New York City Blog – May 16 – May 20

Beautiful Lucy. We should all look as good at ninety or at eighty or at seventy – you get the picture. Her wonderful daughters threw a charming birthday party in an elegant apartment on East 73rd Street. Lucy and her family have inhabited it for a million years. It’s one of those places that’s suffused with big and little feasts to the eye: a Narwal tusk, colorful throws, etched champagne glasses, photos of the gorgeous family and of travels all over the globe, and books, books, books with Lucy’s favorite biography in prominent view: Lesley Blanch’s The Wilder Shores of Love.

Beautiful Lucy at 90

Beautiful Lucy at 90

It wasn’t prescribed but it sure was therapeutic. An hour after a short stay at Weill-Cornell, a friend and I directed the taxi to Rosemary’s on Greenwich. The perfect pain killer was the weird and delicious lemon zest pasta and a glass of dry white Vernaccia. Before or after lunch, climb the stairs to the orto and view Sixth Avenue and Greenwich Street from Rosemary’s rooftop garden.

Stairs to Rosemary's Orto

Stairs to Rosemary’s Orto

Rosemary's rooftop garden

Rosemary’s rooftop garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although its dark cozy interior is seductive on a rainy, windy night, The Waverly Inn is too aware of its own charm. It’s tired. On a recent visit, the food was fine but could be found in any upscale Manhattan restaurant. The white wine was mediocre. Remember how exciting the Union Square Cafe was until it went into the tourist doldrums? Watch out Waverly Inn. It could happen to you.

Down memory lane: a friend and I went to Pangea on Second Avenue to hear two jazz foot soldiers: Baby Jane Dexter and Ross Patterson. It was a big, brash, sentimental, sound, as intrinsically NYC as the bare brick walls.

Baby Jane Dexter Belting It Out

Baby Jane Dexter Belting It Out

Mr. Ross Patterson at the Ivories

Mr. Ross Patterson at the Ivories

New York City Blog – May 7 – May 14

Lebhaft, frisch, sehe ranch – in other words, lively, fresh, very quickly. I’m quoting from the Frick Collection’s program for Imogen Cooper’s Schumann and Schubert recent recital. Ms. Cooper was splendid. She played Robert Schumann’s Davidsbündlertänze. After a short intermission she launched into Franz Schubert’s Sonata in B-Flat Major, D. 960.Thanks to Ms. Cooper and the subtle elegance of Frick’s Music Room we were whisked back to the glory of nineteenth century German music.

A friend and I love the Minetta Tavern’s buzz, its reimagined decor, its funky menu, its unassuming entrance, its traditional Tom Collins. Years ago people could dine there without cashing in their 401Ks. No more. Since Keith McNally dolled up Minetta Tavern, it’s pricy and worth it. Minetta Tavern reminds me of those glamorous restaurants like the Stork Club we hear about in movies and from long departed relatives.

 

Tom Collins for EveryoneJack Kleinsinger never tires of telling his audience that Highlights in Jazz is the longest running jazz concert series in NYC. 44 years young !!! Thursday’s program was very satisfying: Wycliffe Gordon on the trombone, Nicki Parrott on bass and Bria Skonberg on trumpet. In addition to being stellar musicians, they’re all great vocalists.

Mit gutem Humor…

New York City Blog – May 2 – May 7

 

This week, on a chilly May Friday, I entered Central Park at 72nd Street and Central Park West and walked to the east side. Dressed for May as it’s presented on calendars in a light, sort of water proofed jacket and cotton slacks, I was freezing. I had refused to put on a winter coat because I’d had the winter things cleaned and had refused to dress for the weather: gloves and a woolen beret, so I got what I deserved. Central Park was practically deserted except for intrepid dog walkers. Playgrounds were empty. There were no joggers. The park itself was silent, misty and a lovely light green you see briefly in spring.

Central Park: very green and very deserted

Central Park: very green and very deserted

I was on my way to The Met Breuer. When it was the Whitney I didn’t appreciate the building and usually not the art. That’s changed. The New Whitney downtown in the old meatpacking district is much more interesting than when the collection was in the original site. The original site, as everyone knows, is now part of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I concentrated on Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible. It’s a collection of works that are unfinished by design or by death. I thought it was wonderful. There are two floors devoted to major and minor works of art from the Renaissance to modern day. Most of the exhibit comes from the museum itself. From Titian to Pollack, the notion of what’s done, what’s finished and what being finished means is examined.

