Monday, June 26, 2017

NYC Day 8: The Met Cloisters, and Week 1 Expenses

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Yet another first visit, this time to the Met Cloisters, a Medieval museum located in Fort Tryon Park, at the top end of Manhattan. I timed my visit to catch a midday tour/talk entitled Wings in the Middle Ages: Birds, Beasts, Angels, and Altarpieces, led by Michael Morris an expert in this particular area. Between now and the end of August there are another eleven different gallery talks/tours that I could participate in. These take place on weekends at 12:00 PM and 2:00 PM. There are also daily Highlights tours (at 3:00 PM), and daily Gardens of the Met Cloisters tours (at 1:00 PM).

Among many other treasures, the Cloisters Museum if famous for its numerous medieval tapestries, and the most famous of these are the magnificent tapestries that are known as the Unicorn Tapestries.

Even though I have only managed to visit each of the museums and their offshoots once each to date, purchasing memberships to MoMA and The Met Museum is fast turning out to be the best thing I have done in preparation for this visit. Since I feel no obligation to exhaust myself trying to see as much as possible each time I visit one of these institutions, I find my outings are much more relaxing and less stressful than they might have otherwise been if I was trying to pack too much into each visit.

As near as I can work it out, the weekly spend for my first week in New York was just $483, which averages out to a daily figure of $69.00. This includes transport, accommodation, food, recreation, and shopping. For readers coming late to these updates, my expenses are so low due to the fact that I am apartment and cat sitting for a friend, and I am contributing a very nominal amount to help offset costs associated with maintaining this apartment. Hence the biggest expense of any trip, accommodation, is turning out to be my least expensive cost, something for which am incredibly grateful for.

NYC Day 7: Michelangelo at the Oculus, Georgia O'Keeffe at The Met Museum

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Day seven saw me make my first foray below Midtown, where I went as far as Fulton Street, and went to the Oculus, that soaring transportation hub that covers a network of subway lines and PATH train lines link Manhattan with New Jersey. Coincidentally, a major display of large scale reproductions of scenes from Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel frescoes had began that very day. It costs $15 to get up close and personal with the panels, but people can get a reasonably good look at the works without having to pay. However, the closer the experience, the better I would suggest. Having said that, I elected not to get up close and personal, but will do so before the exhibition ends on July 23.

Finding myself within sight of the Apple Store at the Oculus, I simply had to stop in and check out the new 10.5" iPad Pro. I am finding increasingly difficult to ignore the Siren Song of the new iPad, and I have a sneaking suspicion that it won't be too long before I treat myself to the latest iteration of that amazing device.

Met Museum art class in progress

After a late lunch I headed to the Metropolitan Museum for my first 2017 look at that major institution. Despite the several hours I spent there, I never got much further than a few rooms on the first floor. Specifically, I spent most of my time in the Greek and Roman sections, while using my smartphone to listen to audio guides associated with some of the art works.

I eventually made my way to the Modern and Contemporary Art wing where I was delighted to find Thomas Hart Benton's magnificent America Today series depicting aspects of American life as he saw it during the early 1930s. I also stayed until 7:30pm, long enough to participate in a talk about Georgia O'Keeffe's Cow's Skull: Red, White, and Blue, one of her best known works.

I could have stayed on until 10:00pm and participated in a Members Only tour of one of the major exhibitions, but by 7:30 I was way past hanging around until 9:00 when the event was due to start.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

NYC Day 6: A Visit to MoMA, and The Yankees

Note: Click on images to view full sized.

Here's a quick wrap up of my main activities over the past three days. On Thursday I made my way to the Museum of Modern Art for the first of what will be many visits. I spent 90 minutes or so taking a good look at Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, a major exhibition that has been underway for a month or so already.

To be honest, I don't pretend to understand abstract art, and I suspect that like a lot of people who don't really 'get' this type of art, I tend to have a somewhat poor opinion of it. Even as I wandered through the exhibition, I could see other visitors making comments to each other about some of the works on display. The general feeling that a lot of people have about abstract art -- including myself -- is summed up in the comment, "Even I could do that!"

To which the artist in question might have asked, "Then why didn't you?"

It's a fair question, and one I don't have a good answer to, so I'll just leave lying there on the table for ongoing contemplation.

Once I felt I had seen enough of the abstract art, I took a quick look at Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking The Archive, another major exhibition that will require multiple visits to get the full value from. In fact, I was quite overwhelmed by the sheer scope of the exhibition during my brief walk through the twelve rooms (each of which focuses on a different aspect of Wright's extensive career).

