Sunday, May 30, 2010

Old Ladies Don't Drink Margaritas

"...and they tell him, "take your time, it won't be long now
'til you drag your feet to slow the circles down" Joni Mitchell, "The Circle Game"

You say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you. Beatles, "Birthday"

When I write the Great Australian Novel it will be called "Controlled Falling". Watch out for it.

The expression came from an old boyfriend. I don't know whether it was because of his Dutch heritage or his science major, but he tended to see the world through unemotive eyes.

We were walking down from an outcrop of rocks. It was a hundred years ago in a desert somewhere in Australia. "It's much easier climbing down," I commented. "Climbing down is just controlled falling," he explained in his Dutch lecture-style way.

Since then I've seen my life in terms of a prolonged and (mostly) controlled falling, from one stage to the next.

The speed of a person's life-fall is not constant. It is extremely slow during childhood, perhaps to twelve years of age, speeding up from then on, until one gets to a certain age and time starts to screech by, somewhat short of the speed of light.

Major changes in speed occur several times in one's life, often associated with life events, such as one's first sexual experience, birth of one's child, the first gray hair, divorce, death of a parent...

Some changes in speed are sign-posted by an epiphany or a comment from another person marking indelibly the precise time of the change.

When I was about 10 I used to run home from school jumping over rubbish bins on the sidewalk. On one particular day I suddenly stopped dead short of a rubbish bin. "You are to old for that," an inner voice whispered. And I jumped no more. My childhood was over and its slow speed accelerated to the faster speed of adolescence.

Marriage, children, divorce, menopause, career ... the wheels of change move increasingly faster as life events pile up rapidly, sometimes even colliding with each other.

Old Lady Not Drinking a Margarita
A "sign-post" manifested itself just yesterday. I was talking to a friend. "My husband invited you over for margaritas," she was saying. "I told him," she continued," "Kate is an old lady and old ladies don't drink margaritas."

The world sped up and I recognized another turning point.

I, who I believed could never get or look old, was defeated.

About to fall, tumbling to the last rung of my descent.

But first, I think I'll have a margarita!

Stay tuned.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Chicago, Chicago

Could anything be more indicative of a slight but general insanity than the aspect of the crowd on the streets of Chicago? - Charles Horton Cooley "Human Nature and the Social Order" 1902

Went to Chicago last week. I was surprised. I'd imagined a slick, dark city that was sort of a shadow of New York.

Not so. Chicago is like my home town. "Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, The World, The Solar System, The Galaxy, The Universe", as we used to say in grade 3.

With a difference. Look at the photo on the left. Positively forties. I didn't manage to capture the U.S. naval  soldiers who were there, dressed all in white with those little white caps. But the girls in the photo should give you an idea of ... CHICAGO. Melbourne Australia is anything but forties. Thirties maybe ...

Still, wandering around Chicago was like wandering around my home town of Melbourne - with everything mirrored. The only difference was in the rivers; but even with the rivers there were similarities. Both rivers did a reverse take.

Over one hundred years ago Chicago reversed the flow of the Chicago River from going INTO Lake Michigan to going OUT of Lake Michigan. A vertical reverse, so to speak, as he Chicago River is now two feet below Lake Michigan. The Melbourne Yarra, on the other hand, has the mud on the top. A lateral reverse.

We didn't have a lot of spare time. Stayed in Chicago a couple of days.

Chicago was nice, but when duty called it was back to New York.

Still, away and on vacation for only a few days, it was enough to free me from the inevitable daily tribulations of transactions.

An old boyfriend of mine used to say that the less "transactions" you did, the more pleasant your life would be. And I suspect he was right. As soon as you actually DO anything in this world, your life is fraught with danger.

You buy an airline ticket, for example. Something goes wrong and then  it is ten hours on hold to the airline's customer service, and THIS only after having to listen to a robot voice asking you if you speak Spanish and to please say your frequent flyer number.

Better to go nowhere. Buy nothing. Hide. And then, sans transactions there may be peace.

