“The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits.” Who said this earlier this week? Pope Francis, that’s who. In his 2013 encyclical, Evangelii Gaudeum (Joy of the Gospel), he lambasts our obsession with wealth. “Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world.” He says that the death of an elderly woman from hunger isn’t news, but the drop of a few stock market points is. Way to go, Pope Francis. He’s one of the bad boys of Roman Catholicism, the Jesuits.Have you ever sat through a performance and felt that it was one of the most exciting experiences you have ever had? That’s what happened last Sunday at Lincoln Center’s Chamber Music Society (CMS) five p.m. concert. Pianist Alessio Bax sailed and thundered through Liszt’s “Après une lecture du Dante, fantasia quasi sonata”. More! More!Thanksgiving is such a piece of baggage. I got off easily this year, responsible for only two dishes: Citarella’s wonderful shrimp and my tried and true onion dish.Invited to a dear friend’s Brooklyn apartment, I met three of her four children. All of them have their mother’s wit which made for a very amusing time.
On Nov. 19th I met Colin Huggins at a trendy Starbucks lookalike on the Bowery. It’s across the street from the former CBGB. Maybe in homage, the music in the coffee place was almost as loud as the punk music club’s in its prime. Colin has labeled himself the crazy piano guy. He’s the one you see and hear playing his Yamaha baby grand in Washington Square Park. How did he get it there? He used to drag and pull one of his Craig’s List pianos on piano dollies. Now, he’s using one good piano and has a crew load it up from a nearby storage unit and then set it up in the park. I asked him if the Parks Department required a special license. It doesn’t as long as he uses no electricity. The hours are long. In summertime, Colin plays twelve hours on each of the weekend days. In fall and spring that’s reduced to eight hours and during the winter he signs off at 3:30. All that weather is bad for the piano, but as Colin said he could maintain the Yamaha inside, but then he’d make no money. I nosed around about his finances. He said most of what he earned went to rent. Colin, Georgia born, pointed to the cider and grilled cheese he’d just bought for $15, commenting on how expensive NYC is. His three CDs were labors of love. He said that anything can be downloaded and that cuts into sales. On his website he compares himself to Gollum from The Hobbit. I think there’s a Middle-earth quality to hearing Brahms and then discover a very serious young man playing a very serious piano near the Washington Square fountain.
. A Brooklyn mystery: On their walks around Brooklyn, a friend and her grandson keep finding the photos below. What do the symbols represent? Are they
surveyors’ marks? All suggestions are welcomed.
On Tuesday I went to Paul Taylor’s studio on Grand Street. Julia Foulkes, a New School history professor and Carolyn Adams, a principal dancer with the Taylor Company from 1965 -1982 discussed Taylor’s “From Sea to Shining Sea”, first danced in 1965. The room is a large space with wooden flooring, white walls, and a high ceiling. Circular windows look out onto Grand Street. The audience of about sixty people sat on a raised platform facing inward across the space toward a large screen. Professor Foulkes spoke about the political influences of the time: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the Kennedys, King, Malcolm X, the riots and the Civil Rights Bill.Various clips of the piece were shown. The earliest was from German television, its grainy black and white quality added to the feeling that we were stepping into the 1960s. Taylor was quoted as describing the backdrop of “From Sea to Shining Sea” as patriotism past its prime. Carolyn Adams contrasted the dancer’s emphasis on getting the choreography right. She said, “The information is in the task.” Ms. Adams told an amusing story about auditioning for Taylor. She was still at school and went to the audition because he had a nice reputation. After a long day, she wanted to leave to finish a term paper, but Taylor stopped her. She told him she wouldn’t have come if she knew he was going to pick her.Pick her, he did and she’s now on the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation board. It was a delightful evening. Both speakers were articulate, amusing and listened to each other. Another plus: the talk was only one hour long. A lovely New York evening.
On Friday I went to a Sondheim/Marsalis evening at City Center. It went on forever. Does anyone else find Sondheim monotonous? There’s a little dark cloud that sits on top of his art. That sense of impending depression flattens his music for me.I am certainly in the minority. Spruced up City Center was packed with devotees, eager to clap and shout bravo.
On Sunday, Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist, had parked his piano near the fountain and was enthralling the public. Brahms thundered across the square.
