Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A night of varied cultural pursuits

Last night we went to the opening of the Pen International writers festival- it was on at the Town Hall focused on Public Lives/ Private Lives and went for 90minutes with some of the writers who are presenting at the festival speaking reading from their work. I went with Jude last year too. Salman Rushdie is the chair and brains behind it all. The festival has a focus on human rights and so had mention of writers who couldn't be there due to their countries ban on allowing them out of the country or even prison. Annie Proulx, Michael Ondatje and Ian McEwan were the two writers I know most about, actually anything really. Most of others were from non English speaking countries and read in their language with projected translations as they read.
It was an easy walk to 43rd St after dinner and we were seated in the orchestra great seats where we could see and hear everything. The works read focused on aspects of life and overcoming odds within difficult cultural/political circumstances.
Ian McEwan was last and was most entertaining reading from his notes about gathering information for a fiction novel about global warming. This bodes well for this evening as we are going to see him at 6:30 and then will be late for the concert at Radio City with Dolly Parton. Sublime to the ridiculous- so to speak!
We walked back through the cool evening and I collected the delivery we had had. It was my painting- Moonrise on the mountain by Julia Gil from the Santa Fe Gallery.
This meant taking the freight elevator up and avoiding filling the lift and raising the ire of other elevator users. In the apartment Helen was in bed so she got up to help unwrap it- it took 3 of us about 20minutes of ripping tape and careful removal of bubble wrap.
Sue woke up enough to come and hold the painting in place and admire before falling back to bed.
It is beautiful and will look glorious up on the wall- one of the first things one sees as one walk into the apartment.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Where does one start?

(Photo by Sara Krulwich/The New York Times)

What an evening at the theatre! Our seats were fabulous (for me anyway). In the orchestra row Y straight on to the stage- I could see all the splendors that were "Satyagraha".
I was a tad hesitant about it being Phillip Glass whose music I usually love but it can be discordant or a little more difficult to listen to than the more lyrical music of say Puncini. Then the fact that it was sung in Sanskrit- never having heard that sung I was unsure especially given my response to "The First Emperor" music and lyrics. On top of all this I knew the production used giant puppets, was about the early life of Gandhi and had titles projected onto the set. All being said I was slightly unsure as to whether I would last beyond the first interval.
That was before it started- all indications that it was going to be as different and unusual as I had predicted were affirmed when the curtain went up and there stood Gandhi ( Richard Croft), no overture had been played no sound for what seemed like minutes. Then Richard Croft began to sing and the music began and the most fantastic production that combined so many magical components of theatre it is difficult to describe.
A review in the New York Times enlightened me a little with the folowing:-
The focus is on the period from 1893 to 1914, the years Gandhi spent in South Africa. Tolstoy, the poet Rabindranath Tagore and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. each figure in an act representing witnesses from Gandhi's past, present and future.

"Satyagraha" is the middle work in Glass's trilogy of operatic portraits, sandwiched between "Einstein on the Beach" and "Akhnaten." The libretto is drawn from the Bhagavad-Gita, the sacred Hindu text, and bears little direct relation to the action, which plays out in a series of tableaus that crisscross time. There are no subtitles, only projections of sentences from the text and references to scenes and dates.

I was entranced by the whole thing.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Top Girls

Thank goodness I hadn't read the review of Top Girls before I went to see it this afternoon. My greater shame is that I haven't seen it before. That being said I thoroughly enjoyed it apart from the fact that the theatre was air conditioned to a level that was catering for warmer weather.
With very well chilled ankles I enjoyed the performances of Mary Catherine Garrison, Mary Beth Hurt, Jennifer Ikeda, Elizabeth Marvel, Martha Plimpton, Ana Reeder, and Marisa Tomei. The play is described by MTC as "set at the Top Girls Employment Agency in London in the early 1980s, this groundbreaking, theatrical play tells the story of Marlene, an ambitious career woman who has just been appointed head of the firm. But as she celebrates her achievements, can we applaud her values? This bold and ingenious work from the singularly talented author of Far Away and Cloud Nine offers one of the theatre's most honest portraits of what it means to be a woman in the modern world. Directed by James Macdonald, who staged the New York premiere of Ms. Churchill's A Number (which I have also seen and enjoyed).
Other than being really cold during the show I had a great conversation with woman sitting next to me- Peggy- she too is a regular at MTC and we shared view of great productions in and around NYC- a very pleasant way to spend the intermissions.
In terms of the production I thought the staging was excellent- the use of players to change and set scenes worked well for me and the basic sets created the environments of the office, the restaurant and the house in suburban urban England. The piece de la resistance for me was the "cubby" in the backyard and the performance of the young and immature by Martha Plimpton and her friend Louise??? (in Churchill's script I think her name is Kit) played by Mary Beth Hurt. The nuances and naiveté of the adolescences relationships was gently and dexterously played. Their scenes could have gone on and on and I would have been content. Unfortunately Marisa Tomei's accent went up and down England in a single sentence but when it mattered in the final scene her performance was finely tuned. (The dialect consultant should be slaughtered just as some of the actors slaughtered the accent- the pronunciation of the word "so" was unrecognisable)
Having been so scathing and critical I did enjoy the show! And I'm finally warm.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Scraps from the scrapbooking

