Monday, September 27, 2010

Scenes From An Ordinary Weekend

I spent much of this weekend walking to meet friends and run errands.  I was heartened to see small vibrant gatherings in various corners of the city.  A sample of the scenes I stumbled upon:

Upper East Side street fair :

A couple streets over, a Hungarian church fair:

 On the veranda of the New York Public Library, a ceremony and protest by the Burmese community :

All celebrating human life in their own way, and wonderful to witness.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Detour: Hammamet, Tunisia

I am blessed and grateful to work for an organization that helps people around the world.  This past week I had the opportunity to deliver some training to my international colleagues at a conference in Tunisia.

I've never been to north Africa, nor to a nation that is primarily Muslim.  I was in Tunisia for only four days, and confined to the conference center, but I still got a taste of the culture and reveled in the sound and visual beauty of Arabic.  My rusty French also got a workout, and allowed me to have some pretty intense conversations with the people around me.  Including, most memorably, the artist who used my hand as his canvas:

The hotel/conference complex in which we stayed was a bit surreal-- "Tunisia" in Tunisia, aka the Tunisian Las Vegas.  Similar to The Venetian or Paris in Las Vegas, the entire compound was constructed to recall a particular geography-- in this case, classic Tunisian architecture.  Some of the details were truly beautiful:

Other details were just plain weird.  Witness this, a garbage receptacle/ashtray.  Similar figures dotted the entire grounds.
The conference center was even more bizarre, a subterranean forest reminiscent of the Ents in Lord of the Rings.  Except these leafy fellows had fake cats perched in the branches:
Fortunately, it is more difficult to decorate the sea.  The water, as always, was calming and warmer than I had expected.
I will be back.  This time, I will leave behind the Ents and the green-faced statues and head for the Sahara and its camels.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering Sept 11th

The anniversary of September 11th feels very different in NY than it does elsewhere.

I was in the East Village with my friend M last night, and she pointed in the direction of downtown.  Look up, she said.  Two blue columns of light shot powerfully up into the sky, searing through and illuminating the clouds above.  I later learned that they are the two strongest shafts of light ever projected from Earth.

I watch the television coverage this morning, and the familiar footage feels more real to me than ever.  This is my home now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A most beautiful 40th birthday gift

I received a most beautiful and heartfelt gift from my sister B and her family today.  I turned 40 in May, and B let me know that they had ordered something very special that would take a few months to arrive.

I found out what it was a couple days ago, and was finally able to go and see it today.

My very own chair in Bryant Park!

The plaque's message is beautiful, though a bit too detailed to share on a public site.

I wrote about my love affair with Bryant Park in March: Love & Life at Bryant Park.  B let me know for the first time today that she and her boyfriend (now husband) used to meet at Bryant Park when he come in to NYC to visit her.  So now it is an intensely personal place for both us.

I have received many wonderful presents in my life, and this is absolutely at the top.  New York has become part of me, and now I have become part of New York.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, and the magnificent McCoy Tyner

It was late night Friday, and I was still at work, wrapping things up prior to a week of staycation.

The phone rang.  Uncle F calling from Connecticut.

"I've just turned 60, and need to do something to celebrate. I'm coming down to New York for the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival.  I know it's last minute, but do you want to go?"

I'm not usually into jazz, and I knew none of the names he mentioned would be playing.  What I did know is that if you want to do jazz properly, you should go with Uncle F.  He knows everything there is to know about jazz- the big guys, the little guys, who collaborated with whom and when, the personal histories of the musicians.


Saturday had perfect summer weather-- bright and sunny, not too hot.  We arrived at Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem two hours early, and joined about twenty other fans at a choice spot in the shade.  I was so glad that we arrived when we did-- by the time the show started, the northern part of the park contained, in my estimation, well over a thousand people.

The ticket:


Uncle F provided interesting commentary throughout the concert.  Revive Da Live was fun:

JD Allen Trio was good but my least favorite:

Jason Moran was lovely, both to look at and to listen to:

During a break, Charlie Rangel greeted the crowd, who listened politely.  Signs decorated the park, reminding people that "He Delivers".  No hint of the hot water he's currently in.

But the real star was McCoy Tyner.  I have no photographs of him, as he requested that there be none (though that didn't stop some individuals).  He's 71 years old, and the crowd was absolutely transfixed once he started playing.  I stopped breathing, astonished.  The music roared through the park, and soaked into every cell in my body.

And it was thus that I became a jazz fan.