Monday, August 28, 2017

NYC Day 68: End Of The Line Game #3: Brooklyn By Bus

My route across Brooklyn as mapped by my Map My Walk app.
Today I had every intention of going for a long walk along Brooklyn Bridge Park, which follows the East River for some considerable distance. However, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and it didn't take long before the heat and high humidity dissuaded me from that idea. So what was I to do? After I surfaced from the A-train at the High Street/Brooklyn Bridge station in Brooklyn, I made a spur of the moment decision to board the nearest bus, and see where it would take me.

Yes folks, I was about to play the End Of The Line Game one more time.

The nearest bus turned out to be for the B25 route. I picked it up in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge on Front Street, and before too long I found myself wending my way along the miles long Fulton Street, towards Broadway Junction where I the bus was due to end its run. At Broadway Junction I boarded a B83 bus which was heading to what I assumed was a mall of some type called, Gateway Center, somewhere on the edge of Jamaica Bay (No, not that Jamaica!).

I have written before about my reasons for catching buses rather than taking the subway, which is invariably faster and more direct. However, the subway lines don't take you to every corner of greater New York City, and besides, you don't get to see much of the city while speeding through deep, dark tubes underground.

Let me just say that I am not all that familiar with the far reaches of the outer boroughs. While many parts of this vast city are well maintained, and even quite beautiful, I know that there are others parts that are in desperate need of maintenance and beautification. These areas include parts of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn.

In Brooklyn, despite the gentrification that is slowly transforming those neighborhoods bordering the East River, the farther away you get from the river and Manhattan the worse the borough begins to look. And so it was, that as I sat on my B25 and B83 buses, I found myself, and not for the first time, as the only non-person of color, or non-Spanish speaker, gazing out the windows as we passed through the neighborhoods of Fort Greene to Crown Heights to Brownsville, and finally to East New York.
Above and Below: A couple of images from my bus seat.
Above the Brooklyn War Memorial
It soon became apparent that these outer neighborhoods are among the poorest and least serviced areas of the city. I was amazed at the number of shopfront churches that line the main roads through these neighborhoods. On one short Fulton Street block, there were seven such storefront churches vying for the hearts and souls of the local residents.


Starting at 2077 Fulton Street and working your way up you will find The Melchizedk House of Prayer; the Spanish American Christian Church; the New Hope Pentecostal Church; the Blessed Assurance Church of God; Emanuel Christian Church; Gethsemane Baptist Church, and finally Saved To Serve Ministries Inc.

Other nearby churches sported names like Full Gospel Church of God #2 Inc, St. Paul's Pentecostal Church of God, and the St. Matthew Fire Baptist. The Full Gospel Tabernacle-Faith was right next to The Spiritual Israel Church and its Army, both of which were close to the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, and on and on and on. In fact all of the above churches were within a few blocks of each other as were numerous others.

If the neighborhood streets are not taken up by these 'churches', they are are filled with Crown Fried Chicken, and Kennedy Fried Chicken (and other fast food) outlets. Then there are the many Unisex Beauty Parlors, local deli's, small supermarkets and dozens of other small businesses eking out a living from some of the poorest citizens of this great city..

Above and Below: The Gateway Center.

After nearly two hours of slow, torturous bus travel through these outer Brooklyn neighborhoods, I finally reached the Gateway Center, only to find that it was not your typical enclosed shopping mall, but a series of well-known department stores and cafes laid out in a relatively new shopping complex (surrounded by acres of parking lots), just a mile or so from JFK airport.

I found a seat inside a Panera Bread outlet and sat down to a hearty Thai Salad and a long, cold lemonade. Since I had no need for shopping, once I had finished eating I found a B83 bus, and returned once again to Broadway Junction from where I caught an A-train back to Washington Heights.

