Thing change in New York City, that's all there is to it. It's the nature of the beast. There were two articles in the Metro pages (wasn't there just a Metro section a few months ago?) of the paper of record that caught my eye this morning. The first was actually about Suffolk County (link above). I remember being quite excited 15 years ago to read that foxes had come back to Suffolk County. This summer, a young beaver arrived in Napeague. Whales were spotted off Montauk for the first time in ten years- humpbacks, and minkes. And dolphins, too. There are now so many wild turkeys in Suffolk that they're considering having a turkey shoot in November to cull some of the 3,000. The not so good news is that yet another bastion of the West Side, Cafe des Artistes, is closing (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/31/nyregion/31artistes.html?ref=todayspaper). It seems that owners George Lang and his wife Jenifer Lang have been struggling, with the economy and rising labor costs, for some time. Instead of reopening at the end of their vacation on September 14th, they'll remain closed. I have been there many times (mostly the bar, I'll admit), and once to their restaurant in the City Park in Budapest (the best asparagus soup I've ever had). I own Mr. Lang's autobiography, Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen. He came to New York from Budapest after World War Ii. I wonder what will become of all the Howard Chandler Christy nudes on the walls? Photo credit: Suzanne de Chillo, The New York Times
So I have a big chunk of today that I can devote to the new libretto I'm working on. I'm in a deep research phase. At the moment, I'm working my way through New Yorker magazine issues of 1950, and when I was eating lunch just now, reading a Letter from Washington about Joe McCarthy. In the midst of it was a full page ad for the 1950 George Foster Peabody Radio Award (do they give radio awards anymore? Don't know.) "for outstanding entertainment in music has been won by WQXR ... no station anywhere has devoted more time or more intelligent presentation to good music than has WQXR." Almost makes you want to weep, doesn't it? I wish WNYC the best of luck with their acquisition, but it will be a hard row to hoe. I'll be amazed if they can raise enough money in this economy to keep it an all-classical music format. Guess I'd better start skimming i-tunes.
I recently got an email from North Shore Animal League, the nearest big no-kill shelter to where I live. They are rescuing pups from a puppy mill on August 24, and are looking for homes where they can foster these poor neglected little guys. A link to their foster program is above. If you can't foster a dog, they're also looking for towels, wash cloths, bones and toys, and we bet they'll take a check, too!
Last weekend, I went to Washington to visit friends. I also worked in some museum time. I managed to get to the National History Museum and the Portrait Collection, both part of the Smithsonian. I hadn't been to the History Museum in many years. There, I saw a George Washington Statue depicting him (I think) as Cincinnatus; Julia Child's kitchen; the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz; Sylvester Stallone's and Muhammed Ali's boxing gloves; Kermit the Frog; and Carol Channing's dress from the restaurant scene in Hello, Dolly! There was also a fine stuffed buffalo. I skipped the First Lady dresses; the line was too long. The Portrait Gallery was mercifully quiet, and contained a lot of Presidential portraits, but also Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Churchill and John Rutledge. On Sunday, I went to The Phillips Collection which was wonderful. The Rothkos are remarkable, and I loved the small Goya they have.
My good friend Peter took me to see "Mary Stuart" a week ago Friday. I think that I haven't blogged about it because I wasn't quite sure what to say. It claims to be by Friederich Schiller, adapted by Peter Oswald, but only about a quarter of it seemed like Schiller's play to me. There was lots of good acting. Brian Murray was wonderful, as was John Benjamin Hickey. Maria Tucci seemed to be (quite successfully) channeling Margaret Tyzack. The leads were fine. But it did not hold up as a tragedy. There was no emotional catharsis. And I found it really out that Mary Stuart/Maria Stuart never mentioned child, not even once. I am glad that I saw it. But it was disappointing.
All of my friends are very aware that my boyfriend and I have a dog. We've had him for seven months, and updates on his progress and cute ways are pretty much constant. So I was gratified to read this afternoon about President Warren Gamaliel Harding's treatment of his dog. The dog was named Laddie Boy, pictured. Mrs. Harding made a dog biscuit cake for his birthday each year. Laddie Boy had his own chair in the White House, which he'd occupy when he sat in on cabinet meeting. He was very popular with newsboys, who collected pennies that were made into a statue in his image. It's now in the Smithsonian. Photo credit: Ohio Historical Society
So far as we are concerned, the last real bar in the theatre district is Rudy's (though we're convinced they water the beer, and you must never ever eat one of those hotdogs)! They are in a disagreement with the city about their garden fire escape. Our friend Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum directed a wonderful swashbuckler in that back yard. McHale's is gone. Rudy's is our touchstone. And besides, they have an attractive piggy, and Steely Dan on their website. Go to the link, and sign the petition to save Rudy's!
My friend Liz Stott, who knows me all too well, asked me for a list of the last ten books I’ve read. So I obsessed over that for 36 hours, and thought of way to quantify my choices. The most important being: this is New York. Unless it’s a special occasion or research or a must-have, I don’t buy books. Free books are all over. Books in the public domain are often, not always, available on the web. And when all else fails, I go to the 79th Street branch of the library.
So, here goes. I am in the midst of reading The Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov (I was approached years ago to do an adaptation of The Master and Margarita, so I’m familiar with Bulgakov), and for research, The History of Irish Catholics in Cleveland. Last week I read Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone, Kiss Me, Kate by Sam & Bella Spewack and Balanchine by Robert Gottlieb. Lately, I’ve read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (really wonderful); and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (I’d never read any Faulkner- I was told in prep school I was too stupid to understand it- and now I’m simply underwhelmed). My sister-in-law, Joan Rater, has a beautiful essay in Afterbirth: Stories You Won’t Find in a Patenting Magazine, edited by Dani Klein Modisett.
There is a wonderful book that my friends Harrington Wells, Julian Christenberry and Beth Christenberry gave me for my birthday last year, about Brooklyn’s literati in the 1940s, February House: The Story of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, Under One Roof In Wartime America by Sherrill Tippins. Tippins is no great stylist, but the stories are fascinating. Lucy & Desi: The Legendary Love Story of Television's Most Famous Couple by Warren G. Harris came out of my boyfriend’s garage. Again, not beautiful prose but much of the information is interesting, not the least of which is picturing J. Edgar Hoover and Desi at the track together.
A book I found on the street is The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Religious Traditions by Karen Armstrong. I think this is by far the best comp religion book I’ve ever read. And even though it’s a long book (I read it for much of Lent), I schlepped it back and forth to Manhattan on the subway. All those unanswered questions that Armstrong finally answers: when do the Jews really become monotheists (later than you might think)? What is the nature of a religious sacrifice ritual before Abraham and Isaac? Plus Indian and Chinese religions, and Islam. When I went to LA on vacation in June, I brought Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks (about a Scottish woman in the French Resistance) and Prague by Arthur Phillips, about American expats in Budapest in the 1990s. My new favorite novel is Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada, in a new translation by the estimable Michael Hofmann, about Berlin in the 1940s.