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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.