Monday, July 24, 2017

NYC Day 37: In Which I Rest and Immerse Myself in the Wide Sargasso Sea

The elderly Jean Rhys (at left) at her home in Cheriton Fitzpaine, Devon
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With the temperature across New York City heading for the 90 degree mark, the humidity levels not far behind, and city authorities issuing heat warnings and opening local cooling centers, I decided the smart thing to do would be to stay in. Even the promise of chilly air-conditioning at Brookfield Place could not entice me to descend into what would have been a stifling subway system for the 40 minute ride downtown.

There was nothing for it but to crank up the portable air-con unit in the apartment, and engage in some writing, reading, and account balancing. And since I have been making good use of my commuting time over the past few weeks reading several of the books I have purchased thus far, I thought I might add some comments about one of those titles in today's post.

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WIDE SARGASSO SEA*
Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys tells the story of the 'mad woman in the attic' who is apparently an unseen figure in Charlotte Bronte's, Jane Eyre (a book I have not read), and what a sad and melancholy -- but beautifully written tale it is.

The dust jacket notes: Set in the Caribbean, it's heroine is Antoinette Cosway, a sensual and protected young woman who is sold into marriage to the prideful Rochester. Rhys portrays a society so driven by hatred, so skewed in its sexual relations, that it can literally drive a woman out of her mind.
[Jean] Rhys was born in Roseau, the capital of Dominica, an island in the British West Indies. Her father, William Rees Williams, was a Welsh doctor and her mother, Minna Williams, nee Lockhart, was a third-generation Dominican Creole of Scots ancestry. ("Creole" was broadly used in those times to refer to any person born on the island, whether they were of European or African descent or both.) [Source: Wikipedia]
In the introduction, written by Francis Wyndham we learn:
For many years, Jean Rhys has been haunted by the figure of the first Mrs. Rochester  - the mad wife in Jane Eyre. The present novel ... is her story. Not, of course, literally so: it is in no sense a pastiche of Charlotte Bronte and exists in its own right, quite independent of Jane Eyre. But the Bronte book provided the initial inspiration for an imaginative feat almost uncanny in its vivid intensity. From her personal knowledge of the West Indies, and her reading of their history, Miss Rhys knew about the mad Creole heiresses in the early nineteenth century, whose dowries were only an additional burden to them: products of an inbred, decadent, expatriate society, resented by the recently freed slaves whose superstitions they shared, they languished uneasily in the oppressive beauty of their tropical surroundings, ripe for exploitation. It is one of these that [Jean Rhys] has chosen for her...heroine.
Among other things, the book is quite open about the resentment and racism that 'the recently freed slaves' (mentioned by Francis Wyndham in her introduction), express towards the expat British. Terms like 'white cockroach,', 'white nigger' and other epithets are hurled by the local children at their white counterparts, and the understandable resentment that many former slaves feel towards their former owners and overseers, bubble along beneath the surface of all their post-colonial relationships.

From time to time these resentments boil over, leading to one of the key incidents early in the book when the family home is attacked by a mob of angry villagers. This incident results in the death of a minor, but important character in terms of the arc of the book, and without giving more of the story away, let me just say it's all downhill from there. However, the writing is so evocative of time and place, so infused with detailed descriptions of landscape and the natural beauty of the island settings, that it was impossible to turn away and not look at the horror that was slowly smothering Antoinette and the increasingly poisonous relationship with her new husband, Rochester.

It is a relationship that begins to sour soon after their wedding, even as they settle in to their honeymoon in a remote location along with several servants and other staff. Antoinette's newly minted British-born husband has no understanding of the norms, mores, and culture of the islanders he has landed amongst, and even less interest in learning about or understanding them, thus setting the scene for conflict and misunderstanding that spirals increasingly out of control.

I was reading the book on the subway a couple of days ago, and as I closed the book and began putting it away in my bag, I heard a female voice say, "Sir, I love that book!"

When I looked up at the young woman who had spoken, I agreed that the book was a great read, and replied to the effect that although I had not yet finished it, this was a book that I would want to read again. She agreed and said that she had read it three times herself, and that it was one of her favorite books. I added that this was a book that had been on my 'radar' for many years, and that I was only now getting to read it, and that I was very happy that I had finally gotten around to doing so.