 

Unfinished Boulevard des Capucines

Monet’s Unfinished Boulevard des Capucines

Cody Noland's Cart Full of Action

Cody Noland’s Cart Full of Action, unfinished by design

 

One feature I appreciated when the building was the Whitney was the enormous elevator, build to contain massive structures. If only the dimensions were posted. No one could tell me at the Met Bauer.

New York City Blog – April 24 – April 30

The Week of Goofy Photos….

After the Judson Memorial Sunday service, a group of Judsonites walked to 56 East 1st Street to the CITY LORE GALLERY, a tiny space filled with Coney Island memorabilia. Our guide was Bill Stabile, set designer extraordinaire, who had worked on many of the displays. He led us around Boardwalk Renaissance, How the Arts Saved Coney Island. Afterwards, we crowded into a Spanish speaking Italian restaurant and had Bellinis (Three for $10). I settled on the pasta with lemon. Who knew? It was very tasty.

 

A Judsonite at Play

A Judsonite at Play

Another Judsonite at Play

Another Judsonite at Play

 

 

 

 

 

 
Ottomanelli’s Butcher Shop on Bleecker is so Italian American it could be in The Sopranos. The butchers know everything there is to know about meat and human nature. No wonder they’re so adept with knives. Has Pope Francis spilled something on his gown?

Look who's a Met fan.

Look who’s a Met fan.

New York City Blog – April 17 – April 23

I went to a lovely performance of NYCB George Balanchine’s Jewels. Leave it to Balanchine to be inspired by Van Clef and Arpels and choreograph a three act ballet with each distinct act having the music of a different composer. The music for Emeralds is by Gabriel Faure. Rubies’s music is by Igor Stravinsky and Diamonds’ music is by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky.What a glorious smorgasbord!
In two weeks I’ve seen two biopics about two brilliant, egotistical musicians who must have been hell to live with. Last week I saw Miles Ahead, the biopic about Miles Davis. This week I saw a companion piece, Born to Be Blue, the biopic of Chet Baker. Don Cheadle as Miles Davis and Ethan Hawke as Chet Baker were utterly convincing as obsessive musicians. I guess that’s what they call acting. Remember the equally convincing Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in Walk the Line? One tiny quibble: no one can sing My Funny Valentine, the song with a tender melody and mean lyrics, like Chet Baker not even Ethan Hawke. Wouldn’t it have been fun to have been at The All About Eve wrap party? Hanging with George Sanders and Bette Davis etc. while Chet Baker and Jerry Mulligan played.

As if you didn’t know, William Shakespeare’s birthday is tomorrow. Four hundred years since his death.

New York City Blog – April 9 – April 16

On April 9 Judson Memorial Church was the location of a Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders Proxy Debate, moderated by Brian Lehrer. It promised more than it delivered. Rather than discuss the issues, each participant behaved like a cheer leader for his or her candidate. Brian Lehrer, as they used to say about Robert Mitchum, phoned in his participation. I’ve included the debate below.

A friend and I attended Curator Adam Eaker’s talk, Sitting for Van Dyck. We gathered in the Frick Collection’s Music Room. A screen displayed various images created by Van Dyck during his English period and listened to Curator Eaker’s lucid and amusing analysis. It was an example of the perfect New York evening capped by dinner at nearby Caravaggio’s.

There Is a Field: I went to a pro-Palestinian play because I’m committed to the Palestinian cause. The play itself was more TV sitcom than an exploration of what Palestinians live through and die for. Its cast consisted of stock figures of Palestinian mom (fragile and strong ) and Palestinian pop (wise and strong) two teen agers: the girl whose strength consisted of screaming profanities at her brother who was always going to demonstrations. We know where he’ll end up: dead. In contrast, the late Alan Rickman’s play about Rachel Corrie explored the bravery and confusion of a young girl from Oregon grappling with the Palestinian atrocities in a way that made me interested in the individual and enlightened me about the dire circumstances of her death. On to Jane, a nearby restaurant, for restorative food and drink.

