New York City London Blog —Through Sept.29

Highgate Cemetery: what do George Eliot, Karl Marx, Corin Redgrave, Ralph Richardson have in common? They’e all buried in Highgate Cemetery. It’s a wild, magical forest filled with topsy-turvy tombstones and prowling cats. An employee, a lone woman we heard then saw cutting off dead branches, told us that being buried at Highgate costs between ten thousand pounds and one hundred thousand pounds. People requested being buried near Karl Marx. if there’s a spot and if you can afford it, it’s yours. What supreme irony.

 

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

Karl Marx in Highgate Cemetery

 

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

Headstones of (rich) socialists behind Marx’s headstone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On a perfect day, 72 degrees and breezy, we walked from the Sevenoaks bus stop down a foot path to the pen meadows and finally arrived at Knole. Wikipedia quotes the National Trust’s claim that at one time it was a calendar house: 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and seven courtyards. Part of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando was set at Knole. I vaguely remember the book was about an English ice age and a main character who changes sex. We strolled through the deer park before heading into town and to fish & chips. For supper we acclimated ourselves for the trip home to NYC and went to Burger & Shake. I had a divine, liquid dessert called Ovaltine and made with the following ingredients: tequila, coconut, rum and caramel. Weight Watches is welcomed to the recipe.

We arrived in Cambridge to find to our horror that we could not walk along the Cam. So, ever resourceful, we were sculled down the Cam to a spot where we climbed out of the boat, not with grace but without incident, and went to the Fitzwilliam Museum.

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

A part time sculler, full time philosophy student at Cambridge University

Pelicans in Greenwich, England? We saw a street sign, humped pelican crossing. Hum…pelicans would be strange but humped pelicans? We asked an Englishman to explain the term. Amidst lots of laughs, he explained that humped pelican crossing meant a bumpy  crossing with traffic lights operated by pedestrians. Mr. Wikipedia gave the following explanation: pelican from pe(destrian) li(ght) con(trolled), altered to conform with the bird’s name. Like so many inscrutable things, the term was invented in the 1960s.
If you like an old fashioned night in the theatre and as a child you enjoyed Punch and Judy, The Play that Goes Wrong is for you. The man to my left at the Duchess Theatre laughed wholeheartedly, delighted at every prat fall, collapsing ceiling, doors smacking people in the face etc. The timing was flawless. Silly fun.

I had to get the Globe out of my system. The Globe is the umbrella term for the recreated theatres from Shakespeare’s time situated along the Thames’ embankment. From St. Paul’s we walked a few blocks to the Thames and crossed on the Millennium Bridge as the sun was setting. I had bought the tickets for The Two Gentlemen of Verona online in NYC. Next time, if there is a next time, I’ll wait until I can go to the theatre. We sat on benches in the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. For the most part I stared at mechanical devices and modern day rock equipment in a space that was supposed to be an authentic reproduction of a Shakespearean theatre. Shakespeare’s words and cadence were the least important part of the production.

Back to NYC…

New York City London Blog — Sept.24 – Sept. 30

The days continue to be  warm, autumnal and heavenly. The British Museum was packed. What did I expect in the Elgin Marbles Room? Has the controversy between the British and the Greeks been settled? I guess both countries have more pressing matters to address. One is leaving the EU and the other might be kicked out. I tiptoed around Brexit for about five minutes before asking English friends what they thought of it. An unmitigated disaster was the way they phrased it. They licked their EU wounds as I licked our U. S. political wounds.

Elgin Marbles The British Museum

Elgin Marbles
The British Museum

 

 Magic Carpet Edward Ardizzone


Magic Carpet
Edward Ardizzone

 

 

Tate Modern is featuring a big exhibit of Georgia O’Keeffe. I appreciated the photos of Ansel Adams, an O’Keeffe buddy and O’Keeffe’s sketches. The Tate Modern building was originally an industrial plant.This is reflected rather heavy handedly in the names of the various galleries: the Boiler House, the Switch House, Turbine Hall. The building could be a business corporation anywhere in the world.

 

Edward Ardizzone is one of my favorite illustrators.The House of Illustration, tucked behind St Pancras Station (“All aboard for Hogwarts!), is having a delightful exhibit of his work and life.