Tuesday 22, August | Expenses $12.72 ($16.10)

Saturday, August 26, 2017

NYC Day 67: In Which I am Eclipsed by The Eclipse

Eclipse screen grab from The New York Times
Today was the day that millions, yes, millions of Americans have been waiting for. A total eclipse of the sun began soon after 9:00am on the east coast in Oregon, and made its way slowly across the mid-west before passing out to sea somewhere off the coast of South Carolina late in the afternoon. New York City would only experience about a 70 percent eclipse of the sun, but that did not stop a large part of the population from donning eclipse glasses to view this all too rare phenomenon.

Feeling like I was the only person who had not managed to get my hands on a pair of eclipse glasses I headed off to the American Museum of Natural History (at Central Park West and 79th Street), to see if they still had the special glasses for sale. Of course, they had sold out long before (possibly days before) I got there, and the glasses were not to be had for love nor money. Since I was at the museum, I thought I might as well make the most of the afternoon and visit this mighty institution.

Above: Dall Sheep diorama
(Click images to view full-sized)
Above: Gemsbok diorama 

Above: Big Horn Sheep diorama
I have been to the museum on two previous visits to New York, but I was keen to take another look at the magnificent diorama's the museum is justifiably known for. There are dozens of these diorama's near the main museum entrance, and all are beautifully maintained and presented. The diorama's went through a major refurbishment in 2011, and today they are even better to look at and enjoy.

Now if you are anything like me, you will look at the dozens of animals represented here and say to yourself, These beautiful creatures should be out running free in their natural environments, and not standing or sitting stuffed and mute behind glass.

And you would be right to say that. And the day may yet come that when the last of these magnificent animals has been wiped from the face of the earth, we will bow our collective heads and weep for our stupidity, short-sightedness, and inhumanity, which has already resulted in the extinction of so many animal species. However... Maybe, just maybe, the thousands of visitors who view these diorama's each year will leave the museum with a greater appreciation for these creatures and their place they occupy in our lives. Maybe.

Above: White Rhino, and Below, Black Rhino displays.

Above: The Alaska Brown Bear display.
I like to think that some of these thousands of visitors have gone on to join the fight to protect and preserve the natural habitats that the animals and creatures represented here so desperately need to thrive and survive. If these past and future environmentalists and conservationists can do this then the loss of the animals enclosed in these diorama's won't have been in vain.

By the time I emerged from the depths of the American Museum of Natural History, the partial eclipse of the sun, as it passed over the city of New York, had been and gone and I had missed it completely. C'est la vie!

 Above: A partial view of some of the diorama's as well as the elephant herd.

Panoramic images of the Bison display (above), and the Alaskan Moose (below)
In the evening I returned to City Winery at 155, Varick Street, Manhattan, for the third and last of the Michelle Shocked album performances, which tonight saw her and her fellow musicians perform in full her 1992 album, Arkansas Traveler.

Michelle was joined on stage with a quartet of young musicians who did an admirable job of bringing the music and songs to life. I got the distinct impression that everyone was 'winging it', and I would be surprised if they had had more than a day or two to run through all the songs together. Nevertheless, they pulled it off, thanks to their professionalism and obvious musical ability.

I should add that initially, the Pete Anderson Trio were due to back Michelle at this show, but for reasons that were never explained they were unable to do so, hence the scratch band that Michelle assembled in their place.

I shared a table with Gladys and Joe, two very amiable New Yorkers. Joe and I were talking about other shows we had seen at City Winery, and he mentioned Loudon Wainwright III, who was a particular favorite. Loudon Wainwright, is the father of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, two performers of outstanding ability in their own right.

As it happens, Martha Wainwright is performing later this week at the Rubin Museum of Art, and when I mentioned this to Joe he immediately went online and booked two tickets for that show. Apparently he and Gladys live just a couple of blocks from the Rubin, and they were delighted and excited to learn about her performance there.

It is little connections like these, with perfect strangers, that make travel so much more interesting, especially for the solo traveler like myself.

