New York City / Portland Blog  July 17 – July 23

It’s my second week in Portland, Oregon. It’s been a feast of northwest trees. We visited the Lone Fir Cemetery. From one fir, still standing, in the late nineteenth century to 700 trees and representing 67 species in 2016, Lone Fir Cemetery is Oregon’s second largest arboretum . A woodcutter union honored deceased members with tombstones sculpted like tree trunks.

Woodcutters tombstone in the Lone Fir Cemetery

Woodcutters tombstone in the Lone Fir Cemetery

We walked through the Japanese Garden on a balmy day. On its 5,5 acres, the garden has a plethora of ponds,waterfalls, gardens, rocks and northwest trees: giant Sequoia, Douglas fir.

Portland has old time movie houses that, miraculously, were not demolished. There’s the Baghdad in the Hawthorne area. In addition to roaming in the gilt splendor of the 1940s and seeing movies, you can order wine, beer and food, delivered to your seat. The same is true of the Hollywood movie theatre. It’s such a landmark that the northwest area is now called Hollywood.

 

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

I’ll be attending the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.

New York City / Portland Blog – July-11 – July 16

I’m in Portland, Oregon to visit friends, to get to know this charming city better and to attend the 8th Northwest Book Festival on July 30. It’s held in Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room. I will be selling copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announcing the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons.

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

For my sins I used Airbnb to rent a place that was probably a converted garage with a curious shed called a moon house. Being a New Yorker, I thought the term, moon house, was a touch of quaint Portlandia and didn’t pay the attention to it I should have. It’s an outhouse. Since we don’t have outhouses in NYC, you can imagine my surprise and dismay when I inspected the moon house which is attached to the owners’ house – plumbing, you know. It’s about twenty paces across a crab grass garden. The moon house is a tiny space with a tiny toilet, a tinier sink and a shower that shouts defunct summer camp. The ex-garage or the garden house, as the owner call it, is a dismal room that conjures up the film Psycho, not the Bates motel (if only) but the house on the hill where mom lived. It reeks of solitary confinement and has no running water. For that refinement, you have to go to the moon house. I give the owners full marks for their sense of humor. The wifi password for the ex-garage is goldenroom. They are also superb trick photographers.

Last Friday I was in Cooperstown, N. Y. attending the Glimmerglass production of Sweeney Todd, staying in a wonderful 1950’s motel and having grits and shrimp by the Otsego lake. This week I’m on the west coast, near the Columbia and having green lipped mussels. Somebody’s got to do it.

West coast green lipped mussels

West coast green lipped mussels

East coast grits and shrimp

East coast grits and shrimp

New York City Blog July 1 – July 8

I spent the July 4th weekend at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. Its 1200 acres are adjacent to The Mohonk Preserve, an additional 7500 acres in the Shawangunk Ridge. Hiking friends shorten that to the Gunks. If you like to walk, hike, read, ride, swim, sail, play golf and play shuffleboard, Mohonk is for you. It was founded by a Quaker family, the Smileys, who are still involved in the running of the mountain house and the preserve. Service is a combination of restrained American friendliness and very un-American efficiency. The rooms are spacious. They harken back to a former time with soft lighting and working fireplaces but have very modern, discrete appliances. I felt like a junkie when I discovered I didn’t have a TV in my room. No TV in the rooms??? I had to resort to reading. Lots of delicious food was served in a formal dining room. If you preferred, there was a less formal dining room, buffet style, and a picnic place in the woods.

Overlooking Mohonk Lake

Overlooking Mohonk Lake

Mohonk Gazebo

Mohonk Gazebo

My friends spent the early part of July 4 hiking around the Mohonk Lake. I spent it in the indoor pool. Miracle of miracles we, actually the driver, found a route back to Montclair that was devoid of traffic. I jumped onto the DeCamp Bus and was in Port Authority within the half hour. Mr. Macy had graciously arranged for the Manhattan fireworks to be staged outside my window. As I unpacked, I snapped a few.

July 4. 2016 Fireworks from window

July 4. 2016 Fireworks

Fireworks, July 4, 2016

Fireworks, July 4, 2016

 

 

New York City Blog – June 26- July 1

On Sunday I probably attended more church services than the Pope.

First, breakfast with two wonderful buddies at Cafe Reggio on MacDougal. Early morning is a throwback in time on MacDougal. The usually crowded street is empty except for a few early risers and the sanitation trucks that squirt mysterious substances that smell very New York. Cafe Reggio is a dark, small den with 1920s metal chairs and heavy furniture. It’s the perfect place to meet for delicious strong coffee and gossip. A few blocks away, Judson Memorial Church geared up for Pride Day. An inspired minister told about his father, also a minister, waiting for the younger man to declare his sexual orientation. When the younger man did, his father said, “We’ve been waiting for you.” Some father, eh??

