Isn’t visiting a museum you’ve been in many times like visiting old friends? Each work of art pin points a moment in your own life, That’s how I feel when entering the permanent collection at the New Whitney Museum to be greeted by Calder’s Circus. The circus mobiles date from 1926-1931 and show their venerable age. Joseph Albers’s Homage to the Square series recalls the mid-twentieth century. There’s Joseph Stella’s moody Brooklyn Bridge, Richard Avedon’s classy photography and George Bellows’s fight scenes.
I returned to the fifth floor to see the other Stella again. Frank Stella rules. It’s a big, brash exhibit, the kind of fireworks NYC museums do well.
The New Whitney has views of the former meatpacking district, the High Line and the Hudson River. There’s infinitely more natural light than in the old bunker building. Well done, old friends. The move suits you.
Hello, snow! I’m sitting in my twelfth story aerie with icy patterns on the windows, cosy and warm inside and peering out at a deserted, white world. I’m pulling a Nero Wolfe, aside from orchids, and reading The Gazette, the Wolfe Pack journal.
Have you seen Janis: Little Girl Blue? A friend and I went to one of IFC’s tiny theaters and sat nose to nose with the screen. During her career, Joplin scared me. Her raw emotion and sound invaded parts of my subconscious I was avoiding. To this day, I sidle up to friends and ask if they liked her. The response has always been a resounding and unanimous yes. I went to the documentary to see if I’d grown up. Yes and no. Joplin no longer scared me. Instead, I was fascinated by her middle class background and revolted by the unkindness she encountered. For me, she was a social phenomenon. I’m still waiting to appreciate her music. The documentary had great shots of 1960’s San Francisco and Woodstock. Afterwards, we trotted down Sixth Avenue and had an afternoon snack, the best pork buns in town and lovely green tea.
Gonzalez Y Gonzalez is a great guacamole/tequila/chips joint that’s two feet from the Angelica movie house. A friend and I tucked into everything fried and alcoholic before seeing Carol. It’s a very pretty movie, that turned a good book, The Price of Salt, into a soap opera.This time, Patricia Highsmith has eluded the director, Todd Haynes. If there’s an academy award for props like fur coats and cigarette lighters, Carol is a shoo-in. I was more interested in the luscious clothes, hair styles -those straight parts are such a turn on – and vintage cars than I was in the women.
Ever read the Nancy Drew series? Nancy Drew’s father, Carson Drew, had a shiny black roadster. I felt like a Nancy Drew character as my editor and I, in her shiny blue Honda, drove from East 20 Street to 125 Street, crossed over to the westside and zoomed south to Wall Street. We were citing the locations of my next mystery, Graphic Lessons. Gigi Hernandez, a young Puerto Rican girl attending the Windsor School (90 Street and Park Ave.) as a scholarship student, lives at East 124 Street with her Uncle George, a Winslow kitchen worker who got her the scholarship, her father, Manuel, who also works at the school as a handyman and who takes incriminating photos of a NYPL department captain, Richard Holbrook (domicile: 114 East 90 Street) and his secret squeeze (1088 Park Avenue). Detective Steve Kulchek (20th Street Loop, Stuyvesant Town) is the lead investigator of a murder at the Windsor School.
Alan Rickman died at 69. In 2005, Rickman directed the award-winning play My Name is Rachel Corrie, which he and Katharine Viner – now Guardian editor-in-chief – compiled from the emails of the student who was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer while protesting against the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip. This was not mentioned in the American media.
A friend and I attended Alwan for the Arts for the fifth annual Maqam festival. Maqam is an Arabic melody type.Tareq Abboushi and his musical band, Shusmo, filled the room and probably most of Beaver Street with the sound of enchanting, exotic music. Remember the tambourine? In elementary school, if you had zero musical talent you played the tambourine or the triangle. Zafer Tawil who plays at least five different instruments, made the tambourine rock not to mention the strap of bells around his right ankle, a yellow gourd filled with seeds and a drum.
Books and words are old friends, aren’t they? Fiction, nonfiction, dictionaries, picture books, maps… One of my pleasures is to browse in a bookstore or library and see familiar names across the centuries: Chaucer, Saint Simon, Emily Dickenson, Amy Lowell, Kenneth Graham, Edith Wharton, James Baldwin, E. M. Forester, Ruth Rendell, Michael Connolly, etc. Each recognized name makes me recall the book, the author, the circumstances under which I read it. When I read Simenon’s description of French life it takes me back to a rural train station near Rodez in which my partner and I had delicious
homemade soup. Andrea Wulf’s Founding Gardeners whisked me back to colonial times and to the fragility of the brand new United States.
A man once told me that he enjoyed flipping open a dictionary at random to wander among the words and their derivations. One reason I enjoy the British sitcom, Black Books, so much is because it takes place in an old fashioned, hideously disorganized bookstore. I had thought of opening a children’s bookstore but chickened out when I faced the reality of cost. Reading is a wonderful way of taking a trip in time and space. Why does it grip some of us more than TV, movies and the stage?
My New Year’s Gift to You: Stream Black Books on Netflix. It’s screamingly funny. I never appreciated the so called humor of the Hollywood screwball comedies, but the Brits have created a goofy, very politically incorrect sitcom. It reminds me of Faulty Towers and I hope you enjoy it.
The Film Forum on Houston brings back memories of my Uncle Bill’s Indiana movie house, the Ritz. Like the Film Forum it seated about 500 people and had wooden seats. Unlike the Film Forum, on Tuesdays the Indiana Bachelors sang harmony before the Ritz’s main feature. Did you see The Last Picture Show? The Ritz could have been in that Italian movie, but so could the Film Forum. Recently, I saw Ball of Fire at the Film Forum. Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper and Dana Andrews star. It’s not The Lady Eve, unfortunately. She’s great of course. Cooper is game about playing a virginal scientist and Dana Andrews tries to shed his middle class aura and talk tough guy. It’s amazing what contract players were forced to do.
Frank Stella: A Retrospective is on the Whitney’s fifth floor. It’s a big, bright powerhouse of an exhibit, the kind of show NYC museums do well. Steve Kulchek’s current girlfriend had to drag him out of the exhibit, he was enjoying it so much and threatening to make a sculpture out of one of his old cars. Afterwards, they got into the enormous and beautiful elevator, shades of the old Whitney, and glided to the Whitney Collection on 6.