Hopefully, not affectively ineffectual --- since February

Hinterlanders hit Nieuw Amsterdam (October 2009)
- or the only web page that can boast 'yadda yadda' and 'xanadu' in adjacent paragraphs
We took the DeCamp bus into NYC this Sunday to see the Richard Serra works currently on display at the MOMA. One advantage of taking the bus into New York, in addition to the cost savings, is the different perspective that is afforded - you are several feet above the rest of the vehicles, and you don't have to pay attention to your driving. When I sat down and adjusted my seat back to semi-recline, the little old lady behind me vigorously pushed it back up. I just got up and moved to another seat, and didn't get into a tiff, but of course it stuck in my craw just a little. I tried to meditate on that view of life which holds that we are all tiny slivers of God, who got bored being omnipotent long ago, and decided to play hide-and-seek with Himself, through our eyes; that 'lady' and I are just doing our part to keep God entertained. According to this theory, we make a contract before we incarnate to forget our link to divinity, and are trapped in the illusion of isolation as we partake in that game. Others have expressed it much better than I, of course. As Wordsworth (and isn't that a great name for him?) put it in the poem 'Intimations of Immortality',

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,   60
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar:
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come   65
        From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
        Upon the growing Boy,
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,   70
        He sees it in his joy;
The Youth, who daily farther from the east
    Must travel, still is Nature's priest,
      And by the vision splendid
      Is on his way attended;   75
At length the Man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day

... yadda, yadda. Yup, that Liberal Arts education pays off --- about once a month on average.

Anyway, we drive past the Meadowlands (and DeKorte Park---DeCamp/DeKorte - uh oh, way too French for some people) and off to the left near the stadium and racetrack is some big old project that's underway. It's named 'Xanadu', which, if you know the poem, makes you wonder if the fellow Liberal Arts grad who probably came up with the name had read the entire poem, past the first stanza. (I can imagine the sales pitch, though: a 'Garden Stately pleasure dome'). At least they didn't name it Ozymandias, you know: "Look on my works. Ye Mighty, and despair!"  Ahh, Liberal Arts, and the life of the B.A. Generalist (or Generalissimo, for those with overweening pride). Here is an artist's conception, nay, vision, of what will come to pass in that already-crowded area of North Jersey:



That rampy-looking thing on the left will be the locus of the country's first indoor ski slope, and you can see that the ramp is already built as you drive past. (And I thought it was an over-budget prop for a Led Zep concert, for when they do 'Stairway to Heaven', like those expensive sets that Pink Floyd used for 'The Wall' and others of their oeuvre.)

We got into town, ( I wanted to say 'Decamped' but looked up the meaning and thought better of it). Walked to the museum, and chanced upon the 23rd Brazilian Day festival, extending along Avenue of the Americas from 46th to 56th streets, of which more later.

At the MOMA, we breezed right in as the doors were opening, and brandished our guest passes. We started with the two large works outside; even though they are made of iron, and have deliberately been allowed to weather, you're not supposed to touch them, as the trace amounts of God knows what, really, could corrode them - yeah, over CENTURIES, but hey why not take the long view? Frankly I'm more of a photography and painting person, but my better half had been looking forward to this visit for a long time, so I was more than glad to humor her on this matter, as she has reciprocated so often herself; I wasn't initially impressed, although I could appreciate the workmanship and the skill involved.

On the second floor are several additional large works of his. The sheer exhilirated joy of Wifey as she walked around inside them blew me away, as she has done, blessedly, many times before. She likens their sinuous forms to 'ribbon candy', and for her it truly is 'eye candy'. Unable to partake of this degree of joy at this particular artist's work, I step aside and make some notes for this blog. After several minutes, she approaches, and tells me about Serra's 'Sequence', and makes it sound so compelling, I want to follow her inside (for you actually walk within the works, at least most of them--they are HUGE). Inside 'Sequence', the walls comprising his work are tall, curved and slanted, and I swear I found myself listing slightly to port as I walked through. The guard told us when we came out that "lots of people get dizzy" walking through there, and I believe him, in fact I was a little off kilter for some minutes following. Wifey opined that all architectural students should come to see this. 

Afterward, we headed for more familiar territory. Saw some works by Max Beckmann, and by Natalya Gontcharova, from the WWI era and its horrific aftermath. Nearby was a representative work by Jersey boy Willie Cole, who can do wonders with irons and mundane objects; very entertaining and accessible; we really enjoyed his show at the Montclair Art Museum this past year. As always, especially in New York museums, it was a polyglot crowd, and my amateur linguist's ear delighted in catching snatches of museum-goer patter, in catch-as-catch-can fashion. I swear, I could almost feel the French intellectualizing, as they murmured, demurred, gazed and mused. Little boys giggled at nudes, good looking people strolled, arms respectfully joined behind their backs in characteristic pose, guards did their watchful thing --- these little islands of civilization called museums have become very comfortable to me, and I'm glad, because as a kid, I never used to attend museums, and I know there are millions upon millions of us who never have, and it's a shame. It's a habit, like most things, and I also grant, a matter of proximity and not inconsequential cost. Well, at least there's PBS and those cable channels now---and of course, the Internet.

Now we come to the photography. There is an exhibit by JoAnn Verburg but my eye is drawn, inevitably, to my old favorites: Brassaï and his Paris pictures, Stieglitz, with those O'Keeffe hands, like mudras, Dorothea Lange, Arbus, Winogrand, Friedlander - all so familiar, so beloved, after so many visits to this museum---I am blessed.

After a while, I'm 'full', so I enjoin Wifey to hit the pavement, but not before we revisit the sculpture garden. The sun is at a different angle, and the play of the light and shadow on those massive, oxidized surfaces is quite nice; he's grown on me, I confess.

Now we're walking back to the Port Authority bus terminal through the Brazilian day festivities. There are several stands where meat grills over open fire, and Italian sausage trucks. We shuddered to see raw chicken touching pita bread at one venue; mazel tov, chowhounds. In addition to good old lemonade, how about Yerba Maté? There is falafel, a formerly exotic treat, but now commonplace in many areas. We saw a stand with chimney cake from Transylvania, (not funnel cake from Pennsylvania). It was originally made by wrapping the dough around chimney pipes, hence the name. Not fried, but pretty doughy. We also tried arepa, mozzarella between two corn cakes, similar to the kind you can pop into a toaster. It was nice, to dawdle and nibble. There were accents from all over the world (probably many of them native New Yorkers, one of the continuing characteristics of that city) a LOT of pashmina and shawl stands, Ronaldinho soccer shirts too plentiful to count, and more. There was a Scientology booth, a yoga booth, and several fortune-tellers, to float a wide range of boats.

At first we were surprised to encounter only Caribbean music stands, odd considering the infectious music of Brazil -- if you have not seen 'Black Orpheus', treat yourself, but then realized that there was a heaving throng of dancers in front of a stage at the end of the festival. Before we got there, we passed through what Wifey called the 'promotions ghetto', where cellular phone companies, the Brazilian airline TAM, and other businesses offered us balloons, fans, flags, thunder sticks and other promotional crap, which of course was strewn all over the place. We veered off before we hit the dancing throng, passing a 6-foot tall transvestite and his retinue. As we approached Times Square, there were tour busses galore (we always wave gaily to them), and the inevitable Andean pipes musicians, only this time we could've sworn we were listening to the sound track of 'Titanic', you know that mournful sound, Celine Dion, etc? Maybe a new synthesis, and why not? It's New York, baby!