New York City Blog-April 3-April 9

Anthony Horowitz, talking about Alfred Hitchcock, thought being unbalanced/ neurotic is often part of a great artist’s makeup. Miles Ahead is about a human being who happened to be black, to be a great musician and to be very troubled. Don Cheadle starred, directed, produced and co-wrote Miles Ahead. Usually, I’d dismiss that as Vanity Productions Incorporated. Instead, it comes across as a valentine to the wonderful, screwed up musician, Miles Davis. It was not a prepackaged setup for a possible academy award. The blacks were not slaves (victims) or preachers (saints). They were people. Davis loved his wife, the dancer Frances Taylor, played by Emayatzy Corinealdi, but he was a lousy husband who treated her as a precious possession. The Scottish actor, Ewan McGregor, was completely believable as a free lance writer who would do anything for a story. The almost invisible but always present narrator, neither appealing nor repulsive, McGregor was human. Imagine! a film which features humans. Prejudice was present but it was handled as the prejudiced person’s problem that blacks had to deal with. Davis, Francis Taylor, and Davis’s band skirted around it.

Friends and I met at the Joyce for a Sunday afternoon of the Pennsylvania Ballet. The ballet was so-so but there isn’t a bad seat in the Joyce. Way back in the mid-twentieth century, the Joyce was the Elgin movie house/ porn house. It was closed down by the community. In 1982 the building was completely renovated and the Joyce, named after a rich benefactor’s daughter, was born.

On Tuesday I participated in a talk about Leonardo Sciascia’s The Day of the Owl, a police procedural that takes place in Sicily. The next evening at the Italian Cultural Institute
I listened to a lecture on the Italian women writers, Elsa Morante, Anna Maria Ortese.

“In human relationships, kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths.”
Graham Greene. Greene died 25 years ago.

New York City Blog – March 27 – April 2

The Ladies that Lunch Week

A friend was sitting down the block at Rosemary’s on Greenwich Ave. It’s a large restaurant. I was seated at the other end wondering where she was. Finally, a waiter put two and two together and pointed us out to each other. We quickly made up for lost time by ordering a delicious, weird pasta dish – linguine with preserved lemon (what’s that?), pickled chili, and parmigiano. Hasn’t parmigiano joined several other Italian words i. e. ciao, al dente, balsamic that have crept into American lingo? After racing through the linguini in record time and still feeling a bit peckish, I averted my eyes from a hateful brussel sprouts dish and ordered lard, soppressa and homemade focaccia. With the help of a glass or two of white and red, my friend and I mosied down memory lane. it was a delicious lunch.

At the Met a friend and I went dutifully to the Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun exhibit. Le Brun was a survivor. She lived during the turbulent years, 1755-1842, painted for the ill-fated court of Louis the Sixteenth, escaped France with her head, and lived in exile in Austria and Russia. If only we could have appreciated her art. It’s superior candy box, the kind of criticism that is regularly thrown unjustly at Renoir. We then wandered past some Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780 -1867). What a difference. He painted, like Le Brun, the aristocracy. He caught their hauteur. And can anyone else paint textiles like Ingres? There’s a painting of a gorgeous, snooty Blessed Virgin worshipping the Host. From the expression on her face, to quote my friend, you wonder if it’s vice versa. The 1775 portrait of Moltedo has the subject clothed in rich, opulent cloth and soft, very strokeable fur. Then, we went in search of one of my favorites, Stuart Davis. At last we uncovered one painting of the Jefferson Market. Once upon a time the Met had an entire room devoted to Davis’s art. Onward to the Islamic Art galleries and the flow and diversity of Arabic calligraphy.  We then headed to the members dining room and feasted on delicious crab cakes and the lovely spring view of Central Park.

Somebody’s got to do it.

Le Brun, Self- Portrait

Le Brun, Self- Portrait

Ingres's Portrait of Joseph-Antoine Molted (1775)

Ingres’s Portrait of Joseph-Antoine Moltedo (1775)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edward Snowden  “They frame this false choice between security and privacy. But you can have both … Surveillance isn’t about safety. It’s about power.”

