New York City Blog May 16 — May 24

The blog week began with a Saturday afternoon of Bournonville at New York City Ballet: Bournonville Divertissements, followed by La Sylphide. Dreamy and wonderful.

After that, Basta Pasta.  Who Knew? A Japanese-Italian fusion restaurant that works and because the food is delicious, the service good and the ambience full of NYC-Toyko buzz, it’s jam packed.

The Faux Simplicity of Basta Pasta

The Faux Simplicity of Basta Pasta

 

The week ended with friends and me driving to Granville, N. Y. to spend the Memorial Day weekend. We stayed in an 1880 townhouse that’s been in their family for decades. Bragging rights: We dined with utensils engraved with the word, Showboat, because Jerome Kern sold his yacht – the Showboat named after Showboat, get it? – to my friend’s great grandpa.

 

Squint to read Showboat.

Squint to read Showboat

Roy Egg is in nearby and almost impossible to find West Pawlet, Vermont. It’s owned by Roy Egg who lives down the street on Egg Street in New York State. Roy’s devotion to the chicken is displayed in his checkered art gallery. In 1993, Roy entered a decorated egg contest sponsored by the White House. He won for Vermont and was invited to the White House and received a plaque commemorating the event from Laura Bush. Who knew Republicans were camp? I think Jeb Bush should get behind this.

Roy's Winning Egg

Roy’s Winning Egg

Ho Jo, anyone? Because of a savvy publicist who has connections at The New York Times, there was an article about Howard Johnson’s being revived and opening in Lake George. From Granville we drove to Lake George to have supper at Ho Jo’s. Three of our group were against it but two of us prevailed. With tears in my eyes – long ago memories of fried clams and strawberry ice cream – I imagined the menu like the holy writ of fine fifties dining; fried everything except the great sundaes.We tore up Route 22, struggled through the traffic and crowds in the Gatlnburg of the North, i.e. Lake George Village and found the orange roof with the adorable weather vane depicting Simple Simon met a pieman going to the fair. Since I was the most enthusiastic cheerleader – Go happy, go HoJo! I raced out of the van. A smiling guy approached me and said, “Sorry, we’re closing.” “ What?” I said aghast, hearing snickers from the car. The smiling guy continued, Because they did not have enough help (This is Memorial Day Sunday) they were closing early. Did three of our group pay the guy to say this? I went into the restaurant. It was almost empty. Worse it was mall like. No cute waitresses in great uniforms. Nothing funny and sunny and slightly lame brained. It was all mall and superimposed on a community, Lake George Village, that has far too much manufactured food/clothing/gift/ you name it shops. We found, thank you to the internet and a member of our group who had wanted to go to Ho Jo’s, a waterside restaurant that seemed to belong in Lake George, the Docksider. Lovely vodka tonics and a great deal of laughing over the HoJo excursion.

New York City Blog May 10-16

I went to an afternoon concert at Carnegie Hall expecting to hear mezzo-soprano, Sarah Craft Nelson. What a surprise to open the program and discover I was about to hear the Bob Jones University Singers. Why not? Eventually, Sarah Nelson Craft appeared under the aegis of the Masterworks Festival Chorus and New York City Chamber Orchestra. Her lustrous voice soared and glided in Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Later in the day a friend and I indulged in Minetta Tavern’s marrow bones and the bartender’s traditional Tom Collins. Like Sardi’s the Minetta Tavern’s walls are covered with caricatures of well know and unknown and forgotten celebrities.

 

Minetta Tavern Celebrity

Minetta Tavern Celebrity

A Columbia alumnus and I went to the Cosmopolitan Club’s Library for a Columbia sponsored talk on George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The participants fell over themselves musing about women’s rights in nineteenth century England. Have you noticed how Middlemarch has become one of those books you MUST like? The Cosmopolitan’s library is a dream. It’s filled with books: fiction, non-fiction, weighty dictionaries, picture books. There are comfy chairs to flop in and read or daydream or gaze out the eighth floor windows at Manhattan.

