Here we are in NYC, where I am thinking of piling up all the spring clothes I brought to make a bonfire in order to keep warm. Brrrr! Temps have been in the 30′s and low 40′s, but hey, it is positively balmy compared to our February trip.
Along with all the April blossoms popping up hopefully in planters throughout the city, there are some terrific new options blooming on Broadway and at the museums. We went on a spring entertainment splurge this week and it has been so much fun!
Three things to see in NYC right now:
1. Bullets Over Broadway
God bless Ben Brantley. As a NYT theater critic, he would pretty much have to assume a persona of snobbish elitism, although something tells me this comes somewhat naturally to him. But I think the winter blues (or maybe Mia Farrow?) have gotten to him, because his desultory review of Bullets over Broadway almost dissuaded me from seeing the show.
And that would have been a mistake. Brantley (who rightly or wrongly is being assailed all around this week for his reviews) panned Bullets, dismissing it as “occasionally funny but mostly just loud” and, just in case you didn’t catch his drift, also labeled it “charm-free”, “sour” and tossed in “misanthropic” for good measure.
Oh c’mon, Ben, let the folks have some fun. Some nights we just aren’t up for the aftermath of high school shootings per The Library and, call me a lightweight, but on no night at all am I going to consider myself “entertained” by Terrence McNally’s undoubtedly fine Mothers and Sons. I know Ben is the expert, but I’m just saying, as someone who isn’t even overly-fond of musicals, I thought Bullets was a lot of fun.
Bullets had leggy dancers, the brightest strobe lights on Broadway, and Zach Braff in a decent Broadway debut. Best thing about Bullets (and here Mr. Brantley and I agree) is actor Nick Cordero as “Cheech”. If Bobby Cannavale is ever abducted by aliens, Cordero can step right in and take over all his roles.
2. Gauguin: Metamorphoses at MOMA
We dropped in at MOMA on Thursday afternoon for the Gauguin exhibit, prepared to bail if the crowds were too oppressive, but the crush wasn’t too bad. Almost too much to take in at one visit, this collection focuses on Gauguin’s two sojourns to Tahiti, the second of which culminated in his death in the Marquesa Islands in 1903 at the age of 54.
There are several walls of woodcuts and oil transfer paintings, with some paintings and wood sculpture sprinkled into the mix. Gauguin was apparently searching for a place “unspoiled by the mores of European culture” but the impression from his work is that he never found his Eden, just as he was never appreciated as an artist during his lifetime.
Three pieces I found memorable:
3. Audra McDonald: Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Audra McDonald is absolutely stunning in this one-woman snapshot of Billie Holiday in a heart-wrenching performance toward the end of a life ravaged by abuse, racial discrimination and heroin. If you have only 24 hours in Manhattan, spend two of them and whatever it costs to see this show. McDonald, a winner of multiple Tony awards and perhaps better known to the general public as the character Naomi Bennett in the television drama Private Practice is nothing short of astonishing as she melts into the role of Holiday. Yes, she sings “God Bless the Child” and “Strange Fruit”. And she does so much more, using the device of stage patter to unravel the sad, sorry path Holiday’s life took to her death from cirrhosis at the age of 44.
“Lady Day” plays at The Circle in the Square Theatre, a lovely club-like venue which is technically at 1633 Broadway, but the entrance is easier to find if you turn onto 51st Street and go toward the sign for “Wicked”. The run has been extended through August 10. Find a way to see this!
It’s been a great first week back in the city. Yes, we’ve been reminded that you don’t come to NYC for the weather – but you come here for absolutely everything else. We’re off to see another play tonight!
Today is the day we were supposed to celebrate Soho’s birthday party. Every other year all her nearest and dearest friends arrive laden with pizzle sticks and chew toys. We enjoy an incredible luncheon (thank you, Tammy Kronen Catering!) and drink champagne.
But we couldn’t get this party started.
The CE ended up on crutches, little Miss Soho ended up in a cone and, as of yesterday, I’ve ended up with eyes wide shut: a night in the ER and a weekend of enforced darkness to begin to heal from a nasty little thing on my cornea.
The good news? The CE has graduated from crutches to a modified boot; Soho’s only got another week in the cone; and at some point I will be able to open my eye again. Life is good, and we will party on at a later date!
It’s spring and I want baby chicks!
Given that we are rooster-less, we could mail-order some chicks or pick some up at the feed store. But we aren’t going to be here for the requisite eight to ten weeks required to hand-raise baby chicks and introduce them to my little flock of two, so all my hopes are pinned on Pippa or Luna going broody.