Monday 21, August | Expenses $129.52 ($148.40)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

NYC Day 66: Oh, No. It's Groundhog Day!

Oh, gawd. Not Sonny and Cher again! And again. And again...

The Museum of Modern Art: Groundhog Day
1993. Directed by Harold Ramis. With Bill Murray, Andie McDowell, and Chris Elliott.

The Museum of Modern Art: Her
2013. Written and directed by Spike Jonze. With Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara.

Okay, okay. I know what you are thinking, Who goes to the expense of flying to New York City all the way from Australia, and then makes his principle activity for the day watching movies? To make matters worse, you might add, One of which goes back almost 25 years!

Well, for one, I do, although I hasten to add that I have not come to New York just for the movies, as even a cursory look through my blog posts for the past two months will show. But as I have written before, there is only so much high culture (and for that matter, couture) that one can absorb before one's eyes begin to glaze over and even the most priceless works of art and music are at risk of causing a long, drawn out yawn.

So, off to the movies I went.

Above and Below: Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams in scenes from, Her. 
To recap; in preparation for this trip I became an associate Member of the Metropolitan Museum, and a Global Member of the Museum of Modern Art. These designations apply to members who live well outside the city limits of New York City, whether you live in America or internationally. Regarding MoMA membership, not only does this include unlimited visits to the museum, along with many other benefits, but membership also includes unlimited participation in the museum's film screenings.

The current film calendar for August includes 70 movies from 22 countries built around the theme, Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction.
This exhibition of 70 science-fiction films from all over the world--22 countries including the US, the Soviet Union, China, India, Cameroon, and Mexico--explores our humanity in all its miraculous, uncanny, and perhaps ultimately unknowable aspects.
The series looks beyond space travel, aliens and all the other well-known tropes we come to expect from this genre, and focusses instead "on alternate visions of Earth in the present or very near future."

Among the many great English language films screened this month were/are Ex Machina, Donnie Darko, Under The Skin, Shivers/They Came From within, Dark City, Minority Report, Videodrome, Gattaca, and Children of Men. The international films include the timely Days of Eclipse, (from Russia), The Year of The Plague (Mexico), and Pathetic Fallacy (India). Oh, and of course the two films that I saw on this my 66th day in New York.

Above: Bill Murray and leading lady Andie MacDowell in a scene from Groundhog Day.

Above: Punxsutawney Phil is about to come to an explosive end!
I had missed the Spike Jonze film, Her when it was first released, and being a fan of Jonze, and his principle actors Scarlett Johansson, and Joaquin Phoenix, as well as Amy Adams and Rooney Mara, this was a good opportunity to make up for my initial loss. As for Groundhog Day, I had seen this way back in the day, but had largely forgotten most of the details. Bill Murray is always good in whatever movie he chooses to participate in, and the delightful and delectable Andie MacDowell always brightens up any film she appears in, so I was keen to see the film again. Having done so, I was reminded of just how funny the film was and still is. This is a film that has aged well, and I suspect that film-goers will still be laughing throughout Groundhog Day in another 25 years.

Quite frankly, if you are reading this, and you live in New York City, and you are a keen film-goer and/or cineaste, then you would be crazy not to become a member of MoMA, if only to have access to the hundreds of film screenings that take place throughout the year. While non-members can also attend screenings, they have to pay $12.00 each visit. Individual membership on the other hand costs just $85.00 -- the equivalent of seeing seven movies at twelve bucks a throw. However, do the math, if you attended just one film screening per week for twelve months, you would have saved a massive $540.00 (52x12=$624 -$85 =$540.00). And this does not take into account all the other benefits that come with your membership.

Dual membership is even cheaper per person ($70.00 each). Personally, I think it's a 'No brainer'.