St. Pancras Station where Harry Potter took the train to Hogwarts

St. Pancras Station where Harry Potter took the train to Hogwarts

 

 

 

Somerset House on the Themes is as beautiful as ever and contains the lovely Courtauld Gallery. Look at the luscious Renaissance to 20th Century pictures or glance out the window at beautiful Somerset House. There’s a charming cafe not to be missed.

I had remembered the Wigmore Hall as being grander than it is today. Now, it’s threadbare but the acoustics are great and the concert of young musicians singing and playing harp, piano and violin gave one great hope for music’s future..

New York City London Blog —Sept.16 – Sept. 25

I flew to the U. K. on Virgin Air. Is there any better service? Disclosure: I flew Business Class. The only reason I’m fessing up is so I can describe the gorgeous layout of Upper Class. That’s Virgin Air’s name for paying a great deal of money to fly for seven hours max plied with attentive, fawning service. When you enter the plane, the First Classers (Me!) are directed to go left and the rest, you poor sods, are directed to the right to sit on folding chairs and eat food you’ve bought from a stand in JFK. The first thing I saw was a bar, lined with lovely cocktails. The lighting was very nightclub. I was escorted to my seat. Virgin Air has individual alcoves. Each resembles an ironing board between two barriers. Lots of gadgets to turn on and off – a TV in one wall/barrier. Lots of gadgets to raise and lower the ironing board. Is Madame chilly? A sparkling white duvet was tucked around me. as I was offered a glass of champagne. After dinner – a little pate, a smidgen of duck, a tiny bouquet of perfectly cooked french green beens – I lay back on a fluffy pillow, the duvet around me, sipping chamomile tea and eating shortbread cookies, trying to sleep but always conscious that I had to stay awake or the plane would crash.

I’m staying at The Penn Club. It’s named after William Penn and is run by the Quakers. It could be straight out of a Barbara Pym 1950’s social comedy novel. It’s quiet, bookish, there’s the click of crockery, tea reigns. There’s one TV in the whole place and a daily assortment of English newspapers. I’ve noticed that we Americans, within the hotel’s confines, speak our version of an English accent. Maybe it’s the water.

London, like NYC, had been hot and humid. It’s now autumn, perfect walking weather. I got my bearings circling around Russell Square and then tried out the Oyster card, comparable to our metro cards, and took one of the big red buses to the Royal Academy. There’s a David Hockney exhibit. Across the way is Fortnum and Mason. I was last in it many years ago when it could have been a stage set for Peter Pan. It was gentle, lovely in a China dish way, and deserted. Has that changed. It’s vibrant, enticing and filled with wonderful packages that proclaim Englishness.

Off to the British Museum…

New York City Blog — Sept. 5 – Sept. 11

I like to walk up the Guggenheim’s spiral rotunda, turn around and walk down. The current Moholy-Nagy: Future Present exhibit is a stunner. Moholy-Nagy was born in Hungary at the end of the nineteenth century. He embraced the new technical developments of his times. Aluminum and plexiglass shimmer in his later, American works. Moholy-Nagy sculpted, painted and experimented with photography and film. The Guggenheim is a perfect venue for his work. The sky was the limit for him. Half way up or down the ramp is a charming key hole shaped door. It’s the entrance to a small, beautiful library with Frank Lloyd Wright like chairs and free standing book stands, a cozy nook packed with books and tech equipment about Moholy-Nagy.

Moholy- M aluminum art exhibited at the Guggenheim

Moholy- Nagy aluminum art exhibited at the Guggenheim

Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim

Moholy-Nagy at the Guggenheim

 

 

 

 

 

 
On Thursday I ventured to Morristown, N. J. to attend a Johnny Mathis concert. Isn’t he dead? several friends asked. Not at all. At eighty, the elegant, gentlemanly Mathis is still belting out Henry Mancini’s standards: “Moon River”, “The Days of Wine and Roses”, but the songs I savor are “Wonderful, Wonderful”, “It’s not for Me to Say” and “99 Miles to L. A.”. One of our party mentioned that Mathis had received operatic training. It certainly shows. And another thing. Mr. Mathis practices the old fashioned virtue of punctuality. The concert was scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Guess what – It did.

City Center is like a beehive. Entrance to the main site is on 55th Street but studios associated with the theatre are found within a two block radius. Mac Twining was performancing in Walkaround Time by Merce Cunningham. The Cunningham Foundation studio is on 56th Street. You take the ornate elevator to the fifth floor, enter a vast and empty studio and are engulfed by the NYC thrill of the new and the young venerating the old and venerable. In NYC terms, 1968, the year Cunningham created Walkaround Time is venerable. It was a delightful three quarters of an hour.