It was a brief conversation if only because I was about to get out at the next subway station, but I could see that other commuters were showing interest in what we were saying. Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me to hold the book up so they could see what we were talking about. If something like this were to happen again with another book (unlikely), I will make sure I do just that.

This book is definitely a 'keeper'. The writing borders on the poetic much of the time, and despite the overall mood of dread I had as I progressed through the story, I knew this would be a book I will keep and read again at some future date. I even thought I might read Jane Eyre, but Rhys's book may have spoiled any pleasure I may derive from doing that. If you have read Jane Eyre and wondered about the mysterious woman in the attic, this is definitely the book for you. I recommend it highly.

More information
Wikipedia entry for Jean Rhys... 
Wikipedia entry for Wide Sargasso Sea...

*Wide Sargasso Sea becomes book number 28 in my self-imposed 52-Book-Year Challenge, in which I aim to read an average of one book per week throughout the year.

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Jean Rhys at her cottage in Devon. 


WEEK FIVE EXPENSES*
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ONGOING WEEKLY EXPENSES
===================================
Museum Memberships $19.15 ($25.15)
AT&T SIM card $16.25 ($25.38)
MTA Pass $30.25 ($39.92)
Accommodation $152.00 ($200.00)
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Total Ongoing: US$217.65 (AU$290.45)
===================================

ADDITIONAL DAILY EXPENSES
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Sunday, 16 July | Expenses $41.75 ($53.40)
Monday 17, July | Expenses $53.10 ($66.95)
Tuesday 18, July | Expenses $85.53 ($111.05)
Wednesday 19, July | Expenses $16.85 ($21.15)
Thursday 20, July | Expenses $86.50 ($114.95)
Friday 21, July | Expenses $23.00 ($29.05)
Saturday 22, July | Expenses $0.0
===================================
TOTAL: US$306.73 | AU$396.55
===================================

Total Expenses Week 5: US$524.38 (AU$687.00
*Figures in brackets are Australian dollar amounts

Sunday, July 23, 2017

NYC Day 36: In Which I Go In Search of Frank Lloyd Wright

Click on images to view full sized
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Yesterday I decided it was time I took a long, detailed look at the major Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Wright was one of the most influential American architects of the last century.
Frank Lloyd Wright (born Frank Lincoln Wright, June 8, 1867 – April 9, 1959) was an American architect, interior designer, writer, and educator, who designed more than 1,000 structures, 532 of which were completed. Wright believed in designing structures that were in harmony with humanity and its environment, a philosophy he called organic architecture. This philosophy was best exemplified by the Fallingwater house (1935), which has been called "the best all-time work of American architecture". [Source: Wikipedia...]

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I have had an interest in architecture for many years, and the more I travel the more I like to seek out great examples of the profession. Having said that, I have little interest in the smooth modern glass and steel buildings that are dominating the New York City skyline more and more as this century progresses. My favorite buildings, whether cloud busting skyscrapers or four and five storey walk-ups, tend to be survivors from the past two centuries. They invariably have features and facades that stop you in your tracks, and force you to pause and examine, and marvel at the skills of the masons, engineers, steel workers, and other tradespeople who laboured to construct these beautiful buildings. So it was with much interest that I devoted a couple of hours to Frank Lloyd Wright.

The exhibition presents hundreds of drawings, models, film, letters, documents and other memorabilia from the vast FLW archives that are now in the possession and care of the museum. And when I write vast, I mean vast:
Unpacking the Archive refers to the monumental task of moving across the country 55,000 drawings, 300,000 sheets of correspondence, 125,000 photographs, and 2,700 manuscripts, as well as models, films, and building fragments. It also refers to the work of interpretation and the close examination of projects that in some cases have received little attention. [Source: Info panel at the exhibition]
Above: A longitudinal section in ink and pencil for the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, and below a detailed image for the peaked roof seen in the image above.

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As you might imagine, with so much material to select from, to say the current exhibition barely scratches the surface of Wright's massive archive is to state the bleeding obvious. The curators probably had no choice other than to present some of the better known works from among a collection that may stretch back to the beginning of Wright's architectural career. A period of some 70 years.

