News from New York

As I get ready for a quick trip up to an event in New York, I thought I’d share two especially awesome pieces of news from the city.

Shakespeare by Request, in which actor Will Barnet performs Shakespeare monologues by request on the New York High Line.  I’d love to see this!

Banksy Sells Original Art in Central Park for $60.  What do you think: Would you have bought a piece if you’d seen it?

I’ve had a lot of fun tracking Banksy’s New York residency online.  Have any of you stumbled across his work in person?  Even if not, you can follow along on the website… and if you haven’t already, be sure to check out the documentary, too.

{Image from banksyny.com}

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Saxon Merino

Yarn

When I’m in New York, I usually try to stop by the Union Square Greenmarket.  Last winter I wound up carrying around a pocketful of lavender.  This time I discovered Catskill Merino Sheep Farm.  These skeins* of worsted merino are truly exquisite.  I went online last week to scope out my upcoming order, and their website is just the coolest.  (It mixes photos of Saxon Merino lambs with posts about Proust.)

Yarn

* Can we talk for a moment about how beautiful the word skein is?  It rhymes with rain and its sound hovers so close to skin.  Which feels like a tie to the future sweaters, scarves, and blankets a skein’s yarn makes.

Even its definition has a lovely sound:

n. 1.  a loosely coiled length of yarn

Yarn

And it turns out skein also has a second meaning:

n. 2.  a flock of wildfowl (as geese or ducks) in flight

What a lovely image for skeins to carry.

Bookshopping: Strand Books

One of the things I admire most about Strand (and let’s be honest, there’s a lot to admire) is that they consistently do an excellent job curating engaging, unique book displays.

Strand

Their most exciting new(ish) display series is The Author’s Bookshelf.  The store invites contemporary writers to share the titles on their bookshelves — the books they love and recommend — and then Strand displays these selections on their website and on tables in their store.  As you know from this post, I’ve always liked looking through other people’s bookshelves (do any of you do that?), so The Author’s Bookshelf has a particular allure.

Strand

Strand has a number of fun categories for their in-store displays, ranging from the ever popular (but much appreciated) Award Winning Books section to the more ambiguous Expand Your Horizons table.  Their displays are accessible and often sorted into affordable price brackets.  (“Biographies Under Ten Dollars” one sign says.)  Yet Strand pulls no punches in its book selection.

Poetry Table

I can honestly say that I’ve never seen Gertrude Stein featured on any bookstore’s poetry table (if, indeed, they even have one).  So to see Tender Buttons next to Stanley Kunitz and Sylvia Plath was a thrill.  Not to mention the prominent placement of Wislawa Szymborska, one of my all-time favorites.

This is a bookstore that honors its readers with a high standard of expectation.

Strand

Regardless of category, all their section signage includes quotes, some thought-provoking (“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,” Franz Kafka proclaims from the Literary Nonfiction signage) and others lighthearted (Sally Field’s “You like me!” on the aforementioned Award Winning Books sign).

Strand is a store where it’s easy to come across old favorites, titles you’ve been meaning to read, and books you’ve never heard of but are very glad to have found — all in the span of one table or shelf.  Strand’s in-store signs market their books as cheaper than eBooks (they often are), but that’s hardly the only thing that gives them a competitive edge.  It’s a bookstore still personalized by staff picks, author recommendations, and a spirit of creativity that — in a world of online bookbuying and eBooks — makes the store feel ever-relevant and necessary.

(Note: You can read more Bookstore Reviews here.)

Eleven Hours In New York

Flatiron

The Flatiron glimpsed through lush Madison Square Park foliage.  (Park bonus: Orly Genger’s new public art installation.)

Image courtesy of Gagosian Gallery.

Jeff Koons at Gagosian on W. 24th.  I’m fascinated by his imaging of the Venus of Willendorf through the lens of his balloon sculptures.  Koons continues to experiment at the intersections of pop and classical antiquity in this exhibit.  (On view through June 29th… go check it out!)

Anselm Kiefer

Anselm Kiefer at Gagosian on W. 21st.  This exhibit is all about scale and brushstroke, so you’ll have to go in person (through June 8th).

Strand

Bookshopping.

Highline

Drizzly Highline walk.

ABC Carpet

ABC Carpet to escape the rain.

All capped off by a friend’s terrific concert and then a late late train.

