Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Proud Juilliard parents

We attended a Juilliard orchestral concert this week. The conductor was a young Chinese woman and one of the works was a Mozart piece with violin and viola soloists. The viola soloist was a strapping young woman who looked like she could've come from Minnesota. She towered above the violin soloist, a very gifted young Korean-American. They were both terrific - as was the whole orchestra. At the end of the piece we noticed two people wildly applauding and nearly exploding with pride. They just had to be parents of the violinist. It was a joy to share in their pride and delight, if only for a moment or two.

A lovely Hanukkah sight

Last night I was walking past the Brookdale dormitory for Stern College, a college for Orthodox Jewish women. It was obviously the time to light Hanukkah candles, for there must've been forty women lighting their menorahs. The room was totally filled with light - it was a beautiful sight on a cold evening in New York.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Muskets in Manhattan

We spent a delightful day up in Fort Tryon Park, where a dedicated group of Revolutionary War re-enactors had set up shop to celebrate the anniversary of the battle of Fort Washington.

A militia member - not a regular soldier
Not just manly men
Boy heaven
We topped things off with a typically delicious brunch at the New Leaf Cafe. All in all, a perfect New York day.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A veiled Dorilton

Some kind of renovation is under way at the Dorilton, the very French rock pile on the corner of 71st Street and Broadway. They've chosen to put up a sheer white covering and it has a certain loveliness of its own.

One heckuva big crane at Lincoln Center

There is a huge crane parked on 65th Street between 10th Avenue and Broadway. Apparently they are building a new theater on top of the Vivian Beaumont and the crane is used to lift the structural steel.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rock Around the Block Tours launches!

If you’ve got the feet, I’ve got the tour. I’m thrilled to announced the launch of Rock Around the Block Tours – three fun-filled walking tours that showcase New York in a fascinating new way.

Discover the untold stories of the rock heroes you love most, and the places where they made music history – from Elvis to Lady Gaga.

As a music biz veteran, I’m eager to use my hard-won experience to provide an entertaining and illuminating new perspective on New York.

Please check out our brand new web site at and forward this info to your family and friends.

And call or email to book your tour today.

Let the good times roll!

Monday, October 18, 2010

A walker in Hoboken

Hoboken is terrific fun - and its only a ferry ride or a Path train away. We chose the ferry and started our visit in North Hoboken - which the natives call Uptown. Interesting architecture all along Washington Street -
including this brightly painted apartment building.
But there were four highlights to the trip. First was lunch at La Isla, a famous, tiny Cuban restaurant, where we feasted on plantains double fried in garlic.
The painting is of La Lupe, the great Cuban singer. I'm sure she must've loved the food here.
Next up was a visit to the newly restored Union Synagogue. One of the staff was gracious enough to take us for a tour of this 1915 hall, modeled on the great synagogues of Frankfort and Berlin. With the aid of a grant from the state the congregants have done a magnificent job of turning back the clock.
Next highlight - Carlos Bakery - a fourth-generation establishment turning out elaborate custom cakes and mouthwatering traditional Italian desserts. We were bowled over by the Pignoli Tarts.
Finally, we visited the park next to the Hoboken Terminal, which is undergoing restoration. This is one of the few spots where you can see a panorama from the GW Bridge all the way to the Verrazano.
All in all, a delightful day just across the river. We'll be back.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Oliver in his hat from Mexico

Note the rings.

Seen at B.E.S - a fashionable restaurant in Chelsea

This place at 22nd Street and 12th Avenue has at least three very special things going for it: the best hamburger I've ever had (it might have to do with all the truffle oil), many interesting art pieces, and a member of my gene pool tending the bar.
The building facade in the back lets you look into the kitchen.
Most of the art works in the bar, like this boozy chandelier, are for sale.
Jon Sarlin at your service.

Best new architecture in NYC

As part of the right-on re-do of Lincoln Center, they've added a high end restaurant with a slanty lawn on the roof. On a visit the other day it was being used by students from the nearby performing arts high school discussing silly ways to remember vocal exercises, Juilliard students hanging out and making out, a little girl doing somersaults, and a sunbathing super model. A few days later, a late-night post-ballet visit turned out to be even more magical, with the city all aglow around this strange little park.

12 foot tall clarinet in a Chelsea gallery

How do they clean manholes in NYC?

With one big mother of vacuum cleaner, that's how.

