New York City Blog March 23 – March 28

The venerable Film Forum was showing the equally venerable The Tales of Hoffmann, a 1951 British film directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It’s luscious, filled with brilliant Mediterranean colors. No computer art. It’s gorgeously handmade. Everybody was in it: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Robert Helpmann. I had loved it when I saw it years ago and was smitten by Robert Helpmann. So back I went in time to west Houston Street. Film Forum’s tiny theatre designated for The Tales of Hoffmann was packed with gray, white and bald heads. I still love the film and I suspect my lifelong fascination with the allure of the Mediterranean dates from The Tales of Hoffmann but it’s so long.

The New York Historical Society has a moving exhibit, Chinese American Exclusion/Inclusion. Chinese immigrants were subjected to unjust laws and quotas from 1882 to 1965 and Chinese laborers were denied entrance to the U. S. A.Through documents, photos and a recreated immigration station modeled after Angel Island, a facility that operated in San Francisco Bay between 1910 and 1940, the exhibit gives glimpses into the difficult existence of many Chinese Americans.

Chinese American Exhibit: Exclusion/Inclusion

Chinese American Exhibit: Exclusion/Inclusion

 

We had a delicious meal in the Historical Society’s restaurant. Curiously, it’s named Storico. Storico means history in Italian and the food is sort of Italian but couldn’t the public relations have come up with an apt name for a dining area in an American institution?

 Mao and Nixon

                        Mao and Nixon

I subscribe to a free financial website, Seeking Alpha. Recently a contributor recommended Caterpillar. I wrote in the message section: “CAT machinery is used by the Israelis to destroy Palestinians’ homes. It was a CAT that killed Rachel Corey who championed the rights of Palestinians. I do not advocate buying stock in CAT.”
And this was Seeking Alpha’s reply:We wanted to let you know that we’ve deleted the post copied at the end of this email and explain why. It was deleted because it contains stereotyping, prejudiced or racist language about individuals or the topic under discussion. We encourage you to avoid such language and remind you that the posting of racist, ethnic and similar slurs is grounds for being banned from Seeking Alpha.

New York City Blog March 16 – March 22

In between snow storms and the arrival of spring, a friend and I went to Rosa Mexicano (atmosphere A+, Service A+, Food B, Booze A) and then to Alex Gibney’s documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief.It was being shown at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. We went to the 7 p.m. seating and it ended at 9:15. What’s with documentaries? Does the director love his own voice so much that he can’t shut up? My friend had a discrete nap. So did I. Isn’t sleeping in a movie house restful? About the documentary: there are no surprises. Scientology reminds me of the EST training. Lots of mind bending, lots of chatter about your potential which in the USA means ability to make lots of money and be famous. As the creators of The Book of Mormon once said, everyone’s else’s religion is weird. E. Ron Hubbard in his goofy navel outfit is not my idea of a messiah. Give me Charlton Heston any day. David Miscavige, Hubbard’s heir and Tom Cruise’s best man, looks and acts like Ken, Barbie’s squeeze, on steroids.

The next night I headed south to Gigino’s, a sweetheart of an Italian-American restaurant (atmosphere A+, Service A+ Food B+, Booze A).We then went to Highlights in Jazz at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC Tribeca). Highlights in Jazz is Jack Kleinsinger’s creation. Kleinsinger, dressed in a suit that would make Damon Runyon proud, introduces his pals from the world of jazz. Saxophones Supreme was on the agenda. It was so comforting to hear nostalgic sounds. The evening was a proper anecdote to the onslaught of Scientology.

 

I felt this way after the Scientology documentary

I felt this way after the Scientology documentary.

New York City Blog March 9 – March 15

Felled by a bad cold, I stayed inside for most of the week reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. Bryson catches perfectly the excitement of buying lots of shiny expensive hiking equipment in hopes you’re buying security and safety on the trail. His trail was the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. I went down memory lane with the Appalachian Hiking Club. It originated in Boston but has New York headquarters as well. Bryson and his hiking pal camped. Never did I do that. Never. I was a Saturday hiker. Cadging a ride was an unusual feat. Usually, taking the subway to Port Authority and then the bus to Sloatsburg orTuxedo was routine. On the trail by 10 a.m. and back in the bus by 4 or 5 pm at the latest. A few of the memories are: a stag racing beside us judging a space exactly, and zigzagging through our straggly, bewildered line; the female photographer who took photos of the women peeing, explaining, when confronted by ladies hastily pulling up their drawers, that it was all right because it was for a photography course; the man who asked a surprised woman he didn’t know, and was never going to, if she’d swim in the nude with him for his birthday; meeting up with a bear and her cubs passed without incident, but on the trail back to the car (God bless the internal combustion machine) I kept imaging tree stumps were bear cubs.

Rather than tackling my police procedural, Graphic Lessons, or doing my income taxes, I wasted time trolling sites such as the 20 male celebrities who are shorter than you think (Dustin Hoffman – 5’ 5”, Prince -5’2”)
I gave up preparing my taxes to send to my long suffering tax man. Since I was in a hateful mood, I watched seven co-stars who couldn’t stand each other.