 

Judson Memorial Church Gay Pride

Judson Memorial Church
Gay Pride

In the afternoon I scooted to Brooklyn’s Baptist Emmanuel Church for Jazz Vespers. The vast church was filled with the big sound of Gordon Chambers, the vocalist and composer. Chambers glided his way through My Funny Valentine, and Bob Marley’s Redemption. He introduced Deah Harriott, the vocalist and organist. Ms. Harriott like Mr. Chambers is Jamaican. They were backed by a wonderful band. Among others were Trevor Allen on bass, Chris Rob on piano. One of the high points was Gordon Chambers and Deah Harriott romping and singing up and down the aisles of Emmanuel Baptist Church. The place burst with sound. The day ended with a delicious supper at Olea on Lafayette.

New York City Blog – June 20- June 25

June 20 was the summer solstice and the full moon known as Strawberry Moon. It was called the Strawberry Moon by the Algonquin because it occurs when strawberries were harvested. This is the first time in fifty years the summer solstice and the full moon occurred together. The last time was 1967 and it won’t happen again until 2062. I caught a glimpse of the lovely pink moon on Monday.

I spent early Tuesday morning at the NYC Field Office of Detention and Removal Operations. Judson Community Church advocates a humane immigration policy. About fifteen of us accompanied the Haitian man who is a Judson congregant and who has to report to the Department of Homeland Security at Federal Plaza. All went well. We were in and out in no time. It was good news for the next few months for our friend and relief for his legal team. BUT what a ghastly building. It reeks of anxiety. In the faces of the people ordered to report you see despair masked by stoicism. Remember Kafka or any of those other tales of persecution? They reduced me to a sullen boredom. So did Federal Plaza.

Friends and I had a picnic at Wave Hill. Imagine, 28 acres of horticulture gardens overlooking the Hudson. As the British were voting and sweating over Brexit, we wandered on a balmy early evening over the lawns, under the beeches, sniffing the lavender and having a lovely time. The Hudson River sunset photo is by Wallace W., a fine photographer and a fine friend.

Wave Hill Lavender

Wave Hill Lavender

Wave Hill

Wave Hill, looking west to the Hudson

New York City Blog – June 13 – June 19

Tuesday was a perfect summer evening in Manhattan. We had a great steak dinner at Philip Marie on Hudson, sitting outside people and dog gawking. Above us, from the restaurant’s roof, waved the Pride flag, a symbol of the LGBT community and a sorry reminder of the recent Orlando massacre.

On Thursday it was the last in the Highlights in Jazz series for the season. The surprise guest was Vincent Gardner, the trombonist. He joined the Brazilian trio Trio Da Paz on the BMCC (Borough of Manhattan Community College) stage. Gardner began his set with the Kurt Weill/ Ogden Nash standard, Speak Low. Trio Da Paz, Nilson Matta on bass, Duduka Du Fonseca on drums and Romero Lubamba on guitar is a Brazilian jazz group that performs its own numbers as well as other music.

Last night a friend and I had a glorious time at Minetta Tavern. We were seated under a black and white photo of Robert “Bobby” Morse and the original Minetta Tavern owner, Eddie Sieveri. Sieveri used to play basketball in the basement of nearby Judson Memorial Church. The minister at the time was Robert Spike who encouraged the predominantly Italian community to come to Judson. The Reverend Spike would later be murdered in Chicago

I stopped by the LGBT building on West 13th St. It’s a beautiful, bright building that exudes hope and acceptance. After the Orlando massacre, two armed policeman stand guard.

Police Guards outside LGBT Community Center

Police Guards outside LGBT Community Center

LGBT Community Center

LGBT Community Center

New York City Blog – June 5 – June 11

 

Documentaries: Down Memory Lane

I thought Weiner was odd. Why would anyone allow filming of his private life after he had indulged in social media sex, especially if you’re dependent on the public. Ask Anthony Weiner. One of the first shots was in the House of Representatives. Weiner was screaming at other members, selling himself as the fearless liberal. His wife and kid were props. I feel sorry for the kid but wonder, once again, why the wife went along with it. But I was there, gobbling up every scene of this side show.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave Joseph Stalin a film of the musical, Oklahoma! Stalin liked it so much that he ordered the Soviet Union film industry to make musicals. And they did! Years ago, I saw this wonderful documentary, East Side Story, at the Film Forum:. There were interviews with frustrated directors who had to work with electric blackouts on a regular basis. One of my favorite scenes was buxom, blond girls driving tractors across a field like a chorus line and singing lustily about the father/mother land.
Best of Enemies, in which William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal smack one another around rhetorically, is hypnotizing. Although Vidal is better looking and has more measured opinions, I couldn’t take my eyes off fascinating, skittish William Buckley. Is it his voice? Is it his constant motion? Is it his resemblance to Richard III? Both men speak a quality of English that has been lost in public discourse.