Sunday 20, August | Expenses $26.30 ($33.15)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Monday, August 21, 2017

NYC Day 65: I Return to The Met Museum in Search of The Arts of Mexico

 Above: A collection of tin-glazed earthenware dating from around 1660 to 1800
With exactly three weeks left of my twelve week New York stay remaining, it was time to shake myself out of my stupor and get back out among it. After all, I can sleep all day every day for a week, once I get back home. I may never return to this amazing city again, and now is not the time to be sleeping the days away. With that refreshed attitude in mind I made my way back to the Metropolitan Museum on Fifth Avenue. I decided to focus my visit on the exhibition, Collecting the Arts of Mexico, on view in the Joyce B. Cowin Gallery (Room 749) on the second floor of the American Wing.

There are two major parts to this small but important exhibition. The first, highlights a number of pieces of Mexican pottery donated by Emily Johnston De Forest and her husband Robert, and includes works by Nicolás Enríquez, and others.

Above: Tin-glazed Basin attributed to Damian Hernandez (active 1607-1670 

Above and detail below: Pair of Jars (17th Century Earthenware)

Collecting The Arts of Mexico: Exhibition Overview
In 1911, Emily Johnston de Forest gave her collection of pottery from Mexico to The Met. Calling it "Mexican maiolica," she highlighted its importance as a North American artistic achievement. De Forest was the daughter of the Museum's first president and, with her husband, Robert, a founder of The American Wing. The De Forests envisioned building a collection of Mexican art, and, even though their ambitions were frustrated at the time, the foundational gift of more than one hundred pieces of pottery anchors The Met's holdings. Today, more than a century later, their vision resonates as the Museum commits to collecting and exhibiting not just the arts of Mexico, but all of Latin America..

Above: One of an identical pair of iron Rowel Spurs, from Mexico or Spain, 1738.

Above and detail below: The Entombment of Christ, 
Ca. 1702, by Juan Rodriguez Juarez (Mexico, 1675-1728)  
The Paintings of Nicolás Enríquez
In 1783, Juan Bautista Echeverría wrote his last will and testament in preparation for the perilous journey from Mexico City to his native Navarre in northern Spain. Echeverría, who had gone to Mexico as a youth in the mid-1750s, returned to Spain nearly thirty years later, having amassed a considerable fortune. Among the prized possessions he took with him was a suite of five paintings on copper by Nicolás Enríquez, who signed each of them "made in Mexico in the year 1773." The set, which was recently acquired by the Museum, is preserved intact, a rare occurrence that illuminates not only the artistic accomplishment of the painter who made them but the spiritual aspirations of the person who owned them.
The paintings were intended for Echeverría's private devotional use and the choice of subject matter is highly personal. Nicolás Enríquez lavished special attention on the painting of Echeverría's namesake, Saint John the Baptist, detailing the crystalline drops of water poured over Christ's head and the gentle current of the river that flows around his submerged feet. Another painting borrows a composition from Rubens to represent the Holy Family as an earthly Trinity.
Above and Detail below: The Virgin of El Camino with St. Fermin and St. Saturnino
By Nicolas Enriquez (Mexico, 1704-1790)

Three of the five paintings depict miraculous images that reflect Echeverría's Spanish roots as well as his extended residence in Mexico. The Virgin of El Camino is especially venerated in Pamplona, the principal city of Navarre. The painting copies a print that was used to solicit funds for the building of a new chapel for the image. Another painting represents the appearance of the Virgin to Saint James atop a stone pillar near the city of Zaragoza. The Virgin of El Pilar is venerated throughout the Spanish world, but in Mexico City the devotion is associated with the convent church known as the Enseñanza, whose founder was, like Echeverría, of Navarrese descent. The third painting depicts the Mexican Virgin of Guadalupe, which is encircled by four scenes that corroborate the divine origin of the image. They record the Virgin Mary's appearances to the Indian Juan Diego at Tepeyac, near Mexico City, and culminate in the revelation of her image, miraculously imprinted on his cloak. Echeverría apparently was not satisfied to own a mere representation of the Virgin of Guadalupe, and he soon shipped it back to Mexico to be touched by the original image, an act certified by an inscription added to the painting in 1789. 
Ronda Kasl (Curator, The American Wing)
Above and detail below: The Virgin of Guadalupe and the Four Apparitions 
Nicolas Enriquez (Mexico, 1704-1790) 

More Information
At The Metropolitan Museum
Now through September 4, 2017
Learn More Here...