New York City Blog Aug. 22 — Aug. 28

I saw Florence Foster Jenkins. Fine acting by pros Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant. It’s a remake of the children’s tale, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In this case, the one person who speaks and writes the truth, The New York Post’s critic, is portrayed as the villain for reviewing honestly Jenkins’s Carnegie Hall recital. I didn’t see the point of the movie and I didn’t like Jenkins. She embodied our American mantra: money talks. She manipulated people through her wealth. Florence Foster Jenkins is surrounded by older ladies who are either very, very stupid and honestly think she can sing or they’re dreary social climbers dazzled by her $$$$$. As a gigolo, Hugh Grant is very good at playing a man who’s playing a part. Question: Why should a rich white lady be encouraged to delude herself? Answer: Because she’ s a rich white lady. What do people of color think of Florence Foster Jenkins?

Employees Only is a wonderful restaurant on Hudson Street. Forget the weird name but remember it until you arrive at 510 Hudson. It has a dated speakeasy ambiance, so beloved by us sentimental New Yorkers. Are the five owners/ bartenders pictured in the retro photo? After you arrive at 510 Hudson, you give your name for admittance and enter a dark crowded bar. Oh, where is the cigarette smoke of yesteryear? Then you proceed to a surprisingly bright room with a skylight. The food is delicious. The knockout lamb chops wrapped in bacon, the fresh and tasty succotash. The word conjures up tired veggies but not at Employees Only. Lovely service and lots of fun. Watch out, Minetta Tavern. You have the buzz but Employees Only has the food.

Employees Only

Employees Only

Employees Only Dining Room

Employees Only Dining Room

 

New York City Blog – Aug. 15 — Aug. 20

The Film Forum has had a stroke of genius. It’s offering twofers. For the price of one movie you can see two. They have quite a lineup, starting with Rear Window and Vertigo. I ordered my ticket online. By the time I arrived at the Film Form, sold out signs were posted. Something you don’t often see at the Film Forum. Rear Window was packed. Extra chairs were set up at the back of the theatre. I am an Alfred Hitchcock fan. Rear Window is a great favorite and I’ve seen it numerous times over the years in movie houses, drive-ins and on TV. There’s nothing like an old fashioned movie house packed with fans. The audience was hushed, like children listening to a well loved fairy tale. There’s always something new in a Hitchcock film. This time I concentrated on clothing: Grace Kelly’s lavish Edith Head wardrobe, Wendell Corey as the best dressed NYPD detective ever, the spotlessly attired 21 Club waiter who delivers a lobster dinner, just the thing to serve the world famous photographer and temporary invalid, James Stewart. Hitchcock made his American movies when many people were wrapping their tuxes in mothballs and switching to jeans. Hitchcock preferred bespoke costumes especially for his blonde stars. Didn’t he escort Eva Maria Saint on a Bergdorf’s shopping exhibition for her North by Northwest wardrobe? Rear Window was made in 1954, pre-air conditioning, which is underlined by the couple sleeping on the fire escape but there were Kelly, gossamer in her divine confections and Wendell Corey, dapper and cool in sweltering NYC summer humidity, Thelma Ritter, in a very cute summer dress, dragging a large shovel up and down stairs and ledges as Kelly climbs a few stories in a princess like outfit to the murderer’s lair. Was Hitchcock obsessed with clothes? Wendell Corey comments on the victim’s wardrobe as dated but serviceable. James Stewart comments on the impossibility of Kelly and her wardrobe making do in the wild. The last scene shows Stewart snoring away with two broken legs, while Kelly, dressed down – in jeans! – sneaks a look at Harper’s Bazaar. I didn’t stay for Vertigo. Unlike many people, it’s one of my least favorite Hitchcock films.

New York City Blog – Aug. 8 — Aug. 14

The week began with Frick Education Day. It’s held on a Monday, the day the Collection is closed to the public. It’s packed with artsy activities such as making your own Meissen cup.The Girl with the Extra Earring demonstrated how to repurpose old jewelry. There’s orchid repotting, talks about Rembrandt’s self-portrait and about Clodion’s sculpture, I attended a walk-through of Watteau’s military drawings, was photographed in a Renoir painting and ate my lunch in nearby Central Park.The Staff Art Exhibition is a highlight. Eat, Drink, Page! pictured below on the left was done by Ian Rafael Titus in collaboration with Lorenzo De Los Angeles.

