The Portland, OR. week began at The Living Room, a combination eatery and movie house, so dear to my heart. Eating during “Life Itself” requires a strong stomach. It’s Roger Ebert’s story and many of the scenes take place after his jaw was removed. My favorite parts were between Ebert and Gene Siskel who cordially hated each other.
Dawson Park in Portland’s north quadrant sponsors free concerts. It’s very casual and friendly. Sometimes, there’s great music.
Michael Ellick is leaving Judson Memorial Church. He will be the senior minister at First Congregational UCC in Portland. The 1891 building resembles the Old South Church in Boston. It’s considered one of the few examples of Venetian Gothic architecture in the United States.
Sand castles on Pioneer Square! It’s a nineteen year tradition that takes place in Portland’s living room. The contestants begin early in the morning and build with sand and water until 4 p.m.
I’m taking my annual hiatus in Portland, OR. staying in the best apartment with the best landlady and visiting the best friends in the world. Nauseated yet?
Why do I love Portland? One reason is because it reminds me of the Oz books. L. Frank Baum was born in New York State but spent part of his life in the midwest. I think there’s a midwest sensibility about Portland: very middle class, work oriented, courteous and odd. I’ve observed people who could have been the inspiration for the Scarecrow, Jack Pumpkinhead, Ozma and Toto.
More Portlandia: a free Russian concert in Mt. Tabor Park.The band was Chervona and billed as Eastern-Euro Carnival Insanity. I didn’t understand what that means either. Lots of fun: kiddies and oldsters and everybody in between jumping up and down, swirling, whirling to Russian music under the glorious trees of the Mt. Tabor Park.
Isn’t this a charming stand? Everybody goes to the one and only Powell’s Book Store. Recently, my friends and I attended a book talk about impressed/shanghaied 19th century Portland lads.
Mississippi Avenue in Portland’s northwest area celebrated its fair. It was huge, crowded, friendly and hot. The city is going through a heat wave.My friends chose to take a course on herbs. (Portland, you know.) I slipped away to the southeast and went to the Baghdad, a dark, cool movie house that sells food and booze to eat while watching the movie. What bliss. I watched Planet of the Apes, best movie I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the surroundings.
The ballet maniac and I went to our last ABT performance for this year. Because of a lovely coincidence, we were seated next to some friends I usually run into at a Chinese banquet.It was such fun listening to the gang toss around ballet names from the past and present and complain about the current New York Times dance critic. The performances on stage were equally wonderful. It was Shakespeare’s night: The Dream based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the eponymous The Tempest. The gang gave thumbs up for The Dream, Gillian Murphy and Herman Cornejo. I was the only one who was enthusiastic about The Tempest.
This bronze statue of Fiorello LaGuardia is in LaGuardia Place.I like his chubby figure and dated suit. Thankfully, he’s not draped in a Roman toga. I passed by it on a steamy, humid July 3 after ducking into Bruno’s Bakery to pick up July 4th goodies.
Welcome to a gorgeous lush garden in the depths of Brooklyn.
The BBC had an article by Stephen Evans about NYC’s Lower East Side. Known these days as Alphabet City, it was once called Kleindeutschland (Little Germany). On June 4th, 1904 more that 1000 people in the city’s German community died. St Mark’s Lutheran Church had chartered a paddle ship, the General Slocum, but a fire broke out. The captain believed it could be contained. It couldn’t. The Slocum Memorial Fountain, dedicated in 1906 and donated by the Sympathy Society of German Ladies, is in Tompkins Square Park.
On a more cheerful note, Saturday night three of us celebrated a birthday at Kafana on Avenue C. Feeling an Italian/Chinese overload? How about Serbian food? We settled on the spicy sausages and ajvar, the delicious pepper, tomato and eggplant spread, washed down with lovely, unpronounceable red wine. Lots of noise, the World Cup was on the TV, and good natured cheering. “Kafana je moja sudbina” means Kafana is my destiny.
