The title of this blog post comes from a line in The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West, which I just finished reading on the subway. He probably had no idea, writing his book in the 1930s, that those terms would be an essential part of the internet and appropriately anthropomorphize their users. You might remember I commented on the reading material of my fellow riders, and the NY Times is currently doing a survey and had an article about literary metro habits. I haven’t read any of the most popular underground books, but I have a few of them on my bookmooch list.
Last Thursday we attended the opening of two exhibits at Deitch Projects in SoHo. One was “Black Light” by Kehinde Wiley and had cool portraits of stylish men blending into just as stylish wallpaper. The other featured the above Auerglass two-person pump organ, where one player pumps the air for the notes of the other. The music was as pretty as the instrument and reminded me of some of the music from the Watchmen movie.
There is a “Holland on the Hudson” celebration going on around town commemorating the arrival of Henry Hudson and his Dutch ship in New York 400 years ago. On Friday, I visited the New Amsterdam Village at Bowling Green, which had a windmill, green house, and vendors. I sampled some Dutch cheese and listened to people complain about the quality of the Dutch pastries while watching the carving of wooden shoes.
That night, we went to a poetry reading in Tompkins Square that was part of the Howl Festival. It included a group improv reading of the Allen Ginsberg epic poem for which the festival is named. It’s the only time I’ve heard the entire poem read out loud outside of a recording of Ginsberg himself and it came across as a sort of religious chant through its many readers. “Howl” is one of my favorite works of literature and probably influenced me more than a little to be a writer when I first read it in high school. I came back to the festival the next day to see artists creating murals around the fence of Tompkins.
I recently learned that Bank of America cardholders can get into certain museums for free the first weekend of the month, so I used that awesome privilege to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Saturday. I spent some time reading by the Temple of Dendur and wandered through the collection. I’m still a little burned out on classical archeology after my week in Rome, but I liked the arrangement of the above busts.
I also really enjoyed the Oceania Room with its woodcarvings, masks, instruments, and sculptures. The tall objects in the right of this picture are slit gongs from Vanuatu and are some of the tallest freestanding instruments on earth. I wish they had performances in the gallery.
Another highlight was the Maelstrom installation by Roxy Paine on the Met’s roof. The tangle of stainless steel tree limbs is meant to make you feel like you’re in the middle of some natural chaos, although everyone seemed to be relaxing with a drink and admiring the skyline and view of Central Park.
That evening we went to watch the OU football game at a bar. Which, as you know if you follow college football, did not go well. At all. However, it eased some of my homesickness for Oklahoma to be in a place where everyone was wearing crimson and cream Oklahoma t-shirts and riveted by the game. I was almost surprised to be in Midtown Manhattan when we left instead of Campus Corner.
On Sunday, we walked through the Hudson River Park and then up to Columbia University, which has a gorgeous campus and tried to tempt me to graduate degrees and a life in academia. We also visited the beautiful Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which is one of the biggest cathedrals in the world and has a ceiling that seems to go on forever. An evening mass was taking place and we got to listen to choir and organ music fill its space.
Outside the cathedral is this Peace Fountain, which I thought was a depiction of hell until I read the plaque. I don’t really see how animals appearing to be sucked into a black hole represent peace, but I am not a visual artist.
I know it’s strange, but I’ve found the trash that litters the streets and subways to be interesting, and sometimes as disturbing as the Peace Fountain, as with the above newspaper. And it seems I’m not the only one, as this artist is charging $50 for a box of NYC trash that includes the ubiquitous metro cards, maps, concert fliers, and coffee containers. Another genius sells pigeon feathers from around town. I remember that my friends in France commented on the fact that I took pictures of things they see all the time and think are normal and not worth pictures. I told them that I did the same thing even at home, because it’s the things you see every day that you want to remember.
On Labor Day we had a picnic on the Great Lawn in Central Park and yesterday I volunteered at a thrift shop that’s raising money to combat homelessness and AIDS. Today I visited the Green Market in Union Square and took about twenty photographs of this praying mantis I saw near my apartment. Maybe one will turn out and I’ll post it here.