I also made a visit to another small but important exhibition, Frederick Remington at The Met, but that's a story for another day.

From the Metropolitan Museum I made way to the Museum of Modern Art to catch a screening of the Alex Proyas movie, Dark City. The film, made in 1998, is part of MoMA's current season of Sci-Fi movies called Future Imperfect: The Uncanny in Science Fiction. The season winds up at the end of the August and features some seventy movies. But that's a story for another day as well.

Museum Memberships $19.15 ($25.15)
AT&T SIM card $17.69 ($23.33)
MTA Pass $30.25 ($39.85)
Accommodation $152.00 ($200.00)
Total Ongoing: US$219.09 (AU$288.33)

Sunday 13, August | Expenses $39.70 ($50.21)
Monday 14, August | Expenses $77.25 ($107.85)
Tuesday 15, August | Expenses $00.00 ($00.00)
Wednesday 16, August | Expenses $49.00 ($61.75)
Thursday 17, August | Expenses $31.72 ($40.10)
Friday 18, August | Expenses $47.53 ($59.95)
Saturday 19, August | Expenses $38.70 ($48.80)
TOTAL: US$283.90 | AU$368.65

Total Expenses Week Nine: US$503.00 (AU$657.00)
*Figures in brackets are Australian dollar amounts

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

NYC Day 64: Move On. Nothing To See Here, Folks.

A second day in this week, although I did head out to my local supermarket to stock up on grocery items to see me through the next week or so of breakfasts and the occasional evening meal in. Today's expenses are entirely grocery shopping related. Since I need to write about something, I have included my shopping list below. I will almost certainly supplement this shopping expedition with a few other items during the week when my current supply of olives, eggs, and avocados run out.

The most unusual and unexpected item on this list for me is the SPAM. I have a vague recollection of having bought Spam only once before in my life, and I don't think I liked it much at all. So why buy it now? I don't rightly know. It was one of those spur of the moment purchases, and I thought it might be interesting to see whether fried up slices of the stuff with eggs might actually be okay. Oh, c'mon. Where's your sense of adventure? Besides, it's 'Hickory Smoke Flavored' so it can't be all bad, can it? Can it? [No pun intended]

From Wikipedia we learn:
Spam (stylized SPAM) is a brand of canned cooked meat made by Hormel Foods Corporation. It was first introduced in 1937 and gained popularity worldwide after its use during World War II. By 2003, Spam was sold in 41 countries on six continents and trademarked in over 100 countries (except in the Middle East and North Africa). In 2007, the seven billionth can of Spam was sold.
And further:
Hormel claims that the meaning of the name "is known by only a small circle of former Hormel Foods executives", but popular beliefs are that the name is an abbreviation of "spiced ham", "spare meat", or "shoulders of pork and ham". Another popular explanation is that Spam is an acronym standing for "Specially Processed American Meat" or "Specially Processed Army Meat".
The difficulty of delivering fresh meat to the front during World War II saw Spam become a ubiquitous part of the U.S. soldier's diet. It became variously referred to as "ham that didn't pass its physical", "meatloaf without basic training", and "Special Army Meat". Over 150 million pounds of Spam were purchased by the military before the war's end.
Okay. That's more than enough information about SPAM.

Today's shopping list 
Friday 18, August | Expenses $47.53 ($59.95)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

NYC Days 61-63: In Which I 'Hit The Wall' and Sleep In Late

Click images to view full-sized
New York: Day 61
Tuesday 15, August | Expenses $00.00
After my late night out at the Bitter End (see previous post), and not getting to bed until well after 2:00AM, I spent today indoors, taking it easy. That's it. 'Nuff said.