However I was back in New York and I'd forgotten the old boyfriend. After all, sanity is high on my list of priorities.

Once unpacked and settled in the apartment, I remembered that I had a $25 gift voucher from Bloomingdales. A couple of months ago I had bought clothes and had been rewarded with a $25 voucher. Where had I put it? I had no idea. I searched the apartment but the two rooms yielded nothing.

The results of a transaction had been lost.

Where was it? I had searched high and low. Laterally and vertically.

Nope, nothing to be seen. I must have accidentally thrown it out.

I called Bloomingdales and screeched at robot for several hours. After pressing "1" a hundred times and saying "representative" a million times, I got a HUMAN.

Well, I THOUGHT it was a human...

I explained.

"Oh," he said. "You have lost your voucher. This is not a problem. We can issue you another. Please tell me the voucher number which is just under your address on the right-hand side of your voucher."

"I don't have it," I explained. "I LOST the voucher and that is why I am calling you!@!!"

"I understand," said the pretend human.

I was starting to wish I had the robot back. Even a Spanish speaking one!. "But we cannot issue a new voucher unless we have the number," Jason (it was BOUND to be a Jason) was saying.

"OK," I said. "Please answer me this. Why would anyone call Bloomingdales to get a replacement voucher if they already had a voucher?"

"I can only repeat," said Jason. Or was it the robot? "Look at the top right of your voucher and tell me your number and we will be happy to replace your voucher."

"I give up."

I gave up.

I will remain voucherless.

And I will follow Jason's parting reply and, "have a nice day.".

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Australians in Chelsea Market

Roam if you want to, Roam around the world. - B52's

On the road again, Goin' places that I've never been. Seein' things that I may never see again. - Willie Nelson

The following Letter from New York is by the mysterious LFNY Follower, Jaded NYer

Two months ago I started working for a company located inside the Chelsea Market. The Chelsea Market, which is in the trendy Meatpacking District of the West Village, started out as the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) in the 1890's. Today the building contains offices and a wide variety of stores and takes up an entire city block from 9th to 10th avenue between15th and16th street.

During the past two months I have discovered something interesting about the area. I am surrounded by Australians.

Not only do I work with two of them, one in particular who looks exactly like a young Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones, (I told him to get a paternity test, he might be rich and not know it), and the other, a middle aged gentleman who is smart, funny, and disorganized. Whenever I run into Australians, I find they all seem to have the same sense of humor, which personally I find to be a mixture of sarcasm and common sense. Good match if you ask me.

Without fail, whenever I am standing outside during a break (I believe the Australian word is "smoko"), I’m approached by an Australian looking for the High Line.

At first I wondered, why do Australians like to get high? Is it because they come from down under? However after investigating, I discovered what the High Line actually is.

The High Line is a new park built on an old elevated 1930's freight rail structure. The structure was created to remove freight trains from street level traffic due to the many accidents that occurred on the streets of Manhattan from 1851 through 1929. These elevated trains delivered goods to upper floor loading docks of businesses in the area. The last train ran in 1980 with three cars loaded full of frozen turkeys.

The High Line entrance is located at 15th Street and 10th avenue. Currently it is divided into three sections, the first of which runs from Gansevoort Street to West 20th Street.

The second section is still under construction and will stretch on to West 30th Street. A third section is planned for the future, so that the park will comprise the entire length of the structure from Gansevoort Street to West 34th Street.

Currently there are "No Dogs Allowed on the High Line", and several people expressed to me that they would like it to stay that way. I promised to mention that in this article.

What I found was indeed a rare treat. Assorted trees, plants, and flowers, landscaped within the existing infrastructure, between the old rail beds and tracks, along with the original restored outer railing that make for a unique promenade. A genuine take on the old and new.

Spectacular views of the Hudson River and surrounding skyline.

Ah, I thought to myself, these Australians were on to something. Here was a place to get away from it all, to relax and unwind in a peaceful oasis right above our city streets.

It looks like the High Line has found it’s new purpose. What used to be a means for transporting goods has now becomes a means for transporting our minds.