 

Cosmopolitan Club Library

Cosmopolitan Club Library

A late afternoon CMS Spanish Dances concert at Alice Tully Hall rounded off a busy week. A Boccherini string quintet followed by Paganini’s Terzetto Concertante featured the fabulous classical guitarist, Jason Vieaux. After the intermission, Alessio Bax, the pianist and Benjamin Beilman, the violinist roared through several pieces by Falla and then topped their performance with Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano. Both performers are determined and exciting. I had given up a performance at Carnegie Hall to see Bax and was not disappointed.

About time: the Vatican finally recognized the State of Palestine.

New York City Blog May 2 — May 9

Alwan for the Arts on Beaver Street presented an evening of Flamenco and Arab Music, We arrived just in time to get the last two seats in the room on the fourth floor. The chairs were arranged in a semicircle. The six musicians and their various instruments: ouds, guitars, violins, tablas (like bongos), riqs (like tambourines) and drums faced us and there was a tiny space for dancing. It was a perfect NYC evening: intimate, exciting, multicultural, exotic, erotic. Barbara Martinez sang and danced alone and with the percussionist and dancer, Ramzi Eledlebi. Carmen, Steve Kulchek’s long time girlfriend, danced flamenco. Steve made a brave attempt.

Flamenco dancers: Ramzi Eledlebi and Barbara Martinez

Flamenco dancers: Ramzi Eledlebi and Barbara Martinez

Late Sunday afternoon was spent at Alice Tully Hall. CMS, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, presented a Beethoven and Ligeti concert. Alice Tully Hall is a wonderful space. There is room between the seats so that people can pass others. I had heard that Alice Tully was tall and made leg room a requirement of a hall that was financed by her.

I had two book parties in one evening: Bart Boehlert’s and Father Brown’s. The first was in real life. Bart and his companion, Ted Dawson, hosted a relaxed, early evening book party at Judson Memorial Church. Surrounded by John La Farge painted glass windows and Augustus St. Gaudens’s sculpture, we sat in a cozy circle in the Meeting Room. Bart told us about his memoir, HOW I LOOK.The cover, designed by Ted, shows Bart’s very buffed back as he looks at Whistler’s Theodore Durer. Bart spoke about his own life and his mother’s early influence on his respect for American fashion, exemplified by Perry Ellis. Bart mentioned Ellis’s attention to detail. The same could be said about his wonderfully written and designed book which is available on Amazon.

Bart Boehlert's How I Look

Bart Boehlert’s How I Look

 

From a UCC church setting I went to a Roman Catholic setting. As soon as I arrived home, I switched on the TV to Channel 21’s Father Brown. Needless to say, the R.C. book signing party was bloodier than the UCC one. Being a mystery set in the 1950s English landed gentry countryside, there is always murder, but there’s always lovely fashion too.

We heard Wycliffe Gordon at Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights in Jazz held at Manhattan Community College. The first set was great. The second set was long winded. Jay Leonhart, the respected bass player, has taken to verbal riffs that do not match the quality of his playing.

New York City Blog April 27 — May 2

Ruth Rendell died today. She was a great and prolific writer. R. I. P. The Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a baby girl today. May her life be as rich and full as Ruth Rendell’s.

My condolences to the Nepalese. Why are the most beautiful places often plagued with dangerous weather? I was in Nepal, briefly, many years ago. I flew from New Delhi in a tiny white Nepalese Airlines plane. We landed in the magical city of Katmandu and then gazed at misty, fogged-in Everest.

I was at the Frick Collection on Friday. It was packed. Was it because of the Sèvres exhibit or Coypel’s Don Quixote Tapestries? Maybe, but I think the Russell Page garden had something to do with it. Controversy is good for a museum, don’t you think? The air was buzzing with talk of the Russell Page garden being replaced by offices. Page designed the garden in the Seventies.He is reputed to have said it was a scene to be looked at. If people wanted to walk they could go to nearby Central Park. In the snapshot, gardeners’ equipment is in front of the lily pond. The Frick has a beautiful and informative website. You can download its app.