I was particularly interested in his initial concept for one of his most famous buildings, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum on Fifth Avenue. Early sketches show a building similar in design to the building as it stands today, but instead of rising to the equivalent of a six storey building, the early drawings show one that might rise as high as nine or ten storeys.

Above and Below: Early design concepts for the Guggenheim Museum.


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Always one to think big, in 1956 Wright presented a concept drawing that was eight feet high! Executed in colored pencils and gold ink on tracing paper, Wright was proposing to build the Illinois, a 'mile-high' skyscraper on the lakefront at Chicago. His initial concept may not have been much more than a clever marketing exercise by Wright for his architectural practice, but it go plenty of attention when he unveiled his drawings and ideas back in 1956/'57.

Above: This image does not do the concept of a mile-high building any justice whatsoever. Try to imagine the picture being eight feet high, 


Above: other design ideas for Wright's mile-high Illinois building.
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I very much appreciated the chance to examine the many drawings and renderings (such as the 'mile-high' building), at the exhibition. Modern architects use state of the art software to design their buildings which also allows them to spit out drawings and renderings with a few clicks of a mouse button. What gets lost in that process are the beautifully hand drawn designs one sees in Unpacking the Archive. While many of these drawings were almost certainly made by Wright's assistants, they stand as beautiful works of art in the own right.

Above and detail below: Marin County Civic Center and Fairgrounds, San Rafael, California (1957). 

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There is much to enjoy at Frank Lloyd Wright at 150: Unpacking the Archive, even if you only have a passing interest in architecture. Children will enjoy looking at the models, while adults will gain a greater appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright, and hopefully for all architects who design the homes and buildings we almost certainly could not live without in the 21st century.

IF YOU GO
Now through until October 1, 2017
Tickets: Adults $25; Seniors $18; Students $14 (under 16, free)
Exhibition free with museum entry
11 West 53rd Street, Manhattan
Open seven days a week.
MoMA Online... 

More Information
Frank Lloyd Wright at Wikipedia...

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Friday 21, July | Expenses $23.00 ($29.05)
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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Above: Detail of building model for St. Mark's Tower, New York.
Below: unidentified building model. 
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Saturday, July 22, 2017

NYC Day 35: In Which I Go In Search of Woody Guthrie

Click on images to view full sized.
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Utilizing the writings, words, songs and music of America's greatest folk troubadour, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie, or 'Woody' as he was universally known, David M. Lutken and his three fellow actor/musicians bring to the stage the joy, pathos, politics, and tragedy of Guthrie's short and dramatic life. More than three dozen songs are included in the production, some in full and some using just a verse or two to place a scene or episode from Woody's life in context.

In a little over two hours we learn about Woody's childhood, his first steps as a budding musician, the confinement of his mother to a mental institution, and to his 'hobo' years jumping freight trains or hitchhiking around the country singing, writing, and painting, scraping by as best he could.


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The show was devised by David M. Lutken who channels the ghost of Woody Guthrie throughout the show. A fine singer, talented musician, and blessed with an easy going manner that suits the character he so ably portrays, Mr. Lutken knows his man and his songs 'inside out, upside down, and round and round', as Woody Guthrie might have said himself. The other cast members are Helen Jean Russell (an original member of the 2007 Edinburgh Fringe shows), David Finch, and Darcie Deaville.

All the actors are talented musicians and multi-instrumentalists in their own right, and between them provide all the instrumentation during the show. Among the array of instruments used were several guitars, mandolins, violins, and harmonicas, I also counted an upright bass, Autoharp, dulcimer, Jews harp, spoons, penny whistle, and a banjo. The word talented barely does these four amazing actors and musicians justice.

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Born in Okemah, Oklahoma in 1912, Woody Guthrie died in October 1967, following a long battle with Huntington's Disease. But before he died he performed with many of the great folk and blues luminaries of the late 1930s and 1940s including Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee, Cisco Huston, and the great Huddie Ledbetter, better known as 'Leadbelly'.