Finally, still coughing, I ventured out on rainy Saturday to a memorial for George Graf Dickerson. One of his daughters did the Talisman painting on the memorial program’s cover. I think it’s wonderful.

Rachel Dickerson  Romano's TalisMan

Rachel Dickerson Romano’s TalisMan

New York City Blog March 1- March 8

On Sunday I pulled on my hiking boots and went to the Frick Collection for a late afternoon concert by Florilegium, an English early music ensemble. The audience, dressed for the weather, resembled an apres skiing group. In contrast the romantic Baroque music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Vivaldi, Telemann was well suited to the brocaded interior of the Frick Music Room.

Afterwards, we had dinner at Marks Hotel. We slid and skidded our way from 70th Street to 77th up a deserted Madison.It was well worth it for the wonderful cocktails, oysters, perfectly cooked salmon and homemade cookies.

You can’t go home again. A friend and I returned to a neighborhood haunt on 12 Street, John’s. We both had fond memories of delicious food in a charming setting. The restaurant itself is still engaging: the neon sign that beckons to neighborhood diners, the nostalgic murals that circle the upper walls, the dark furniture and sparkling white linens, and an original feature: the ornate candle confection. If only the service and food were as good as the surroundings. I remember fondly the sweetbreads, a dish that has been banished from John’s menu. So, I ordered tagliatelli with Tuscan ragout. It was featured on the Food Network’s Dives, Drive-Ins and Diners. I can’t imagine Guy Fieri, the genial host, being served the same dish. Forget about Tuscany. It was definitely barbecue out of a bottle.The waiters behaved as if they were in their mothers’ kitchens. They grabbed plates, acted bored and couldn’t wait to get back to the bar where they exchanged loud jokes. It was very Saturday Night Fever but without John Travolta.

John's: A void to avoid

John’s: A void to avoid

 

New York City Blog Feb. 23 – March 1

The 87th Academy Awards were very pretty and very boring. Shouldn’t the MC be a comedian? Remember Steve Martin making that remark about the teamsters helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his car, Billy Crystal ad-libbing about the elderly man who kept talking and no one could hear him, Ellen DeGeneres’s vacuum cleaner and selfie? This year we got Neil Patrick Harris in his underpants with a scared expression – they told me you’d laugh – on his face. There’s an English music hall ditty, “Always the bridesmaid never the bride…” that I thought of as I watched handsome and hopeful Bradley Cooper sitting in the first row and ready to race to the stage. The same thing happened last year.

 

These are for Bradley Cooper.

These are for Bradley Cooper.

If you like crowded rooms that reek of meat and money, the venerable and lively Keen’s Steak House is the place for you. I don’t know if President Taft, the fattest president, dined there but many of his contemporaries did. In 1905 Lillie Langtry won the right to eat at Keens. She promptly devoured a mutton chop and is now immortalized by a nude painting that hangs over the bar.

The Lilly Lantry Bar at Keens

The Lilly Lantry Bar at Keens

New York City Blog Feb. 16 – Feb. 22

Tuesday I went to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.This is not your grandmother’s MSG. These days it resembles an airport .You go through security. Guards poke through your belongings, a mysterious wand is run over your body. I miss the gone forever freedom of going to an event without being searched, but it’s not a big deal. How would I feel though if I were black or an immigrant?

The buffet dinner in the Club Bar and Grill was perfect for the occasion: creeping through the happy hour crowd at the bar to immediate seating, a buffet line that moved, attentive service and good (not great) food. Rushing out to find our seats, we felt smug because we’d dined, not woofed down hot dogs at the various stands near the arena. I’m a doggie person and get extremely silly over beagles. However, if we had not been able to see the show on the tv monitors the dogs and their trainers would have seemed like ants. Did I pay good money to watch TV? No.

Eighty dollars a seat to watch the dog show on the monitors.

Eighty dollars a seat to watch the dog show on the monitors.

 

With the temperature dipping into the single digits, I met a friend downtown in Tribeca at the BMCC Performing Arts Center. We attended the venerable Highlights in Jazz, 42nd year and still going strong. Bria Skonberg was on the trumpet and the terrific pianist, Gordon Webster, played a selection of jazz favorites and original songs.

New York City Blog Feb. 8 – Feb. 15

Last Sunday at Carnegie Hall Anna Netrebko stepped in at the last minute and sang two divine songs by Dvorak and Strauss, She was conducted by superstar James Levine.Both artists were greeted with thunderous applause. Waiting in the Ladies’ Room line I noticed the different musical scores framed and mounted so you can entertain yourself in the time it takes to get you to your destination.

 

Rachmaninoff's Score

Rachmaninoff’s Score

I ask you is there any cooler address in Manhattan than Via Carota, 51 Grove St.? Maybe it ties with Avenue B. At Via Carota we had, among other dishes, the lard crostini and baccala fritti. Lots of fun to be in a new, jazzy, cozy restaurant on a wintery Sunday evening.