Jaded NYer
New York
May 2010

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Lulu in the Sky with Diamonds

"Search fearlessly for every sin, for out of sin comes joy."
Frank Wedekind - author of the play "Lulu"

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
From Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Lennon and McCartney

It's hardly like "To Sir With Love!"
Babs to me, during the second intermission of "Lulu"

Lobmeyer crystal chandeliers at the Metropolitan New York
Last week I saw my very first opera. "Lulu" based on Frank Wedekind's play of the same name and set to opera by Alban Berg in 1937.

The crystal chandeliers that ascend silently to the gilded ceiling as the lights fade before the beginning of each performance at New York's Metropolitan Opera were apt. Diamonds in the sky, heralding all manner of characters and ideas.

There's an Alice-in-Wonderland quality about the chandeliers, a quality that was mirrored in the opera that was to follow their ascent. Although now that I come to think about it, perhaps the Brothers Grimm would be more in line ...

The opera was nothing like I had expected.

For starters, the lead women in it were young and slender. I'd been under the apparently erroneous impression that female opera singers were buxom creatures verging on middle age. I know better now.

Then there was the plot. I had decided to read up on the story line before going to the performance. Google is great for researching in a hurry. I expected a one paragraph synopsis. Opera for dummies sort of thing in a wiki somewhere.

Heads will rollI expected something about lovers and villains, cuckolds and unrequited love.

Wrong again. The shortest synopsis I found was three pages long, compactly written with every sentence describing several major life events.

No room for even a whittled down version here.

I can tell you about the main characters though and that might give you an idea f the complexity of the story.

The main characters in Berg's Lulu are - an animal tamer, an acrobat, a publisher, a prince, a lesbian,a physician, a banker, a schoolboy, a professor, a composer and his son, and Jack the Ripper. Oh, and of course Lulu who in the course of the play is sought after by nearly all of the above, marries, kills the composer son who she has married, is arrested, gets sent to prison, contracts cholera, is rescued by a lesbian, becomes a prostitute, gets syphilis and is eventually chopped up by Jack the Ripper.

The whole thing was sung in German. Luckily there were subtitles on the back of the seats in front. I liked the bit where Lulu coloratura-sopranoed things like, "I want to go to university and study journalism."

I had no idea that opera was like this!

The Loving PenguinI now have quite another take on twentieth century culture. Music and lyrics in particular. Sergeant Pepper, yawn, yawn. Passé when it was produced in 1967. Lou Red's "Walk on the Wild Side" (1972) - tame as milk. The Sex Pistols? The Doris Days of punk.

The score of Lulu contains no melody or harmony. There are (only???) twelve notes, all within an octave and treated equally. I am not sure if I understand the meaning of this and must assume it has something to do with the collapse of liberal democracy in Germany in the late 1930s. A political statement?

Clearly there's more to opera than meets the eye!

But on a serious note, I enjoyed the opera. It was nothing like I expected.

And so I think it'll be that start of many yet to come.

I can't believe what I've been missing.

Stay tuned!


Saturday, May 08, 2010

Naked Men on Buildings

Sul mare luccica l’astro d’argento.
Placida è l’onda, prospero è il vento.
Sul mare luccica l’astro d’argento.
Placida è l’onda, prospero è il vento.
Venite all’agile barchetta mia From "Santa Lucia" - Traditional

On hearing that God is sending an angel down to earth -
Jesus: "Father, why don't you send me?
God: "Last time was a disaster." From Mylène Farmer's "Que mon cœur lâche"

A few weeks ago I wrote about my idea for a Pretentiousness Meter.

No I haven't developed it though I still intend to. I think I'll make it only work on Windows, as there is the beginning of a backlash against trendy Apple, ever since Apple started acting snooty.

Snooty with the unfortunate Apple employee who lost the iPhone in a bar. Jon Stewart of the Daily show is incensed. "It wasn't supposed to be this way." he said. "Microsoft was supposed to be the evil one. But now you guys are busting down doors in Palo Alto, while commandant Gates is ridding the world of mosquitoes. What the f*ck is going on? It is all mixed up. I don't know which end is up anymore. Black is white. Cats are dogs.""