Above: Images from the Ettore Sottsass exhibition.
New York: Day 62
Wednesday 16, August | Expenses $49.00 ($61.75)
I seem to be sleeping in more and more these days. Today was no exception, but I went out during the afternoon to the Met Breuer for the first time in several weeks. There is a new exhibition currently underway there, Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical.
A seminal figure in 20th-century design, the Italian architect and designer Ettore Sottsass (1917–2007) created a vast body of work, the result of an exceptionally productive career that spanned more than six decades. This exhibition reevaluates Sottsass's career in a presentation of key works in a range of media—including architectural drawings, interiors, furniture, machines, ceramics, glass, jewelry, textiles and pattern, painting, and photography. The exhibition presents Sottsass's work in dialogue with ancient and contemporaneous objects that inspired him, as well as his influence on designers working today. These juxtapositions offer new insight into his designs, situating him within a broader design discourse that reveals him as a true design radical.
Ettore Sottsass: Design Radical
Now through October 8, 2017

The Body Politic: Video from The Met Collection presents four works created between 1995 and 2016: David Hammons's Phat Free (1995), Arthur Jafa's Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death (2016), Steve McQueen's Five Easy Pieces (1995), and Mika Rottenberg's NoNoseKnows (2015). Alternately provocative, poignant, and absurdist, all of them explore the relationships among power, performance, and moving images. Here, the role of the camera is paramount. Besides a mediating agent and a framing device, the camera also serves as a witness, representing acts of injustice as well as moments of rebellion.
The Body Politic: Video from The Met Collection
Now through September 3, 2017

From the Breuer, I took first an M3 and then a M55 bus down to the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe (at 126 Crosby Stree, Manhattant), where I succumbed to purchasing two more books: Teju Cole's Open City, and a management book called Everything I Know About Business I Learned From The Grateful Dead, by Barry Barnes.

From there I headed off to the Angelika Film Center (at 18 West Houston Street, Manhattan) to see Sofia Coppola's latest film, The Beguiled.

New York: Day 63
Thursday 17, August | Expenses $31.72 ($40.10)
I slept through until 9:30 this morning, and got up thinking I could still do with a few hours sleep. This week has been a slow one for me, and I realize finally that I have 'hit the wall', as long distance runners might say. I am even finding it hard to work up the enthusiasm to write these blog posts. This 'hitting the wall' thing happened to me at around the same point last year, when for a brief time I thought, That's it. I'm over New York City. I could happily leave and never come back.

Of course, by the time I did leave New York, I was already looking forward to my next visit -- little thinking that it would be this year. Now here I am, not exactly over the city, but once again feeling worn out and ready to take a week off from all activities and events. Needless to say, I won't, but I will take it easy this week, and then try and ramp up my energy levels for the final three weeks of my stay.

Today, I returned once again to MoMA, and focused my attention of Pablo Picasso, and an artist I know nothing about Giorgio De Chirico (not that I know anything to speak of about Picasso).

Pablo Picasso: Night Fishing at Antibes, 1939
Picasso, as most people are aware, made his name as a cubist painter, in which his subjects are pulled apart and put together again in fractured, angular pieces. Most art galleries crave these types of paintings and sculptures by Picasso, but few seem to care about his early artistic career when his paintings were executed in a far more traditional style.

Pablo Picasso's Three Women at the Spring, 1921.
The Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris has quite a number of these early works on show, and when I saw them I was surprised by how conventional they were. And how good. But why should I have been surprised? The only reason I can offer is that few people get the chance to see these early works, because the major museums and galleries prefer the cubist Picasso to the conventional one. MoMA is no different to other institutions, but at least the room showing a large number of his works does have a few early pieces that reveal this other side of the artist.