Since his death, dozens of contemporary musicians continue to cite Guthrie as an influence and inspiration in their own writing and careers. One of the earliest and most famous of Guthrie's acolytes was Bob Dylan, whose Song To Woody, appeared on his first album. Other contemporary performers who have paid or continue to pay tribute to Guthrie include Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Morello, and of course Billy Bragg who, with the group Wilco, has recorded two albums of previously unrecorded Woody Guthrie songs on the albums Mermaid Avenue (1998), and Mermaid Avenue II (2000). In 2012 Bragg released the Mermaid Avenue Complete Sessions, a box set which included the above two albums plus a third album of previously unreleased material, and the documentary Man In The Sand, which follows major steps in Woody Guthrie's life.

Mermaid Avenue, where Woody Guthrie had a home while living in New York City, is located in Coney Island. Unfortunately the home no longer exists, but I'd like to think that Woody's spirit still likes to stroll along the famous boardwalk, and warm his toes in the sand.


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Woody Sez was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2007, and has since been presented hundreds of times in more than 60 countries. The production at the Irish Repertory Theatre has now been extended twice from its original end date -- first to August 20 and again recently to September 10 -- which is surely a clear recognition that even after ten years, Woody Guthrie's story, words, and songs have much to offer us fifty years after his untimely death.

Running concurrently with the production of Woody Sez at the Irish Repertory Theatre, is a display consisting of a dozen or so large panels outlining key periods in Woody Guthrie's life. Images of some of these panels are used to illustrate this post.

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IF YOU GO
Now through September 10, 2017
Irish Repertory Theatre
132, West 22nd Street, Manhattan.
Tickets: $50 - $70 (Shows run Wednesday - Sunday with some matinee performances.)

More Information
Woody Guthrie...
The Guthrie Center...
Arlo Guthrie...
Billy Bragg...
Huntington's Disease...

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==================================
Thursday 20, July | Expenses $86.50 ($114.95)
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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Friday, July 21, 2017

NYC Days 33 & 34: In Which I Get The Lowdown on Common. Ok? Go!


Click on images to view full sized.
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LOWDOWN HUDSON MUSIC FEST 2017
If it is July and the location is Brookfield Place, it must be time for the Lowdown Hudson Music Fest.

Somewhere between 5:00 and 5:30pm, on a hot Tuesday afternoon, I stepped outside of the air-conditioned comfort of Brookfield Place to see what the weather was up to and immediately regretted my decision. In a word, the weather was Brutal. I returned in a rush to the soothing comfort of the Winter Garden, and did not leave it until around seven when the outside temperature had dropped to a more bearable level, aided by a breeze rolling in off the Hudson River to help it along.

By this time someone calling herself Lion Babe - yes, indeedy - was turning up the heat on stage with what I can only assume was the latest style in black rhythm and soul, or whatever it was she was modulating her way through. Lion Babe appears to be the latest in a long and illustrious line of gymnastic warblers who may or may not have something important to say, but I find forgettable once the song is over. In deed, minutes after she left the stage I could not recall one catchy melody or hook that might have made me want to hear more.

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However, the audience was lapping it up, and they were soon right into the hip hop beats of the main act, the man calling himself Common. I guess with a name like that there is nothing else you can do but work hard to show you are anything but common. Even my limited knowledge of this genre recalls that Common (born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr in 1972), has been around since the early 1990s, and is one of the early practitioners of hip-hop music in New York City.

I'm sorry, but maybe I'm turning into the grumpy old man I swore I'd never be. Having come of age in the 1960s, I guess I was spoilt by so many great songwriters and singers who not only had something to say, but who also knew how to say it with a great melody line, a catchy hook, and lyrics that didn't make you blush in front of your mother (let alone your grandmother!) Maybe too, I needed to have been born in a ghetto in 1970s New York to really understand and appreciate hip hop music, and rap.

Both Lion Babe and Common, and their crews of very talented musicians drank gallons of water and poured it all out again in copious amounts of sweat, while they commanded the stage as only hard working musicians know how to do. I am not doubting their talent in the least. It's just that the genres these performers have chosen to work in consistently fails to move me. I am well aware that the fault lying at the heart of my lack of appreciation is entirely my own, and not that of the performers on stage on Tuesday night.

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OK GO
I first became aware of OK GO, like millions of other fans, via the band's first viral video for the song, Here It Goes Again, which quickly became known as 'the treadmill song'. If you've never seen it, head over to YouTube right now and take a look. You'll be happy you did. The group has gone on to make even more complicated one-take music videos that seemingly defy the imagination, and each video is more complex in terms of its planning and choreography than the previous one.

