Archive for May, 2012
Last weekend’s NYC weather was glorious and we celebrated by heading up to the Bronx for opening day of The New York Botanical Garden’s “Monet’s Garden” exhibit. Faithful readers will recall that we visited the Garden a few years back for their floral homage to Emily Dickinson. The Monet exhibit is less ambitious and is mostly confined to the conservatory, but still worth the trip.
We arrived late in the morning and we were pleasantly surprised to see that there were no lines at the entry. After a quick lunch at the cafe, we proceeded to the Seasonal Walk, which is embroidered with blooms chosen by High Line genius Piet Oudolf and Jacqueline van der Kloet.
The conservatory is the Garden’s stunning centerpiece and was saved from demolition by Enid A. Haupt, a sister of Walter Annenberg. Called “the greatest patron American horticulture has ever known” by the Garden’s president. Haupt, who died in 2005 at the age of 99 (proof that gardening is good for the soul!) is a reminder of why it’s handy to keep the 1% around – it must cost buckets of money to keep that enormous Victorian greenhouse going.
I remember being dragged to flower shows as a child and loathing every interminable minute of the adults ooh-ing and ah-ing over this bloom and that, but having long since passed through the looking glass to oldster-land, touring the exhibit inside the conservatory was a delight.
We were at Giverny last fall and saw sunflowers instead of spring blooms, but even so, this exhibit was more a nod in Monet’s direction than a deja vu. You have to give them an E for Effort, however: they added the obligatory water lilies and koi to the Conservatory pond.
And, of course, la plus chose importante - the Japanese Bridge:
The exhibit will continue until October 21. A note of caution: if you go, know that you will have to arrange your return transportation in advance. For reasons that remain mysterious to us (and which we had plenty of time to ponder during our hour-and-a-half wait for a car to pick us up), taxis are no longer available at the Garden exit…and it’s a looonnnggg walk back to Manhattan from the Bronx!
Columbia’s university-wide Commencement ceremony brought together the 5,667 undergraduates of Columbia College, SEAS and Barnard College as well as those receiving advanced degrees. It was a sea of blue!
The weather initially threatened a sea of rain like the day before, but instead opted for a menu of muggy which was only intensified in the crush of 30,000 attendees all jostling for space. Welcome to New York!
Angie and Chris joined us and Taylor came up from WDC for the briefest of visits. Thanks for braving the crowds and the humidity, guys!
After an impressive array of awards and honorary degrees were presented, the business agenda of the Commencement ceremony called for the Deans of the respective departments to “beg” the college president to confer diplomas upon the graduation candidates. This was done with much humor and bravado, thankfully, because it takes a very long time to hear eighteen different supplicants plead the cause of their students.
In his keynote address, University President Lee C. Bollinger gave the graduates one particularly stirring bit of advice, which was to say “If you ever feel disconnected from a higher purpose, you must have the courage to change your life”.
Looking back over Daniel’s childhood, there are so many people who have strived to keep him connected to a higher purpose, and I am grateful to all of them. He has always been uplifted by his family – his grandmother, who keeps him well-supplied with sweet rolls; his brother who has served, often without knowing it, as a role model; his sisters, who have doted upon him from near and afar; aunts and uncle whose encouragement is present even when they can’t be.
Then there are the friends who have been Daniel’s extended family – Dave, Pamela, Kirk and almost-sisters, Alexandra and Victoria. There are the angels who helped us with the day-to-day and cheered Daniel along from elementary school through high school: Jessica, Holly, Carly, Liz, Julia and Teri. And the mentors along the way: Mrs. Morgan and the teachers at El Montecito Early School; swim coach Ira Klein; and Laguna Blanca teachers like Dr. Schmidt and Magistra, who shaped Daniel’s love of literature and the Classics. And Daniel’s legions of friends, who are too numerous to list, but long-time pals Hannah, Christian, Michele, Valerie, Giulie and Cory come to mind as do Columbia friends Chris, Jeff, Peter, Mary, Christina, Fan, Tiffany…the list goes on and on.