Above (and detail below), Giorgio de Chirico's The Enigma Of A Day, 1914.
Giorgio De Chirico (1888-1978) is described as an Italian, born in Greece, and seems to have been one of the early surrealists. Judging by the works on show at MoMA, he also seems to have had a ''thing' for trains and placing small, isolated figures within huge, towering landscapes.

Above Giorgio de Chirico's Gare Montparnasse (The Melancholy of Departure), 1914.

I capped off my afternoon at MoMA by attending their screening of Steven Spielberg's 2002 adaptation of a Philip K. Dick short story, Minority Report. The film starred Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, the great Max Von Sydow, and the wonderful Samantha Morton.

Late afternoon view of nearby buildings from MoMA 
Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Can I go back to bed now?

Friday, August 18, 2017

NYC Day 60: In Which I Party to The Bitter End (Almost)

The Bitter End is a survivor. The venue has been the nurturing ground for hundreds of the most successful rock, folk, blues, jazz, and comedy acts of the past 50-plus years - ever since it was established in 1961. Many other famous New York clubs have come and gone during this period, but the Bitter End just keeps on keeping on - and long may it continue to do so.

When I was planning this current visit to New York, I thought I would be hanging out at the venue two or three nights a week, but as it happens, there has been so much else going on that I have hardly visited the place. With this, my sixtieth day in the city, it was time to set things right and test my resilience for my first real late night out.

The venue hosts an average of five or six acts each night, and on any visit you might see young soloists working on their music and stagecraft, or professional bands with years of experience in full flight. Also, with it being a Monday, I knew I would be in for a late night because every Monday night sees the saxophonist Richie Cannata pulling together some of the best musicians you are likely to see and hear anywhere for the Monday Night Jam. But before we get to that amazing session, there were a number of other acts to check out.

Bess Greenberg
Kicking off performances for the night was Bess Greenberg, a singer-songwriter and visual artist from Binghamton, New York. Bess has a strong, mature, resonant voice, and a bunch of songs that while interesting and engaging enough, never quite lift out of the ordinary into the extraordinary. Bess plays guitar, which she pretty much strummed throughout all her songs. This eventually became monotonous, especially when on several songs, she strummed her way through 8-bars of what I assume will eventually turn into an instrumental break in which a good lead guitarist (should she find one), will add some variety to her plain rhythm guitar style. She said she was missing her bass player during this gig, but I suspect that even with the addition of bass guitar, the songs would not have taken off as I would have liked them to do.

Julia Gargano
These issues were not a problem for the second act of the night, Julia Gargano and her three-piece band. Her songs were melodic, varied in pace, had shades of dark and light, and ranged from slow ballads to all-out rockers. Julia played acoustic guitar and piano during her set, and she knows how to fingerpick her way through a song, as well as belt out tunes on piano.

Julia was joined on stage for some of her songs by a fine female backup singer. However, this young woman has not yet worked out what she should be doing with herself while she waits for her vocal parts to come around during Julia's songs. Once she has learned to do this, and to relax and enjoy being on stage more, she will fit well into the full line-up.

I first saw Bator-Or Kalo bring her exciting brand of rock and blues to the All Star Jam that takes place each Sunday fortnight at the Bitter End, on one of my visits to the venue in 2012. I became a fan there and then, and I have been happy to follow her development as a singer, songwriter, and as a rock and blues guitarist since that first encounter. In 2012, Bat-Or, an Israeli who moved to America in 2004, didn't have her own band, but since making the move from New York City to Oklahoma City, Bat-Or has been joined by Mike Alexander on drums, and Mack McKinney on bass guitar, and the trio now perform under the name KALO.

While Elfin-like and slight in stature, there is nothing slight about the music that Bat-Or writes and plays. In the five years since I first saw her perform, Bat-Or's guitar playing has become tighter and more exciting than ever to listen to. She has also become a more dynamic performer on stage. It is a place on which she clearly feels very comfortable.

