New York City Blog March 21 – March 26

Michael Moore’s Where To Invade Next made good, if obvious, points. It was too long and had a skewered approach. The featured countries are small and homogeneous, not adjectives that describe the USA. Also, Moore’s wise fool/ genial slob act has worn thin. Afterwards, we had a good supper of spaghetti alla carbonara and arugula salad. The waiter offered us a deal: $25 for a glass and a half of red wine – from a $400 bottle! We chose instead the $13 glass of plonk.

A confession: I used to walk past the Frick’s Anthony Van Dyck’s paintings, Frans Snyders, Margareta Snyders and others, vaguely bored by the yards of silk, very white hands and snooty expressions. That changed yesterday, thanks to Adam Eaker, Guest Curator at The Frick Collection, who gave an enlightened talk about Van Dyck and the Flemish seventeenth century. Curator Eaker examined the interior, mysterious life that Van Dyck portrayed on the faces of his sitters. We started our tour downstairs in the low ceiling rooms reserved for drawings. There are several self portraits, the first done when Van Dyck was fourteen. Apprenticed to Peter Paul Rubens at a very young age, he was soon recognized as a fine portrait painter. On the main floor, the Cabinet has a lovely drawing of Frans Snyders. Both the Oval Room and the East Gallery exhibit oils, done for the most part, of court figures. There’s a luscious portrait of Cardinal Guido Bentivoglio in the Oval Room, painted when Van Dyck was in his twenties. Van Dyck was especially good at painting children. The ‘East Gallery has a painting of Charles the First’s daughters, on loan from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Henry Clay Frick owned eight Van Dyck portraits. One of the most enchanting pictures the daughter of James, Seventh Earl of Derby.


Anthony van Dyck: Frans Snyders, borrowed from The Fogg for a current Frick exhibit
Anthony van Dyck: Frans Snyders, borrowed from The Fogg for a current Frick exhibit


The Princesses Elizabeth and Anne, Daughters of Charles I, borrowed from the Scottish National Portrat Gallery for the current Frick exhibit
The Princesses Elizabeth and Anne, Daughters of Charles I, borrowed from the Scottish National Portrat Gallery for the current Frick exhibit







I took this from a recent Judson Memorial Church Sunday service bulletin. “Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the whole root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, the only fact we have. It seems to me that one ought to rejoice in the fact of death – ought to decide, indeed, to earn one’s death by confronting with passion the conundrum of life. One is responsible for life: It is the small beacon in that terrifying darkness from which we come and to which we shall return. ”From Modern Testimony: James Baldwin: The Fire Next Time.

New York City Blog – March 12 – March 19

It’s been a busy week. On Monday I left my life from a hospital bed. I’d been at New York  Presbyterian Hospital (Weill Cornell is the teaching branch) since Wednesday, March 9. I’d been informed that I’d be leaving on Monday. My healthcare wouldn’t pay for additional hospital days. For a moment I panicked then realized a hospital is not a hotel. You’re there for a specific purpose and once that’s addressed you’re out. The operation had gone well. Therefore, I packed my small bag, no more than 15 lbs., went through dismissal instructions with the nurse, jumped into a wheelchair and was home in less than a half hour. I had mentioned in an earlier blog that a hospital reminds me of being at court. There are so many conventions that are lost on the short term patient. My surgeon in blue shrubs would drop by, usually attended by students in green scrubs.

Kristin and her sister Rockettes
Kristin and her sister Rockettes

Nurses wore white jackets over street clothes. Slews of different ranks dropped by: medical technicians, cleaners, clergy, volunteers, food providers, social workers. One of my volunteers was a Rockette. A Rockette? I immediately interviewed Kristin Jantzie for my blog. She and her two sisters, from Alberta, are all Rockettes. Some particulars: the Rockettes began in 1933. They range in height from 5’6” to 5’ 11”. It’s seasonal work and the dancers can dance with other companies when they’re not working on a Radio City Music Hall show. Kristin’s favorite dance is Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, part of the Christmas extravaganza since 1933. She joined the Rockettes ten years ago and has been in eleven Christmas shows and five Thanksgiving Parades.

Kristin holding Sam Suarez's flowers
Kristin holding Sam Suarez’s bouquet
Kristin with Echo, a dog that visits patients
Kristin with Echo, a dog that visits patients

Later that day I watched House of Cards. (Spoiler alert!) President Kevin Spacey lay in his hospital bed. I studied him and his various apparatus like a pro.

New York City Blog – March 6 – March 13

I attended a short and intense matinee performance at the Joyce, a former movie house called the Elgin. Now, it’s a snazzy, small dance theatre, vaguely art nouveau with a terrific rake. You can see the stage from every seat in the house. Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo danced in Trio Concordance. Are Ferri and Cornejo doing a Fonteyn/Nureyev? Both couples imbue their work with great sexiness.  Bruce Livingston, the pianist, played music ranging from Bach to Glass, including one of my great favorites, Erik Satie. In addition to Livingston, there was a quartet. It’s wonderful to have live music for a dance performance.
Rudolf Nureyev
I’m having an operation. In hospital talk that’s called a procedure. There’s so much backstage stuff when you’re scheduled for an operation: getting okays from your primary care physician and cardiologist, reporting to the hospital ahead of time to go through information and blood tests, drinking various potions the night before. Since audios calm me,  the night before the operation I listened to Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. I was transported to Prince Edward’s Island. 

New York City Blog Feb. 28 – March 5

Watching the political circus unfolding before our eyes and before the presidential election, I thought these words of Daniel Berrigan were appropriate: Every nation-state tends towards the imperial—that is the point. Through banks, armies, secret police, propaganda, courts and jails, treaties, taxes, laws and orders, myths of civil obedience, assumptions of civic virtue at the top. Still it should be said of the political left, we expect something better. And correctly. We put more trust in those who show a measure of compassion, who denou­nce the hideous social arrangements that make war inevitable and human desire omnipresent; which fosters corporate selfishness, panders to appetites and disorder, waste the earth.

I went to a memorial at the God’s Love We Deliver building on Spring Street. The friend who died had volunteered for that organization. First, we had a buffet lunch and then numerous tributes. Many photos of the deceased were gathered in a box and pasted on walls. She was a curious, mysterious person who kept people in separate compartments. When I visited her as she laying dying in Mount Sinai, I met people gathered around her bed I’d never seen or heard of. At the memorial my old friends and I reminisced about the deceased: her wit, her kindness, her privacy. She’s gone into the great beyond. Her secrets are safe.

Jack Kleinsinger’s Highlights in Jazz is now in its 44th year. It’s presented in the Borough of Manhattan Community College’s Theatre One. Thursday’s performance featured the Cuban born Paquito D’Rivera who plays a mean clarinet and a mean saxophone. His genres include Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban jazz. In the second set he played clarinet alongside Peter and Will Anderson. In other words, a clarinet summit. Lots of fun.