Sunday, June 26, 2011

things we saw in High Park

high park dorothy parker
high parker
high park 023
high park butterfly
high park cloverhigh park fungus
high park llamashigh park llamashigh park emu
high park bison
high park peacockhigh park goatshigh park goats
high park goats

Faute De Mieux

Travel, trouble, music, art,
A kiss, a frock, a rhyme-
I never said they feed my heart,
But still they pass my time

-Dorothy Parker

Thursday, June 23, 2011

New York: Day 4

KangarooSunday, we had to be LaGuardia 2 hours before our 3 pm flight, so it didn't really seem like we would have time to go into Manhattan again. Mom suggested we do some shopping, having seen a Macy's during our initial Post Office in Queens quest. So had breakfast and then wandered down Queen's Blvd towards the mall, where we hit shops we don't have in Canada, like Target and Macy's (and a couple we do have at home, but they were much, much cheaper, south of the border). That easily took up our morning. I got some tops. Mom got a trench coat. We walked back to the hotel, running a little later than planned - but still with plenty of time to reach the airport. When we got there, the bellhop was missing, so we had to wait. When he showed up, it turns out he hadn't reserved the cab we requested, and didn't do so until he had retrieved our luggage from the store room. But, we still had plenty of time. He said the cab would take 2 minutes. After 5 minutes I asked about hailing a cab and he muttered something and disappeared. After 12 minutes I found him waiting by the road and he said they had had a problem with the cab and would send another one. So, I went and told Mom and suggested we try hailing one, which we were able to do within 1 minute. However, when Mom said we were going to LaGuardia, he didn't say anything, so she asked, "Is that okay? Can you take us there?" At which point, he looked it up on his GPS receiver, which did not inspire confidence. He got us there okay, so I like to think he could find LaGuardia, but he himself had been lost, or less than familiar with where he was and the best route. RJH met us at the airport in Toronto and drove us home.

Kangaroo ride with watermelons
This is a kangaroo, which we passed every single day on the way to the subway. It lives outside a bodega, which is New Yorker (or Hispanic) for dépanneur. I don't know why. We never saw anyone even think about a kangaroo ride. I kind of love it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New York City: Day 3

NYC Times SquareSaturday, we had breakfast at the hotel, then headed back to Manhatten. An old friend CM, currently living in Connecticut, suggested we get together, so my Mom and I met her at Grand Central Station. She's in NY reasonably frequently and naturally fell into pointing out the sites. We walked toward Rockerfeller Center and then looked for a place to have lunch and catch up.

NYC Library

Mom mentioned that I wanted to find a suit for a job interview and CM lead us to Saks Fifth Avenue. There, I got a lot of help from a savvy Swiss sales woman, whom Mom (always the tennis fiend) seemed to befriend by saying that Roger Federer was her hero. I managed to find a suit which was classic, flattering and thankfully on sale. I wasn't sure if CM was going to be free for more than lunch, but it turned out that her husband had taken their young kids to see his parents and she was free to have a girls' day in the city. It was good to catch up, and wonderful to have a second and third opinion and also to feel that I could take my time as she and Mom chatted while I tried things on. She did venture off to look at the children's clothes and reported back that she had spied a 'chocolate bar' (as in a desert place specializing in chocolate) upstairs. So we treated ourselves to brownies and coffee; we were on vacation after all.

I had wanted to wander around Soho so we got in a cab and headed south. We browsed shops and galleries and enjoyed the sunshine.

art on street
cat and Buddhaspotted Sohoheads on strings
cityscape, Sohoarches

Yes, those are heads on strings in the window.

hand chair
narrow building
crossingfire escapes
characters with columnsSoho streetfaces
pedestrians with skeleton

I liked the view of ordinary people walking the street, more or less oblivious to the skeleton.

wunderkammer window
Grand Central wedding CM wanted to be back in Connecticut early enough that she could drive home before dark. Though, quite quickly traffic became snarled and there was no hope of catching a cab. We tried to walk to a larger thoroughfare to no avail. So, we found a subway, and though we had to fight with the card-reading machine, we got to the busy platform. Then, we waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, when the train arrived, it was packed, of course. We got on the busiest train I've seen since I lived in Tokyo. Luckily, everyone was good natured about it. I apologized when I was pushed into the people in front of me and they said that of course it wasn't my fault. Our neighbours asked when we had to get off so they could let us by. CM missed her first train, but the next one apparently allowed her to be home before dark. In Grand Central, there was either a brave or crazy couple having wedding photos taken. We said goodbye to CM and then headed toward the Cort Theatre.

