Thursday, September 7, 2017

New York City: The Story So Far...

The story so far... is that I have been so preoccupied making the most of my final weeks and days in New York that I have not made the time to update this blog. However, for the record, here are my main events and activities up until Spetember 6th. This will be my last update until I return to Australia next week. Once I settle in back home, I will return to make a full accounting of the days noted below, and for the remaining four days in this amazing city.

Dateline: New York, New York : Day 74
Monday 28, August | Expenses $14.00 ($17.70)

I met my friends Joe and Katherine (who had driven all day from Niagara Falls to New York), at the Tavern On The Green in Central Park at 6:30pm and we settled in for a long night of seafood and catching up. We ordered a massive seafood spread that was mostly King-sized shrimps (prawns), crab claws and lobster parts, and oysters of various types, plus several dips and condiments to perk them up with. We shared a bottle of champagne, and finished off with coffee and cake. My friends insisted on paying for the evening, hence my very modest expenses for the day.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 75
Tuesday 29, August | Expenses $182.62 ($234.32)

I met with Kath and Joe for brunch at one of the Bluestone Café outlets on Fifth Avenue. It was my turn to play host for the day, which explains the more than usual high expenditure today. From the Café we went to the Met Museum where I used two complimentary passes to get them in for free. They were happy to let me lead them to some rooms that I thought they would be interested in, especially the period rooms, the American Wing (where we saw Sara Berman's Closet, the monumental painting, Washington Crossing the Delaware, and the even more monumental Master Piece by Cristóbal de Villapando, The Brazen Serpent and the Transfiguration of Christ.

We spent several hours at the museum before leaving at around three. We agreed to meet again at The Comic Strip (at 1568, 2nd Avenue), at 7:30pm, for an evening of drinks and laughs. The best of the comedians was Steve Marshall [], a Jewish guy who spurned the stage and performed his routine while walking among the audience. His was by far the most dynamic, humorous and seat-of-your-pants routine. There were five main acts –– three male and two female. The MC added plenty of laughs, and the night ended with three young comedians who got to try out their five-minute routines on a well-lubricated and receptive audience. The main players each got around 15 minutes each for their acts.

The comedy formula seems to be a mix of self-deprecating personal stories, exposés of family members and their weird habits, and poking light-hearted fun at audience members.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 76
Wednesday 30, August | Expenses $61.24 ($77.55)


I go back to the Museum of Modern Art yet again.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 77
Thursday 31, August | Expenses $23.12 ($29.19)

David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center
Founded in 2014 as the house band of a Munich club, the 40-piece ensemble, Jazzrausch Bigband (rausch is the German word for intoxication) has been quietly revolutionizing the German club scene with endlessly inventive performances of everything from hip-hop and house to dubstep and classical. Over the last two years they have become a regular presence at several renowned Munich music venues, including the famed jazz club Unterfahrt, indie spot Cord, and techno club Harry Klein, probably making them the only resident big band of a techno club in the world. With German fans already won over, the band has begun to attract a fervent international following soon to include Lincoln Center audiences.



Dateline: New York, New York : Day 78
Friday 1, September | Expenses $64.70 ($81.58)

I was a fine cool day as I set out to walk across the George Washington Bridge to Fort Lee, New Jersey. I first did this walk in 2010, and as I remember it, I encountered maybe half-a-dozen other people on the walkway on that occasion. Today, to my surprise, during the time it took me to complete the walk, I estimate that at least 40-50 people were walking or riding bikes across the bridge.

Once at Fort Lee, I spent some time looking through the small but interesting displays on show in the museum there. I also explored the park more this time, and was surprised to see a number of reconstructed buildings and battlements in the park. These are used for historic reenactments which take place from time to time on the site.

On my last visit, I had seen a deer wandering nonchalantly through the grounds, and I wondered if it, or its kin were still there. Sure enough, during my walk through the grounds I spotted another deer (surely it could not have been the same one). I couldn't help wondering if other visitors had seen it. It occurs to me that most people walk through nature, not in nature, and therefore miss much of the beauty of the natural environment. This fact is made even worse today, when people close themselves off from nature and the physical world with smartphones and ear buds that drown out natural sounds with a constant stream of social media posts and updates, music, games, and video streaming.

From Fort Lee, I decided to walk to the Edgewater ferry stop and take a ride back to Manhattan. I made the journey in time to catch the first ferry of the afternoon which deposited me at 79th street. I was by this time very tired, and my feet were killing me. My right ankle was especially sore, and I was grateful for the relief the 12 minute ferry ride gave me, despite its briefness.

I mapped the walk and it totaled 10.2km, which is the longest walk I have made during this visit to New York. Ask me tomorrow morning if it was a good idea. I did a little grocery shopping before settling in for the evening, and thus ended Day 78 in New York City.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 79
Saturday 2, September | Expenses $19.00 ($23.85)

I arranged to meet a friend from Adelaide at the Brooklyn Museum at 2:00pm. The museum offers pay-what-you-wish admission on the first Saturday of the month, and after a ridiculously convoluted fight with the dysfunctional subway system (the 2 and 3 trains which run closest to the museum a not running at all this weekend!), I finally reached the museum some ten or fifteen minutes after three.

