The Twelve Days of Excess
I live in NYC. I was born and raised here.
So that yes, I tend to have a New York-centric perspective,
not too unlike that classic drawing by Saul Steinberg.
And yes, as a hardcore New Yorker I tend to
bemoan the tsunami of tourism that occurs here each December.
Yet, that doesn’t mean I can’t dive headlong into
the holiday season like a virgin rubberneck from Des Moines.
As I’ve said before, why do we who live in cities, especially
ones with such rich history and cultural diversity, leave
the enjoyment that they have to offer, to the tourists?
As with most of us though, the indulgence
in things cultural and entertaining is usually spread over
a period of time, as life’s daily commitments take priority.
But as I had some dear and welcomed visitors last month, the
whole experience became something highly compressed and designed
to satisfy varying tastes.
In some cases, the venue itself was the star,
which is often the point for visits to New York. That even
when at times a performance is found wanting, the place itself
is its own reward.
With apologies to that chestnut of a Christmas
carol, I offer “The Twelve Days of Excess,” a
dozen noteworthy diversions in the space of sixteen days.
Call it arts & leisure on steroids, or: “How I spent
my guests’ winter vacations: a possible guide for future
reference.” Or not.
On the First Day of Excess, my true love
gave to me…
Dinner at Patsy’s,
(56th off Broadway) purportedly Sinatra’s favorite restaurant.
They even have a sizable bronze statue of old Blue Eyes standing
on the bar (swear). The same bar at which Tony Danza would
later be sitting (to provide a pinch of authentic Italian-American
flavor) as we were leaving.
In between, the Southern Italian food was
great, and the owner made the rounds to make sure everything
was alright. Which is the Sinatra way. Frank would have been
pleased. Frank is pleased. Is Frank not God?
On the Second Day of Excess, my true love
gave to me…
The Christmas Show at Radio City.
I once swore that the only way you could get me back there,
was with a court order. Or at gunpoint. Yet here I was once
again for the second year in a row. And of my own volition.
But it’s still a treat when experienced with someone
who is seeing it for the first time.
The art deco motif is spectacular, The
Rockettes are still kicking ass, and yes, there are still
three live camels walking across the stage during the nativity
Apparently, PETA hasn’t gotten around
to protesting the fact that camels, as a rule, don’t
aspire to be in show business. The sheep other the other hand,
On the Third Day of Excess…
A Broadway Musical. In this
case, Nice Work If You Can Get It.
The Gershwin’s! George and Ira! So what if Matthew Broderick
can’t really sing or dance. At 50 years old, even up
close— we were sitting in the second row— he still
looks choir-boy cute. He walked through the proceedings in
a very understated yet charming way. And seeing Estelle Parsons
at age 85 still commanding a stage, was a bonus.
On the Fourth…
A bite at Ellen’s
(a former “Miss Subway”) Stardust
Diner. Youthful, singing-their-lungs-out “waitpersons,”
of immense yet undiscovered talent, serve up burgers and fries
while hungering for the big break that will transport them
down the street and into a Broadway show.
Getting caught up in the spirit of the place,
I sang my request for the check when we were finished eating.
The waiter said that had never been done before. He didn’t
say it was good…just never done before. So I’ll
stick to my day job. Which is retirement.
The Museum of Modern Art and the nearby
Art Galleries on 57th Street. The Scream is still
2012 Muse-Letter) and you could take in a collection
of Hall of Fame artists at MoMA first, and then check out
those you never heard of in various nearby galleries. Exciting,
unique and that good.
Love by Ana Tzarev
Handel’s Messiah at
Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center. The choir soared
to places where angels are purported to dwell. The hallelujah
and amen choruses alone were worth the price of admission.
The Metropolitan Museum to
catch The Angel Tree, an annual feature on the main
floor with its own special daily lighting event, and then
up the grand staircase to the George Bellows and Andy Warhol
exhibits currently on display and drawing crowds.
The Met itself is of course an exquisite work
of art and architecture that can transport you back several
centuries. In particular, check out the workmanship and artistry
in the suits of armor worn by gallant knights. Then ponder
that considering a man could be killed in the first five minutes
of battle, what a total wasted effort this could wind up being
for some poor overworked craftsman, who might have caught
flack for not having a custom tailored suit of armor ready
on time. (“Morris. I’m going into battle tomorrow,
where’s my suit?!” “It’s in the
mail!” Rim shot).
Warhorse at the Vivian Beaumont
Theater at Lincoln Center. Finally got to see this
before it rides off into the sunset at the end of the month.
The re-creation of horses on stage through the wizardry of
puppetry, is astonishing. It is the re-creation of World War
I though, that I could have done without. Especially given
how close we were to all the gunfire, canon fire and smoke
emanating from that thrust stage battlefield. My kingdom
for a horse.
Carnegie Hall: The
New York Pops featuring a cross-genre musical group, Pink
Martini. Seated in seats that defied
the law of gravity, we were treated to an eclectic offering
of music that included Christmas carols (in some cases with
a Latin beat), a 95 year old clarinetist Norman Leyden playing
a soulful rendition of What’ll I Do?, and Myrlie—widow
of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers—who played
Clair de Lune in between her raconteur of times long
However, when at one point the four great
grandchildren of the Von Trapp family started yodeling, I
had to resist the urge to vomit. Just as “there’s
no crying in baseball,” there’s no yodeling
in Carnegie Hall! Get thee to The Alps!