A scrap-booking crop at Cheryl’s Office, what better way to spend the last Saturday of the Spring vacation! Cheryl is one of the organizers of the meet up group and sometimes makes her office area available for people to use the space together. There was about 15-20 of us - it fluctuated during the day. Tuesday is Cheryl’s birthday so she used it as “an excuse” to have people “over” although there was no need for an excuse as she has these “events” fairly regularly. The day was an excuse to scrapbook and chat with people she knows. I hadn’t been to one of the events for a while given philosophy on Saturdays and work and travel. I hadn’t really intended going but decided that I could, as Helen and Jude are perfectly capable of taking care of themselves. I packed up my gear for the day including paper, photos and sticking stuff. I have a small paper trimmer and another cutter and decided it was all I needed for the day as others have extraordinary amounts of stuff. I was one of the first there at around 10:30. I traveled on the N train as it runs local on the weekends and I got off at 28th St and only had to schlep my stuff two streets. The office building is about 14 floors and the instructions for those going there include “buzzing” the 12th floor and Cheryl buzzes you in. Then once you have made your way up in the elevator to the 12th floor you need to be buzzed in to the office area as well. Quite a secure spot and managed really well.
Cheryl greeted everyone wearing her birthday tiara and pink feather boa. During the morning her brother arrived and brought food for lunch from a sandwich bar with rolls and salad. Some people brought homemade snacks, mainly cookies and another woman made a cake for her but had to smuggle it out of the house so her 3 year old daughter wouldn’t see it as she would have wanted to come to the party too, although the daughter would have loved the day (and her mum wouldn’t have done any scrap booking). Ever the scrap booker Cheryl photographed her cake. She is taking “a photo a day “ which she started on January 1 and is putting them in a simple album but it does involve printing them off and remembering why you took them! Mid afternoon a clown arrived and began making balloon hats for everyone. It was all very silly and not as twee as this description sounds.
The conversations just drifted around during the day with people talking about the things they are doing at the moment or prompted by the pages they were working on.
When one particular scrapbooker arrived (whom I had met on other occasions) people who knew her immediately commented on her changed hairstyle. Long on top and cropped really close to the side- she replied to the comments that she had just finished with corporate America and got her new haircut. Certainly a change from her previous glossy bob but she has quit her job at Deutsch Bank and is moving to New Orleans with her husband as they both love the place and have bought a house in the old city. She has a new job- dog grooming! How far from the financial world and corporate America is that! She moves in about a month and has been doing training as a dog groomer and has a job lined up with a couple’s business in New Orleans.
The clown provided lots of conversation points making very elaborate “hats” for people. One woman asked for a monkey on hers and got not only a monkey but also a whole palm tree. She was on her way out of the building to get some coffee from Starbucks (offices and schools don’t have tea and coffee making facilities as readily available as home) and said she’d wear her “hat” to the store. Another person went along with her to photograph the event but most people agreed that no-one would take any notice as “You are in New York!” Cheryl said that she wore her angel wings home from the last crop and walked from 26th St through Lower Manhattan and no one took a “blind bit of notice” (my interpretation).
Just before I left a young woman arrived and ended up sitting opposite me. She has recently moved to NYC and was making a book/album about her first year in New York. She’s working as a financial adviser in Jersey City (just across the river) and lives on 50th St. She loves it. She’s in a studio apartment and her book is looking lovely. It starts with her farewell party in Tulsa Oklahoma (she was chuffed when I said I had been to Tulsa – last year on Route 66) and then her driving off in the U-Haul truck, the boxes in her apartment, trips to the supermarket etc etc. In all the day truly served the purpose of the involvement in the group for me- that is to meet more Americans.

Friday, April 25, 2008

There must be a better way!