 

IMG_4102

Monica Seldom's Cross-eyed Introspection

Monica Seldow’s Cross-eyed Introspection

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stuart Davis is one of my favorite American artists. His splashy colors and script move. His signature alone is a work of art. Davis started out drawing commercial products and went on to give Cubism a bold American flavor. The Whitney has mounted a big exhibit that’s on until September 25. Afterwards, we dined in Untitled, the Whitney restaurant. Lovely food, attentive service, lashings of red wine and great conversation but isn’t that a dopey name for a restaurant?

Stuart Davis's Signature

Stuart Davis’s Signature

Stuart Davis: Unfinished Business

Stuart Davis: Unfinished Business

Back to the rock face. I’m finishing the second Steve Kulchek police procedural, Graphic Lessons.

 The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons

The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons

New York City Blog Aug. 1 — Aug. 7

Five and a half hours to fly from Portland, OR. to NYC. I find that amazing, crossing a continent in less time than it takes to drive to upper New York state.

The Airbnb saga has taught me a valuable, expensive lesson. Check descriptions of the property very carefully. Make sure there’s an indoor toilet. Get in touch with Airbnb if you realize you’ve made a dreadful mistake. When you arrive at the property and realize that the owners are trick photographers, take photos of the garage interior that has the fanciful label, The Garden House.

When I return each July from Portland, Oregon I’m concerned that I’ll find my hometown too gritty, rude, pushy, crowded. Not at all. It’s NYC! The Italian saying, autumn begins in August, applies to NYC. The diagonal lighting, the shadows, the summer crowd returning to Manhattan are precursors of fall. Walking by the Carlyle’s Bobby Short Way, I recalled that wonderful singer’s rendition of “Autumn in New York”.

I went to the Met Breuer at 75 St. and Madison. In its previous incarnation as the Whitney I didn’t appreciate the bunker-like building. Now, I do. Is it cleaner? The Met has tweaked the building’s surfaces, crannies and corners. Before, it seemed dusty. Now it seems polished and open for business. It smells like a new car.The enormous elevator, the bluestone floors, the exhibits that go on forever spell Manhattan writ large, 1966 style with 2016 panache. Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible is a wonderful exploration of when is a painting finished. Formerly, the exhibits were artsy, exhibits themselves. Now, they present the work in an exciting but understated way. Strolling from one Diane Arbus photo in a current exhibit recreated lonely aspects of 1950s NYC.

New York City / Portland Blog July 24 – July 31

It’s my third and final week in Portland, Oregon.

This was my second year at the Northwest Book Festival. Last year it was rained out. This year, July 30 was balmy and Pioneer Courthouse Square, Portland’s living room, was packed with tourists. I sold copies of The Lemrow Mystery and announced the upcoming sequel, Graphic Lessons, honing my selling skills by borrowing ideas from Ben Adams, the author of The Enigmatologist, with whom I shared the booth. It was exhausting but relaxed in the Portland way.

Setting up a tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Setting up a tent in Pioneer Courthouse Square.

 The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons a Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

The Lemrow Mystery and Graphic Lessons Flyer for the Northwest Book Festival

A friend and I went to the Columbia River Gorge, Multnomah Falls, drove by ice capped Mount Hood and had lunch overlooking the Columbia.

Lunch overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

Lunch overlooking the Columbia River Gorge

 

Food has ranged from 1950’s Otto & Anita’s Schnitzel Haus’s Dill Pickle Soup to contemporary raw fish at Murata’s in southwest Portland and wonderful seafood at Jake’s. NYC’s Union Square Farmers Market takes an honorable second place to Portland’s Farmers Market. It’s located on the Portland State University’s campus. It provides shady trees, serenades by various musicians and purveyors of everything from oil to wine and stupendous Italian sausage panini/hoagies/grinders.

My Airbnb adventure taught me a hard won lesson: Always read websites thoroughly. I had had excellent experiences on VRBO and assumed that Airbnb owners would be as ethical. I was wrong. I had paid $2700 in advance and was refunded $701. Luckily, my friends found me a housesitting gig and I landed in a charming cottage with a lovely garden.

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.