I applauded Edward Snowden actions and consider him a brave and honorable man. So I went to the documentary as if I were going to a religious service. Although Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald focused on themselves more than on Snowden, it is  fascinating. If only William Buckley were alive. Imagine him ranting about Snowden.

Did you see the documentary about contrary, contentious Robert Crumb, the off beat cartoonist who lived in a cluttered (polite word) house with his equally weird cartoonist wife? It’s a sad, riveting show and tell.

New York City Blog – May 30 – June 3

Have you seen The Fallen Idol? Film Forum is having a Carol Reed moment. Reed, the director and Graham Greene, the writer, worked on three films together: The Fallen Idol, The Third Man and Our Man in Havana. Not bad, eh? The 1948 movie is charming. It’s a literate thriller that takes place in an impossibly vast and posh mansion in post-war London. The superb cast includes Ralph Richardson, Michelle Morgan and the amazing child, Bobby Henrey. Mr. Henrey presented his elderly self at the Film Forum’s first screening of The Fallen Idol. The small movie houses are bucking up. Film Forum and IFC have Q & A’s with actors from long ago productions. Earlier in the week, Film Forum presented The Odd Man Out, an earlier Reed film. It stars the young, handsome James Mason as an Irish revolutionary who spends most of the long film bleeding to death. Afterwards, dinner at the Jane Restaurant on Houston. Lovely oysters and shrimp for me and a burger, medium please, for my pal from Michigan.

Friday night we went to the NY Philharmonic in what used to be called the Avery Fisher Hall. Frank Huang, the lead violinist, had a stellar solo debut gliding us through a Grieg quickie followed, after intermission, by Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. I’m embarrassed to say that after all the time I’ve spent at Lincoln Center I had never been to the Shun Lee Cafe. What a treat. It’s tucked into west 65th Street, and a perfect pretheatre restaurant. Forget the dim sum. It’s so 1970’s. Instead, head straight for the entrées and delicious white wine. Wine? In a Chinese restaurant? That’s right. It’s 2016, folks.

New York City Blog – May 21 – May 28

Catering at the Frick spring party

Catering at the Frick spring party

Champagne? Tom Collins? White wine? Lemonade? Since red wine stains, the Frick serves only transparent liquids. The Frick Collection had its annual spring garden party. Sitting in the garden court, we waited for the few sprinkles of rain to stop and spent the time gobbling the caterer’s passing parade of lovely, tiny, bite size hors d’oeuvres, We then perched on a low wall in the garden that overlooks Fifth Avenue and studied the crowd’s finery.

On Saturday I went to 59th Street and 10th Avenue to the Left Forum. Isn’t there a sweet irony that a left organization would host a two day conference at John Jay College of Criminal Justice? I was at the Gotham Greens table having volunteered to answer questions about our organization. Many times I had to turn to more knowledgeable colleagues for the answer. For instance, in how many states can Greens vote the Green ticket? Answer: twenty. What did Ralph Nader call the Democrats and Republicans? Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Good one, Ralph.

Judson Memorial Church sponsored a showing of Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll. It’s a documentary that explores Cambodia from its days as a French protectorate to modern times. Its history is shown through the evolving musical tastes of the Cambodians: from the 1950s the French influence of Charles Trenet and Edith Piaf, during the sixties the English invasion. Plus, American rock and roll. The Cambodians had a vivid music scene that came to a screeching halt when Pol Pot took over the government and decreed that all foreign influence was suspect. There were harrowing interviews with people who lied about being entertainers to save their lives and their families. The USA’s involvement in Vietnam and withdrawal from Cambodia was also shown. It’s a long, intense film. It took the director John Pirozzi and LinDa Saphan, the associate producer, ten years to make it.

 

LinDa Saphan, associate producer of CAMBODIA'S LOST ROCK AND ROLL

LinDa Saphan, associate producer of CAMBODIA’S LOST ROCK AND ROLL

An annual spring ritual is going to the New York City Ballet’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Tuesday night’s performance was wonderful. Balanchine + Mendelssohn + Tiler Peck. Does it get any better? Ms. Peck seems a worthy successor to the great Wendy Whalen.

Feldenkrais and gesellschaft were the two words spelled correctly that resulted in a tie at the Scripps annual spelling bee. Feldenkrais has something to do with movement and gesellschaft has something to do with society.

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