Needless to say, I was not going to pass up an opportunity to see the group performing in New York during my stay, especially since the show was free. As soon as the show started I realized that despite viewing their videos dozens of times on YouTube, I was totally unfamiliar with their music.

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How can this be?, I hear you ask.

After giving the matter some thought I know why. In watching the videos, I have been so engrossed in the complex visuals that I have not been focusing on the actual songs themselves. For me, the music was just the accompaniment to the visuals, and to the complicated choreography. Stripped of the visual element, I initially feared the songs might turn out to be dull and uninteresting, but I was delighted to find the songs stand up perfectly well on their own.

Of course, several of the songs were well known to me, but others, shorn of their visual elements, were truly being heard for the first time. With OK GO I was in my musical element. I was on familiar ground. Here is a genre of music I understand. Here is a group that also knows how to write great hooks with strong melodies that audience members can pick up quickly, and are able to join in on with little teaching or encouragement.

Like Lion Baby, Common, and Flint Eastwood (the opening act for the night), the four members of OK GO were pouring sweat on stage almost as fast as they could down the cold water they were consuming in an effort to remain hydrated. Like the professional musicians who preceded them, they gave their all, and the 90-minute performance has been one of the musical highlights of my trip to date.

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===================================
Tuesday 18, July | Expenses $85.53 ($111.05)
Wednesday 19, July | Expenses $16.85 ($21.15)
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Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

NYC Days 31 & 32: In Which I Visit The Age of Empires, Eat, Walk, and Do Little

Click on images to view full sized. 
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ONE MONTH DOWN, TWO TO GO
Wow, Time flies when you're having fun, as the hackneyed cliche has it, and I have certainly enjoyed my first month in New York City. I seem to have settled into a relaxing daily routine that rarely sees me leave the apartment before 11:00am. Why rush? Especially when often I don't return to the comfort of my accommodations until eight to ten hours later. I generally have one or two main events in mind for the day, but I am just as happy to ignore both of them and sit and watch the daily life of the city unfold around me as I follow my whims, wander down unfamiliar streets, or explore buildings or stores for the first time.

 Images from the Age of Empires exhibition


For example, after visiting the Met Museum yesterday to take in the Age Of Empires exhibition, a strolled across Central Park making a bee-line for A.G.Kitchen, a restaurant at 269 Columbus Avenue, which Google in its listing describes as a "Latin American Restaurant" whose "Neuvo Latino cooking and creative burgers are the attractions at this light-filled, modern eatery." The restaurant has been on my dining 'radar' ever since it popped up on my Twitter feed with images of some of the delicious looking meals produced by its creative chefs.

I thought I might spook the greeter at the door by telling him, "There's no pressure, but I've travelled all the way from Australia to eat here tonight!" However, like the true New Yorker he was, he just took my statement in his stride, laughed, and repeated. "No Pressure!"

That Juicest Lucy Inside Out burger from A.G. Kitchen

I thoroughly enjoyed my burger and fries meal, which had been given the odd title, Juiciest Lucy Inside Out burger. The 'inside out' part referred to the cheese which had been inserted and cooked inside the beef patty. It added a lovely soft, creamy texture to the burger which I might just have to sample again before I leave New York.

From A.G. Kitchen I walked over to Riverside Park, which borders the Hudson River for many miles. I thought I could pick up an M5 bus on Riverside Drive that would take me back uptown, but I had miscalculated the point at which the bus route turned on to the drive, so it being a lovely evening I decided to walk for a while until I found an M5 bus stop.

During my stroll, I encountered an older woman working alone in a section of garden in Riverside Park, and stopped for a brief chat. It turned out that she was one of the thousands of volunteers who have dedicated themselves to maintaining and improving hundreds of city parks across New York City. Without these amazing volunteers, the city's Parks Department would have a much harder time keeping up with the massive amount of work needed to keep New York's parks looking so clean and beautiful.