Of course, Daniel’s list might be different from mine, and the danger of listing anyone is to forget someone, but I know all these people - and more – have cared for Daniel through the years and helped make him the focused, grounded, impressive young man that he is today.
My wish for him as he leaves the classroom and enters the “real” world is to arm himself with the knowledge he has gained at CU; the encouragement of his teachers and mentors; the well-wishes of his family and friends; the unconditional love of his parents and the wisdom of Matthew 22:36-40. Look out world, here he comes!
“…If I can make it there,
You know I’m gonna make it just about anywhere
Come on, come through
New York, New York…”
Milestone. Transition. Endings. Beginnings.
And lots of tears! I think they were all mine.
I foolishly told someone a few weeks ago that I didn’t think graduations were such a big deal. I was temporarily insane.
Because when your baby graduates from college, it’s a Big Deal. For him and for us.
Daniel arrived on the scene almost twenty-two years ago and has delighted and astounded us from the beginning. Big brown eyes, blonde curls and those trademark eyelashes that he and his brother share. Our Sweet Bookie was the family caboose; the candle on the cake. You never quite expect the baby of the family to grow up, I guess, but as of this week he is a graduate of Columbia University and heading out into the world.
Well, for the moment, at least, heading from Broadway and 114th to Columbus Circle, where he will hold court for a few weeks before a trip to Europe with friends Christian and Peter. In August, he will start working for an ad agency in the city where he interned during his senior year.
The tears started as soon as I saw him in his cap and gown at Class Day on Tuesday morning. I’m not normally a big crier, but as he strode toward us, two decades of memories rushed forth and the waterworks came on in a big way. I remembered Daniel as a baby, so yummy you just wanted to eat him up. Daniel as a toddler, alternately clinging to my skirt and chasing after his big brother. Daniel, the student, always willing himself to do his best yet always modest about his accomplishments. Daniel the soccer player, gymnast, swimmer; surrounded at every turn by friends and more friends. Daniel the pianist, practicing for hours, weeks and months to perfect a Beethoven concerto. And now, Daniel the graduate, who quietly shared that oh, by the way, he earned straight A’s last semester and an A on his senior thesis.
Can this be the same little guy who said psoon for spoon and psider for spider? The same one who regaled family and friends with jokes like this one: Q: “Why did the cat climb the tree?” A: “Because he felt climb-y”. (You notice he hasn’t chosen a career in stand-up comedy…)
Between my tears and the pouring rain, Tuesday’s Class Day was a soggy one. Luckily, we were mostly under tents: the graduates in one in front of the stage and the families relegated to the side tents where they watched the ceremony on screens. You’re there but you aren’t there, yet I did manage to get this digital record of Daniel getting his graduation handshake:
All 1,024 graduates’ names were called, all the speakers had their say, and everyone was completely soaked by the time we had wandered in the rain to find our students. No one cared. These kids all worked incredibly hard to earn a place at Columbia and then they worked incredibly hard for the next four years for the privilege of wearing the blue caps and gowns with the crown insignia recalling Columbia’s origins as Kings College, founded in 1754.
We’re so proud of Daniel!
At Columbia U., one day of tears is not enough Next up: Commencement Day…
When we were last here in March, the trees were still bare. But when we awoke and opened the drapes our first morning here this trip, we were greeted by the lush, green canopy that is the spring/summer fashion in Central Park.
We were also greeted by the progress on the building across the way that towers over Central Park South. Well on its way toward its ultimate (and somewhat controversial) ninety stories of luxury residential space, One57 currently sticks out like a sore red thumb. Just in case you’re interested, word is that the One57 penthouse is available for a mere $110 million! (UPDATE: as this post went to press, the penthouse had apparently sold to a mystery buyer who paid somewhere between $90 -$100 million to live on the building’s 89th and 90th floor. I wonder if we could stop by to borrow a cup of sugar…)
We had some big fun in the Park on our first day in town when we walked over to watch grandson Thomas play baseball with his team, “The Slams”. Thomas is not quite seven, but it’s probably not too soon for the Yankees to start scouting him.
Bumpkins that we are, we marveled at the luck of these kids who get to learn the game at the Central Park ball fields. No wonder Thomas says baseball is his favorite sport – if he keeps making those runs, maybe he can buy that penthouse at One57!
