New York City Blog Nov. 18 – Nov. 24

On Nov. 19th I met Colin Huggins at a trendy Starbucks lookalike on the Bowery. It’s across the street from the former CBGB. Maybe in homage, the music in the coffee place was almost as loud as the punk music club’s in its prime. Colin has labeled himself the crazy piano guy. He’s the one you see and hear playing his Yamaha baby grand in Washington Square Park. How did he get it there? He used to drag and pull one of his Craig’s List pianos on piano dollies. Now, he’s using one good piano and has a crew load it up from a nearby storage unit and then set it up in the park. I asked him if the Parks Department required a special license. It doesn’t as long as he uses no electricity. The hours are long. In summertime, Colin plays twelve hours on each of the weekend days. In fall and spring that’s reduced to eight hours and during the winter he signs off at 3:30. All that weather is bad for the piano, but as Colin said he could maintain the Yamaha inside, but then he’d make no money. I nosed around about his finances.  He said most of what he earned went to rent. Colin, Georgia born, pointed to the cider and grilled cheese he’d just bought for $15, commenting on how expensive NYC is. His three CDs were labors of love. He said that anything can be downloaded and that cuts into sales. On his website he compares himself to Gollum from The Hobbit. I think there’s a Middle-earth quality to hearing Brahms and then discover a very serious young man playing a very serious piano near the Washington Square fountain.

Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist

Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist

.    A Brooklyn mystery: On their walks around Brooklyn,  a friend and her grandson keep finding the photos below. What do the symbols represent? Are they

I. and T.s mysterious Brooklyn markings

I. and T.s mysterious Brooklyn markings

 

Another example of the mysterious marks

Another example of the mysterious marks

surveyors’ marks? All suggestions are welcomed.

New York City Blog Nov. 11 – Nov. 17

On Tuesday I went to Paul Taylor’s studio on Grand Street. Julia Foulkes, a New School history professor and Carolyn Adams, a principal dancer with the Taylor Company from 1965 -1982 discussed Taylor’s “From Sea to Shining Sea”, first danced in 1965. The room is a large space with wooden flooring, white walls, and a high ceiling. Circular windows look out onto Grand Street. The audience of about sixty people sat on a raised platform facing inward across the space toward a large screen. Professor Foulkes spoke about the political influences of the time: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of the Kennedys, King, Malcolm X,  the riots and the Civil Rights Bill.Various clips of the piece were shown. The earliest was from German television, its grainy black and white quality added to the feeling that we were stepping into the 1960s. Taylor was quoted as describing the backdrop of “From Sea to Shining Sea” as patriotism past its prime. Carolyn Adams contrasted the dancer’s emphasis on getting the choreography right. She said, “The information is in the task.” Ms. Adams told an amusing story about auditioning for Taylor. She was still at school and went to the audition because he had a nice reputation. After a long day, she wanted to leave to finish a term paper, but Taylor stopped her. She told him she wouldn’t have come if she knew he was going to pick her.Pick her, he did and she’s now on the Paul Taylor Dance Foundation board. It was a delightful evening. Both speakers were articulate, amusing and listened to each other. Another plus: the talk was only one hour long. A lovely New York evening.

Carolyn Adams and Julia Foulkes discussing "From Sea to Shining Sea".

Carolyn Adams and Julia Foulkes discussing “From Sea to Shining Sea”.

The audience at the Paul Taylor studio

The audience at the Paul Taylor studio

On Friday I went to a Sondheim/Marsalis evening at City Center. It went on forever. Does anyone else find Sondheim monotonous? There’s a little dark cloud that sits on top of his art. That sense of impending depression flattens his music for me.I am certainly in the minority. Spruced up City Center was packed with devotees, eager to clap and shout bravo.

 

New York City Blog – Nov. 4 – Nov. 10

Halleluliah! What do ordinary Catholics think?
At the beginning of the week, Pope Francis instructed the bishops to discuss with their congregations the topics of  contraception, gay marriage, and divorced Catholics being refused communion.The bishops will then disclose their findings at a Synod in a year’s time.
On Nov. 5 the Frank Perowsky Manhattan Samba Band played at the John Birks Gillespie Auditorium within the Baha’i Center at 53 E. 11 Street. The performance was wonderful. Saxophonist and clarinetist Perowsky led the eight man band in his and others original compositions.
Carlton Holmes on piano and Waldron Ricks on trumpet

Carlton Holmes on piano and Waldron Ricks on trumpet

Saxaphonist and Leader Frank Perowsky

Saxaphonist and Leader Frank Perowsky

Ilya Lushtak on guitar and Eddie Montalvo on conga

Ilya Lushtak on guitar and Eddie Montalvo on conga

 

On Sunday, Colin Huggins,  the Washington Square pianist, had parked his piano near the fountain and was enthralling the public. Brahms thundered across the square.

Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist

Colin Huggins, the Washington Square pianist

 

New York City Blog Oct. 28 – Nov. 3

I’m basking in the Venetian afterglow. Last Monday, Oct. 28, we climbed into a water taxi at 3 a.m. and headed across the lagoon and into the open sea to the Marco Polo Airport to take a flight to Amsterdam at 6:30. Shades of Key Largo. The fog shrouded us in our noisy motor boat, giving the impression that it was snowing. At the airport, we found the entrances locked but got in by taking an external elevator to somewhere in the building. Marco Polo Airport is snazzy and small. Starting at 5 a.m. you can buy delicious coffee in its many variations. Delta had instructed us that as of late October, Venice was no longer a one-stop destination.That’s why we were shunted to KLM for a stop over in Amsterdam. As we approached Schiphol, the pilot announced (groan) turbulence was to be expected because of the storm battering the U. K. We rocked and rolled our way to Amsterdam, then caught a Delta flight to NYC.

The Venetians were preparing for their marathon on Sunday, Oct. 27. It was great fun walking across the pontoon bridge that spanned the Grand Canal from the Salute to San Marco. I had done it one other time when I was in Venice for the July festival of the Redentore which commemorated the end of a 16th century plague. That temporary bridge connects Palladio’s Redentore to San Marco.

2013 Venetian pontoon bridge being constructed. In this photo, it's to the middle of the Grand Canal

2013 Venetian pontoon bridge being constructed. In this photo, it’s to the middle of the Grand Canal

 

Walking on the temporary bridge

Walking on the temporary bridge

 

The pontoon bridge spans the Grand Canal for the Venetian Marathon

The pontoon bridge spans the Grand Canal for the Venetian Marathon

 

I’ve been living twin experiences: Venice’s marathon and now New York’s. Last week in Venice we set our clocks back and we’re doing it again in NYC.  I’m including pictures of Venetian preparations for their marathon.