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

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.