Chrysler

When we stayed in New York this winter, our hotel had an amazing view of Chrysler Building, which has always been my favorite skyscraper.

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During our stay, I found myself thinking about the building’s numbers.  Seven arched tiers at the top.  Then the rays on each tier arrayed: one, three, three, five, five, five, eight.  These numbers feel elegant, like they carry their own rhythm, a numeric poem.  A riff on the Fibonacci Sequence,* which has long been one of the mathematic concepts that’s resonated with me most.  Three rays plus two tiers equals five rays.  Five rays plus three tiers equals the next tier’s eight.

I had never known about the connection between the Chrysler Building and Fibonacci before, and it was a pleasure to discover it for myself while lying in bed, watching the sunrise.

*A funny story about the Fibonacci Sequence: I first learned about it from Mathnet on PBS, when I must have been somewhere between 5 and 7 years old.  Detectives Monday and Frankly used the Fibonacci Sequence to solve a crime, and for me, the pattern has been imbued with a quality of mystery ever since.

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I love that this picture captures both the Chrysler Building and the small rooftop garden across the street from our hotel.  Large-scale and miniature testaments to beauty.

Weekend in New York

I grew up near New York City and spent tons of time there when I was a kid.  But since we moved to Maryland, my husband and I had only been back once.  This year we decided to make a weekend trip up to the city to fix that.  We went in early January and lucked out with a beautiful, temperate weekend.

For this trip, we decided not to repeat anything we used to do when we lived in the area.  Instead, we stayed at a hotel on the Upper West Side.  We arrived in the early evening on a Friday, and it just so happened that the Neue Gallery is open late on the first Fridays of the month.  So we walked across Central Park, following a route we’d never taken before, strolling past the joggers and the lake.

The Neue Gallery is new since we lived nearby, so we’d never been there.  It’s famous mostly for its Gustav Klimt, Adele Bloch-Bauer I, and for its exquisite cafe.  We were impressed with both.  I believe there are certain works of art where it really makes a difference to see them in person.  (Though I love both, seeing Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings or the Mona Lisa in person didn’t drastically change the way I understand the work.)  But this Klimt was revolutionized when I saw it in person: it was an entirely new painting.  I was mesmerized.

(If you’re planning to head up to see it, consider checking out the Rape of Europa documentary, which discusses the complex legal and ethical controversy surrounding its ownership.)

The rest of the gallery contains an admirable collection — and from what I’ve seen and heard, thoughtful and thought-provoking temporary exhibits.  But I had trouble tearing myself away from Adele Bloch-Bauer.  This has happened to me a handful of times in my life.  I wind up spending my entire visit to a museum staring at just one painting.  I feel like I cannot take it all in.  When I try to move away, I feel it behind me like a dynamic, living presence, engaging me back.

When the Gallery closed for the evening we waited in the long line for the cafe, which was as incredible as its reputation (and the constant line) suggests.  So pretty… and such exceptional coffee.  The best I’ve had on the East Coast.  (Though to be fair, I’m not usually a coffee drinker, so there may be equally great places I haven’t tried.  But as pretty as Cafe Sabarsky?  Probably not.)

The night was so beautiful that we decided to walk down to see the tree (a minor violation of our decision not to repeat anything we’d done before — but worthwhile if just for the long walk down along the east side of the park).  We also went on a surprisingly difficult quest to find the burger joint at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel (we walked up and down the same few blocks at least three times before we found it).  It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was a solid burger, an awesome price for Manhattan, and a cool experience at a funky, unmarked, hidden spot.

After a subway ride back uptown, we ducked into Smoke on Broadway just in time for the late night jazz set.  I don’t have words for how much I love this place.  So much so that we went back again the next night AND made a second weekend trip to New York just for the purpose of checking out the late show at Smoke.  And to eat at Pisticci, which has stellar Italian food.  We fell in love with Pisticci at dinner on Saturday night and made a special point of squeezing in an early dinner there before our bus left for Baltimore on Sunday.

We spent a lot of time just wandering through Central Park during the remainder of our weekend, and we also had a chance to finally visit the renovated Greek and Roman Galleries at the Met (another project that hadn’t been finished when we moved away).  The renovations really are lovely: so open and expansive.  I especially loved some of the statues and the incredible re-assembled Roman room.  It’s just gorgeous.  Bright and ornate, and what a testament to art restoration.