Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Belle Viste, NYC Style

I've blogged a bit before about the wonderful Chrysler Building, where my dentist has his office in the Tower Suite. Unlike the Empire State Building or the  Top of the Rock, one can't go up there as a tourist, so the fabulous views on clear days are a special treat for those having business in the tower. So here's what New York Harbor and a bit of New Jersey looked like on August 26, 2008.

 Chrysler Building - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

But great views aren't found only from skyscrapers. I got a nice shot of Union Square from Filene's Basement's big windows. Actually, I had better luck that day taking a picture than I did finding anything to wear at Filene's. The "basement" is a misnomer, dating from the original historic Filene's in Boston. The name was sold some time ago, and this "basement" actually is on the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors of a building on Union Square South.

In another part of town, Shakespeare in the Park, after an unsuccessful Hamlet, at least according to all the reviews, has a winner in the Public Theater's spectacular revival of Hair. Wonderful how good the songs are; had forgotten how good. People wait in line for hours to obtain free tickets. This year, though, the Public has a new idea as well: A very limited number of tickets are put into an online lottery, which they call their "virtual ticket line." And, amazingly enough, after trying my luck for a week or so, I obtained two tickets for last Saturday evening. Not only were the seats fine; it was a gorgeous New York City summer night—neither too warm nor too cold. At the end of the show, the audience is invited onstage to dance with the performers. They are hoping to move it to Broadway in the fall. Guess they'll have to put ramps from the apron of the stage down to the orchestra floor. But it won't be the same. Hair is supposed to be taking place on the Great Lawn in Central Park, and it really almost does in the present production. It won't have quite the authenticity indoors, but it's still a great show. Incidentally, although Hair itself is not by the Bard, of course, one of the songs, "What a Piece of Work Is Man," is a setting of one of Hamlet's great soliloquies. So the show does qualify to be performed under the banner of "Shakespeare in the Park"!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Balzac? Dvorák?

On my way downtown this afternoon, I passed this street sign. We have a lot of these on various corners, commemorating notables who have lived or worked in a specific neighborhood. One of my favorites is "Señor Wences Way" in the theater district. (If you don't know who Señor Wences was, you can Google him.) I also like "Leonard Bernstein Way" at Lincoln Center and "Thelonious Sphere Monk Place" on the far West Side. It reminded me of a casual date I once had—and I guess it was our one and only date—in this East 17th St. neighborhood. The young man and I were walking around, and he remarked, "I think Balzac once lived around here." "Balzac?" I wondered, "I didn't know he ever came to America." "Well, it was someone like that," said my friend. Suddenly I realized, and then commented, that Antonín Dvorák had lived and worked in New York and later, famously, in Spillville, Iowa. The house where he was in residence had been on the East 17th St. block between First Avenue and Avenue A, and the building is now an AIDS hospice. There is a plaque on it, commemorating the great composer. Not wishing to sneer at my date's lack of cultural awareness, I blithely tossed off, "Well, Balzac, Dvorák—what's the difference?"

Honoré de Balzac - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Antonín Dvořák - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Free-associating, as is my wont, I was reminded of my own lack of cultural awareness, though I was only a college undergraduate at the time. A revered English professor, in a class on Victorian literature, mentioned that some prominent Victorian or other had some sort of association with the House of Domecq sherry company. No one in the class had ever heard of Domecq—or probably any other brand of sherry. He sniffed and remarked, "Insufficiently worldly, all of you!"