So I started researching the subject, wondering if it might be possible to convince them to work with my calendar.
Can you make a hen go broody?
The answers I found were
c) You can’t make a hen do anything
“Broody”, for the uninitiated, is state of extreme “baby fever”. In humans this manifests in women when they start keeping lists of “future baby names” and adopt a piercingly high-pitched voice when they encounter a child or small animal. (I terrified a few of our cats with this behavior back in the day…)
A broody hen becomes absolutely convinced that she is hatching a clutch of eggs. Never mind that she may be sitting on unfertilized eggs, or golf balls, or on absolutely nothing but pine shavings – she cannot be dissuaded from her certainty that she must sit on her nest for the twenty-one days it takes to hatch chicks. “Broodiness” has been bred out of many poultry breeds because it interferes mightily with egg production, but there are still breeds that can be reliably counted on to go broody, notably, Buff Orpingtons, Cochins and Silkies.
The broody will refuse to leave her nest and will decline to eat. Her body temperature will rise. She will puff up her feathers and adopt a threatening low-pitched “Back off!” vocalization so bizarre that it calls to mind an imminent zombie apocalypse. When our dear Hope went broody, she instinctively tore the feathers from her breast to allow for closer body contact with the eggs she thought she was hatching.
In Hope’s case, magical thinking ruled the day, as we obediently delivered some baby chicks to her one night in the wee hours, and by the time the sun rose, she was certain she had hatched them. And it was absolutely the easiest way to add to the flock, because Hope did every bit of the work and did it much better than we could have.
If you hand-raise chicks, you must feed them, clean up after them (not an inconsiderable task!), continually monitor their heat source, manage them as they grow for several weeks and then delicately introduce them to your existing flock who, by the way, may be more likely inclined to kill them than welcome them.
So a broody hen is the ticket for increasing a flock, and with just two hens, we are most definitely in need of an increase!
Even though our Luna is a Silkie and supposedly given to broodiness, she has never laid an egg and I believe she may be immune from thoughts of motherhood.
Which brings us to Pippa. Pippa went broody big-time last May. She is a Belgian Mille Fleur D’Uccle, a breed known for “occasionally” going broody. I am hoping that in her case, it is more than an occasional thing.
As a bantam, Pippa could only raise a maximum of three standard-size chicks, according to my research. At least that’s a start, right?
So could I make Pippa go broody? Some say yes. They claim that if you confine a hen in a small, darkened space for several days – a cat carrier or rabbit hutch covered with tar paper – she may go broody. Some people swear by it; I think of it as a bit of a Gitmo approach and, of course, with only two hens, isolating Pippa would leave little Luna all alone for the duration.
Others – and I believe most veteran flock keepers are in this camp – say you cannot force a hen to go broody – or to do anything else. I am inclined to agree. On any given day, I am late for appointments because I can’t convince the hens to come out of the coop or go into the coop or get out of my kitchen (!) or come out of the bushes. One of their favorite acts of civil disobedience is to stand placidly in front of my car, preening, while I honk the horn, trying – and failing – to get them to move out of the way.
And then there are the days when they docilely follow me around, cooing softly and begging to be picked up. That’s when I get baby fever. And I’m hoping that, come May, Pippa will, too!
I recently read about researchers at Duke University who have been busting brain cells to come up with an “invisibility cloak”. Well, an acoustic one, anyway. I don’t know how many sleepless nights they’ve spent calculating angles and sound waves but I do know that I could have saved them a lot of trouble.
You want to become invisible? I’ve got that covered: just be a woman and turn 50.
A recent New Zealand study of 2,000 women found that half over age 45 “felt ‘left on the shelf’ and judged negatively simply because of their age.” Actress Kristin Scott Thomas sums up the dubious rite of passage saying “Somehow, you just vanish.” Actress/author Annabelle Gurwitch, who has written a book about aging, claims she could easily get away with criminal activity “because as a woman over 50 in L.A., I’m invisible.”
For those of us who were never great beauties or in the public eye, it is admittedly easier. And hey, in some ways, 60 is actually the new 20, if judged by the mystifying parade of zits on my chin competing for attention with all my facial wrinkles. But, God’s honest truth, sometimes when I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I shake my head and fight the impulse to apologize to everyone I meet for showing this face in public. Is there any hope of bringing veils back into fashion?
The cover-up begins when you notice that your knees have somehow begun to look like knots in an ancient oak tree. And then the inexorable creep of crepe progresses – scarves to cover your neck, cap sleeves to cover your upper arms, then long sleeves to cover all of your arms. I get it; I’m happy to don a drop cloth if necessary so as not to offend.
