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.
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
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
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
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
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.
On January 11 the Paul Taylor Dance Company performed a wonderful and free program. The first performance was Images with music by Debussy. The second performance was Brandenburgs, music by Bach. The studio has a vast performing area. It’s like a large white cube with windows wrapped around the Grand Street side of the building. Sitting in the first row you have the immediate experience of the dancers being right in front of you. You see details you might miss in a theater such as a female dancer dealing with her foot caught in the hem of her costume, or another dancer giving a colleague a high five after she’d danced well or watching a dancer leaning against the wall and wiping his face after an arduous passage. It was thrilling to be a foot away from those wonderfully trained and talented dancers.
Kathy Kelly, the Chicago peace activist and one of the founders of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, spoke to a sturdy band of young and old lefties on Thursday, Jan. 15. The New York City local Green Party, Veterans for Peace and Peace Action Manhattan sponsored the meeting. It was the best kept secret in Manhattan. Although it was given at the Goddard Riverside Community Center, the center itself didn’t know or care. In spite of the lack of publicity, there were about thirty people present. Kathy Kelly talked about living alongside ordinary people trapped in war zones. She and her colleagues have been to Iraq and Afghanistan many times. Her talk was riveting and heartbreaking as she chronicled how the U. S. military debased and slaughtered the native population. Kathy has been incarcerated several times. She has gone to prison for refusing to pay war taxes. The day after our meeting she had to return to Chicago to receive her prison sentence for trespassing on a military base to protest drones. You can follow her work at www.vcnv.org.
KATHY KELLY AND ONE OF THE ORGANIZERS
SPEAKS FOR ITSELF
I attend the garden and forest book club at the Central Park Arsenal. In addition to gardens and forests, the chosen books are about nature and ecology. My ignorance is profound so each book introduces me to a new world. Some of the recent ones have been Heinrich’s The Trees in my Forest, Rhodes’s John James Audubon: The Making of an American and Marris’s Rambunctious Garden.
The Arsenal, built between 1847 and 1851, predates Central Park. Originally, it was a munitions supply depot before it became part of the park. Very lady-like guns decorate the central stairway. On its walls are 1930 WPA murals and on the third floor, until recently, was the drawing that won Frederick Law Olmstead the contest to design the park. Known as the Greensward Plan it was the original plan created by Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. It was chosen by the Central Park Commissioners in 1858.
Breathing a sigh of relief once the elevator has heaved itself to the book club on the third floor, I go through the Arsenal Gallery which usually features photography and art that emphasizes the environment, urban topics and the history of the Park. There are interesting and off beat talks such as the one I attended about dying cemeteries in Staten Island.
The Arsenal at Nightare interesting and offbeat talks such as the one I attended about dying cemeteries on Staten Island.
Happy New Year! An annual holiday treat is going to Minetta Tavern. On the outside it looks like a speakeasy, a private, illegal club harkening back to prohibition. It’s a stage set, of course. Having just returned from New Mexico where restaurants seat two people at a table that would hold four in NYC and there’s plenty of room between the tables, I was struck by the tiny public spaces we squeeze ourselves into. Is it part of that incomparable NYC buzz? Why is it that dining in NYC is magical?
Yesterday we went to the venerable Veselka Restaurant on Ninth Street and Second Avenue. It’s been in business since 1954 and is run by Ukrainian-Americans. It’s one of Steve Kulchek’s hangouts. He and his Uncle Con eat there when Con is in town. A week ago I had several meals at the oldest restaurant in Santa Fe, the Plaza Cafe, founded in 1905 and run by a Greek-American family since 1947. Both are lively diners that reflect their native origins and those of the people who own them. In the southwest it’s red and green chilis with your souvlaki. In the northeast it’s sour cream with the pierogis. Both restaurants are colorful and packed. Even by American standards, the Plaza Cafe has gigantic portions.The Veselka’s are merely enormous.
A Wall at Veselka’s. Get it?