I've revived my interest in my Pretentiousness Meter, not because of iPhoneGate, but because I've had a week of bumping into pretentious people. More than I normally do, that is.

First there's the building supervisor who acts like he's the lord of the manor. He wasn't there before; he must be new. I pass him on my way to my second bus stop in mid-town. There used to be just the uniformed doormen standing under the typical Manhattan stripy awning outside the apartment building, but in the past few months there's a man standing a little away from the doormen, surveying the sidewalk as if it is a rural roadway in Britain before the serfs were freed. His bald head is always carefully combed. The adjective that comes to mind when I see him, is "dapper". As people leave his building he greets them with an English smile, and if they are young and pretty, stares at their legs as they walk on.

I hate him and must think of an alternate route to work.

And if that's not enough, midweek I was watching a show on the arts on "Ovation" and heard for the first time about "Relational Art". Seems I really am behind the times. I'd never heard of this movement. The show was called "Relational Art: Is It an Ism?" and it was all about the philosophy and creations of the Relational Art people. One guy assembled a life-sized model of his kitchen in an art gallery and invited people to cook in his kitchen. Another had part of a wall in a gallery and a pail of white paint with brushes for people to paint the wall, over and over and over ...

Then there's the twelve pajama-clad, rubber booted male figures drinking from chalices, wearing diving helmets who are hanging out in the Palace of the Arts in Budapest.

The creativity of these artists knows no bounds!

Was Yoko Ono a Relational Art person - with her ladder for people to climb up and read a tiny, unimposing "yes", printed on a canvas suspended from the ceiling? Surely she was a woman ahead of her time.

I wonder what course one needs to undertake in order to qualify as a Relationionalist I can't imagine rolling up to an art gallery with a pile of lettuce leaves and a sieve for what those in the know call an "installation". There must be prerequisites. "What-Bizarre-Idea-Can-I-Come-Up-With-Next 101" perhaps.

Another pretentious thing - those trendy supermarkets and coffee shops that instead of Musak or Mylène Farmer or Lady Gaga - play Mario Lanza singing "Santa Lucia", or even Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma. I went to one this morning after gym. It's called "The Vinegar Factory". But it could be called anything. "Loaf of Bread" perhaps, or "Bagels R Us".

I'm sick of pretension! I need something down-to-earth, normal, run of the mill. What could I do to satisfy my urge for something very basic, pedestrian even?

I know! I can go and see the naked men on to of buildings in mid-town. There are thirty one of them - life-sized figures by British artist Antony Gormley. Apparently they are all modeled in his likeness. I suspect he is having a sly dig at God. They are perched on top of buildings including the Flat Iron and the Empire State. Babs has found twenty seven of them so I should go see them too.

Yeah, that's what I'll do.

Monday, May 03, 2010

When writers get too old ...

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.
E.L. Doctorow

I was watching "Iconaclasts" the other night. It's a great show. On Sundance. Two people from politics and/or the arts are chosen - to be interviewed, and to perhaps to talk about each other.

My favourite Iconoclast was the one with Sir Richard Branson and the Archbishop Desmond Tutu. An unlikely pair. But mutul friends and inspiring men. And interesting.

Last weekend the two "iconoclasts" were Robert Redford and Paul Newman. At some stage Newman commented about how when he was young, he wondered why Hollywood stars past a certain age, kept appearing publically. Why didn't they just roll up and die, he remembered thinking. And at seventy he then wondered at the callousness of youth. "It is what it is," he said. "I'm not hiding."

Anyway, it got me thinking about novelists. And how like actors, they could become "past it."

The first novelist I remember thinking had "lost it" - when she was past her prime - was Doris Lessing. The visionary Lessing. Not lyrical. Not a writer that brings out the best of her language - English. But a visionary. A thinker.

Take "The Four-Gated City" part of the "Martha Quest" trilogy, published in 1969.