Have you ever said to yourself, I will never sit through (fill in with a movie, book, etc.) again? I’m saying that about Swan Lake. The ballet fiend and I left ABT’s Wednesday night’s performance because we were disappointed by David Hallberg’s canceling, the ragged corps de ballet and the uncomfortable seats.
This is not a lime. A friend bought this avocado squash in the Union Square Farmers Market. The recipe will be in next week’s blog.
It’s been a busy week. Diana Vishneya and Marcelo Gomes were superb in the ABT’s GISELLE. Gillian Murphy, as Myrta, the Wiilis’s Queen, and her creepy followers, the corp de ballet were perfect. But the forest was so dark. It was almost as dark as the Charles James’s reverential exhibit at the Met, beautiful but I felt the need of a seeing eye dog.
BELLE was predictable and boring. Not even Tom Wilkinson’s performance saved it. I ran into some neighbors, Joe (the man) and Winston (the bird) outside the theatre.
MALEFICIENT was lots of fun. Angelica Jolie was her chiseled best. A friend and I saw the movie at AMC 25 in tacky, tourist infested 42nd Street. The movie house’s decor is vaguely Hollywood Egyptian with escalators that go who knows where. Afterwards, to Ginger, a huge Chinese restaurant, where we filled up on duck and Tom Collins.
Mutton chop, anyone? A dear friend took me to Keens. It’s Con Haggerty’s favorite restaurant. He’s Steve Kulchek’s retired uncle. We were offered a reservation at 5:30 or 9:30. We took the earlier hour. Keens has casino lighting. In other words, the minute you enter time doesn’t exist. It’s got everything: great food, great service, great decor, and a great history.
That’s not the Goodyear blimp floating over lower Manhattan, that’s me, having indulged alla Paul Bunyan in two –2 — two restaurants this week.
Off to the Frick Collection to hear Curator Xavier F. Salomon describe two paintings by Veronesi and the Parmigianino painting, Schiva Turca. Although her origins are mysterious, she’s neither a slave nor a Turk. In an early inventory that’s how the painting was identified and the name has remained.
Finally, I finished reading Simon Schama’s LANDSCAPE AND MEMORY. His thesis is that every landscape is a combination of the memories and beliefs of the viewer. It was great fun discussing it with gardeners and landscape designers. Did you know there were dragon myths in the Alps? You would if you’d waded through Schama’s fascinating but too long book.
My balletomania friend and I went to American Ballet Theatre to see MANON. The music is by Massenet. I find the story very moving, especially the final scene with the lovers dying in a Louisiana swamp. The dancers were glorious: Diana Vishneva who attracts a large Russian presence, Marcello Gomes and Herman Cornejo, two of the best male dancers performing today.
A friend who helps maintain the west 40th Street Hell’s Kitchen Rooftop Garden invited me to an open house on the Metro Baptist Church’s rooftop. It’s quite a climb – at least six flights and the last one has narrow metal steps meant for tiny feet. The friend told me the ingenious ways the four year old vegetable and flower garden came into existence. The volunteers formed a bucket brigade to get the supplies to the roof. The first season they learned from bitter experience that pigeons are not fooled by balloons and owl statues. That’s why the plots, children’s wading pools, are covered by netting. An added plus is it’s in a wonderful neighborhood for foodies.
Get thee to the Guggenheim! There’s an extensive exhibit of Italian Futurism. It’s such fun to walk up the ramp and duck into the nooks and crannies. What you miss on the way up you can catch on the way down. In spite of the crowds, the Guggenheim does not seem packed.
On Saturday I went on a Municipal Art Society two hour architectural walk on the Lower East Side. Saturday was one of those NYC days that goes from spring to summer temperatures in a few hours. In spite of the heat, Sylvia Laudien-Meo’s low keyed enthusiasm and knowledge kept up my interest. It’s not Steve Kulchek’s Bowery which he patrolled as a young police officer. Has it changed. Sober, expensively dressed people stream into stark, discreet art galleries. The Bowery still has a raffish quality which, please God, it doesn’t lose in spite of Keith McNally’s new restaurant.