Grand Central CM had given us a list of suggested restaurants, but we were pretty tired after we reached the theatre. We managed to find a Japanese restaurant, Sapporo, around the corner. The food was great and really reasonably priced. Mom had booked us ticket to see the screwball comedy 'Born Yesterday', with Jim Belushi, Nina Arianda and Robert Sean Leonard. Originally performed, made into a movie and set in 1947, the play tells the story of a boorish, bullying, less-than-honest millionaire businessman Harry Brock (Belushi), and his (not-so) dumb, blond mistress Billie (Arianda) who come to Washington so he can increase his sway and influence by bribing a Senator. Robert Sean Leonard (Wilson, on House) plays Paul, the reporter Brock's lawyer tells him to impress. Brock, feeling that Billie's ignorance means she just doesn't fit in, in Washington, hires Paul to educate her. Paul, of course, is smitten. The story is familiar from Pygmalion or perhaps, a bit of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, with a few twists which add commentary on the political process, influence peddling and democracy. Plus, it's very funny. Arianda, whom I haven't seen previously, stole the show. She even made shuffling cards funny. She of course, goes from the heavy-drinking, lazy-thinking, bullied 'concubine' to the confident, clear-sighted woman with a thirst for knowledge (even though she still garnered laughs with the 'out of the mouth of babes' type comments). The set - a lavish hotel room - was beautiful. The audience clapped as soon as they raised the curtain. Even the theatre itself was lovely, the usher was hilarious, and the feeling conspiratorial. It was a great evening. We really enjoyed the show - and I was particularly pleased to see two such disparate plays.

Our trip back to Queens by subway was uneventful this time and we got in before midnight.

New York City: Day 2

NYC building and trees Friday, we got up and had breakfast at a nearby diner, before heading back to Manhattan. First on my agenda was the Alexander McQueen 'Savage Beauty' exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of art. We had failed to predict that Friday would be a busy day there, thinking it would be a better choice than the weekend. We arrived at 10:30 and we should have arrived at 9:30, in hindsight. There was a huge line-up, meandering through all their ancient Near Eastern collection, to the late 19th century (Rodin through Pre-Raphealites) for at least half an hour. I felt a bit guilty as this was my agenda and Mom only had a vague idea of what it was all about. She knew a) he was dead and b) that his house had designed Kate's dress for the Royal Wedding. At least, the slow walk was through beautiful things - though standing is more tiring than walking. The exhibit was more than worth the wait! The video on the Met blog does show each room in the exhibit, but you don't entirely get the full sensory experience, of course. The collection was displayed according to theme (“The Romantic Mind,”, "Romantic Gothic," "Cabinet of Curiosities" - sure to be a hit with me, both as a wunderkammer and due to the incredible hats especially by Philip Treacy, "Romantic Nationalism" - Scottish, of course, "Romantic Exoticism" included the most beautiful Japanese-inspired embroidered silks, "Romantic Primitivism" and "Romantic Naturalism" which included his final jellyfish and snakeskins in computer-generated imagery on fabric and shoes). The curation and display of the clothing was very thoughtful; the displays were like theatrical sets and along with the music and other audiovisuals (film clips of fashion shows, lighting effects and one holographic film) really placed the viewer in a certain mindspace. I loved how he worked with anything: mud, clam shells, metal, glass, feathers of course, but also bone, antlers, resin replica gator heads, skins to hi-tech fabrics, all with impeccable tailoring. He seemed to take inspiration from everywhere (from natural history, to art history, to political history, Asia, to Africa to Scotland, it's all there). Such unfettered imagination is a rare thing. It's incredible he produced so much in a life too short.

the Metropolitan Museum

All photos of the 'Savage Beauty' exhibit are via the Met blog and © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

bottlecap tapestrytiny people on the walltiny people on the wall
Kikki Smith sculptureGala, by Ernst
Met exhibit - contemporary masks

We also passed by the special exhibit of contemporary artists re-interpreting African and Oceanian masks in centemporary materials, which was right up my alley. After the exhibit we had lunch in the cafeteria at the Met (very good, by the way) and decided to continue to the Guggenheim. Along the way it started raining unexpectedly (which was annoying since we had both left umbrellas at the hotel).

Guggenheim Unfortunately, the Guggenheim is in the midst of renovations so only part of its permanent collection was on view. When we finished, there was a full thundershower in effect. So, after attempting to wait it out in the store, we ventured out and then settled on hailing a cab. My mother did some shopping... or rather some trying on of clothing. Then, we ventured out again when the rain let up. I had said I wanted to get a suit (job interview and all) so Mom lead me to Ralph Lauren. I suspected this was mad, and that I would be unwilling to sell my internal organs for the price of a suit there. It turned out my fears were correct, but, it was pretty.

Ralph Lauren buildingRalph Lauren buildingNYC buildingNYC architecture

We meandered through the intermittent rain to the Lincoln Center. Mom had reserved tickets to War Horse. I didn't know much about it in advance, but Mom had be convinced at "giant horse puppet". We found a really good French restaurant across the street, where they sat us at a communal round table (like one might expect in Chinatown). I wore my dress all day, but carried heels in my purse, knowing that I would regret standing and walking in them all day.

Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center

The show was tremendous. The more-than-life-sized horse puppets, though stylized, were so naturalistic in movements and 'behaviour' that it was easy to suspend belief. Each horse was enacted by three actors, but felt like its own entity. The acting and singing was compelling. I also really enjoyed the sketches and simple linework black-and-white animation projected on a large white, cloudlike backdrop. The play tells the story of a horse, Joey, and his boy in the English countryside at the turn of the last century. The beloved horse is sold to the English Cavalry with the advent of WWI and the boy lies about his age to join up and try to rescue him. The writing was a bit manipulative of the audience I thought, but perhaps that is reflective of both the subject matter and its origins of a story for children (older children, I hope... warstories are by nature violent). Nonetheless it was great experience.

After the show it took a long time to get back to the hotel. We had decided on a route which would involve only two trains, but our B train never seemed to arrive though three 1's went by... so I made a new plan involving three trains and we made it back after midnight.