I came to Ai Weiwei very late.I didn’t know he had been detained for eighty-one days because he was critical of the current Chinese Communist party. Nor did I know he helped design the “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Olympics. In other words, I knew nothing. His public art exhibition, Good Fences Make Good Neighbors, made me curious about him. I kept passing the cage-like metallic structure that’s been installed in the middle of the Washington Square monument. A friend suggested, actually dragged me to Human Flow the last day of its showing at the Angelica. It’s a long, heart breaking documentary by Ai Weiwei about refugees. Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian diplomat, explained that being a refugee deprives an individual of respect. He or she is suspect, not trusted.
Weiwei filmed in 28 countries. The photography, much of it from drones, is wonderful. Ai Weiwei comes across as a gentle, simpatico person. He reminds me of another gentle, simpatico person, Dr. Willie Parker, who toils in the field of legal abortion in several southern states. Weiwei lives in Berlin. He longs to go back to China to see his mom. He is a refugee albeit a celebrated artist. In one scene he and a refugee in a camp playfully exchange passports. Weiwei gets the refugee’s tent and the refugee gets Weiwei’s Berlin apartment. In your dreams.
Graphic Lessons: Recent thirty-five-year-old widow Millie Fitzgerald applies for a private school teaching job, faints on a stabbed and dying man in the school kitchen, deals with the only witness to the stabbing – a troubled nine-year-old, develops a crush on a NYPD detective and her dog dies.
Graphic Lessons: Nine-year-old Dana is the only witness who overhears three people fighting with George Lopez, the soon to be stabbed Windsor School kitchen worker. Who can she tell? Her mother who never listens or accuses her of lying? Her father who’s started a new family in Singapore? She tells Millie.
Graphic Lessons: Something’s eating at NYPD Detective Steve Kulchek: a failed marriage? surviving a car bomb? his girlfriend marrying his corrupt boss? screwing up an important case? It doesn’t matter because he’s relentless.
Ai Weiwei‘s public-art project about immigration and cultural exchange has been installed in the Washington Square Arch. Weiwei’s film, Human Flow, is at the Anglelica and an asteroid is named after him.
I had lunch at Serendipity, that 50s institution devoted to making you five pounds fatter. In the long awaited Graphic Lessons there’s a similar restaurant so, of course, I had to check it out. Lines of the young and their mothers gathered outside the restaurant. We were allowed to enter at 11 a.m. It’s filled with touristy items: mugs, t-shirts, fake Tiffany lamps. The menu is gigantic, even by NYC standards. I expected the service to be sluggish and the food to be tired. I was wrong. The service was excellent. The avocado and shrimp salad although a little heavy on the mayonnaise dressing was delicious. Like the menu, it was enormous and could have fed three other people. Serendipity has come up with a solution to bullying: the blue sundae.
On October 15, I joined Judson Memorial Church. My induction ceremony was very Judson: warm-hearted and sincere. I spoke these thoughts during the ceremony:
Judson gives me a spiritual home and gives me hope. What I’ve received from the various religions I’ve been a part of: Catholicism: a sense of universality, an admiration for Italian and French church architecture, from the Episcopalians: prayers based on King James Bible, from the Society of Friends: examples of civic responsibility such as their early condemnation of slavery, the school they founded in Ramallah for Palestinian children and they do not say the Pledge of Allegiance. From the UCC/Judson: wonderful music and bearing witness plus Judson friends who have read the Oz Series, the Anne of Green Gables series and the works of Anthony Trollope.
I write police procedurals and volunteer at one of the NYC museums. I was born in NYC, lived in Rome for eight years and spend part of the summer in Portland, Oregon playing with the Judson west crowd.