I was about to leave the park in search of a bus stop when I noticed a large structure towering over the landscape a little farther up the road. Never one to miss an opportunity to discover something new -- or at least new to me -- I continued walking until I reached the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument that stands in the park right at Riverside Drive and West 89th Street on the Upper West Side. According to Wikipedia: The Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial Monument ... commemorates Union Army soldiers and sailors who served in the American Civil War. The monument was completed in 1902.

Imagine my surprise and delight on reaching the monument, to find a gaggle of actors in period costumes that looked like they had been transported straight out of the pages of Alexandre Dumas's book, The Three Musketeers.

Part of the audience enjoying a performance of The Three Musketeers by members of Hudson Warehouse.

Oh. Wait. In a way they had been transported from the pages of that book, because I had just stumbled into the middle of Susan Lee's adaptation of The Three Musketeers, which was being performed by the Hudson Warehouse theatre company.

From the Hudson Warehouse website, the group's Mission Statement:
"Hudson Warehouse's mission is to provide quality, exciting, innovative, and affordable classical theatre to the community. The Warehouse believes theater is a "ware" and essential for daily life. To this end, the Warehouse doesn't sell tickets, but has a "pay what you can" policy because the arts should be affordable to everyone. Those unable to pay are still welcome because the Warehouse believes everyone deserves to have the theater experience, because theater is so essential to what makes us human."
I stopped for a break and joined 50 or 60 local residents who were already watching the performance, but since I had arrived late and missed most of the play, I continued my walk after ten minutes or so in search of the ever elusive M5 bus. I did learn however, that the play will be performed this week across four more nights from Thursday 20 to Sunday 23, starting at 6:30pm.

According to the poster I found pinned to a nearby fence, the Hudson Warehouse actors are also staging a series of performances of Shakespeare's Henry V, from July 27 to August 20 at the same location. Although the poster fails to mention performance times and days, I did learn that performances are staged Thursday to Sunday evenings from 6:30pm.


And that, dear reader, is how I spent Day 31 in the Big Apple.

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Sunday 16, July | Expenses $41.75 ($53.40)
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On Day 32, Monday, I stayed in all day and frittered away the hours in inconsequential ways that are of no interested to anyone but myself. That this days' expenses were more than yesterday's can be put down to a fine Chimichanga and beer meal at the Refried Beans Mexican Grill at 591 Fort Washington Avenue, and a spot of grocery shopping at the Associated Supermarket store across the street.

Above: Corn chips and spicy dip to get started.
My very tasty chimichanga with beans and rice.
Some very famous Mexican artists are featured on this wall.

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Monday 17, July | Expenses $53.10 ($67.00)
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More Information
The Met Museum...
A.G. Kitchen...
Riverside Park...
Hudson Warehouse... 
Refried Beans Mexican Grill...

Any questions, comments or suggestions? How about complaints or compliments? Let me know via the comments box below.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

NYC Days 29 & 30: In Which I Do The Usual; Plus Week 4 Expenses

Click on images to view full sized.
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Most days I start out with a long list of possibilities to select from for that day's events and activities, only to ignore them all and do something else entirely. At some point during my day however (if I am not ensconced comfortably in a museum somewhere), I know I am going to need to rest and regroup, preferably in a location that has food, clean restrooms, and air conditioning. And preferably away from the heat, noise, hustle and bustle and humidity of the afternoon city. I have several favorite resting spots, and I thought I would write about them today. You never now when you might be in need of one yourself. Some are perfect as afternoon havens of rest and relaxation, others less so.

BROOKFIELD PLACE
I've mentioned Brookfield Place before on this blog, and I'm sure I will do so again because I use this as my personal 'cooling center' when I am in this part of Manhattan. PROS: It has lot's of public seating, food options aplenty, clean restrooms, free WiFi, air-conditioning, great views of the Hudson River, a weekly schedule of free music and arts events, and fancy shopping options if you need them. CONS: None that I can think of.

If you are visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, or One World Trade Center and need somewhere to rest and recuperate after, this is definitely the place to head to, and since it is right across the road from these hot spot visitor attractions, I'm surprised it is not packed. The fact that it isn't, suggests that most visitors don't know about Brookfield Place or its public facilities.

By the way, there is a long underground pedestrian tunnel that connects to the Oculus and the vast subway and PATH rail networks that are located there. The Oculus itself has dozens of options for shopping and eating, but no public seating apart from that provided by restaurants and cafes, which are generally reserved for paying customers.

