August 22, 2007
A penny for your experiment
This past weekend I walked through Central Park with yw. Near the zoo, children were gathered around a machine that squeezes pennies into souvenir medallions. Yw wondered if the medallions were actually rendered from the pennies supplied. I said that would be destruction of government property. We decided to test it.
I fished a penny and fifty cents from my change purse. Yw grabbed a pen and drew all over the penny. We waited our turn. When we reached the machine, I chose the penguin medallion. We inserted our change and turned the crank. A small "tink" revealed our medallion. Our marks were still on it.
August 18, 2007
Forgoing Mark Morris a second night
Last night I decided not to go. A friend couldn't make it, and then another, and I decided I didn't want to re-experience the dance alone and so I decided to sell my tickets.
I arrived at Lincoln Center just as the rain began. I ran to duck under the awning of the State Theater, then held my tickets in my hand while I read the New Yorker. A man, soaked from the rain, asked me how much I was selling them for. His glasses dripped with rain and he squinted at the tickets. I told him the price, and he considered. He asked if I thought Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal would still be performing at Damrosch Park. I said that this seemed to be a passing thunderstorm, and that in the distance the sky looked clear. He thanked me and said he'd think about; he might return.
A man in a suit asked me where my tickets were located. I told him and he said he was looking for something a little closer. I sympathized and told him that I wish I could have had better tickets as well, but the ones I bought were the best available at the time (later someone told me they bought third ring tickets on Ticketmaster that day, and I vowed to try them in addition to the Lincoln Center site in the future). I wished him luck. He asked me for a pen, and wrote on the back of a piece of paper that he was looking for tickets.
I asked him if he often went to see dance. He said no, but that he wanted to. He said he used to dance professionally, and I asked him with what company. He had danced on Broadway, and mentioned he was in Gypsy
with Ethel Mermen. I told him I had seen the revival with Bernadette Peters. That sent him off on a series of recollections of her. He had met her a few times and praised her talent. The last time he saw her was in an evening of Sondheim performances. I said I wished I had seen her in Into the Woods
. He mentioned she had won a Tony for that performance.
I asked him what he did now. He said he was in investing; he had been in the theater from 11 to 25, and he let that statement linger in the air without elaborating. His wife appeared and they considered what to do. A woman had appeared with third ring tickets; she was hoping to buy orchestra tickets. If she did, she'd sell him hers. He consulted with his wife and they decided to go to the movies.
As the time drew nearer to curtain, the plaza and lobby filled. More people appeared selling tickets. The woman managed to buy better tickets and sell the ones she had. Other people appeared selling single tickets in various areas of the theater. I had sold one ticket earlier to a man with what seemed to be a Southern accent. He wished me luck with the other; in the past he had tried to sell extra tickets to the opera and found it somewhat difficult.
I was about to donate my extra ticket to the theater, when a woman appeared in a red rain poncho. She asked me how much. I told her thirty dollars; she offered me twenty. I appreciated that she wanted to bargain and let them go. Then raced off to beat another deluge.
listening to: Helmut Abel + Fortuna Quartet, Oda Para Un Hippie
August 16, 2007
Mostly Mark Morris
On Monday, just before falling asleep, I flipped through the recent issue of the New Yorker. I read the an article on the Mostly Mozart festival, the flip side of which disparaged the recent Ring Cycle presented at the Met, and then read an article about Mark Morris's new dances, commissioned by the festival. The inital three-day run had sold out, and four additional nights had been added. I fell asleep reading the article.
The next morning I bought tickets. Yw had texted me about opera and dance, and I asked if she would join me. She said yes.
We picnicked in Columbus Circle, the fountains all but drowning out the sound of the traffic that surrounded us. A family sat beside us eating ice cream. Yw had brought a bag full of food from a fast-food Korean restaurant near Macy's and we laid it all out before us. Our dinner proved tasty.
We arrived early to the State Theater. Groups of people hung out in the plaza. We went inside.
I hadn't been in some time, and we walked around, looking at the art housed therein. Yw joked that she hadn't realized we would be visiting a museum. When we reached our seats in the fourth ring, she smiled and asked if we were seeing Gotterdammerung.
Below us, the orchestra warmed up. Emmanuel Ax ran his fingers across the piano, practicing runs. The lights dimmed as people rushed to find their seats.
The dances were beautiful. The live music added a new dimension to the experience, and I felt as though I was surrounded by it. I sat enthralled.
After the performance we stayed in our seats, waiting for people to exit. On our way out we lingered on the terrace before a guard chased us out. I lingered by a Jasper Johns work hanging in the lobby before walking back out into the night. This morning I bought tickets to see it again.
August 15, 2007
The Museo de la Independencia in Tucuman advertises a nightly sound and light spectacular. We didn't know what it was, but we had a free night and decided to return. At the appointed hour, we arrived at the front doors. Groups of people had already begun collecting in front of the building. The night was cold, and people shuffled to keep warm.
The doors opened. We bought our tickets and were ushered into the first courtyard. We were told to stand along the edges. Yw and I looked up into the sky, wondering what the sound and light spectacular could be. I was expecting lasers, shapes drawn in the sky. I was surprised they might do something like that in the middle of the city, in an open courtyard surrounded by buildings. We waited expectantly.
A voice echoed through the courtyard. Excitement built. A light illuminated a small shrub. The voice changed.
I slowly came to realize that each bush and tree that would illuminate indicated a different person. The voices told the story of Argentina's independence. In Castellano. I started giggling. Yw stifled a laugh.
We moved from one courtyard to the other as Argentina progressed towards independence. At one point, after a heated meeting, bells were rung and cries of "Independencia!" and "Libertad!" spilled out from the speakers. Lights shone.