From this exhibition I made my way up to the general art wings where I spent ten minutes with Money's Water Lilies, and where I paused briefly before some Mexican artists including of course Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. By this point I had reached my art appreciation limit, and was ready for some lunch. I was also dog tired, and would have loved to be able to lie down and get some sleep, but I have decided to stop my afternoon naps and push through each day well into the night in an attempt to get on top of my ongoing struggle with jet lag.

As tired as I was, and I was very tired, I took a Bx13 bus to Yankee Stadium to watch the New York Yankees take on the Los Angeles Angels, in what was being sold as a half-priced game. I should have realized of course, that 42,353 other people (or thereabouts), had also decided that they would take advantage of this special promotion. The massive queues at all the gates to Yankee Stadium had to be seen to be believed, and once seen had to be negotiated with great forbearance as they inched their way past hard-pressed security officers. Oh, and as for that 'half-price deal', it seems I didn't qualify for the deal because the promotion was being sponsored by MasterCard, and tickets had to be purchased with a credit card from that company, and I had left my card home. Ces la vie!

Since I had made the effort to get to the stadium, there was nothing for it but to pony up $21, which got me a seat in the boondocks high above the field of dreams with an eagle eyed view of the play far below. In fact, I joked to nobody in particular that if I was any higher up I would be in danger of getting nose bleeds because of the rarified atmosphere. Another pithy thought occurred to me to the effect that if I had to go any higher, I would need to be issued with bottled oxygen, again due to the rarified atmosphere so high above the ground. Some days I surprise even myself with my pithy thoughts!

For the record, the Yankees copped a shellacking from the Los Angeles Angels, despite leading the Angels early in the game 5 -1. I left at the start of the ninth innings when the Angels had reversed their fortunes and were well in the lead with a score of 10 - 5. Ces la vie, indeed!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

NYC Day 5: Sleep. Glorious Sleep, and A Fort Tryon Park Evening Walk

Holy Moly! Look at the line-up below of the many choices available to me on this, my fifth day in New York City. And exactly how many of them you may well ask, did I get to? The answer dear reader is... None. Nada. Nil.

Last night, I didn't get to bed until 1.45am, and that late night, coupled with the still lingering effects of jet lag, pushed me to stay in and rest. I don't know about you, but the older I get, the longer it takes for me to recover from jet lag and the effects of extended travel. To recap, I arrived in New York City late on Friday last, after some 32 hours of travel, either in airport transit lounges, in the air, or in trains or taxi's getting too and from my places of accommodation. Thirty-two hours!

So today, after rising late, I was again in bed just after midday for another five hours of much needed sleep recovery. The great thing about being in one city for an extended stay, as I am, is that I can afford to relax and recuperate, without feeling like I am wasting my precious days sleeping! I don't leave New York until early in September, so why worry. I have more than enough time to do all that I have planned to do.

Beside, it is obvious when you look through the list below, that there was no way I was ever going to attend more than one or two of the events listed anyway. And my daily diary for the next couple of months looks very similar. In the end I settle for a leisurely walk to Fort Tryon Park, which is less than ten minutes from the apartment at which I am staying, and watched the sun set over the Hudson River, from Manhattan's highest natural land feature. The photos illustrating this post are of the gardens at the Park.

Jazz+Wednesdays @ The American Folk Art Museum
2.00pm—3:00pm. During the run of the exhibitions Eugen Gabritschevsky: Theater of the Imperceptible and Carlo Zinelli (1916–1974), the Bill Wurtzel trio will perform music that celebrates the creativity and expressiveness of the human mind. Limited seating available.

FREE: Spiral Music Series @ THE RUBIN MUSEUM, 150, West 17th Street.
6:00—9:00pm. Koto, Shamisen, and Flute music from Japan, with Sumie Kaneko + Haruna Fukazawa…

12pm - 2pm | Brookfield Winter Garden. STORYTELLING STATION by En Garde Arts
1pm - 2:30pm | 192 Front Street. TOUR: THE OTHER SIDE OF WALL STREET PRELUDE by Black Gotham Experience 7:00PM—

Free Cap Night

Wednesday Night Poetry Slam
9:00 PM. $10.00 - $20.00. At 236, E. 3rd Street
Hosted by Jive Poetic! Line forms outside a half hour before doors open at 9:00pm.

9:00pm—1:00am. Kennedy Administration
Club Groove, 125 MacDougal Street.