 

Russell Page Garden at the Frick Collection

Russell Page Garden at the Frick Collection

Speaking of Central Park, it is in its lovely spring mode.

Central Park on May 1

Central Park on May 1

Finally, a shout out to Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi for withdrawing from the PEN ceremony. If only the powers that be had seen fit to honor Ruth Rendell.

New York City Blog April 20 — April 26

GVSHP (Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation) notified its members about a symposium being sponsored by The Museum of the City of New York to celebrate its new exhibit, Saving Place. A friend and I, fortified by sangria, attended Redefining Preservation for the 21st Century held at the New York Academy of Medicine. The Great and the Good fell over themselves lauding their commitment to preservation and how it will help keep NYC a dynamic, international city. Afterwards, there was a reception at the Museum of the City of New York.
What a facelift the museum has had, even better than Madonna’s. I remember it when it was fusty. Then it transitioned into a place for school groups. Now, it’s cool NYC. Unless the word cool is too dated to describe it. Here’s the logo. Who would have thought that Twitter blue could be so hot? And the emphasis on the word, city. I mean CITY.

Museum of the City of New York Logo

Museum of the City of New York Logo

Donna40! This weekend Judson Memorial Church celebrated the forty year ministry of Donna Schaper. A symposium, cocktails, dancing, dinner and a Sunday sermon were all part of the mix. Donna, like her predecessor, Howard Moody, has the ability to fill the house. Judson is teeming with people of all ages. I wish I could say with people of all colors. We’re still predominantly white. The Donna40! program has a jazzy portrait done by Ward Sutton. Here’s a quote from Donna’s essay, My Five Best Mistakes: A Vision in the City. “…I should have enjoyed conflict so much more that I did. It almost always gave birth to good things!”

Ward Sutton's Donna40!

Ward Sutton’s Donna40!

New York City Blog April 12 — April 19

A friend and I went to the last performance of My Name is Rachel Corrie at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. Rachel Corrie was a Palestinian peace activist from Washington state. She was killed by the Israelis as she protested the demolition of a Palestinian dwelling.Rachel Corrie was bulldozed by a Caterpillar and died shortly thereafter. Alan Rickman, the English actor and playwright, and Katharine Viner, the journalist and playwright, adapted Corrie’s diaries and emails.Charlotte Hemmings did a fine job portraying the articulate, combative, idealistic twenty-three year old.

To the west of the Lynn Grave theatre on Bleecker is the only building Louis Sullivan, the Chicago architect, built in NYC. The Bayard Condit building opened in 1899 and is glorious. No wonder Frank Lloyd Wright called Sullivan his mentor.

We went to Bleecker Kitchen & Co. for supper. What a delightful surprise. The setting doesn’t suggest the sophisticated menu. I had a whole but small bronzino, served with the tail and head, the way Europeans and Asians eat fish. It was surrounded by roasted potatoes and fresh, well seasoned greens. My friend had the halibut and said it was great. Rather than dessert we had a delicious cheese dish – real cheese, not prepackaged rubbish – and fresh fruit. Everything worked: a comfortable table, great service and, most of all, memorable food.

Dior and I at the Film Forum is fascinating for anyone interested in the glamorous couture world of Paris. It’s a well done documentary about Rif Simon, the Belgian designer who heads Dior. Afterwards, I looked him up on Wikipedia and was horrified to learn that he won’t hire models of color.

My chatty taxi driver told me he was an habitué of the Film Forum but being straight and never caring about clothes he’d pass on the documentary. He reminded me that 1915 was a banner year for American entertainment. Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, and Orson Welles would all be 100 this year.