It was a busy week in NYC. On Sunday I walked through the annual Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.It extends from Mercer Street to Fifth Avenue and from North to South the boundaries are East 13th Street and Washington Square South and features crafts, fine art, sculpture, and photography.
On Memorial Day the Miles Davis’s family celebrated the patriarch’s 88th birthday by unveiling “Miles Davis Way” with an NYC Block Party at 312 W 77 Street, between Riverside Drive & West End, Davis’s New York neighborhood. Lots of people arrived complete with babies and dogs.
AT NYCB my ballet fanatic friend and I saw Concerto Barocco, an enchanting classic that debuted in 1961, Other Dances with the divine Tiler Peck. We then sat through Neverwhere, more aptly, Never wear because of the ghastly costumes in the current production or better yet, Never again. It’s a deadly ballet choreographed by Benjamin Millepied. The evening ended on a joyous note: Who Cares? The Danish principal, Ask la Cour, built like a string bean, danced with the energy of a dynamo.
My tech advisor and I went to BEA (Book Expo America), held annually at the Javits Center. By comparison, Times Square is deserted and graveyard quiet. You get the picture. The first order of the day was to find the ladies room down a flight of non-working escalators. Afterwards, we refreshed ourselves with weak, expensive coffee from a stand that must rake in millions. BUT there is gold in them there pipe vaulted halls. Smiling sweetly at the prison guards who man the entrances we managed to gain entrance to the booths. Lugging and offering copies of my mystery in English and Spanish,
THE LEMROW MYSTERY AND MISTERIO EN EL LEMROW, was much more productive than going to the opening address to indie publishers. We concentrated on Marketing to Libraries and came away with invaluable tips, then on to Book Marketing Strategies and Social Media. After a vile lunch of refrigerated ham and cheese buns we returned to the booths. A long, satisfying, frustrating NYC day.
On Monday, my ballet crazy pal and I continued our dance marathon by going to ABT”s “Don Quixote” and watched, transfixed, as Ivan Vasiliev flew around the Met stage. Later that week we returned to the Met to see “La Bayadere”. The second act is everything. The corps de ballet was perfect, twenty-four dancers who glided in unison.
Like citing the first robin of spring, I realized the annual Fleet Street celebration was in town when I saw several sailors in sparkling white uniforms gathered around a fire truck. In its 26th year, it celebrates the maritime services. Remember “On the Town”? Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly, and Jules Munshin cavorted around 1944 Manhattan in those camp sailor boy outfits.
Off to Carnegie Hall for the last Met Orchestra concert, conducted by Maestro James Levine. He was greeted, as usual, with thunderous applause as he maneuvered his motorized wheelchair to the center of the stage, waved, put his hand over his heart, turned his back on the audience and was lifted, wheelchair and all, a few feet so he would be visible above a structure resembling two doors placed on their long sides that surrounds the podium. We were off to the races. Conductor Levine led the orchestra in Antonin Dvorak’s Carnival Overture. The cellist, Lynn Harrell, played the Cello Concerto in B Minor. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon, two and a half hours of acoustic bliss.
I have always admired nurses but can’t think of any kindly, intelligent nurses in films. Can you? When I saw some friends at the showing of Carolyn Jones’s THE AMERICAN NURSE I leaned over one of them and said that Nurse Ratched was reporting for duty. I shut my mouth realizing it wasn’t the brightest remark in a group who were celebrating nurses. Across the aisle, a woman laughed. She turned out to be a nurse and, of course, couldn’t have cared less about my wise crack. She and her retired policeman husband (Quote: Nurses and cops go well together.) Invited me to sit with them and share their popcorn. THE AMERICAN NURSE follows the daily schedules of five nurses. Their disciplines are varied. They range from a nurse in Appalachia who works with the poor, a nun who wondered how long small community centered nursing homes could survive without being gobbled up by large companies, a nurse who works with veterans, one who works within the penal community, and a labor and delivery nurse. All five, three women and two men, were examples of kind, intelligent professionals.