Leonard Cohen’s Old Ideas
World Tour at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
There is no one like Leonard Cohen, who gave one of the most
soulful and unique concerts I have ever seen. And heard. He
fits no defined musical genre, and if one were to take a shot
at it, you might call it “Poetic-Folk-Rock-Rhythm &
Assuming a stance most often resembling a
question mark, then often falling to both knees in his singing/recitation
of a song— doffing his fedora here and there to transition
to another moment—it never comes off as affected. And
even after three hours on the stage, during which time he
never breaks a sweat, he manages to keep you riveted for the
At age 78, he is sexy, charismatic, lyrical,
and comes equipped with a voice that has a lot of miles on
it. And when he recited one of his full length poems—
in an arena essentially built for the Brooklyn Nets, an NBA
basketball team— it was so incongruous to have a place
like this so quiet at times, that you could have heard a tear
know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
You learned it on your father's knee
And at your mother's feet
But did you have to fight your way
Across the burning street
When all our vital interests lay
A thousand kisses deep.
As for the arena, it is state-of-the-art having
just opened this past September when it was christened by
a Jay-Z concert. It becomes still another point of destination
for sports and entertainment in this city.
The Chevrolet Gotham Classic:
College Basketball at Madison Square Garden. Syracuse
was upset by Temple 83-79 after going into the game with a
10-0 record. This in turn upset us, as my son is an alumnus,
and proudly wore the school’s signature color Orange.
As did most of the predominantly “hometown” crowd.
To no avail.
But win or lose, “The
Garden” in its fourth iteration, (this one
opening in 1968 and now the oldest active major sporting facility
in the New York Metropolitan area), is one the best known
sports facilities in the world. It merits a visit. If not
for sports, then for one of the frequent gatherings, conventions
or entertainment events, it hosts.
The “eyes” have it.
In the course of a one mile walk …the Christmas windows
of Bergdorf Goodman, Tiffany’s, Saks, Bendel’s,
Mackenzie Childs —most surreal in their design …
the crèche at St. Pat’s / the tree at 30 Rock….
Bryant Park with its temporary two story chandeliered restaurant/bar
Celsius (put up and taken down each holiday season)…
the park’s huge skating rink…free
exhibits at the 42nd St. Library…the Holiday Fair at
Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station and the elaborate
train display nearby…all (excepting Celsius)
Just the Other Morning
The movie musical Les Miserables
opened last month on Christmas Day to less than great reviews.
It’s an adaptation of the phenomenal stage production,
which had become the longest running musical in the world.
It seemingly started some time shortly after The Big Bang.
The genesis for all of this is of course,
the classic novel by Victor Hugo.
I find myself thinking about him a lot these
days. (Doesn’t everyone?). Not in association with
Les Miserables, but in the context of a quote attributed
to him that I had run across not all that long ago. One that
I find so gripping and so apropos, to so much of what so many
of us have experienced in our personal lives, and in the times
in which we live.
Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.
This is particularly true as it relates to
some rather monumental social changes we have seen transpire.
Same sex marriage being a most recent example, wherein seemingly
overnight, a majority of the people approved of it. Or were
tolerant of it. And in some states, literally voted for it.
Four years ago, a black man was elected president.
Four years from now, it could be a woman.
Legendary conservative Senator Everett Dirksen,
in voting to shut down a filibuster designed to stymie the
Civil Rights Act of 1964, used a variation of that quote on
the senate floor, as he changed his position on the issue.
I think of this quote at times, when I see
someone with shoulders scrunched up in some doorway in sub-freezing
temperature, sneaking a cigarette. Something once thought
so cool, now proven so unhealthy and thought so crude, as
to be disallowed indoors and even limited in outdoor settings.
And now once again, I think of this quote
in the wake of Newtown.
I think of it when I hear and read things
the likes of which I can’t remember ever having seen
before on the issue of gun control. This despite the many
massacres that have taken place beginning with Columbine in
1999, which sadly no longer seems like an aberration. But
this one involving children, apparently has hit home. A sampling.
"This one feels different,…"
(Jon Vernick of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy
"I am a conservative Republican
who received the NRA's highest ratings over four terms
in Congress…I knew that day that the ideologies
of my past career were no longer relevant to the future
that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed
everything. It must change everything.” (Joe
“Eleven members of Congress who
had previously opposed gun control announced a change
of heart, including Senator Joe Manchin…”
“Bare majority now support major
gun restrictions…” (CNN Poll)
“Support for stricter gun control
at 10-year high…” (CBS News Poll)
“54 percent of respondents favor
stricter gun control laws, a five-year high; 59 percent
back a ban on high-capacity ammunition clips…“
(ABC News/Washington Post Poll)
"I believe every American has Second
Amendment rights. The ability to hunt is part of our culture.
I have an NRA rating of an 'A,' but enough is enough."
(Senator Mark Warner who represents the NRA's home
state of Virginia)
"This is not some Washington commission,
this is not something where folks are going to be studying
the issue for six months and publishing a report that
gets read and then pushed aside. This is a team that has
a very specific task to pull together real reforms, right
now,.." (President Obama)
Is this the type of idea to which Hugo made
reference? Is it powerful enough to penetrate the bullet proof
vest of “the status quo?” Has the time come? Time
Picture a Palindrome #4