New York City Blog March 21 – March 26

Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next made good, if obvious, points. It was too long and had a skewered approach. The featured countries are small and homogeneous, not adjectives that describe the USA. Also, Moore’s wise fool/ genial slob act has worn thin. Afterwards, we had a good supper of spaghetti alla carbonara and arugula salad. The waiter offered us a deal: $25 for a glass and a half of red wine – from a $400 bottle! We chose instead the $13 glass of plonk.

A confession: I used to walk past the Frick’s Anthony Van Dyck’s paintings, Frans Snyders, Margareta Snyders and others, vaguely bored by the yards of silk, very white hands and snooty expressions. That changed yesterday, thanks to Adam Eaker, Guest Curator at The Frick Collection, who gave an enlightened talk about Van Dyck and the Flemish seventeenth century. Curator Eaker examined the interior, mysterious life that Van Dyck portrayed on the faces of his sitters. We started our tour downstairs in the low ceiling rooms reserved for drawings. There are several self portraits, the first done when Van Dyck was fourteen. Apprenticed to Peter Paul Rubens at a very young age, he was soon recognized as a fine portrait painter. On the main floor, the Cabinet has a lovely drawing of Frans Snyders. Both the Oval Room and the East Gallery exhibit oils, done for the most part, of court figures. There’s a luscious portrait of Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio in the Oval Room, painted when Van Dyck was in his twenties. Van Dyck was especially good at painting children. The ‘East Gallery has a painting of Charles the First’s daughters, on loan from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Henry Clay Frick owned eight Van Dyck portraits. One of the most enchanting pictures the daughter of James, Seventh Earl of Derby.

 

Anthony van Dyck: Frans Snyders, borrowed from The Fogg for a current Frick exhibit

Anthony van Dyck: Frans Snyders, borrowed from The Fogg for a current Frick exhibit

 

The Princesses Elizabeth and Anne, Daughters of Charles I, borrowed from the Scottish National Portrat Gallery for the current Frick exhibit

The Princesses Elizabeth and Anne, Daughters of Charles I, borrowed from the Scottish National Portrat Gallery for the current Frick exhibit

 

 

 

 

 

 

I took this from a recent Judson Memorial Church Sunday service bulletin. “Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. ”From Modern Testimony: James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time.

New York City Blog – March 12 – March 19

It’s been a busy week. On Monday I left my life from a hospital bed. I’d been at New York  Presbyterian Hospital (Weill Cornell is the teaching branch) since Wednesday, March 9. I’d been informed that I’d be leaving on Monday. My healthcare wouldn’t pay for additional hospital days. For a moment I panicked then realized a hospital is not a hotel. You’re there for a specific purpose and once that’s addressed you’re out. The operation had gone well. Therefore, I packed my small bag, no more than 15 lbs., went through dismissal instructions with the nurse, jumped into a wheelchair and was home in less than a half hour. I had mentioned in an earlier blog that a hospital reminds me of being at court. There are so many conventions that are lost on the short term patient. My surgeon in blue shrubs would drop by, usually attended by students in green scrubs.

Kristin and her sister Rockettes

Kristin and her sister Rockettes

Nurses wore white jackets over street clothes. Slews of different ranks dropped by: medical technicians, cleaners, clergy, volunteers, food providers, social workers. One of my volunteers was a Rockette. A Rockette? I immediately interviewed Kristin Jantzie for my blog. She and her two sisters, from Alberta, are all Rockettes. Some particulars: the Rockettes began in 1933. They range in height from 5’6” to 5’ 11”. It’s seasonal work and the dancers can dance with other companies when they’re not working on a Radio City Music Hall show. Kristin’s favorite dance is Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, part of the Christmas extravaganza since 1933. She joined the Rockettes ten years ago and has been in eleven Christmas shows and five Thanksgiving Parades.

Kristin holding Sam Suarez's flowers

Kristin holding Sam Suarez’s bouquet

Kristin with Echo, a dog that visits patients

Kristin with Echo, a dog that visits patients

Later that day I watched House of Cards. (Spoiler alert!) President Kevin Spacey lay in his hospital bed. I studied him and his various apparatus like a pro.