Gazing from my 37th floorwindow, some movement in the distance caught my eye. I couldn't believe it!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Spring in Brookyln

A journey to the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens in the spring is enough to make one lyrical and attempt great verses to heighten the appreciation of the visit. Fortunately I have not succumbed to such whimsy but have thoroughly enjoyed the stroll through the garden. The magnolias are past it really as are the daffodils but the tulips were splendid although on the edge of their time. The stand of cherry blossoms is just coming into it's own and by next weekend will be truly glorious but overcrowded as the Cherry Blossom Festival is on.
The purple grape hyacinths were out in full glory and still other blossoms were weighing down branches across garden beds and paths.
There were larger numbers of people in the garden as I was leaving as we had ventured to the gardens fairly early in the day- a good move I think.
Even the long delayed train journey back to midtown- with delays on the express train and groups crowding onto the train at various points, has not been enough to diminish the pleasure of the journey.
A trip out there when the roses are in bloom could well be on the cards for me!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Albuquerque- the end of the road... for now!

What a journey! We traveled about 900 miles and saw so much changing landscape. We journeyed through small towns and rolling hills, flat plains, windy plains and across parts of three states.
It really was time for a well earned margarita and something to eat! Luckily we chose happy hour food that came in smaller quantities than the usual serves as I couldn't manage the whole plate of appetizer "ribs". They were delicious and Helen helped me out with the remaining ones.

We spent our final night at a large hotel in Albuquerque having been to the old town and realizing we had had our fill of turquoise and silver jewelry in Santa Fe. Besides we had spent a fortune boosting the economy of New Mexico in the form of art work, jewelry and clothing.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Las Vegas NM to Santa Fe NM

Before we departed the town of Las Vegas we went to "the other side of town" and they are truly two different places. Remarkable how that happened and remains.
We traveled the pre-1937 Route 66 taking us through Pecos. First to settle in the Pecos area were pre-pueblo people who lived in pithouses then around 1100, the first Puebloans began building their rock-and-mud villages in the valley. Two dozen villages rose over the next two centuries, including one where the ruins of the Pecos pueblo we visited stands. Sometime in the 14th century the settlement patterns changed dramatically. Within one generation small villages were abandoned and Pecos pueblo grew larger. By 1450 it had become a well planned frontier fortress five stories high with a population of over 2,000. Location, power, and the ability to supply needed goods made Pecos a major trade center on the eastern flank of the Puebloan world. Pecos Indians bartered crops, clothing, and pottery with the Apaches and later the Spaniards and Comanche's for products.
Pecos National Historical Park preserves over 12,000 years of cultural history including not only the Pecos Pueblo but also Spanish mission ruins, the ruts of the Santa Fe Trail, the Forked Lighting Ranch and the Civil War Battle of Glorieta. Places we have been able to experience along Route 66 that I hadn't contemplated nor realized would come within our journey.
It was a great place to stop and hear some of New Mexico's history before we headed in to Santa Fe.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Santa Rosa NM- Las Vegas NM

The vast plains of the Panhandle of Texas we happily left behind. It was so windy and it whipped around us as we walked or tried to sit and eat our lunch.
Going in to New Mexico gave us not only new sights to see but also greater variation in the landscape. The gentle hills and the flat top mesas provide an awe-inspiring landscape in between rocky outcrops and vast flat plains often covered in small rounded shrubs interspersed with cactus. The history of the state is in evidence in the architecture of the towns and cities as well as the the people themselves.
Sue had done her research well and had directed us to Las Vegas New Mexico. It was a wonderful respite from the sometimes hollow, dilapidated little towns we had been traveling through.
Las Vegas was established in 1835 after a group of settlers received a land grant from the Mexican government. The town was laid out in the traditional Spanish Colonial style, with a central plaza surrounded by buildings which could serve as fortifications in case of attack. Las Vegas soon prospered as a stop on the Santa Fe Trail.
The arrival of the railroad on July 4, 1879 brought with it businesses and people both respectable and dubious. Murderers, robbers, thieves, gamblers, gunmen, swindlers, vagrants, and tramps poured in, transforming the eastern side of the settlement into a virtually lawless brawl.
We stayed in the beautifully restored Plaza Hotel- small and comfortable and not as expensive as the travel guides would have us believe.
It was snowing as we drove through the hills from Santa Rosa to Las Vegas and we were happy to arrive in the lovely square were the Plaza Hotel is situated. Our leisurely day gave us time to browse the great bookshop, chat with locals and fortify our energy levels.
As we had had such a slow day Jude, Helen and I decided to go for a walk. As has often happened on our journeys Helen has taken advantage of opportunities as they arose. A biker stopped at the corner of a small back street we were walking along and asked directions to a good restaurant. We told him we were new in town and quick as a shot Helen asked "Can I climb on the back of your bike and my friend take a photo of me, please?" Obviously the poor fellow agreed and we had some great laughs watching Helen climb nimbly on the bike and then practically split herself in two getting off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Amarillo TX to Santa Rosa New Mexico

