Monthly Archives: November 2012

Brooklyn Morning; Manhattan Afternoon

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I slept in as best I could while flanked by a little wiggly toddler and woke to a fine clear day in Brooklyn. Around 11 Rebekah (that’s my sister-in-law) and I put our little boys in their strollers and walked along streets like Prospect Ave and Windsor, past two story brick houses with curved glass windows, and colorful wood houses with small enclosed gardens. We dined on savory miniature pies at Dub Cafe and bought crisp-as-heaven, sweet-as-honey apples from the farmer’s market. Then onto a walk in Prospect Park.

I kept thinking as we were walking how grateful I was to be having this experience. For one, I am inspired by my sister-in-law and glad for the chance to get to know her better. For another, I am in a lovely section of Brooklyn, the weather is unusually mild for November, and my 13-month old son is cooperating brilliantly.

For lunch Rebekah made the best grilled cheese sandwiches I’ve ever had, made even more memorable by freshly-sliced gala apples on the side.

And then I took off with baby Aaron to try finding my way into Manhattan.

Whatever the reputation of New Yorkers as being rushed and unfriendly, I certainly met many kind strangers today. At the subway entrance a young guitarist helped me carry the stroller downstairs and offered pleasant conversation for most of the ride. Every time I got off the train, someone if not more than one person, kindly offered to help. And with the aid of a fantastic free app (Embark NYC), I had super easy-to-follow instructions for each step of my uptown journey.

My destination: 25 Central Park West. A beautiful gallery on the corner of 63rd and Central Park. As I approached my beautiful friend Lisa Raineywas visible in the rear of the gallery, hanging works of art.

Lisa is working to arrange and install a special exhibit which opens tomorrow night. As implied by its title (Converge: Where Classical and Contemporary Art Collide) the exhibit features painters of today who work at the intersection of refined, classical technique and contemporary content and themes.

Lisa will never admit to this, but she really is a genius when it comes to hanging a show. A brilliant painter herself, she’s also a kind of a visual choreographer. Her work of art tonight was the poetic interaction of the various paintings next to each other.

As I joined her for a few hours to offer what help I could, the passersby began to take note.

First one, then two, then as many as 12 different people, all of them residents of this part of Manhattan, came in for a sneak preview of tomorrow’s opening. All were amazed and in awe. Something beautiful was happening. We were witnessing busy, wealthy New Yorkers compelled off the street and face to face with art that was edifying them in some profound way. I was thinking about Isaiah’s words: oh you afflicted city, tossed with tempest and not comforted, I will build you with stones of turquoise, your foundations with sapphires. Could it be that in a city still shaken by the rage of a hurricane, 30 artists bring a balm of hope and healing? Oh let it be so.

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New York City: Arrival and First Impressions

We’ve arrived safely and I’m thrilled head to toe and soul to spirit to be here. New York has an amazing soul…I can’t put my finger on it but there’s something about the energy of this place that I find very bright and optimistic in a different way than anywhere I’ve ever been. In California the quality and quantity of light inspires optimism. The expanse of sea and the vibrancy of the colors breathes relaxation and playfulness and freedom. But here it’s something else…as if New York City holds in a condensed moment of history and humanity, all the energy of myriads of people’s hopes and dreams for a new and better life.

So much more to ponder and explore on that topic…

After a genuinely pleasant flight on Jet Blue (they really do have more legroom in coach than any other airline), we landed at JFK airport. It being late and having baby Aaron in tow, I took a cab over to Brooklyn. From the taxi window I could see the skyline of Manhattan. In the late autumn night the lights look cheerful and orchestrated. And I found myself pondering the way nature had prepared the land where those steel giants rise–a basin of ancient, once-molten rock lies under much of Manhattan. By night as the city lights glitter, the man made marvels seem a fitting tribute to the earth that undergirds them. And then I see the Empire State, and remember that the Twin Towers are no longer present, and consider how vulnerable we all are, as humanity, as fellow creatures living upon this earth. This great city built upon tough metamorphic rocks can be wounded, too.

From a fleeting glimpse through the taxi window I saw her–the Statue of Liberty–for the first time. Like the Manhattan skyline she was lit up for her evening appearance. Even from this rapid, distant vantage point I found myself moved. Lady Liberty…what a symbol for a city. No wonder I am moved by the soul of this place. Many cities I have visited have a masculine symbol, but not here. Which is interesting if I think about it. New York can appear so harsh and jaded and fast paced and no-nonsense. But it also has this maternal, graceful, regal femme symbol that is known through all the world. It’s like a picture of human ambition (the energy of the skyscrapers, the commerce, the buzzing punctuality, the strength of ideas) converging with mercy (the emblematic welcome to immigrants, the hopes and dreams of mothers and fathers, families and cultures). Fascinating.

My brother- and sister-in-law live in a charming brownstone in Brooklyn. Built in the 1920s, it has gleaming wood floors and many small rooms adjoined one after another. Within it feels surprisingly spacious, for the ceilings are high and the doorways are mostly double-wide (in bygone days there must have been French doors dividing the main rooms).

After I arrived we spent time watching our sons get to know each other. Aaron mostly scampers about after Sam, who is 3. Nathan who is Ben’s brother is a programmer for a design firm and Rebekah writes Young Adult fiction. I know it’s going to be a wonderful five days here.

It’s past midnight New York time. Everyone, including Aaron, is asleep. Except me, and I shall soon follow suit.

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