FREE: SUMMERSTAGE: FĂȘte de la Musique: Wax Tailor / Her / Ayo / Ala.Ni
5:00 pm - 10:00 pm. Rumsey Playfield, Central Park. An evening of French contemporary talent and genres ranging from hip-hop to soul and pop.
2pm - 2:40pm | Intersection of Broad and Wall St. THANK YOU FOR COMING: PLAY by Faye Driscoll
5PM - 6PM | South St. Seaport Museum. MEMOIRS OF A UNICORN. By Marjani Forté-Saunders
5pm - 6:30pm and 7pm - 9pm | 192 Front Street. TOUR: CAESAR’S REBELLION Pts 1 & 2 by Black Gotham Experience
8:00pm - 11pm | Pier A Harbor House. RIVER TO RIVER LIVING ROOMS by The Dance Cartel.

MOMA Member After Hours
6:30–8:00 p.m. Enjoy private access to Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, and Robert Rauschenberg: Among Friends after the Museum has closed to the public. MoMA educators will be on hand to share insight on the works on view. Please use the Ronald S. and Jo Carole Lauder Building entrance, east of the main Museum entrance on 53 Street and present your membership card upon arrival. Member guest admission tickets can be purchased at Member Services. More Information… | More After Hours Info…

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Click images to see full sized. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

NYC Day 3: Sleep Deprived, and An Evening With Paula Cole

Paula Cole and fellow musicians take a bow at City Winery

I had good intentions for my third day in New York, but only one of those come to fruition. Due to the ongoing effects of jet lag, I only got four and a half hours sleep the previous night, and I was in no shape to hit the streets of the city. By midday I was back in bed, and thankfully caught up on much of the sleep I missed out on during the night. I was up and about again by five in the afternoon, and felt more than ready to attend my first major gig of the visit--Paula Cole at City Winery.

I have dubbed this visit, my New York City Art & Music Tour, due to the numerous gigs I have pre-booked, and also due to the memberships I have taken out with the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum. You can expect therefore plenty of art and gig reviews in subsequent posts. But on to Paula Cole.

Paula Cole was performing a selection of music by John Lennon and Joni Mitchell, which I take is a departure from doing her own material. Cole first came to my attention when I saw her performing as the back up singer for Peter Gabriel during his ‘Secret World’ concert tour. I should point out that I did not actually attend any of those shows, I had seen a clip on an Australian late night music show called Rage, which was taken from the DVD of the tour.

Last night's show was a delight from beginning to end. Paula performed with a three piece ensemble before a very appreciative audience. Unfortunately I didn't quite get all the names of the musicians, but Max Weinstein was on drums. The young guitarist's name sounded like Milay Sohar, but my spelling of his name is more of a guess than anything, and I completely missed the bass players name. Sorry about that gentlemen. Towards the end of the show she introduced Janie Barnett, a fellow singer who added extra backing vocals to Joni Mitchell's Free Man In Paris, and Big Yellow Taxi, as well as to John Lennon's Instant Karma.

Paula Cole was in great form, and she sang Joni Mitchell songs with the voice of the 40-year-old Joni. These songs were pitch perfect, and if you closed your eyes you may well have thought that Joni Mitchell herself was on stage. Her interpretations of John Lennon's best loved songs was also great to hear. I thought her selection of Lennon's very personal song, Mother was a very brave choice by Paula, and while I'm not sure she pulled it off as well as she would have liked, it certainly kept me riveted to my seat to see how she would approach it.

The night started off slowly and quietly with Joni Mitchell's Blue and Night Ride Home, and continued in a muted tone with Lennon's Love, Julia, and another Joni Mitchell song Little Green, about the daughter she gave up for adoption very early in her career. The show really hit its straps when Paula and the band ripped into Lennon's, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, and Come Together.

Here's the full set list:
Blue (Mitchell)
A Case Of You (Mitchell)
Love (Lennon)
Julia (Lennon)
Little Green (Mitchell)
Mother (Lennon)
Beautiful Boy (Lennon)
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds (Lennon)
Come Together (Lennon)
Night Ride Home/Give Peace a Chance (Mitchell/Lennon)
Strawberry Fields (Lennon)
Free Man In Paris (Mitchell)
Big Yellow Taxi (Mitchell)
Instant Karma (Lennon)

Across The Universe (Lennon)
Both Sides Now (Mitchell)
Imagine (Lennon)

More Information
Online at...

Back In The U.S., Back In The U.S.S.A.

Above: The Met Breuer on Madison Avenue

My apologies to Lennon & McCartney for stealing their song title and hacking it to suit my purposes, but here I am again, three days into a three month extended stay in America -- most of which I will spend in New York City. The trip from Australia to New York went smoothly enough, but after 32 hours of air travel, extended transit stops and time spent traveling between accommodations and airports, you can be sure I was more than happy to collapse into bed once I arrived at the Washington Heights apartment at which I will be staying.