One of civilization's greatest advances - at least in the subway.

One big question comes to mind. How long will it take New Yorkers to stop leaning out over the platform to see if the train is near?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Don't show this to small children!

As I entered the subway at 49th and Broadway I noticed this fellow de-mousing - taking off and packing his Mickey Mouse costume.  I asked him how his day had gone and he gave me very un-Mickey like dirty stare.

Charlie Morrow's Toot 'n Blink

Down at the Battery the other evening musician/conceptual artist/ soundscapist Charlie Morrow and his cohorts conducted an "orchestra" of about a dozen boats, including a Port Imperial Ferry and a NYC fire boat, in a tribute to the birthday of John Cage. The event was modeled on a similar performance Charlie put together in Chicago in 1992, also for Cage's birthday - only there they had 150 boats tooting and blinking off the Navy Pier in Lake Michigan.
Each of the boats down at the Battery had a horn (Toot)and a light (Blink) and were given their cues on a common radio band. The performance was also broadcast on an FM station and computer-cast around the globe, which is only fitting, since Charlie spends a good part of his time nowadays in Helsinki, Finland, thinking up new ways to use 3-D sound to enhance all kinds of spaces. Conceptual art is not for sissies - for this performance in our busy harbor, Charlie had to obtain not only all the local permissions, but also a special Act of Congress.
For me, the highlights of the performance were a "waltz" between three of the boats - after a few tries, they actually began to swing a bit - and a magnificent display from the fire boat of the kind of long, arching sprays that would greet a new ocean liner. And, of course, that part of New York is always awe-inspiring after dark
After the show, as were walking through Battery Park, one of Charlie's fellow sound mavens had us stop for a minute in silence to listen to the crickets chirping like crazy. "Soon they'll be gone for the winter," he said, a little sadly.
Announcers "conducting" the toots and blinks while broadcasting the event on radio.
If you squint a bit, you can see about half the fleet.

Move over Tenement Museum - here comes American Girl

While visiting the American Girl store for the first time, the history buff in me was happily surprised to meet a doll named Rebecca among their "Historical Figures." Rebecca is a girl of about 12, living on the Lower East Side in 1914. To illustrate her world, they've built a charming diorama of a room in Rebecca's home - replete with egg cream, seltzer bottle and  bagel.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Music in the Times Square subway station

Ancient Professor Eduardo Alvarado has been performing his tinkly music in the subway as long as I can remember.
This time his audience includes both live passersby and the silent crowd in the mural behind him.

Flying Rhine Maidens at Lincoln Center

Part of a photo shoot about the Met's new Ring Cycle.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kudos to the designer of this beauty

How to see a pink elephant without taking a drink

Antique store promotional truck spotted on Broadway
Aforementioned elephant

Serenading Eleanor Roosevelt

Ben Arthur was out this morning serenading passersby with a song about the history of the UN. It was  commissioned by the on-line University of Phoenix as part of some kind of promotion. Ben did a fine job - even finding a rhyme for Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Somali), not an easy task. I'm sure Eleanor loved it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Only in New York

There's a fellow who has been panhandling on and off at a nearby corner for at least fifteen years. He has a sweet face, which has been distorted by a stroke he had a few years ago, and a gentle, soft-spoken manner. Over the years I have learned a lot about his life, his wife, and his world view.

Yesterday, after I made my traditional donation of a buck, he surprised me by saying: "Would you like to be part of a survey?" I agreed to become part of his focus group and he said: "What's your greatest fear?"

I won't get into my response, which is only between me and my panhandler, but I asked him what other people had been saying. "One fellow was afraid of being hit by a car at 92nd Street and Broadway," he replied. "Do you want to know what my fear is?" Sure, I replied.

"I'm afraid of two things- lightning, because when I was a kid in the South I stood right near a tree that was blasted in half, and losing my wife, because I need some one to comfort me when the lightning comes."

I swear there's a blues song in there somewhere.

How would you have answered? Think about it.

