.

I spent early Tuesday morning at the NYC Field Office of Detention and Removal Operations. Judson Community Church advocates a humane immigration policy. About fifteen of us accompanied the Haitian man who is a Judson congregant and who has to report to the Department of Homeland Security at Federal Plaza. All went well. We were in and out in no time. It was good news for the next few months for our friend and relief for his legal team. BUT what a ghastly building. It reeks of anxiety. In the faces of the people ordered to report you see despair masked by stoicism. Remember Kafka or any of those other tales of persecution? They reduced me to a sullen boredom. So did Federal Plaza.

Friends and I had a picnic at Wave Hill. Imagine, 28 acres of horticulture gardens overlooking the Hudson. As the British were voting and sweating over Brexit, we wandered on a balmy early evening over the lawns, under the beeches, sniffing the lavender and having a lovely time. The Hudson River sunset photo is by Wallace W., a fine photographer and a fine friend.

Wave Hill Lavender

Wave Hill Lavender

Wave Hill

Wave Hill, looking west to the Hudson