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.

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