The Casual Blog

Tag: New York City Ballet

Our NYC weekend: travel troubles, eating, and looking

Leaving NYC from Newark

We did a three-day trip to New York last weekend with three objectives: see Jocelyn and some old friends, see the NY City Ballet, and see some art, including the Whitney Biennial. As always, New York was challenging and invigorating.

We flew from Raleigh to Newark on United, which could have been worse.  At least we weren’t physically assaulted and dragged off the plane.  But really, how do we keep getting assigned the last boarding zone?  Yet again, there was that unwelcome anxiety of whether there would be a spot in the overhead for the roll aboard.   And why did they switch to those seats with backs as thin and hard as church pews?

Is the point to remind ordinary customers, the non-elite economy class,  of how far down the pecking order they are, and make them consider paying more?   In fairness, I should say, the flight attendants were really sweet, and I was grateful for their not charging for a vodka tonic.

Transportation near and in Manhattan is more challenging than ever.  We consciously chose  Newark airport this time, since a cab from LaGuardia to Manhattan has been taking longer than the flight from NC. The NJ Transit train to Penn Station picked us up promptly, but went out of service after one stop, and we had to wait for another train.

Stuff like that kept happening.  We were determined to use the subway for longer trips, but there were long delays said to be from signal problems.  And when we wanted a yellow cab, they all seemed to be occupied.  In desperation, we tried Uber, but that was very slow, too.

But no matter, we always eventually got to our destination, and there’s just nothing like New York.  One big thing I learned this time was how easy it is to explore art galleries.  From time to time I’ve gone to gallery shows  when there was something I heard about that sounded interesting, but I’d never before just poked into a bunch of galleries.  I wasn’t at all sure whether they expected you to call ahead, or to show interest in actual purchasing.

A charcoal drawing by Robert Longo from The Destroyer Cycl

But after visiting several galleries on 24th Street on Friday and 57th Street on Saturday, I can say this:  they don’t mind at all if you just pop in and look around.  There are neighborhoods that are full of galleries, cheek by jowl.  I saw some things I liked, and some I didn’t.  But my major takeaway was that art is alive.  Amidst all the luxury goods on Fifth Avenue, art objects might be just another status symbol.  Yet there are real artists saying meaningful things, making us see more and feel more.  

From Keep Out, by Jay Heikes

On Friday, there was a torrential rain, and we got wet doing the Chelsea galleries, and then  soaked getting to 14th Street for lunch with our old friend Bob Dunn at a wonderful Sichuan restaurant, Auntie Guan’s Kitchen.   The rain was gentler when we finished eating and Ubered down to the Whitney to see the Biennial.  This is an exhibit of young, or at least living, artists, with several works of each of the featured artists.  

It’s hard to sum it up, since there were many different ideas and media.  There was a strong vein of protest and political engagement, and also some fascinating uses of technology.  As Sally noted, there were a few things that were repellent, but a little shock therapy can be good for you.  My favorite piece was an environment involving mirrors, interiors, and exteriors by Samara Golden called The Meat Grinder’s Iron Clothes.  It was at once disorienting and liberating.   I’m sorry to say, it is unphotographable.  You’ve just got to see it.  

At the Whitney Biennial: Exodus, by Jon Kessler

We met Jocelyn and Kyle for fancy drinks at Up and Up on MacDougal Street, and then walked to dinner at Olio e Piu.  My mushroom ravioli was delicious, and the conversation was wide-ranging.

On Saturday I went to an exhibit of ancient Greek art at the Onassis Foundation at 5th Avenue and 51st.   The works were mostly from 500-300  B.C. and drawn from great collections around the world.  The theme was emotion in Greek art and life.  This was a good lens for looking at the work.  There was love, jealousy, anger, and violence — the same emotions we know.

That evening we had a fine dinner with friends at Rosa Mexicano, and then walked over to Lincoln Center to see the New York City Ballet.  The program, one of the Here/Now series, included works by well established choreographers (Martins, Wheeldon, Ratmansky), and a couple of new choreographers from the company.  The dancers were excellent!  We particularly liked Wheeldon’s passionate pas de deux After the Rain, and Ratmansky’s brand new tango-ish piece, Odessa.

Thanksgiving in New York

There’s just something electric about New York City! Flying in last Wednesday, I passed close to the Statue of Liberty. Liberty! Then the splendid dense verticality lower Manhattan, and the gleaming skyscraping icons of midtown. It’s Oz!