Location: 230, Vesey Street, Manhattan.


Above and Below: Brookfield Place. A place to eat, shop, rest, and relax.


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ROCKEFELLER CENTER
PROS: Lot's of public seating, plenty of food options, restrooms, free WiFi, and air-conditioning. CONS: due to the volume of people at this location, the restrooms are generally busy and not alway in the cleanest condition. I'm sure the janitors are doing their best, but the constant flood of visitors seeking relief in the two large restrooms on the lower ground floor must make their task almost impossible. As for the views, there are none to speak of until you surface onto the plaza above.

Despite the caveats noted, this is a place where you can go to hang out for ten minutes or ten hours! I'm sure the location closes down at some point very late in the evening or in the early morning hours, but from what I have observed, as long as you are not troubling other people, you can stay as long as you want.

Location: On Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets.



Above: 30 Rock, the building that hosts the Top Of The Rock viewing experience. 



Above and Below: A towering installation from Jeff Koons entitled, Seated Ballerina.



Above: This terrace double as an ice skating rink in winter and an outdoor restaurant over the summer. 
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TIME WARNER CENTER, COLUMBUS CIRCLE
PROS: This is my 'go to' place for the cooling air-con, clean restrooms, reasonably priced sandwiches and coffee (or higher class eating if that's your thing), and fancy fashion shopping options -- although I rarely if ever shop there. In fact, I have no interest in 'fancy shopping options' whatsoever, but that's another story. CONS: My main complaint about this location is the lack of available public seating options. To put it bluntly, there are no public seating options. Like the Oculus, the only available seating is provided by restaurants and cafes to paying customers. Out of interest, on its website, the Center claims to have "A prestigious collection of the largest Michelin-starred restaurants under one roof..." So if you are planning on eating a fancy meal there, make sure your credit card is well primed.

Personally, I think the owners of this building are doing the least possible to fulfill the requirements of their contract with the city. Often, agreements with city authorities to build massive skyscrapers such as the Time Warner Center come with stipulations for accommodating the public in some way. The owners are certainly doing this, but it is clear they don't want Joe Public hanging around, cluttering up the open spaces in their building -- especially if they are not there to spend their money. I go here for the sandwiches and coffee from the Bouchon Bakery Take-Out (not Michelin-starred!), and the restrooms, and for a much appreciated cooling break from the humidity, but that's about it. This is not a place to linger at.


I'm sorry, but I give up! I've been trying for far too long to load some images of the Time Warner Center in this slot, but I suspect a combination of aging iPad 2 and less than user friendly Blogger software has tested my patience to the effing limit, and I give up!

So instead I have loaded three other images: above is the delicious Juiciest Lucy Inside Out burger (I'm sure it's called something like that!), which I had at A.G. Kitchen at 269 Columbus Avenue, Manhattan. Well worth the USD$17.00 cost.

  Above: The Solders' and Sailors' Monument located at 89th Street and Riverside Drive in Riverside Park (on the Upper West Side).

And below, the scariest woman I have encountered so far on this trip! She resides in the Met Museum, and is not someone you'd want to bump into after the lights go out! You have been warned.

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ONGOING WEEKLY EXPENSES
===================================
Museum Memberships $19.15 ($25.15)
AT&T SIM card $13.60 ($17.85)
MTA Pass $28.00 ($36.80)
Accommodation $152.00 ($200.00)
===================================
Total Ongoing: US$212.75 (AU$279.80)
===================================


ADDITIONAL DAILY EXPENSES
===================================
Sunday 9, July | Expenses $32.50 ($42.80)
Monday 10, July | Expenses $118.65 ($157.10)
Tuesday 11, July | Expenses $78.00 ($101.30)
Wednesday, July 12 | Expenses $30.75 ($40.05)
Thursday, July 13| Expenses $47.65 ($61.00)
Friday, July 14 | Expenses $37.75 ($48.25)
Saturday 15, July | Expenses $30.00 ($38.30)
===================================
Total Daily Expenses: US$375.30 | AU$488.80
===================================

TOTAL EXPENSES WEEK 4: US$588.05 (AU$768.60)

*Figures in brackets are Australian dollar amounts.
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