Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Escaping the Cold

Last weekend, 

cooking when the power goes out

just no end to snow
    And after:     Quel weekend! "New York New York, a toddlin town, the Bronx is up and the Battery's down, the people ride in a hole in the ground..."

Yay! I'm finally have something "travelley" to write about again.  Not many travel posts lately, weather keeping me staying put. Enough with the mountains of snow that surround the house! Let us escape the mid-winter Maine blues and sloppyy igloos and travel (by car) to the Big Apple for a little, how you say, cultchah infusion. Specifically, the mindblowingly magic Matisse show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, (runs through next Sunday, 3/17, so hurry!) Mind you,  getting there was no picnic. What was predicted as "light rain and snow, no more than an inch" (pdp for New Englanders) developed into something of an unexpected whiteout from Portsmouth, NH all the way through Mass., beyond Boston all the way to the junction of 90 and 84. White knuckle driving, cars off the road, miles and hours of unplowed roadway.  Thank god P's an experienced snow driver, so there was that, but a few hairy moments for sure. We had one rather sketchy near miss that, unfortunately for the other guy, turned into a small spin of a disaster. (He failed to look before changing lanes.) But we made it to the wonderful Pod39 hotel by cocktail hour, but not before getting lost in Queens near La Guardia, finally managing to ooze our way onto the Queensboro bridge with the rest of the rush hour crowd (I'm a decent co pilot, after all) and land in Manhattan. It was actually kinda cool.

entrance to Grand central and what used to be PanAm bldg, now Snoopy's company
Note: they now have Euro style reloadable Metro tickets for the subway! no more tokens, so I guess I'll toss the ones I've been saving for years. Use them for I Ching maybe. Convenient, yes, but if you lose your card, you lose mo moneyStill, it was a little taste of the days in Seville and Paris.

You ask me,  Matisse is The Man, his work gets me where I live, and I've seen bloody little of it up close, so Saturday morning as I walked up Fifth to the museum (tickets bought in advance online) my heart was afflutter. It felt like I was actually headed to a meeting with the man himself, truly. Off season midwinter tourist travel is great: crowds are limited, even on weekends. As I wandered through the exhibit, reading the info posts, all studious and everything, like you do, I unexpectedly found myself in Matisse's large paintings of "Nice" (as in Nice, France), sudden tears filled my eyes as I confronted that gorgeous work, the view from his hotel window, overlooking the Sea, the palm trees, the classic swirl of wrought iron French railing a la fenetre. And the light! The color! Hysteria loomed. I actually thought for a moment I might lose it entirely, no tissue handy, so moved was I by it all. By the passion, the sheer intensity, that shone in the work. What a treat.

It's completely insane to think you can see anything of what the Met really has to offer in a day, so we  breezed through of a few other galleries, some of our faves. I was briefly taken with some Faberge eggs, (and don't we all wish we had one of those cunning little babies to get us though difficult times? Clearly the czars were onto something there).

faberge eggs: oo la la
Later we both wished we could have walked through the Matisse again, to calmly set it in our minds, as it were. But instead took a diagonal wander through Central Park on a warm, sunny day (is there anything more enchanting in the middle of a big city?), pausing to rest on a bench to people and doggie watch. Then off to – surprise! – pick up tickets for the opera that night. The Metropolitan at Lincoln Center. P's first time and my, oh, fourth maybe? We were to see (thanks for the tickets, T!) a rarely performed opera written by what ended up being a Puccini wannabe (not just my opinion), Francesca da Rimini.  After the third act (of four, and, mind you, the three intermissions were nearly as long as the opera acts themselves) we went outside and fell into conversation with a couple of opera buffs from the UK from whom  I learned this opera is in the versimo style. Think the new season of Dallas and you've got it just about right. I'm talkin overdone melo-drama. Although hardly mellow. Lots of fire and flutter and useless dialog that moves the story – loosely based on a bit from Dante's Inferno – forward not one iota.

the Met: shades of Moonstruck?
According to my program Puccini (who can do no wrong in my book) didn't think much of the librettist who was at the time (a hundred or so years ago) the big kahuna of the "Decadent Movement". And decadent it was, grand music and ridiculous lyrics that related to the music not a bit. A good deal of the performance P and I were in stitches – doing our best to muffle our hilarity and maintain proper decorum as the Italians in the  row ahead of us were cheering the whole shebang and the man next to me prattled on authoritatively about... whatever.  I don't know when I've had so much fun.  A blast to laugh that hard. Naughty fun.

Sunny day, central park looking north
We made some sweet discoveries over the weekend. Breakfast at the Central Cafe just across from the south entrance to Grand central was really good. Service excellent. Our weekend was literally made by friend Kate, manager of the wonderful Salvation Taco in the Pod 39 hotel. Don't let anyone tell you the rooms are tiny. They're super cool, clean, and comfortable. We stayed in swanky places in Rome that were smaller... altho pretty cool. It was a great time, meeting family and friends that feel like family, and a million thanks to Kate for the VIP treatment and gracious treats.

interior central cafe
upstairs @ Pod hotel, charmante!
Sunday we decided to hit the MOMA, haven't been there in decades, and an amazing show (sixth floor) depicting the birth and rise of Abstraction as it developed simultaneously in all the arts from 1905 or so to 1925. I thought I was fairly art knowledgeable until I saw that. We take abstraction for granted today, but where did it really begin? MOMA has it wired for you. It was one of the most thought provoking exhibits I've ever seen. And the free phones they give you to accompany your tour are most helpful.  The synergy amongst various creative types worldwide during that period was astounding, and it's documented brilliantly at the MOMA show in a giant world map of "like minds". Show runs through April 15 of this year. If you are near NY, don't miss it. It occurred to me later that period had a lot to do with the evolution of the 60s. Connected...

@ MOMA a work of hand-collected pollen

Lively eateries worthy of mention: The Breslin (best Caesar salad I've ever had) and the John Dory Oyster bar (I finally got to sample urchin roe, and fermet). And once more thanks to Kate and her buddies for making those evenings so special for us.

I didn't get to pick up my cheesecake on 8th ave. : ( Probably best since I got the first (in months) full length glimpse of my derriere in our hotel room.   Nothing walking the city all day wouldn't cure in time .. that is until I got the pastry shops wired.

New York New York,  so nice they named it twice!

a bientot

East River view from the excellent POD39 roof
til next time, up on the roof

post script: back home, it's rainy and cold out . No doubt one of those Fabere-zhay eggs would warm me up a bit....


  1. Matisse....Beautiful.....Loved it from afar...!!


    1. So happy to oblige, Tee! glad you're out there watching. will try to keep up! xoxo