A friend and I went to Alwan for the Arts. The movie was cancelled but there was an exhibit of modern day Palestinian life.

What do these foreign dignitaries have in common with Netanyahu: French Ambassador Andre de Laboulaye and Cuban Ambassador Guillermo Bel? Three guesses.
Why are foreign dignitaries allowed to address Congress? All sorts of reasons: Republicans and Democrats duking it out, political gain for the invited speaker, commemorating the memory of an illustrious forebearer i.e. de Laboulaye spoke about Lafayette. After Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur, the General was invited to speak before Congress. He made his famous speech,”Old soldiers never die, they just fade away”.

New York City Blog Feb. 1 – Feb. 8

Wasn’t the Super Bowl fun? I like football because it’s so American and so politically incorrect. But what’s happened to the cheerleaders? In the old days they were pretty, bouncy, sexy girls. Now, they look as if they take gymnastics very seriously.

I chose a day when the temperature hovered around eleven degrees to go to the Barbara Mathes Gallery to see Rakuko Naito’s paper work.The gallery is a townhouse that has the secure features of a vault, It also has the hushed, immaculate, tony atmosphere that makes you lower your voice. Then on to the Lauder Cubism exhibit at the Met. Picasso, Braque, Gris. Léger are artists in the collection. Cubism grabbed me as a child when I’d wander through MOMA and stand in front of Picasso’s Three Musicians.

Fernand Léger"s The Typographer

Fernand Léger”s The Typographer

NYCB’s Glass Pieces with music by Philip Glass and choreography by Jerome Robbins was the best piece of an afternoon performance. My head was still filled with the images of cubism so I imagined I saw it in Glass Pieces. This is the first time I’ve appreciated Philip Glass. Choreography complements his music.

New York City Blog January 26 – Feb. 1

Was it only last week that Mayor DeBlasio and Governor Cuomo were duking it out as patres familias of New York State? Their squishy football was the blizzard of the century. I think DeBlasio won in the clothing category. He channelled his Italian DNA and slipped into various uniforms throughout the day. The most stylish one was the DSNY’s jacket. Cuomo inherited his late father’s inability to share responsibilities with underlings. He neglected to inform DeBlasio that he, the gov, was closing down the NYC subways. Loads of money were spent to keep us mere citizens locked in our caves. At least no one was killed except from laughing. An example: food delivery guys couldn’t be considered emergencies.

Blizzard equipment

Blizzard equipment

I paid a visit to the Frick’s Portico Gallery to gaze at Jean-Antoine Houdon’s Diana the Huntress. She stands stark nude, on one foot, surrounded by the snowy Fifth Avenue lawn.

A discrete if lousy photo of Diana the Huntress

A discrete if lousy photo of Diana the Huntress

Isn’t cold weather a perfect excuse to eat traditional French food? If you agree, take thee to 26 Seats on Avenue B. French snails are an excuse to gobble butter and garlic, non? The 26 Seats version is delicious if awkward. Most of the lovely flaky pastry lands on your front not in your mouth.

Garlicy snails under a roof of pastry

Garlicy snails under a roof of pastry

Friends and I attended the New York City Ballet’s production of Serenade, Agon and Symphony in C. The Balanchine afternoon was conducted by the world’s smallest conductor, Clotiilde Otranto. Afterwards, we joined several million others at Rosa Mexicana.

One of many divers on Rosa Mexicana's water wall

One of many divers on Rosa Mexicana’s water wall

New York City Blog January 18 – January 25

Be the glitter you wish to see in the world was the message on the Judson Memorial Church’s program about Micah Bucey’s ordination on January 24. The service was filled with physical and spiritual glitter. At least 300 ladies and gents, adults and children sparkled with glittery outfits or witty remarks. Judson burst with affection, love and respect for Rev. Bucey.

Micah Bucey's Ordination

Micah Bucey’s Ordination

On Friday, Jan. 23, Kathy Kelly began her three month sentence at the Lexington, Kentucky prison. She is being imprisoned for protesting drone killings at Whitman Air Force Base.

Bit by bit, detail by detail… My techie friend went with me to the annual Boat Show.Why? To build Steve Kulchek’s interests, to round out his character, his upbringing on Long Island. Did he sell a beloved boat because of his divorce? Did he sell it to finance his daughter’s fancy Rhode Island School of Design education? Did his wonderful Aunt Bess die in a boating accident? I think I killed her off in a hit and run in The Lemrow Mystery. Another boating connection is Con Haggerty, Steve’s uncle, Bess’s husband. Now retired, Con was the detective who introduced Steve to the NYPD world. He lives in Florida and does lots of fishing. As we walked past the Midtown South Precinct on west 35th Street my friend told me to take a photo. The officer on duty outside the building suggested we go inside. This is the kind of spontaneous NYC experience that is golden for a writer. There was a photo of a policeman over a sign, Cop of the Week, in the vestibule. Jimbo Jimenez, my wounded cop, would look good there.