Monday, May 17, 2010

Surprised By Joy

If you had asked me ten years ago- or even five- how I would greet the prospect of turning forty, the words "with great joy" would not have been uttered during our conversation. 

And so it was with surprise that I turned forty this month with glee, not glumness, with delight, not doldrums, with joy, not sorrow.  Now that I am here, I am astonished by the traditional black balloons and 'over the hill' merchandise.  Are there people who really feel that way?  That has no place in my life, and those sentiments were not at all present this weekend.  Instead, my feelings were beautifully summed up in one of the cards I received:
Today a new sun rises for me;
everything lives, everything is animated,
everything seems to speak to me of my passion,
everything invites me to cherish it."
- Anne De Lenclos

(Oh my... I just looked up the author on Wiki, and now love this quote even more: Ninon De L'Enclos)

Ah, the weekend.  This weekend was full of friends, celebration, fun and laughter. Three dear friends traveled long distances to help me celebrate this milestone.   T flew in from Minnesota.  W hopped on a bus in Vermont.  And K traveled in from DC.  The group expanded on Saturday night, when my NYC girlfriends joined us for a delicious and lively birthday dinner.

New York is a wonderful place to be a hostess.  Walk outside your door, and the possibilities are endless.  For Saturday brunch, our small group found our way to Teany, an airy & light-filled tea shop and vegetarian cafe owned by the musician Moby.  Half the fun was getting there, and walking a bit on the Lower East Side.  The store signs are in a jumble of languages, with intriguing restaurants and shops every few steps.  Definitely a place I need to spend more time exploring.

The Marina Abramovic exhibition I had seen a couple weeks ago was still on my mind, and I thought that my friends would appreciate its intensity and sheer rawness.  They did.  And thanks to an amazing benefit of MoMA (Museum of Modern Art) membership ($75/individual, which I had already purchased-- with up to five $5 guest passes each visit), it was an affordable spectacle.

The weather was perfect, and after time in a museum- and after seeing the intense Abramovic show- time outside was a must.  We walked down to Bryant Park Grill, an outdoor cafe that looks out on the park.  Perfect weather, perfect company. And a perfect waitress.  Once she realized that I was celebrating my 40th, she continually brought over any 'extra' drinks that had been mistakenly poured.  So we had a bit more than originally planned-!  The fun starting gaining additional momentum when my friend M finished her volunteer work in Harlem and joined us, bearing artful and exquisite cupcakes, as evidenced above.

More NYC-based girlfriends joined us for dinner at Chola, a wonderful Indian restaurant on East 58th Street.  Delicious food, attentive service, cozy atmosphere.  It made me so happy to have all of these strong, spirited, fearless friends gather around me and cheer as I walked into my fourth decade.  Women from several different stages of my life, many of whom arrived as strangers to each other and departed friends.

I am so blessed.  My path has not always been an easy one, and my current situation is certainly not perfect.  The hardships of life- serious medical diagnoses, relationship woes, infertility, job loss, death--have recently visited those that I care about deeply.  I continue to be greatly challenged by my work and the energy it requires of me.  I am happy, though, and have no wish to be anywhere other than where I am right now, or to be anyone other than who I am today. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Sunday is for Art

My mom and I had a banner weekend.  Saturday was full of art and park; Sunday continued the visual feast.

First stop: B&H Photo.  Oh my.  My mother is a skilled photographer; I, well, less so.  Neither of us had been to B&H before, though she had ordered from them plenty of times from a safe distance in Minnesota.   Both of us were blown away the minute we stepped into the store.  When they call themselves The Professional's Source, they are not exaggerating.  There is an incredible array of merchandise.  I have never seen a retail shop run with such ruthless efficiency (look up when you walk in.... there's a 'train track' system installed to whiz your purchase from order to pick up.  You just have to experience it to understand it) and genuinely kind and helpful service.  Plus, they had candy dishes and served free pretzels and juice.  What's not to like?  Just don't try to go there on a Saturday (closed!)...come to think of it, it's best to call or check the website before visiting.  The store is owned and primarily staffed by Hasidic(?) Jews, and they close the store in observance all the holidays. 

On a photography high, our next visit was to the Museum of Modern Art and its Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition.  I was familiar with some of his photos, but not of his importance to photojournalism and modern photography.  The show was incredibly inspiring.  See many of his photos on the Magnum website: Henri Cartier-Bresson: Magnum Photos

It is of course impossible to just see one section of MoMA without getting drawn into the other breathtaking exhibits.   One was breathtaking for its sheer strangeness: The performance artist Marina Abramović was featured, in person. 

You see the two people down there, sitting and staring at each other?  One chair holds Abramović, who sits there every day, all day, throughout the exhibit (March 14- May 31).  The other chair is for any observer who wants to become a participant.  For the entire time we were there, a petite Asian woman sat in the chair, as still as a statue and as still as the statuesque and regal Marina.  Only blinks could be observed.  If they dashed to the restroom, it was during one of my own blinks.

Another gallery held other works by Abramović.  Most could be described as raw. Some were video, others photographs, still others installations that featured live human beings.  One notable one included two naked women facing each other.  To pass into the adjacent room, museum-goers needed to pass between the two women.  Who were really not standing all that far apart.  I noticed a few men going by twice.  Another room had just one installation: a woman attached to a wall, arms in a cross, body without clothes.  The most disturbing piece was a pile of bones, and a photograph of the artist sitting amongst them while they were still caked with flesh and blood.  She was born in Yugoslavia, and one of her previous live exhibitions featured her washing the mound of animal parts, one by one, cleaning them.  It was in reaction to the Bosnian war and its brutality.

All right.  That was pretty heavy.  On to the fun stuff.  I normally don't believe in taking photos at a museum, but since y'all weren't with me, and may not get to MoMA, I though you might like a peek.  Plus, Giacometti is beckoning you...

He wants you immersed in color:

and boldness:

and fun:

and Warhol:

and to see a Lichtenstein for yourself and not on a greeting card:

and sheer gorgeousness:

There was the obligatory "hey, I could have done that!" piece:

and a simple light display that looked even cooler (in my humble opinion) in my photo:

As you can see, a magnificent museum.  We rested in the courtyard before heading home.  A lovely day.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Lovely Saturday In The Park

My mother is visiting from Minnesota, and she is also a walker and an adventurer.  The first stop on today's calendar was the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Picasso exhibition.  It's quite extraordinary, and features the artist's work from his very early paintings to his late work.  I was not particularly a fan of Picasso prior to this morning, but I have a different and far more appreciative view now.  If you are in town-- it's well worth the visit.

The MMA is perched right on the edge of Central Park, and we wandered in, drawn by the lush greenery.  We ran into the Resevoir, which I had never seen before.  It's entirely fenced off, though the birds of course had no problem trespassing.  I was impressed by the view from the shoreline:

Satisfied, we continued north to the Conservatory, which I have wanted to visit ever since my arrival in NY.  It's often mentioned as one of NY's "little known secrets", though plenty of people seemed to have found it this afternoon.  It's a formal garden placed in the far northeastern corner of the park.  It was exquisite, and is now in a tie with Bryant Park for my favorite spot in NY. 

For a moment, I felt like I had arrived in Europe.  Do you see the pergola behind the fountain, above the tiered bushes? I'll show you the view from there in a bit.

Strolling down the walkways...I love the trees arching overhead.

Beautiful fountains.

My favorite part by far was sitting in the pergola, with its gorgeous walkway and view over the park.  My mom and I sat there for close to two hours, resting in the shade

I plan on going again soon.  Come with me next time.