The original plan for the Tiller clan to meet up for an urban Thanksgiving got off to a rocky start because Stuart, our dog, appeared to be dying. He threw up all over the apartment for a couple of days, and then spent several days in the animal hospital unable to eat. Exploratory abdominal surgery failed to yield a clear diagnosis, but made him weaker still. The day before we were scheduled to leave for NYC, Sally declared she couldn’t stand the thought of his being miserable and alone at the end. He’d been a beloved friend to us for eight years. So she decided to bring him home for hospice care. She urged me to proceed with the plan to meet the kids, who were already there, and so I headed north, with mixed feelings. (P.S. Stuart started improving the day after Sally brought him home and is still with us, frail but looking perkier every day.)

Wednesday afternoon I rendezvoused with Gabe and Jocelyn at the Hotel @ Times Square, a modestly priced (by NYC standards) but clean establishment at a great midtown location. Jocelyn was just back from two months backpacking in Columbia, Ecuador, and Peru, and I was delighted and relieved to see her. Not a day went by during her trip when I didn’t worry about her being kidnapped or worse. She seemed very chipper and glad to be back to the land of flush toilets and hot showers. Gabe came in from Colorado looking handsome, hale and hearty.

I was so glad to see them, and so glad to be back in NYC! When I lived there in my twenties, I could ordinarily not afford taxis, and it was satisfying to take many cab rides with the kids to share some of my favorite places. We went to the Metropolitan Museum and I introduced them to some of my favorite paintings, including the Vermeers. We checked out the amazing holiday windows in the shops on Fifth Avenue, and maneuvered through the mobs of people at Times Square.

On Thanksgiving morning, we’d planned to go to the Macy’s parade, which was passing just a block and a half to the west, but Jocelyn’s left eye was hurting badly, possibly from an infection. We watched a couple of big balloons (including Horton) go by, and then we went looking for medical care. With my iPhone I located an urgent care clinic close by, but it was closed, and the next one we tried was closed as well. We ended up in the emergency room of NYU Bellevue. I expected an endless wait, but it was not so bad. They got us in and out in a couple of hours, and Jocelyn started to feel better soon after.

For Thanksgiving dinner, we went to the upper west side and shared a fine meal with Sally’s brother Bill, his wife Mary Jane, and their daughter Carmen. Everyone was in high spirits, and I was most grateful that they provided delicious non-meat food. Bill was eager to hear more of Jocelyn’s South American journey, and she had some good stories of jungle adventures with snakes and spiders and marathon bus rides. Carmen, now thirteen, seemed amazingly grown up and well spoken. She’d just applied to an arts high school for both acting and piano performance, and played her audition piece, a Haydn sonata.

On Friday, we got a personal tour of the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange and ate lunch in Chinatown. Late that afternoon, Gabe and I went to the Museum of Modern Art. Gabe was interested in Picasso and Van Gogh, and I never get tired of them. I also spent some time with the J. Pollocks. The big big drip painting finally clicked for me (goose bumps). We met Jocelyn and her friend Pam at a little Italian restaurant on the east side. Pam is an art world person and aspiring critic, and amazingly articulate, warm, and friendly. Gabe mentioned Andy Warhol, and it turned out Pam had some dense but fascinating ideas about him.

On Saturday afternoon, I took the kids to their first live opera at the Met, where we saw Carmen with Elina Garanca in the title role. She was smoking hot! Everything was truly wonderful — singing, sets, costumes, orchestra. And the story is still a bloody shocker. I was a little worried beforehand that the kids might not like it, which, especially in view of the ticket prices, would have been a bummer, but was not — they enjoyed it.

Gabe and Jocelyn had an early flight to Colorado on Sunday, so I was on my own for the last day. I went back to the Met in the morning and spent some time with the Greek and Roman antiquities, looked in on an exhibit of the work of Jan Gossart (Dutch Renaissance), and looked in again at the beloved Vermeers. Then I went to Lincoln Center to see the City Ballet’s Nutcracker.

After many Nutcrackers, I thought I was pretty much nutcrackered out for life, but it turned out not. Somehow it hit the sweet spot of pure joy and wonder. The dancing was delightful, the stagecraft was impressive, and the orchestra sounded great. The child dancers had more-than-usual charisma. Jennifer Ringer as the Sugarplum Fairy seemed a little flat at first, but was gorgeous in the pas de deux. Ashley Bouder was an exquisite Dew Drop. A few weeks earlier I’d ordered a piano version of the Tchaikovsky score and played through parts of it for fun, so I was particularly attentive to the music. It is a masterpiece.

After the ballet, I took a cab to 46th and 12th and visited the aircraft carrier Intrepid, the submarine Growler, and the Concorde. Impressive machines! The Intrepid is a proud veteran of WWII that played a significant role in the Pacific theater and survived some kamikaze hits. The sun was setting at the end of my tour, and the view of Manhattan was beautiful.