I had a quick look at a new exhibition, The Legacy of Lynching, and that was about it, before leaving with Clayton and heading back to Manhattan and Greenwich Village, where we dropped into the Bitter End for the last hour of the Saturday open mic. He had to return to his future in-laws place at Cobble Hill, where his son is also staying. After we parted, I was going to treat myself to a decent meal, but then decided to return to Washington Heights and eat in––a decision which made for a very cheap day out.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 80
Sunday 3, September | Expenses $78.00 ($98.00)

Dropped by the square on my way to the Bitter End. The place was buzzing with visitors and locals including a Japanese jazz combo, and the usual group of guitarists bashing out old pop hits.

I met my Australian friend Clayton at The Malt House ( at 206 Thompson Street, Greenwich Village), where we both had a burrito and a beer. We made it to the Bitter End in time to see an exciting young singer-songwriter called Alex Creamer who played and sang with lots of confidence and wrote songs with a strong political focus. I bought her four-song EP ($5.00), and will follow her development and career with interest. She is online in all the usual places:, and elsewhere.

Alex was followed by a male and then a female singer who were both okay, but I didn't get the sense that they were going to set the world on fire anytime soon. The last act was a guy from England by way of Tokyo where he lives and works and has his own group. He was very entertaining, both with his songs and his introductions. He also played a very affective 'Mouth trumpet' using only his pursed lips, and a powerful set of lungs. I wish I had made a note  of his name, but I was enjoying his performance too much to do that.

We stayed to catch the first hour of Luba Dvorak’s Acoustic Ramble, which I thought was really rocking more than usual. A local New Yorker who shared our table said that Luba had moved to Houston, Texas, and that he was now pursuing his musical career there. His guitar playing and his stage persona have improved greatly since I saw him last year, and his is another career that is worth following.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 81
Monday 4, September | Expenses $33.80 ($42.55)

Once again I made my way to the Met Museum for possible the penultimate time. I made a point of visiting galleries I had not previously been to, including the Middle Eastern ones, as well as several others. While I was passing through the Oceania rooms, it occurred to me that neither the Met or MoMA have any contemporary Australian works on show. This was borne out when I asked a staff member about the lack of Australian representation in the museum. She immediately used her iPad to search through the online site and pretty much all she could find were aboriginal artifacts.

I later did my own search and sure enough, there appears to be no major Australian artists like William Dobell, Russell Drysdale, Arthur Boyd, Arthur Streeton, Albert Namajira, or others. However, there do seem to be plenty of cartoons by Mark Oliphant, but the big names are conspicuously missing. I will undertake a more detailed search of both sites to see who they have in their collections, and try to establish whether any are on show.

From the Met, I bussed it down to Crosby Street where the Housing Works Bookstore Café was having a 30%-off sale on all stock this past weekend and holiday Monday. I went in hoping to find one or two Rebecca Solnit books to add to my collection, but I could not find one, which is not to say they didn't have one or two of her books. I just was unable to find them, if they had them.

You know what I'm going to say now, of course––since I couldn't find Solnit I bought other books instead; namely If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, by William Faulkner (($4.00; $5.03, 290pp); The Unvanquished, also by William Faulkner (($4.00; $5.03, 254 pp), and One of Ours, by Willa Cather ($4.00; $5.03, 370pp). Tomorrow night I will add Jesmyn Ward's new book, Sing, Unburied, Sing, and that will definitely be my last book purchase for this trip.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 82
Tuesday 5, September | Expenses $73.85 ($92.30)

In Jesmyn Ward’s first novel since her National Book Award-winning Salvage The Bones, this singular American writer brings the archetypal road novel into rural twenty-first-century America. Drawing on Morrison and Faulkner, The Odyssey and the Old Testament, Ward gives us an epochal story, a journey through Mississippi’s past and present that is both an intimate portrait of a family and an epic tale of hope and struggle. 
Jojo and his toddler sister, Kayla, live with their grandparents, Mam and Pop, and the occasional presence of their drug-addicted mother, Leonie, on a farm on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi. Leonie is simultaneously tormented and comforted by visions of her dead brother, which only come to her when she’s high; Mam is dying of cancer; and quiet, steady Pop tries to run the household and teach Jojo how to be a man. When the white father of Leonie’s children is released from prison, she packs her kids and a friend into her car and sets out across the state for Parchman farm, the Mississippi State Penitentiary, on a journey rife with danger and promise. 
Sing, Unburied, Sing grapples with the ugly truths at the heart of the American story and the power, and limitations of the bonds of family. Rich with Ward’s distinctive, musical language, Sing, Unburied, Sing is a majestic new work and an essential contribution to American literature.


Dateline: New York, New York : Day 83
Wednesday 6, September | Expenses $21.00 ($26.25)


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