The Cadillac Ranch was built in 1974, the "brainchild" of Stanley Marsh 3, the helium millionaire who owns the wheat field where it stands. Marsh and The Ant Farm, a San Francisco art collective, assembled used Cadillacs representing the "Golden Age" of American Automobiles (1949 through 1963). The ten graffiti-covered cars are half-buried, nose-down, facing west "at the same angle as the Cheops' pyramids."

In 1997, "development creep" forced Marsh to move the entire assemblage about two miles further west. The line of cars is far enough out in a field to allow for suitably bleak photography. The distance from any authority also encourages ever-mutating layers of painted graffiti, which Marsh doesn't seem to mind.

Visitors are encouraged 24/7 -- just don't steal any of Stanley's colorful signs. The 62-year old Marsh has had a few interesting run-ins with the law over his brand of enforcement. In 1994, he was accused of threatening an 18-year old with a hammer and penning him inside a chicken coop. He's been sued by a family claiming Marsh tricks teens into working for him after catching them red-handed with one of his signs.

We saw other bits of Marsh art in the vicinity including the Bates motel sign.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Elk City OK to Amarillo TX

"Is this the way to Amarillo?"... Indeed it was unfortunately we followed the guide book to a singularly unusual place where our guide book was correct in saying that you may well be serenaded by rednecks and indeed we were. The guide book had it wrong though- this was not a gift shop or curiosity shop but a performance space for a couple who were particularly sexist and bigoted in their approach to a group of four women traveling together. However we didn't need to hang around there too long and we were given a can of drink each by them.
Our experience in the Elk City Route 66 museum was much more pleasant and informative.It was good to view the movie that gave a history of the "mother road" and an even greater insight in to the difficulties that were overcome by those who traveled the road.

Monday, April 14, 2008

On the road again

The second third of Route 66 began for us in Oklahoma City.It's difficult to write about such a journey without making it seem like a travelogue. It's my intention to try to focus on themes of things that happened along the way and the journey of discovery that traveling in a 4WD with three great women friends has turned out to be.
In April 2007 we began our adventure- BB (Before Blogging) utilizing time before and during the school Spring break.
This year Helen and Judy have returned to travel with Sue and I. We all fell back in to our roles Sue- driver, Helen- food and entertainment, Judy- riding shotgun and me- navigator and occasional photographer.
My Nikon camera with the new super duper lens (18mm-200mm) means that within the blink of an eye I can capture images as we do a drive by!
Oklahoma City was warm and sunny on our afternoon there although the breeze whipped up a bit but much better than the rain we experienced as we left there the last time.
The highlight of our day exiting there was the "Cowboy Museum" exhibition of American Indian artists decorated gloves. Items of clothing have for years been embroidered with porcupine quills, bird quills and moose hair onto a variety of objects and surfaces. After the arrival of glass beads and silk thread, Native artists used the new materials and despite their being foreign goods, they soon became identifiers of American Indian identity and aesthetics to both Native and non-Native people. The leather gloves were among the objects adorned with Native beadwork and worn in both Indian and non-Indian communities. Very quickly beaded gauntlets gloves had become necessary components of the western cowboys' fancy dress wardrobe and favorite items of eastern "dudes" who kept them as souvenirs of their western adventures. The numerous rodeo and western pageants founded after 1910 further fueled demand for the gauntlets. We were lucky enough to see 73 pairs of decorated gloves from the design diversity and technical virtuosity of Plains, Plateau and Great Basin Indian artists who produced them from the 1890s through the 1940s.
The other exhibition was of Louise Serpa's photographs. She was raised in the cultural milieu of Manhattan high society. "Her inner-cowgirl," according to one writer, "revealed itself at her debutante ball in 1943 when she rode sidesaddle down the banister of the Waldorf-Astoria and ripped the back out of her floor-length dress." Shein 1946 she eventually moved to Nevada, and after her divorce she needed to provide for herself and her two daughters. What had been a hobby in the early 1950s became a profession for Serpa in the 1960s. In 1963, became the first woman to receive her Rodeo Cowboys Association photographer's card and permission to photograph RCA rodeos inside the arena. Her photographs "give a magnificent overview of the Rodeo that is so much a history of the old West and still is important in the American West today."
We left the cowboy museum behind as we headed for Elk City.