Isn’t the family of man the most dysfunctional of all? At first, the Interfaith Service at the World Trade Center reminded me of Thanksgiving with everyone dressed nicely, on their best behavior and putting up with a loquacious and boring uncle i. e.Timothy Cardinal Dolan. There were lots of white men, a few women, one or two Asians, a token Black or two. The drama was that the faiths which usually are battling or ignoring each other came together to honor the dead. I was moved. Religion is once again sexy. And Pope F. has left town just as he was beginning to be too much.
I finally made it to the Whitney in its newish location, 99 Gansevoort Street.The Whitney claims itself to be the world’s leading museum of U. S. twentieth-century and contemporary art. I beg to differ. How about MOMA? How about the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art? How about ———. Fill in your choice. I think most of the Whitney instillations/ projects etc. could be carted away by a dumpster. What I do like is the breeze off the Hudson on the outdoor exhibit spaces and the NYC attitude.
I went to the Arsenal in Central Park to the Garden and Forest Book Club to discuss Jack Nisbet’s David Douglas, a Naturalist at Work, An Illustrated Exploration Across Two Centuries in the Pacific Northwest. By a happy coincidence I had read most of the book while in Oregon and had been to the Oregon Historical Society to see a small exhibit about Douglas. Douglas (1799-1834) made a systematic collection of northwest flora and fauna, before dying at age 35. At the book club we discussed the practice of sending specimens from across the sea to another part of the world. i.e. the U. S. Northwest to Scotland. Nowadays there is controversy among gardeners and botanists about native plants and invasive (foreign) species.
Symphony Space is, as every New Yorker knows, on upper Broadway. I love Broadway because it refuses to be gentrified, a fate that has befallen Fourteenth Street and Alphabet City. The Thalia is housed in Symphony Space. Years ago, the original Thalia was on slightly seedy Eighth Avenue. It was a movie house and was kicked out of the downtown neighborhood for showing dirty movies. So it moved uptown.The Joyce Theatre replaced the Thalia in what is now uber gentrified Chelsea. Meanshile, back at Symphony Space’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia, we attended a jazz concert by middle eastern musicians, sponsored by Alwan. Amir ElSaffar’s Two Rivers Ensemble celebrated the release of its third CD, Crisis.With a mix of eastern and western instruments, the noted trumpeter, ElSaffar, and his ensemble expressed their anger about the current middle eastern tragedy.
I spent the weekend in Connecticut. Remember the Merritt Parkway? Think Howard Johnson Restaurants and other 1930’s icons.The Parkway has tree canopies, art deco bridges – in concrete. Don’t forget. It was built in the late 1930’s. To this day it has limited access which means no commercial vehicles, trailers, towed vehicles, buses, or hearses. It runs from the New York state line in Greenwich, where it serves as the continuation of the Hutchinson River Parkway, to the Housatonic River in Stratford, where the Wilber Cross Parkway begins. It’s a wonderful way to begin a country weekend near Ivoryton.
I went to the IFC Center to see Phoenix. It’s a German film that reminded me of that French oldie, Diabolique. Phoenix has a perfect noir setting: postwar Germany. The Jews who survived the death camps eye their German neighbors suspiciously and the Gentiles reek with guilt. The plot isn’t plausible, but Kurt Weill’s and Ogden Nash’s Speak Low is as haunting as ever. Originally, the IFG was the Waverley, well known and well regarded for funky films. It was the first movie house to show midnight screenings and audience participation of The Rocky Horror Show. Once an independent movie house, iit’s now owned by AMC networks.
Speaking of movie houses, have I told you about Portland, Oregon’s The Living Room? It’s the sort of theatre where they show arty flicks like Phoenix plus, and it’s a big plus, serve food and drinks to you while you’re watching the movie. There’s the Bagdad in Hawthorne. It’s a movie palace of old: miles of red carpet, Aladdin and His Lamp stairways and decor. Food and drink are also served. You will never find Phoenix at the Baghdad, but you will find Mission: Impossible.
Fat Afro Latin Jazz Cats. How’s that for a name? It’s the pre-professional youth orchestra of the nonprofit Afro Latin Jazz Alliance. It’s sensational. The musicians are dazzling and so young. Not one member is over eighteen, but they play like seasoned professionals. They were trained by Arturo O’Farrell, Jim Seeley, and Zack O’Farrell. In Brooklyn, Sunday afternoon they performed at the Emmanuel Baptist Church Jazz Vespers.
Steve Kulchek’s old basketball ankle injury kicked in so he went to Sports Medicine at the Beth Israel Mecial Center on 14th Street and Union Square East. He brightened up when he saw the wing was named after Louis Armstrong, one of his favorite trumpeters. I asked him why a hospital wing would be named after a musician. It’s an American curiosity, isn’t it? Is it our love of celebrities? We’re ahistorical but we need famous people. Can you imagine a photo of Lafayette eliciting the same response as Louis Armstrong? Never. Lafayette is dead and foreign. Besides, few people have heard of him. How about the picture of a saint? Can you imagine Saint Sabastian complete with arrows hanging in the medical center’s atrium?