But no one told me that all this time I should have been sitting on my hands. In a recent Wall Street Journal column, a reader queried fashion columnist Teri Agins as to best nail shades of “older” hands. Until now, I had no idea that showing my hands in public was a punishable offense.
I should have seen it coming. The gossip mills have been sniping away at Madonna for some time now about her hands. She has apparently nipped and tucked every other inch of her body but the ever-vigilant Daily Mail had a field day when they caught her sans the gloves she she has lately taken to wearing.
So this is where I put my foot – er, hand – down. Things have officially gone too far if I have to be ashamed of my hands. For one thing, I’m rather “attached” to them. Can’t exactly leave them at home. But it’s more than that. I look at these hands, wrinkles, furrows and all, and, dare I say it – I don’t hate them. I’ve held newborn babies in these hands. Once upon a time these hands wiped away tears, baked chocolate-chip cookies and planted daffodil bulbs. They applauded at countless school plays and waved aching goodbyes when my boys went away to college. Admittedly, these hands have written some bad poetry in their day, but they’ve also played some decent Chopin. True, my hands have never done anything heroic, but they have embroidered samplers, held a violin bow, tied countless pairs of children’s shoes and made interminable numbers of school lunches. And yes, those kids are all grown now, but the hands are not idle: there is still plenty of hand-wringing to be done!
So I give a thumbs-up to Ms. Agins for, while acknowledging that nude shades of polish avoid drawing attention to the hands, encouraging her reader to go ahead and wear “vibrant” shades if she wants. Permission granted for a show of hands!
As children, the adage went that we were to be seen and not heard. But women of a certain age apparently have to be careful even about being seen. I promise to go away when those Duke researchers perfect that “invisibility cloak”. But in the meantime, I’m going to reach for the red nail polish. These hands aren’t going down without a fight!
Have crutches, will travel. Two weeks into a two month gimp stint and the CE is not letting any grass grow beneath his RoboCop-booted foot.
The less intrepid might have canceled travel plans, but the CE forged ahead and off we went to Newport Beach last weekend. Lots of fun with the grandkids!
Baby Caleigh is sooo close to walking!
We found time to do just a little bit of shopping:
We grown-ups went out for dinner one night at the wildly popular Fig & Olive restaurant at Fashion Island. Amazing crostini!
Tina and John had a commitment to wig out the next night for the kids’ school auction gala so the CE and I enjoyed dinner that evening at the Pelican Grill. Lovely setting and great food.
On Sunday morning Tina and John introduced us to the Mariners church in Irvine. Wow! Now we know what a mega-church looks like!
That morning Senior Pastors Kenton and Laurie Beshore unveiled their “Fearless” campaign to “put radical generosity in action”. Mariners is doing good work locally and globally and it was exciting to be there that morning and to hear about their plans.
After church, we all went to brunch:
And then, for dinner, Evie and Viv came over to order up some room service at our hotel:
Back home for three days and then we re-packed to head down to LA. Had a lovely dinner Thursday night with a camera-shy Victoria (those darned spring allergies!) at the stylish WP24 restaurant atop the Ritz-Carlton in downtown LA.
John and Tina drove up yesterday from Newport Beach and took us to the Lakers-Wizards game last night at Staples Center. Amazing seats – it’s the closest I’ve sat to the basketball court since I was in high school!
So now we head home and unpack the suitcases…for a few weeks, at least.
Four years back and forth from NYC and we are still making discoveries.
I always try to get tickets to a show or two in advance of our visits. We have an entire drawer full of ticket stubs from Broadway and off-Broadway plays. This past trip, guessing (correctly) that the weather might be a factor, I looked for entertainment options close to home, and lucky for us, Lincoln Center is right in our back yard. And side yard, if you consider the treasure that is Jazz at Lincoln Center, with a beehive of venues located in the Time-Warner Center.
Among JALC’s many offerings is “American Songbook”, an inclusive catch-all heading for performers of country, rock, bluegrass and jazz. I perused the calendar and bought tickets to an upcoming performance by a young singer I’d never heard of and whose name I could not pronounce: one Aoife O’Donovan.
