Wednesday, April 13, 2011

36 Hours in New York

Going back to New York is something of a bizarre experience for me.  On one hand, things are so familiar and welcome.  On the other hand, things are so different than life in Punta Gorda.  The streets are crowded with people of all ethnicities at all hours of the day and night. There are restaurants of every variety that you can imagine, theaters and galleries for your visual entertainment and of course the wonderful stores with all those items that you had no idea that you needed.   I'm finding that I love coming to New York as a visitor.  I can see my friends and do fun things without being on a train schedule or having to worry about traffic through the tunnel back home.  So when three of my friends and I decided to go to Montreal to celebrate our "big" birthdays, a stopover in New York on the way was in order.

I was on my own the first afternoon, and decided to go to see a movie at the Angelika.  One thing that I've yet to find in my new home is a theater that shows indie films, and I do miss that.  I went to see Win Win with Paul Giamatti (of Sideways fame and, incidentally, the son of Yale President and MLB Commissioner Bart Giamatti.)  What a great flick!  Laugh out loud funny at some points, introspective at others, with a cast of quirky characters that you can't help but like.  I was tempted to sneak into another film when Win, Win was over, but I'm just not that much of a rule breaker.    Dinner was at an Asian-fusion place around the corner from my friend Andrea's apartment then we settled in for an evening of American Idol.

The next day my friend Wendi and I toured a few exhibits at art galleries in Chelsea for her "Art of Viewing Art" class at the New School.   Each week her homework assignment is to go to specific exhibits at galleries or museums in the City that will be discussed in that week's class.  Fun!!!  You quickly realize that going to a gallery to view an exhibit is an entirely different beast than going to a museum and the experience itself is one of the topics discussed in the class.  The galleries in Chelsea are somewhat inhospitable.  Many are behind metal doors that you practically need a special knock to get into.  The sense you get is that you have to be in the "know" to even view the exhibit.  The exhibits we saw were very avant garde and difficult to place in a context.  As Professor Zissner said, these galleries have moved beyond "the mere mortal concerns of 'who wants this in their living room?'" and are advancing "art" for art's sake.   I found the exhibits interesting if not aesthetically pleasing but don't think I would enjoy seeing them without the benefit of a tutorial.  The art we viewed is difficult to describe, but here are a couple of highlights:

Kilminck's Avengers Exhibit
--Karen Kilmnick's scatter art used the "Hellfire Episode" from the 1960s British TV show The Avengers as its inspiration.  In Zinsser's discussion of this work, he mentioned that Kilminck is a meek woman who lives in suburbia with a washer-dryer and a driveway, at which point the members of the class laughed derisively.  Was I the only suburbanite on hand?  In any event, I don't really get why this qualifies as art but some of her work goes for hundreds of thousands of dollars, so there you have it.

--Gary Hill's exhibit included a 3D video (for which you donned the original 3D glasses) of a gentleman speaking in tongues and analyzing what we learned in class was the molecule for LSD.  I didn't understand this exhibit either, but Hill was named a MacArthur Fellow in 1998, so obviously the deficiency is on my end.  (MacArthur Fellows awaken one morning to receive an unsolicited call from the MacArthur Foundation telling them that their work is very important and here's $500K to go forth and create.)

 --David Wojnarowicz' collection of works contained an image of Christ on a crucifix with ants crawling on him that was pulled from a recent exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. entitled "Hide/Seek:  Difference and Desire in American Portraiture". Admittedly, I am not particularly religious but the image was not offensive to me, just bizarre.  In my mind, this does not compare to Robert Mapplethorpe's explicit images that caused so much controversy in the early 1990s and I have to think that it was the theme of the exhibit combined with the specific image that triggered the uproar. 


Devin and Hugue at M Well
That night I went with Wendi, her significant other Lee and another friend to the cool and hip restaurant M. Wells in Long Island City.  The restaurant was written up in the NY Times in January as one of the "ten restaurants in the world worth flying to eat at" and received a 2 star rating from the NY Times restaurant critic just last week.  (The review is so well written and has such a great story that it made me really excited about eating there.  Check it out at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/dining/reviews/06rest.html?_r=2.)    Just to add to the buzz, Hugue Dufour (who owns the restaurant with his wife Sarah) stars in a reality TV show in Canada called Wild Chef that people are, well, wild over.  Wendi and Lee are good friends with Sarah, Hugue and all the rest of the staff and have given the restaurant their stamp of approval.  (Being James Beard House regulars, this actually means something.)  So my expectiations were quite high. 

Russian Breakfast
The evening was lots of fun.  The menu is eclectic in the extreme.  They sent us a special appetizer to start with that was a kitchen sink medley of rock shrimp, apples and lots of other interesting stuff on a homemade pancake.   We were then into escargot with bone marrow (I tried to cut into the bone, rube that I am), "butter" chicken, which is a take on chicken tikki masala, whelks and blood sausage with potatoes, Russian breakast and veal brains (which I wasn't brave enough to try).  We passed on the "tripe as pasta" dish, but Lee assures me it is delicious.  The restaurant was a very happening place, and I have to admit to feeling quite a bit out of my element. With all of my senses satisfied by the activities of the last 36 hours I headed back to Andrea's apartment for a good night's rest before heading off to Montreal.

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