I spent the first day close to home base, and did little more than walk to a local AT&T store where I swapped my Australian SIM card for an AT&T GoPhone SIM ($54.43). This gives me unlimited data (6Gb high speed/shaped after that), as well as unlimited local and international phone calls each month.

I had dinner (quesadilla and a beer; $22.00) at my local 'go to' nosh house, the Hudson View Restaurant at the corner of 181st and Fort Washington Avenue, before finishing my day with some grocery shopping ($78.17) at Frank's Gourmet Market on W 187th street -- though I'm not too sure about the 'Gourmet' designation. Now that I think of it, the Hudson View does not exactly live up to its name either, but I guess that's marketing for you.

Marsden Hartley’s Maine @ The Met Breuer
The following day, Sunday, after buying an MTA Pass ($121.00) giving me unlimited travel for the next 30 days, I rode an M4 bus as far as East 75th street, and went to the Met Breuer to see the Marsden Hartley exhibition that finished that same day. It was a large collection from this American artist who spent his final years in his home state, Maine -- hence the title of the show, Marsden Hartley's Maine.

The exhibition featured many oil paintings and a smattering of other media from this local artist. I myself had never heard of Hartley until I read about him on the Met Museum website in preparation for this visit. For the most part I found his work engaging, with its strong masculine themes, bold and colorful flourishes, and dark, foreboding land and seascapes.

Here are a few images from the exhibition and the location:

Entrance and ticketing counter

Marsden Hartley's Maine (Note: exhibition now closed)

Above: The Lighthouse; Marsden Hartley

Above: Canuck Yankee Lumberjack at Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Above: Flaming American (Swim Champ); Marsden Hartley.

Above: Lobster Fishermen

Knotting Rope; Marsden Hartley.

Above: Information panels.

Above: The Wave; Marsden Hartley

The Met Breuer
Corner E 75th & Madison Avenue
*Prices: Students, $12; Senior $17; Adult $25 ; children under 12 free
*Suggested prices only.

Dear Reader, you may notice strange formatting for this and subsequent blog posts. Sadly, using my aging iPad 2 to update this blog is not turning out to be the exciting and innovative experience I was hoping it would be. However, under the circumstances, right now it is the best I can do.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TED On Tuesday: Strangers In The Night?

Screen shot only. See video embedded below.

As someone who has a tendency to travel for extended periods away from home on my own, that is as a solo traveller, I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin, and with my own company. However, one thing I have always tried to do is connect in some way, no matter how small or brief that encounter may be, with the local people in whose city or town I find myself.

Talking to complete strangers is not always easy. Often I find I would like the conversations to go on much longer, but for any number of reasons this is not always possible. Also, I would love to be invited back to someone’s home to meet family and friends, to get to know more about the people and their country, but this has only happened to me once. And it may surprise you to know, dear reader, that this was during one of my extended visits to New York City.

With this in mind, I must say I was delighted to watch Kio Stark’s TED talk, Why You Should Talk To Strangers, which she delivered in February 2016 at TED2016.
Kio Stark has always talked to strangers. She started documenting her experiences when she realized that not everyone shares this predilection. She's done extensive research into the emotional and political dimensions of stranger interactions and the complex dynamics how people relate to each other in public places.
“When you talk to strangers, you're making beautiful interruptions into the expected narrative of your daily life — and theirs," she says.

In this insightful talk, Stark explores the benefits of pushing past our discomfort when it comes to talking to strangers and embracing those fleeting but profoundly beautiful moments of genuine connection.

Stark is the author of the TED Book When Strangers Meet, in which she argues for the pleasures and transformative possibilities of talking to people you don’t know. Her novel Follow Me Down began as a series of true vignettes about strangers placed in the fictional context of a woman unraveling the eerie history of a lost letter misdelivered to her door.

More Information: Online: | Twitter: @kiostark
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Love Letters to Strangers
As a bonus, I offer this short presentation from Hannah Brencher. Hannah's mother always wrote her letters. So when Hannah felt herself bottom into depression after college, she did what felt natural — she began writing love letters intended for strangers and tucking them away in libraries and cafes across New York City, for people to randomly discover. Through her blog she began offering to write a letter to anyone who needed one. 

From such humble beginnings, over the course of the next year, Hannah wrote and mailed out more than 400 hand-written letters. Truly it is said, From little things, big things grow, and indeed Hannah’s letter writing initiative has grown to become a global initiative, The World Needs More Love Letters, which rushes handwritten letters to those in need of a boost.

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