A few days later, we celebrated Mothers Day with brunch at a restaurant overlooking the Park. It was a spectacularly beautiful day in NYC! We missed having Tina’s family and Taylor there to join us, but both sent gorgeous flowers – our apartment is like a garden this week!
After brunch we took a walk in the Park – along with what appeared to be most everyone else in the city. New Yorkers know how to enjoy good weather!
As always, loving our time in the city. Many thanks to Lori and family for holding down the fort back in CA!
In honor of Mothers Day, today we have an exclusive interview with Hope, a single mother of five adopted daughters.
Interviewer: Hope, thanks for joining us today. We understand you took on a real labor of love by adopting five little ones at one time!
Hope: Well, I’d been wanting children for quite awhile – it’s all I could think about!
I: Umm, children? But I don’t recall that you have a rooster in your coop?
Hope: Rooster? What’s a rooster?
I: Uh, well, let’s move on. What is your advice to mothers of young children?
Hope: Throw yourself into it like a – well, mother hen, while they’re little. Those babies came to me at 4 am one June morning, and by 7 am, every single one of them knew I was Mom. I kept them warm and dry. I stayed with them 24/7 – you know how it is when you’ve got little ones, you can’t even get to the bathroom, right? If I was offered treats, I just took them in my beak and gave them to the babies. When they’re little, you just have to give them 100% – they grow up so fast!
I: I see. So do they have any contact with their birth mother?
Hope: Birth mother! Hah! Some biddy on the East coast who put them in a box and mailed them? That’s not a mother, I’m their mother!
I: Point taken. So, are you a co-sleeping advocate?
Hope: It worked well when they were younger. I just fluffed myself around them and under they went. You can’t get too much closeness when they’re little. It can be a problem, though, when they’re older and they still want to sleep with you…
I: So tell us your views on parenting as they grow?
Hope: Well, you can’t coddle them forever. They’ve got to learn the ways of the world! I had them out in the yard foraging by the time they were three weeks old. They’ve got to be taught important things like which worms taste the best. Above all, they need to understand that the world is a dangerous place. There are always hawks overhead waiting to pounce!
I: I see that you managed to raise five daughters on your own without government assistance. How did you do it?
Hope: Me? Government assistance? Heavens, no. I have staff. I’ve got two rather dim humans who scurry about on my behalf. You know how hard it is to get good help, of course, but they’re serviceable and they mean well.
I: What about discipline? I hear those girls were unruly in their adolescence.
Hope: Indeed they were. I think it came from not having a father in the coop. But I did the best I could. You have to be no-nonsense when they get out of line and my personal strategy is a lot of chasing and pecking. If you peck their feet real good, they usually settle right down. And if not, I just whisper in their ears that they’re headed for the stew pot!
I: Thanks for that advice. I have to say it’s never occurred to me to peck my teenagers on the feet or threaten to turn them into dinner, but I’ll get right on that. So your girls are grown now, right? Are you an empty nester?
Hope: Empty nest? Me? Hah. With this economy? Until those jokers in Washington, D.C. get a clue I’m stuck with all five of them crowded into my two roost bars. I’d like to have more children but I’ve got these free-loading adult daughters everywhere I look.
I: More children?
H: Yes, I’ve been brooding on that for almost a week now. I’ve even taken a leave of absence from my egg-laying job while I think about it, day and night. I figure if I stay with it, those two idiot humans will finally catch on and bring me a few new babies.
I: But what about your girlish figure? Aren’t you worried about getting run down?
Hope: Friend, that’s why I’m shaped like a plus-sized bowling ball and proud of it. All this nonsense about being the skinniest is craziness. You’ve got all these women running around like chickens with their heads cut off trying to look like supermodels when all you really need in this world is good moms like me.
I: I can say Amen to that since I seem to be shaped more and more like a bowling ball these days, myself…
Hope: And one last thing – I want to wish every mom out there a Happy Mothers Day. There’s no harder or more important job in the world. And just remember – if they don’t treat you right tomorrow, there’s always the stew pot!