Turns out I’ve been living under some rock, musically, at least. Ms. O’Donovan (I looked her up and the pronunciation of her first name is more or less “Eef-ah”, I think) hails from Boston where she is a well-known performer, graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music, and has toured with various folk/alternative bluegrass groups including Crooked Still and Sometymes Why. Granted, those groups may not be household names, but this young woman’s arc seems to be ascending: her song “Lay My Burden Down” was recorded by Alison Krauss, and Ms. O’Donovan recently toured with Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion. According to her Wikipedia entry, she has had songs placed on the television shows True Blood and Private Practice.
It seems she has long been the real deal as far as her singer/songwriter credentials and now appears to be stepping forward into the spotlight as a performer.
We saw her at JALC’s Allen Room (recently re-christened Appel Room) where our “just something to do tonight” expectations rapidly changed to “best performance we’ve seen this trip”. O’Donovan was nothing short of enchanting! Polished and professional but not overly slick, she was shyly charming in her interactions with the audience and musically generous with her on-stage colleagues, who included brothers Colin and Eric Jacobsen and a transcendent Christina Courtin on viola and vocals. The spontaneity and energy and wonder and joy on that stage made me remember why live performance is such a gift in a world of downloads.
O’Donovan was earnest and winsome. She confided that a recent review had criticized her for smiling so much during her performance but the admonishment clearly had not led her to suppress her joy in performing. Some of the songs she sang catalogued grief, but her spirit was soaring. Maybe some of it was the magical setting of the Allen Room: the stage is backed by floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking a night-lit Columbus Circle.
My favorite song of her set was “Pretty Bird Fly”. She also performed Red & White & Blue & Gold, a country-leaning tune from her “Fossils” album, and a lovely tune called “Oh, Mama”.
It was her encore, however, that earned her a permanent place in my heart. Responding to warm applause at the end of her set, she returned to the stage and commented that a performance for what is called “American Songbook” wouldn’t be complete without something from (my favorite!) Joni Mitchell. Mitchell is Canadian, of course, but she crossed over to our border from Saskatchewan long, long ago. O’Donovan’s cover of “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” was fresh and original. Here is a YouTube clip of her singing it at a different performance:
O’Donovan currently lives in Brooklyn, so hopefully we will have other chances to see her performing around the city. We noticed that Steve Martin was in the audience that night – I’m crossing my fingers in hopes for a collaboration between the two!
Neither snow nor ice nor 10-degree temps could dampen our enthusiasm for our February visit to NYC.
But five little words took us down faster than the stock market plunge back in ’08.
Said the CE the morning after our arrival: “Something’s wrong with my foot.”
No, now it’s the OTHER foot. Same song, different verse. Or in the words of the iconic Dorothy Parker, WHAT FRESH HELL IS THIS?!!!
As it turns out, the CE’s Achilles heel is his posterior tibialis tendon. His ankles have always been weak; growing up in Minnesota, he was the only kid on the block who didn’t ice-skate. Lots and lots of ankle sprains through the decades. When he started running 30-40 miles a week back in the late ’70′s, “orthotics” was not yet a buzz word. Unbenknownst to the CE, he literally ran his feet flat and in the March of 2010, the posterior tibialis tendon in his right foot rolled up like a cheap window shade.
“It’s just a sprain”, he insisted, limping around on a bum foot.
“Uh, don’t sprains heal after three months?” I asked sometime in June.
Under the you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-till-it’s-gone category, the posterior tibialis is one of the most important tendons in the leg. Take a moment to thank your posterior tibialis every time you raise your foot to step forward. The total flexing capacity of a healthy PTT is only three quarters of an inch, but is is very, very important three quarters of an inch.
When the ignore-it-and-it-will-go-away method didn’t work, the CE found his way to Dr. Richard Ferkel who told him that his rupture was one of the worst he had ever seen, and he has seen a lot of them. The surgery took twice as long as was expected and the rehab and post-rehab has been long and arduous. The foot is still not 100%, but recent PT to increase strength and flexibility has been helpful.
So when we arrived NYC three weeks ago and the CE pointed to the swelling in his other foot, I knew we were cooked. Since I operate at about 20% capacity with my own confounded neuromuscular issues, most everything falls to the CE, and after decades of figurative and literal “heavy lifting” combined with a probable genetic tendinous fragility, the CE’s posterior tibialis has gone on strike and screeched our hobbling little lives to a complete halt.
An x-ray earlier this week upon our return to CA suggested that the tendon is not yet ruptured, but close to it. So the CE is back in a boot. With crutches. For at least a month and probably two. Complete immobilization of the foot in the hopes that the tendon will heal. Ice. Anti-inflammatories. Patience. And lots of prayer. Yours will be gratefully appreciated!
I know, I know, this too shall pass…