Lessing foresaw a way of living where, unlike in the past, people did not understand how the equipment of their daily lives actually worked. And this was pre PCs. But of more interest was her prediction of fashions., People, especially young women wearing anything with everything. Evening dresses with gym boos. Frilly dresses with army disposal socks. And this in the age of Carnaby Street and of the remnants of the fifties - the matching of handbags and shoes.

And now? The last Lessing book I read was "Mara and Dann" (1999). Two kids in a desert. Figuratively and literally. A boring tale going nowhere. Slowly.

I didn't finish it. If it hadn't been written by Lessing I doubt it would have even been published.

Then there's Coetzee. His novels - "Disgrace" and "Waiting for the Barbarians". Impeccable. Masterly. Un-put-downable. What happened? In Cotzee's case it wasn't an age thing. Perhaps it was a comfort thing? In any case he moved from post-apartheid South Africa to the gentile white protestant city of Adelaide Australia. And like Adelade, his post-South Africa novels have no edge.

There's Ian McEwan. I still hold out hopes for Mr McEwan. But his last novel, "Solar" although it started off well, after chatper 4 went downhill all the way.

The first few chapters were worth it though. So he's still hanging in there ... The jury's out.

So now I am wondering - was the young Paul Newman right?

Is there a time to call it quits? When is one is past one's use-by date?

If so, perhaps I'm there ...

Stay tuned.

Or not ...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Russell Crowe is Pure Sex

“I have one closet, and things were overflowing, so I started putting shoes in the fridge,” says the fashionable 26-year-old, whose wardrobe is heavy on the black and consists mostly of skinny jeans and blazers.
The kitchen is my closet

In a city where space is at such a premium that bragging rights are measured in square feet, small is getting big. An expanding clutch of hotels like the Jane offer cramped sleeping quarters on the cheap, often with shared bathrooms and bunk beds, to budget-minded travelers seeking a dash of style along with their savings.
Your Room as Cocoon: Teeny, Cheap and Chic

There's been stuff in the printed media lately about how New Yorkers have no space, and need to store clothes in the fridge. Or oven. How ridiculous.

I've lived here in Manhattan for fifteen years and have NEVER had to store my clothes in the fridge.

There's plenty of room in the apartment. And if, IF, there's a storage problem, there's always the microwave.

People tend to exaggerate. I keep things in my microwave - a ball of string, kosher salt, an ice cube tray and occasionally a toaster. As I say, NEVER the oven and never the fridge.

So what's with the title of this post? Russell Crowe, sex????

Well, it's been a hard day. First off was the immigration rally. This morning I decided to "do the right thing" and so off I headed to Foley Square to join a heap of other immigrants opposing the recent Arizona immigration law.

It was fun. It's been years since I've been to a demonstration. I think the last one was in Melbourne some time last century when many of us were protesting about Indonesia's attempted take-over of East Timor.

So it was a bit like discovering one's inner protester when I exited the #5 subway to join the ranks of the anti-Tea Party May Day marchers, downtown Manhattan.

The atmosphere was festive. The temperature was hot. The language was Spanish.

I liked it. I can now say, "Yes we can!" in Spanish.

I'm glad I went. Sì, se puede!

It was late afternoon by the time I arrived back home. My friend Babs called. "Let's drink margaritas and eat tacos," she said. Babs is always spot on when it comes to mood. So we decided to meet up at the local Mexican restaurant, "Taco Taco".

It was fun. We drank our margaritas and ate our tacos and talked about ... whatever. Before we left we were wondering about what men talk about to other men. Intriguing.

I said I didn't know what they talked about but I THOUGHT that they thought about sex. A lot. I'd read it in a book somewhere.

Babs agreed. We were wondrous. "How can they?" we thought, simultaneously.

I tried to think about how women think about sex. That's when I thought, and said, "Russell Crowe is pure sex."

"Yes of course," said Babs. We always agree.

Heaps of people against Sarah Pailin, a sunny day in Manhattan, excellent Mexican food, and thoughts of Russell Crowe.

Life is beautiful.