Time to Eat at the Plaza Cafe
Some one asked me where I find characters. I think they present themselves.Since I write mysteries, there’s a subplot connected with characters. For instance, on my block there’s a dusty Oldsmobile Cutlass. A man in his seventies sits in it with his blond retriever, a dog of the same vintage as its owner. Sometimes, a woman – the wife? sits in the passenger seat. Then the dog sits in the back seat. I’m assuming the driver smokes. Maybe he’s a retired cop. There are stickers supporting the troops and the NYPD. It intrigues me that the car is home for this guy. Plot point: The dog could pick up a piece of evidence and bring it back to the car. The guy is a pack rat and throws it under the seat. Plot point: the couple’s son was killed in Afghanistan and the father mourns the son in the car and the mother mourns the physical loss of her son and the psychological loss of her husband. The son was taught to drive in the Oldsmobile. The dog, of course, was the son’s.To be continued.
Christmas in New Mexico. Welcome to the enchanting world of La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís (The Royal Town of the Holy Faith of St. Francis of Assisi). It’s known to all as Santa Fe and is the oldest capital in the U. S. It’s also very dry and 7000 feet above sea level. For a New Yorker that’s a stretch. After a week, I resembled a 1000 year old lizard but a happy one.
Upon arrival, it’s a tradition to drive the rental car from the Albuquerque Skyport (airport to you) to Bernalillo’s The Range Cafe for your first red and green chili baptism.
We had lots of wonderful food but the best was at chez Charbonnet-Falls on Christmas day. A fireplace with the light only fire can give, the warmth and hospitality of mine hosts, five furry cats, one tiny dachshund named Mary and the family presenting delicious treats from salmon and ham and polenta and red cabbage to buche de noel and Mont Blanc.
Ojo Caliente is a spa between Santa Fe and Taos. We had to go, of course. It was a bit nippy walking from one outside pool to another. Once submerged, it was heaven. The enclosed spring water pool was supposed to be good for your skin so this old lizard spent a lot of time there. The arsenic pool, scalding hot, was another favorite and so was the mud bath.
On Christmas eve there’s the Farolito Walk.You go past the Cathedral, the setting of Willa Cather’s Death Comes to the Archbishop, and walk to Canyon Road .There was a dusting of snow that was a wonderful backdrop to the luminaries. Luminaries are paper bags filled with sand and a small candle called a farolito. They are set in rows in front yards and on buildings’ roofs, creating a gentle light in the winter sky.
Luminaries in Daylight
The Albuquerque airport is beautiful. It’s built in a low keyed Spanish style. Even the restrooms are charming. That doesn’t mean you want to spend your time wondering if you’ll ever escape. Our flight to Chicago was delayed by two hours. That meant lots of futile calls to United about catching a later connecting flight. The Gulf Stream was more helpful than United and pushed our plane speedily to Chicago where we barely caught the 6 p.m. flight to LaGuardia. Whew.
On Dec. 7 I met old friends at Jing Fong Restaurant for dim sum. The entire world poured onto the escalators that went to the 700? 800? people restaurant. It stretched a city block. Lots of fun and very Cantonese. Afterwards we, along with the rest of the world that hadn’t been at Jing Fong’s, walked across Brooklyn Bridge.
Among the many at Jing Fong’s
Brooklyn Bridge, looking toward Manhattan
That evening we went to see Judson’s Sarah Bernhardt, Ruby Rims, give his last performance. After twenty five years, Ruby and his teddy bears are hanging up their paws. Ruby was in full regalia – Dusty Springfield hair and yards of shimmering blue cloth, but he copped out on the heels. I spotted comfortable sneakers between the folds. It was essential cabaret fare: funny and bitter sweet. Rick Crom, Maureen McNamara and Jeff Harnar brought the house down. Throughout the years, Ruby has been accompanied by the terrific pianist, John McMahon.
Thursday was Dawn Powell night. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation sponsored a talk at the Jefferson Market Library. In spite of its unwieldy name, the GVSHP is a smartly run organization that presents enticing talks, lectures, walks about NYC. Dawn Powell, a novelist championed by Gore Vidal, lived in Greenwich Village from the late 1910s to the 1960s. She lived and breathed the NYC atmosphere. We met in a vast room with Willa Cather staring down at us.
Jazz Tuesdays in the Gillespie Auditorium at the New York Baha’i Center has become a tradition for a friend and me. Dinner in a restaurant with a fake Italian name and then an hour and a half of jazz. The address is 53 East 11 St. (between University Pl. & Broadway). Dorothy Longo is the organizer extraordinaire.