Sukkoh City

An organization of young Jewish professionals called Reboot, which includes our daughter, Kay, put together a contest to design a modern Sukkoh - the outdoor structure that is part of the holiday of Sukkohs, and a reminder of a time when Jews were wandering around the desert for 40 years and sleeping in temporary structures. 600 entries were received from around the globe, and a group of architects and critics picked twelve to be built and exhibited for two days in New York's wonderfully busy and vibrant Union Square Park. Readers of New York Magazine voted for their favorite and we were present as Mayor Bloomberg announced the winner - a bubbly contraption that was our least favorite. A number of the sukkohs were sold and the money passed along to Housing Works for their homeless projects.
The event was New York at its best - creative people presenting their cutting-edge work to a crowd of skeptics, fans, skate boarders, street artists, chess players, local politicians and a great variety of others. Everyone was taking pictures, talking with the architects, who had come from places as far away as Berlin and Idaho, and, generally putting in their two cents. People were meeting old friends, the Mayor's hulking security team was keeping their eyes on the crowd, and we even bumped into our Rabbi - on his way to a guitar lesson.
Here are some pix:

This log weighed a ton and was supported by glass panels
A sukkoh built from simple wooden shims
Based on a pineapple?
Our fave - every grommet hand carved with a Jewish star

The crowd was a typical NYC smorgasbord, especially when it came to head coverings

Friday, August 20, 2010

Top notch buskers near the Central Park boat house

Irving, 84, plays a sweet and low version of "Ode to Joy."
Cooper-Moore, an internationally acclaimed jazz pianist, with his self-made harp.
The Boyd Family gospel singers are from Michigan
Richard, who loves to play villains, singing "Besame Mucho"

Friday, August 13, 2010

Are "gum dots" only a NYC phenomenon?

Although most of the time when I am walking in this great city, my eyes are pointed upward toward its wonderful, diverse faces and architecture, every once in a while I look down at the sidewalk.When I do, to my horror, I see t  thousands (probably millions, in toto) of "gum dots" that have been spit or tossed on to the sidewalk, stepped on and flattened, and congealed into hard-to-remove black blobs. In some parts of town, these are regularly scraped up by supers and porters and doormen, but in most cased they stay there - I have no idea how they finally disappear.
It's odd - in cities like Paris or Barcelona, you have to stay constantly alert for dog leavings, but you don't see the gum spots. In New York, we've nearly conquered the dog problem, and are inundated with chewable grafitti. Go know.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A reader's recommendation

Now that everyone seems to be enamored of the "Girl with.." police procedurals, I thought I would go back to my favorite series of police procedurals, which are also set in Scandinavia, and see if they still hold up. Boy, do they ever!

The ten books in the Martin Beck series were written from 1967 to 1977 by Per Wahloo and Maj Sjowall. They were a journalist and a poet who decided to write one book a year for a decade and tell the story of the social changes in Sweden during the 60's through the eyes of a Stockholm homicide detective. They succeeded beyond their wildest expectations.

Just to make sure, I re-read nine of the ten ( I could not find my copy of the last book, which is also the weakest.) From the very first scene in "Roseanna", in which a nude corpse of a young woman is dredged up from a canal in the Swedish boonies, these books are totally captivating. The characters are vivid and believable, the police work is dogged and inventive, and the social changes that so interested the authors are vividly presented. We watch Sweden become a much more materialistic society, with a capitol city suffering from uncontrolled urban renewal and a police force that has been increased in size to face the "communist" threat.

My favorite of the books are "Roseanna", "The Laughing Policeman," (which was made into a very good movie starring Walter Matthau), and "Cop Killer."

At the end of the ten years,  Per Wahloo (who had married Sjowall) died.

If you can find these books - go get 'em.

Friday, June 4, 2010

A rare restaurant recommendation

For my birthday the whole family ate lunch at Del Posto, near the High Line. It was a perfect dining experience, beginning with the $30 prix fixe at a restaurant that easily runs $100 for dinner. Every bite was delicious, the service was friendly and charming, and the space itself was wonderfully operatic.

We walked off some of the excesses of lunch on the High Line, which is a totally successful addition to the New York park scene.  We sat in the amphitheatre near 16th Street and had a great time watching traffic zoom up 10th Avenue.

All in all, a terrific NYC birthday!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Public Art?

Some well-intentioned public art group has placed what looks like gigantic stone bull's testicles in Verdi Square. This piece is so bad, and so wrong for the spot, it was actually improved by this huge advertising balloon, part of Fox TV's pitch to media buyers attending this week's previews of the new TV season - affectionately known in the industry as "The Upfronts."