The spectacular ended in a courtyard flanked by bas reliefs of the independence effort. A flag flew in the center. A gate opened onto the street, and we all shuffled back into the modern world.
Last night we went to Nomad, a delicious Moroccan restaurant in the east village. Yw had suggested we try something new. I was skeptical at first (I've had disappointing experiences with Moroccan food in New York) but was impressed from the start. We began with a grilled octopus salad that was tender, the flavors perfectly balanced between the grilled seafood, fennel, and the sweet oranges added to the plate.
For entrees, we had the vegetarian cous cous and the chicken and olive tagine. The cous cous was served with a large boat of broth, which Yw added to the dish. The cous cous was deliciousfluffy and flavorful; my past experiences with cous cous in New York had been dry. The tagine came on a regular plate instead of in the tradition tagine. French fries were draped over the dish. The meat was tender, the broth delicious. The french fries were nearly perfect; Yw couldn't stop eating them.
We sat in a far corner of the attractive garden. As night fell, Moroccan lamps were lit around us. A lamp shone a red light on a plant behind Yw. I told her to be careful. It might just shout out "Independencia!"
August 9, 2007
I can't stop listening to Wagner's ring cycle. A few weeks ago, I attended a complete Ring cycle at the Met. I had wanted to see the operas in four successive nights as Wagner intended, but I found tickets for weekend performances on ebay; tickets had been sold out for over a year. We were in the second to last row.
The music was great; the singers were hit and miss; the production left a lot to be desired. We had read about Ringnuts in the New York Times, who follow the opera cycle around the world, sometimes wearing viking hats. Yw bought us helmets, which we proudly wore to the performances. People followed us around; some asked outright to take our pictures, some attempted to be surreptitious. People asked where we bought the hats and with each night more helmuts appeared. The second night, a German television crew asked us if we could stand in front of the opera house so they could frame a better shot.
On the second night, the evening felt surreal. We sat in the same seats, surrounded by the same people. It was almost as if the day between performances had never happened. As the curtain came up on Die Walkure, I was swept away by the music and the story. I had purposely not read the synopsis, so that I could watch the opera unfold as gods and men sang on the stage.
I was tired by the time we reached the second weekend and Friday night's performance of Sigfried. I was disappointed to find that most of the opera was a summary of the past two nights. The music, however had become even more densely layered. People welcomed us; one had hoped to see us in our helmets and was happy we had come. The final opera ended almost comically, as the final deaths were treated somewhat haphazardly in the staging. When it was over it was like we had run a marathon. We had made it through some 17 hours of opera.
I started reserving complete Ring cycles at the library. I read opinions on different conductors. So far I've only made it through James Levine's complete recording. While lush, I find his reading somewhat plodding, and I agree with a review that lamented the somewhat nasal and lightweight Sigfried.
And although not a complete cycle, I really enjoy Erich Leinsdorf's muscular reading of Die Walküre. It grabs you from the first measure and doesn't let go. I can't wait to hear Solti's cycle.
Someday, I hope to attend a complete cycle in Bayreuth.
August 8, 2007
Summer evening stroll
It's hot in New York, though not as hot as one might think. Still, it was hot enough to consider spending the evening at the cinema.
I walked south after work. The early evening was hazy; the sun felt like cotton stretched between the buildings. I walked down Broadway, then cut across town on Broome. I crossed Canal and wandered through Tribeca, stopping in a small gallery along the way. I passed Duane park, the second oldest park in the city. A homeless man slept on a park bench.
At the movie theater, a piece of paper taped to the ticket dispensers indicated that they were working on the air conditioner in a few screening rooms. All of the films in which I was interested were being shown in the affected rooms. I took an escalator to the hotel lobby connected to the theater to decide what to do. I found a couch and grabbed a New Yorker from my bag. I sat and read until the sun set.
As I was leaving, I stopped by the bathroom. It had appeared empty, but as I washed my hands, I could see the tip of a man's shoe in the stall. I was surprised to find I was not alone. Something about the shape of the shoe reminded me of being in a public restroom with the jazz vocalist Jon Hendricks. I've mentioned it before, about how when I asked about his schedule he ran off a number of dates in cities seemingly around the world; and about how when I expressed awe that he could be so active he told me, "I'm like a taxicab; can't make a dime standing still."
I walked home along the river. A breeze blew off the water. The night was cooler, but the day's heat lingered in the air. New Jersey seemed to press close to the shore.
August 7, 2007
I'm trying to refocus. I've been thinking about work. I've purchased a new compact camera in the hopes that it'll jump start my thinking about photography. I find that I'm reading more. I'm buying more books.
I haven't had time to write about Argentina. Once the weather becomes cooler and I have more time to sit in front of my computer I'll dig back through my memories and share a few stories.
On Saturday I went to see the Paul Taylor Dance company at Lincoln Center. We sat on the aisle. The night before, we were in the front row. That night, we could see the dancer's faces, but not their feet. People would sit, complain about not being able to see the dancer's feet, and then move. Throughout Friday night's performance, the woman beside me held her hands to her face, blinding herself to everything but the dancers on stage.
Before the performances, the dancers took to the stage to warm up. It was amazing to see that which is usually in the background, performed backstage, suddenly in the foreground. We watched as the dancers stretched, ran through steps (their faces concentrated masks; their music concentrated in their heads, delivered via ipods), clipped their toenails. As the hour drew near, the dancers would disappear one by one until the stage was bare. Then, two custodians mopped down the floor.
Friday night, a storm threatened the performance. Some people thought the lightning was flash bulbs. Plastic sheets were unfolded to cover the electronic equipment. The dance started, and the clouds held. The storm broke as I stepped into my building.