Dizzy Gillespie’s Baha’i Center
Want to impress people? Want them to think you come from old money? New money? Take them for dinner to the National Arts Club, I joined it during the tenure of the rat pack twins. The Club has had its tumultuous moments, but now has settled into being a well run capitalist enclave decked out in American Edwardian furniture, lots of cultural events, great bar and an excellent restaurant.
in the Samuel Tilden mansion
Do you like greasy spoons? So does Detective Steve Kulchek. Places where there’s a lopsided sign in the window saying breakfast served all day? Places where buzz words like gourmet, vegan, gluten free, organic are a foreign language? Where the only hint of modern times is the other sign scrawled in paint on the front window: wine & beer. Do I have the restaurant for you. It’s La Bonbonniere. It’s tucked into a tiny space north of Jane Street. Steve and I sat outside on a blustery Saturday. I had breakfast – cheese omelet. He had lunch – BLT. The word brunch doesn’t belong here.
A West Village favorite
The annual Judson Memorial Thanksgiving meal was held after the November 23 service. Every year we are implored in a gentle Protestant way to bring grub and flowers. Sometimes your taste buds don’t know the difference. At the back of the sanctuary, noble souls set up long tables with food warmers. Contributors put their dishes on the warmers, scurry to join their friends for the service and afterwards form lines and dive in. Slightly chaotic and lots of fun and work.
On a slightly smaller scale, I served Thanksgiving dinner to dear friends with whom I used to hike. Imagine my surprise when I realized I’d bought a turkey breast rather than the whole bird. We still had far too much turkey.
Going up Fifth Avenue on Black Friday is taking your life in your hands. I stopped in my tracks when I saw young Salvation Army men dancing around their begging pot. It was a giggle.
Salvation Army finding its groove
The Fifth Avenue stores had wasted no time. Thanksgiving – Done. Christmas/Hanukkah/Big Money Making Holiday – next. Saks was decked out in shimmering gold.
Saks in all its holiday glory
I joined a friend at MOMA to go through the Matisse exhibit again. She takes her time, reads the descriptions. I move fast. So we agreed to meet at the end of the trail and have lunch in the fifth floor cafe – so much nicer than the ground floor restaurant where you wait years to be served. Afterwards, we had a post prandial stroll in MOMA’s garden. It was a crisp fall NYC day. Absolutely perfect.
From MOMA’s Sculpture Garden, looking north
Wednesday was movie night at the 42nd Street Regal. As my crosstown bus dawdled along 42nd Street I gazed out the window at Madame Tussauds, Ripley’s, McDonald’s. Once again 42nd Street has won. It’s as tacky as ever. None of that Guiliani urban renewal nonsense has had the slightest effect. The movie was Foxcatcher. Steve Carell is perfect as John Dupont, a modern day Caligula, Channing Tatum is a graceful gorilla and Mark Ruffalo is heartbreakingly well balanced.
Thursday was prepare for the worse evening. N. Y. State’s Preparedness Program was presented at High School for Health Professions and Human Services (The old Stuyvesant High School). Some very cute and courteous National Guard gents in camouflage outfits (Thank you, Ma’am, Please take the left, ma’am.) handed us participants red movie tickets and told us we had to present them for the book bag full of survival goodies. They directed the masses to the auditorium where we had to endure third tier NYC politicians thanking us for showing up. I cheated by listening to Barry Manilow on my iPhone until I noticed street wise members of the crowd leaving. I snuck into the line out the door and escaped with the goodie bag.
A suggestion for a perfect NYC day: Go to the Matisse Cut Outs at MOMA, lunch on the fourth floor and see a movie. We saw Winter Carnival (1939) a terrible but delicious movie of 1939, deemed Hollywood’s greatest year but you wouldn’t know it from this flick. It starred Ann Sheridan frolicking in the snow at Dartmouth College, more lady-like than in Drive by Night, and Richard Carlson, her love interest, who later played in All About Eve.The script was worked on by Budd Schulberg and F. Scott Fitzgerald. This experience led to Schulberg’s novel, The Disenchanted. Amazing what we’ll do for a paycheck.
Bye until next week