Perhaps it's a conceptual art work and a different part of the bull''s anatomy will appear each week. One can only hope for the tail next time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Regular, please, with two sugars

Here's the Times obit for the originator of the Anthora, the once ubiquitous neo-classical New York take-out coffee cup.

Whenever I think of New York's Greek diners and coffee shops I am reminded of Tom Waits, who once said:
"I lived in New York for a year, and ate every meal under the Parthenon.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Miracle of Bogota. Who knew?

I recently saw a documentary about the renaissance of Bogota, Colombia, and the crazy politicians who pulled it off. If you have Time Warner Cable you can see this film for free at the Sundance Section of Channel 1008.

In 1994, Bogota was considered by many to be the worst city in the world. It now is considered one of the world's most civilized cities - with greatly reduced crime, excellent transportation systems, great public spaces and so many libraries that it shares the title of Book City of The World with Montreal. This transformation is the urban equivalent of parting the Red Sea.

There are two heroes in this story, but one of them has to win the title as the world's most unique mayor. He is Antanas Mockus (a perfect last name in English), son of Lithuanian immigrants. He came to prominence in 1994 when, as chancellor of the national university, he got fed up with being shouted down by thousands of leftist student protestors , dropped his trousers and mooned the raucus crowd. He tearfully resigned his position, but cashed in on the overwhelmingly positive response to his gesture of frustration by getting himself elected Mayor of Bogota (a city of seven million) by the largest majority in history.

The story then goes from absurd to miraculous (with a lot more absurdity along the way.) Mockus, a philosopher, decided that what Bogota's citizenry needed was more internal than external. He set out to change the culture away from chaos, violence and indifference, step-by-step. Because Bogota mayors are limited to one three year term, he had very little time to achieve this lofty goal - AND HE PULLED IT OFF.

Among  his methods - firing every corrupt official in the city. Collecting tens of thousands of weapons. Talking to the people with a refreshing personal honesty. But that is the sane stuff - how about firing the corrupt traffic police and replacing them with MIMES, who re-trained Bogota's drivers to take such steps as obeying traffic lights. How about setting up a hot line so kids who were being beaten by their parents could call for help. He and his associates decided that the root of the violence overwhelming the city was coming from violence in the home. It turns out they were right. The slogan became "Hit instead of kill. Scream instead of hit. Talk instead of scream. Let's talk" He illustrated this on national TV by casually tossing a glass of water into the face of an annoying presidential candidate and saying it was better than what he wanted to do to him.

Crime plummeted, people began to obey rules, he talked 60,000 of the city's richest citizens into kicking in an extra 10% of their income to help the cause, and the entire spirit of the city was transformed.

The next mayor,and second hero, Enrique Pensalosa, also ran as independent, and then used his urban planning background to completely remake the city - replacing slums with parks, solving the city's transportation problem with a system of buses acting like an inexpensive light rail system, even transforming the huge private country club in the center of the city into the equivalent of Central Park. He built dozens of schools and libraries, delivered public services to the poor for the first time, and, because of the ensuing disruptions quickly became the most hated man in the city. After a failed recall, and as people saw that the changes were working, he ended his three years as one of the most popular mayors. Then, after getting a public commitment that his projects would be completed, he endorsed his successor -none other than Antanas Mockus.

PS - Pensalosa and Mockus have formed a Green Party in Colombia, chosen Mockus to run for president this year, and, according to the polls, our crazy-man may just become the next President of Colombia. On a sad note, last week Mockus announced he has Parkinson's Disease. "I want to be honest with the people," he said, "the doctors assure me I may have 12 more good years."

See this film - it is truly a must see for anyone who loves cities.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

An Important Book Yet to Be Written

Yesterday I visited the new museum at the African burial ground. It does a fairly good job of explaining the role of African slaves in the early development of New Amsterdam and New York. But visiting brought up another issue - why no one has written a definitive history of Blacks in New York City.

Sure, you can pick up the story in pieces. Stories of slavery, of early settlements in Greenwich Village, black blocks near the Ladies Mile, San Juan Hill and Harlem, but no one has yet tied it all together. San Juan Hill, a ghetto located where the Metropolitan Opera stands today, is of particular interest to me, probably because my apartment looks out on it. I know DuBois lived there, and Thelonious Monk was raised there, and it featured regular Saturday night brawls with the Irish neighbors from Hell's Kitchen. But I can't find out much more.

Please - somebody write this book!