Having seen the great slide guitar player Bonnie Raitt closing out the 2017 season of the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors program the previous evening, I can emphatically state that there are not enough women in rock music! Or playing Blues music for that matter. And Bat-Or and her bandmates are definitely a welcome addition to the thin ranks of past and present female rockers in those genres.

Rabbit's Foot
With the first three acts of the night being led by female performers, it was a surprise to see what I thought might turn out to be a New Directions type group take to the stage. However, I was delighted to see that the all male ensemble, Rabbit's Foot, were anything but another 'boy band'.

This five-piece out of Fairfield, Connecticut, play original Funk, Blues, and Soul music with a passion and expertise that belies their youth (although having said that, with regard to their apparent youth, when you are fast approaching your 69th year as I am, anyone under thirty-five will always be seen as young! But I digress).

The band is ably led by Spencer Bebon on vocals, and has a brilliant lead guitar player in Jad Qaddourah, with Will Corona on bass guitar, Seth Henriquez on keyboard and piano, and Les Gilman on drums. This group has the potential for big things. With the right support and management they may even achieve great things. The songs are upbeat, dynamic, and catchy. The interactions on stage between Spencer, Jad, Will and Seth showed they were all having a great time, and enjoying playing together.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the drummer Les Gilman. While I have no issue with his ability to play the drums and lay down a steady beat for the others to work by, the expression on Gilman's face ranged from bored to disinterested. Occasionally a half smile would pass over his mouth, but he never seemed to be a real part of the group. His interactions with the other four were minimal, and he never at any stage seemed to relax and get right into the spirit of the night.

I mentioned this to Spencer later during the evening, and he said that it was just Les Gilman's personality. That may well be so, but his demeanor simply did not fit in with either the music or with the dynamic performances of his bandmates. They may be happy with his drumming, but they should not be happy with his onstage persona. The vibe is not right. It may seem like a small thing, but it only takes one small thing to stop a band from reaching its full potential, and I sincerely believe that Les Gilman is the weak link in the Rabbit's Foot chain.

Richie Cannata's Monday Night Jam 
And so to the final act of the night. And what a final act it was. Richie Cannata has been leading these Jam sessions for almost 30 years! And no, that is not a typo. According to the events Facebook page, he began in the late-80s at a venue called the China Club, followed by moves to numerous other city venues before finding a home at the Bitter End.

To say, as I did at the start of this post that he has put together "some of the best musicians you are likely to see and hear anywhere" is one of the great understatements. The jam night kicks off with an extend version of the song, Driven To Tears, co-written by Gordon Sumner and Sting. Each musician (and by my count there were nine of them, including the singer), is given time to shine on their chosen instrument, and by gawd do they ever glow! By the time everyone has had their moment in the spotlight, visitors have been treated to an amazing thirty-minutes or so of ear splitting improvisations that make the price of the modest $10 admission seem like the bargain of the year, which it probably is.

Again, from the Facebook page we learn that the core group consists of Benny Harrison (keys/vocals), Frosty Lawson (Flugelhorn/vocals), Jim Moran (guitar/vocals), George Panos (bass), Kevin Bregande (drums), and of course, the host with the most, Richie Cannata on saxophone. The only other musician whose name I did note during the night was the percussionist Julio Fernandez, who celebrated his 70th birthday that night.

Julio, we were told, played percussion on stage at Woodstock with Jimi Hendrix! At 70 he is tall and wiry, incredibly energetic, and he can pound out rhythms on a pair of conga's in an age defying display that left everyone in no doubt that they were in the presence of an  extraordinary musician.

More Information
Bess Greenberg... 
Julia Gargano... 
Rabbit's Foot... 
Richie Cannata's Monday Night Jam... 

Monday 14, August | Expenses $77.25 ($107.85)

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

An aging poster on the wall of the venue.

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