I’m basking in the Venetian afterglow. Last Monday, Oct. 28, we climbed into a water taxi at 3 a.m. and headed across the lagoon and into the open sea to the Marco Polo Airport to take a flight to Amsterdam at 6:30. Shades of Key Largo. The fog shrouded us in our noisy motor boat, giving the impression that it was snowing. At the airport, we found the entrances locked but got in by taking an external elevator to somewhere in the building. Marco Polo Airport is snazzy and small. Starting at 5 a.m. you can buy delicious coffee in its many variations. Delta had instructed us that as of late October, Venice was no longer a one-stop destination.That’s why we were shunted to KLM for a stop over in Amsterdam. As we approached Schiphol, the pilot announced (groan) turbulence was to be expected because of the storm battering the U. K. We rocked and rolled our way to Amsterdam, then caught a Delta flight to NYC.
The Venetians were preparing for their marathon on Sunday, Oct. 27. It was great fun walking across the pontoon bridge that spanned the Grand Canal from the Salute to San Marco. I had done it one other time when I was in Venice for the July festival of the Redentore which commemorated the end of a 16th century plague. That temporary bridge connects Palladio’s Redentore to San Marco.
We are in our second Venetian week, concentrating on walking from the Dorsoduro to the Fondamenta Nuova in ten minutes, exploring the Naval Museum of the Serenissima (Venice to you). Imagine, a room dedicated to gondolas, including Peggy Guggenhheim’s.There’s a copy of the last Bucintoro, the Doge’s ship, from which the Doge threw a ring into the lagoon symbolizing the marriage of Venice to the sea.
Only in Venice: During the week the Venice Marathon Bridge was erected across the Grand Canal from the tip of the Dorsoduro to San Marco. The general public can walk across it the day before the marathon. On Sunday, the Marathon is run. A temporary walkway is constructed for religious festivals such as the Redentore to celebrate the end of the plague in the fifteenth century as well as for athletic events. Next week I’ll include photos.
Wecome to Venice! We arrived on Tuesday, Oct. 15 at Marco Polo Airport and took the Alilaguna (wings of the lagoon) into the city to the sestiere(one of the six Venetian sections) of Dorsoduro. We dragged our luggage over the inevitable, and at any other time charming, bridges to our hotel. Since then we’ve walked from the Zattere on the far side of the Dorsoduro across the Accademia bridge to the Fondamente Nove, stopping in at churches and shops along the way. San Giovanni and Paolo has a wonderful, vast interior filled with crypts, chapels, equestrian statues, reliques and a chair reserved for the doge. On its exterior walls are reliefs of dignified lions, the symbol of Venice. The weather has been sunny and cool but there’s evidence of aqua alta. The platforms that are placed on top of the watery walkways are stacked around the city. The food has been delicious – fresh and homemade. Desserts were never given the same care as the rest of the meal and I think it’s still true. Last night I had a concoction that tasted and was the same color as toothpaste.At my friend’s suggestion, we went to a wine shop that makes its own wine. We bought bottles of red still wine and one of sparkly prosecco, watched him fill the bottles and trotted them back to the hotel, to be returned when empty. More later.
It’s been a busy week. On Monday, I attended a concert reading of Walden, The Musical. It’s about Thoreau and the Underground RR. The treatment of the theme is reverential. A few days later I headed into outer space with Imax glasses, George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.I guess they couldn’t hire a robot so they settled on Bullock.Buffed but girly, cited as a genius but unable to read the space ship’s dials or how to land it, she could have been a member of the 9/11 gang. I want to dislike Clooney but he does his regular guy routine to perfection. $22!
I was supposed to go to the National Museum of the American Indian. It’s downtown near Battery Park and housed in the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, but it was not to be.My witty friend, J. D., explains it all: Syllogism of the day: The Museum of the American Indian is part of the Smithsonian Museum.The Smithsonian is run by the Federal Government. The Federal Government is shut down.Therefore, the Museum of the American Indian is ….
The Book of Mormon was a hoot. I’m still laughing over its inspired naughtiness. It’s at that dusty old fossil, the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. The theatre rocked with laughter. A young Chicagoan told me she was shocked, delighted, but shocked. Are we New Yorkers more blunt about political correctness and the taboo subjects of politics and race? Hope so.
If you squint, you can see the stag with the cross between his antlers perched at the top of the church’s pediment.