There is no more certain kiss of death than the New Year’s Resolution, is there?
You hang that fresh calendar on the wall and envision the New You in the New Year. Yeah, right. Three weeks later you’re back in the recliner with the Doritos and a Toblerone bar the size of a sledge hammer.
So I was smart this year. My only resolution for 2012 was to re-read Dante’s Inferno. What I didn’t realize was that it might take me the entire year to do it. I am a sad and sorry twelve cantos and seven circles into Hell, which is just slightly more than a third of the way through. Kind of helps me channel Dante, who, in Canto I, was “midway through the journey” of his life.
What is wrong here? Is it laziness? Lack of motivation? In my defense, I am slowed down by reading four translations at once. I’ve got a treasure-trove of Dante: the paperback Mandelbaum translation, the Thomas Bergin translation with illustrations by Leonard Baskin, the Charles Eliot Norton translation with Botticelli illustrations and the Hollander translation. Essentially, I’m reading four books at once, which simply quadruples the pleasures of Hell.
Each translation is a revelation unto itself, but the Hollander translation nails it every time. By far the most cogent and, dare I say, humorous, take on this cook’s tour of Hell, the Hollanders make the most sense and manage their subject with the greatest delicacy. Once of my favorite notes of theirs is their explanation of the parentage of the Minotaur in Canto XII:
“half man and half bull, conceived by the sexually venturesome Pasiphae (wife of Minos, king of Crete) with a bull, when she placed herself in a wooden replica of a cow in order to enjoy a bovine embrace” (italics mine)
Haha! And we think reality television is at the limit of human depravity!
The Hollanders seem to be content in obscurity, because, beyond the Dante Project at Princeton, which is apparently run by Dr. Hollander (he has to be a Ph.D., right?) I can’t find much yakkety-yak about them on the web. They are awesome, though. They use five words to everyone else’s ten and they make everything crystal clear, which is not all that easy when you’re traversing Hell. Hands down, the Hollander edition is your best choice for reading Dante. I read the Dorothy Sayres edition last time around and became rather attached to her, but I’m now 100% Team Hollander.
Other than Canto XI, which is a real snoozer, it has been a wild ride and I encourage all of you – yes, I know this is not summer beach reading, but it’s worth it! – to delve into Dante. Although I do recommend that you not approach it bass-ackwards like me: I have not yet read The Aeneid, which really should be a pre-requisite to The Divine Comedy. Go there first, and if you do, get the Fagles translation.
I have a lot of admiration for those poor high-schoolers who are speed-reading (or Spark-reading) their way through the Inferno while I laze around, reading a Canto here and there. I think I’ve just talked myself into picking up the pace. Canto XIII here I come…
May 4 is International Respect for Chickens Day. That’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T with some Aretha attitude, by the way. It’s your chance to make up for any transgressions you might have accumulated against our feathery friends. I suppose eating them might be at the top of the list, but the day was actually proclaimed back in 2005 by United Poultry Concerns to protest the bleakness of the lives of chickens in farming operations.
As it turns out, there are worse things than being eaten; a life packed into a cage with so many other birds that none of them can turn around is bleak, indeed. Not to mention the common practice of de-beaking followed by many poultry operations.
How can you help? Look for “pastured” labels on eggs. Cage-free means nothing in terms of crowding; simply that the mass of chickens are housed without cage bars around them. “Free-range” on a label means nothing either, sadly. A strip of earth may technically exist adjacent to a farming operation but the birds rarely, if ever, have access to it.
If you can find them, these are the labels that supposedly live up to their promise: “animal compassionate“, the label now used by Whole Foods, “free-farmed”, “certified humane” or “animal welfare-approved“.
“Natural”, “organic”, “grass-fed” and “grass-finished” are apparently useless labels. A “vegetarian” label on egg cartons is to be avoided. Chickens are NOT vegetarians, based upon the number of times Lucy has devoured the turkey from the CE’s Subway sandwich. In a perfect world, chickens are meant to forage for bugs and worms, flap their wings, dance the conga if they’re in the mood and dream sweet dreams on an uncrowded roost bar at night.
Buy accordingly, or stop by our house for some eggs.