New York City Blog April 5 — April 11

Judson Memorial Church was packed on Easter Sunday. The clergy conducted the service, the choir sang with gusto and the cooks arranged the parishioners’ gifts of food – ham anyone?- A few brave women revived the Easter bonnet tradition.We were asked to write on a strip of ribbon what we treasured most and then hang the ribbon on the line pictured in the photo. Buddhism + United Church of Christ?

Easter at Judson

Easter at Judson

Eugène Green”s Sapienza was showing at Film Forum. The photography is wonderful.It’s a thoughtful, formal whirlwind tour of Borromini’s architecture. How do you determine your love of a place? One of my ways is its architecture.

A delicious dinner at Molyvos preceded a Carnegie Hall evening with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock. Do these musicians walk on water? The multiage audience thought so. We were seated in the central balcony which is five stairways north. We were surrounded by fans who were utterly silent during the music and gloriously rowdy when applauding. Did you see The Red Shoes? There’s a scene in the Covent Garden peanut gallery showing the passion of the poor, young, talented students. I thought of that at Carnegie Hall. As much as I admire Hancock’s and Corea’s work, the real stars were the audience.
On Friday, I spent a civilized two hours in the Frick’s Music Room. Clinton Luckett, ABC’s ballet master, stood ramrod straight and explained in a too soft voice the convoluted origins of the Don Quixote ballet. Excerpts from the ballet were performed by ABC artists. It was so precious we could have been encased in a Fabergé egg.

See you in Portland, Oregon on July 25, 2015

I’ve been invited to participate in the NW Book Festival. If you’re in Portland, please stop by my booth. I’d love to see you.Book Logo

Welcome to the official Web site of the

7th Annual NW Book Festival!

Saturday, July 25, 2015
11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland, OR
(corner of SW Morrison and SW Sixth Avenue)

AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS:
Download the contract for 2015 here

The public is invited
to attend this event
FREE on July 25, 2015!

See the website for all Authors Attending! http://nwbookfestival.com

New York City Blog March 29 – April 4

I went to the monthly book club at the Central Park Arsenal, built between 1847 – 1851. It had stored New York State Militia arms and the building predates the park. We met in a renovated room on the third floor complete with a new table and matching chairs. It smelled like a new car. I miss the too large wooden table, the chairs that were deceptive rockers. If caught off guard you’d go into a swinging motion like an amusement park ride. Most of all I miss Frederick Law Olmsted’s and Calvert Vaux’s 1857 design plan that hung on one wall. The men had submitted it to the Central Park design competition. Now, it’s in some safe, prestigious spot.
We talked about the most recently read book, Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I wonder if Bryson has ever received a more thoughtful discussion of one of his works. The book club is made up of professional gardeners, landscape artists and environmentalists. All are serious readers. Some liked Bryson’s larky, take it or leave it attitude to nature, but some dismissed the book as too frivolous. Since I write mysteries I appreciate the difficulty of writing a well crafted story, but as an astute reader pointed out, A Walk in the Woods seemed like a movie script. Ouch. Once I heard that I thought of the set dialogue, Sancho Panza sidekick and predictably happy ending.

Entrance to the 5th Avenue and 59th Street Subway

Entrance to the 5th Avenue and 59th Street Subway

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few blocks north and a few days later, I went to the Frick Collection to see Charles Coypel’s Don Quixote’s Tapestries. Coypel’s eighteenth century drawings of the novel, Don Quixote, were woven into tapestries by Gobelins. At the Frick they’re hung in the Oval Room and East Gallery. They gleam. it’s hard not to touch them.

 

Charles Coypel's Don Quixote Tapestry at the Frick

Steve Kulchek told me that his Uncle Con, a retired NYPD detective, started out as a patrolman. His beat, as they said in those days, included 5th Avenue and 70th Street. Con was ordered to pick up a man who lived in a nearby building for questioning. When Con went to the apartment, the guy’s wife told him that her husband was at the Frick. Con thought the Frick was a movie house.At that time, there were several in the area. So Con combed them. Finally, someone enlightened him. Con went to the Frick Collection and collected the guy in front of a Memling.

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.