I apologize for this break in blog service, but I spent three days last week in New York City visiting my two grown-up children who live there.
I had a great time, visiting art museums (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney and the Frick Collection), eating and drinking to merry excess, going to a Rangers game against the Pens at Madison Square Garden (our boys lost in a shoot-out), studying the passing parade of strange people and visiting my daughter's second grade classroom on the Upper East Side.
Of the art expeditions, I was most pleasantly surprised by the special Alexander Calder exhibition at the Whitney, "The Paris Years 1926-1933."
I knew only that Calder was famous for his mobiles, a large example of which is in the airside terminal at Greater Pittsburgh International Airport. Unfortunately, this is not the best space for the piece, because the eye is immediately drawn to lifelike figures of the Big Two in local history - Franco Harris and George Washington - standing at the top of the escalators. The Mona Lisa couldn't compete with Franco making the Immaculate Reception. Old George himself looks merely a bemused bystander to this event.
There is an only-in-Pittsburgh quality to the treatment here of Calder now and in the past (if they had an exhibition called Alexander Calder "The Allegheny County Years," it would not be pretty. The airport mobile was once welded and repainted by county maintenance officials, an act of folly since corrected.)
In this context, the Whitney exhibition was an eye-opener for me and I came away with a newfound respect for the sculptor. His small portraits of people and animals rendered in wire were ingenious.
While the Met was great, its sheer size is overwhelming and it put me in the mood for the personal and intimate surroundings of the Frick Collection, which is a real feast for the senses.
In my daughter's classroom, I read the boys "The Polar Express" (only boys in this private school). The book had been my daughter's favorite but the boys immediately greeted it by saying: "We have the DVD at home." Oh well, I did the best I could, and I suppose it's hard to find an audience of 7-year-olds who aren't jaded.
The culmination of the eating and drinking came Friday night at a tiny Austrian restaurant on Orchard Street in the Bowery called Cafe Katja, which I heartily recommend. The food was delicious but the little room looked even smaller when they brought out the giant beers served in glass boots.
The real fun of New York is the people. I saw intriguing little scenarios and dramas playing out almost everywhere I looked. Whether is was the cop talking to the armless beggar in Spanish, the older man putting the traffic warden lady in a cab with a kiss, I kept wondering - what is the backstory here, what is this juxtaposition of odd characters all about?
Nice place to visit. I don't know if I could live there. I would be in a constant state of puzzlement.