Winter clung to April last Saturday, bringing cold air and rain to the city. This combined with my exhaustion from the long Friday, however, did not keep me from enjoying my weekend. I’d heard that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden was free if you arrived before noon on Saturday, so I battled bad train service and finally made it there in time.
I came specifically to see the cherry blossoms, and was not disappointed by the four rows of beautiful pink flowers. The trees were all in peak bloom, their colors bright and gorgeous even with the cloudy weather. I read that the Brooklyn Botanic Garden has the biggest and most diverse collection of cherry trees outside of Japan, and I would love to go back when the petals have fallen and covered the ground in pink.
I was just wandering down to the end of the trees, when I happened to see one of my friends and his visiting family. Perhaps the magic of the cherry blossoms increases the odds of coincidences? I’ve mentioned before how I enjoy running into people. It makes New York feel more like a home than a massive, scary, unconquerable city.
I toured the rest of the botanical garden with my friend and his family, stopping by the lovely Japanese garden. I was watching the koi fish attack a huge piece of bread, when I noticed someone was cradling a Pleo like a child. That’s right, someone brought their $350 robot Camarasaurus to visit the garden as if it were a sentient being. It was “asleep,” and its “owners” prodded it to “wake it up,” which made it suddenly thrash its neck around and open its blue eyes with a realness that was startling. I was totally staring, so the couple who “owned” the Pleo said that they’d bought it after their kids moved out. How would you feel if your parents replaced you with a robot dinosaur?
We continued our visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden with a tour through the greenhouses, starting with the bonsais. I tried to raise several bonsais when I was younger, all of them dying horrible, shriveled deaths. I’m jealous of anyone who can cultivate the delicate miniature trees. I guess for the rest of us there should be robot bonsais. There were also three greenhouses that had three different climates and one that had water plants.
There was also a colorful row of tulips blooming, which was surprising because I thought their time had come and gone. I guess there are late bloomers in every species. There were several types of tulips I’d never seen before, although I guess I’m not the expert. One had a double bloom and some others had colors like dipped Easter eggs.
From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, we walked to Grand Army Plaza where there was a concert being put on by the ASPCA in front of the library. I bought an almond croissant and focaccia bread at the Greenmarket and then walked to Atlantic Pacific and got the train to the Upper East Side. I ate my delicious baked goods in Central Park, and then met Elizabeth and her parents in front of the Frick Museum. We then walked over to the Whitney Museum of American Art to see the Whitney Biennial.
I had been to the Whitney Biennial when I visited New York in 2008, but had found it unimpressive. However, I really enjoyed this year’s exhibit. I don’t know if maybe I was still in a really good mood from the cherry blossoms or the dog friend I had met in the park while eating lunch, but most of the art just really engaged me. We started the 2010 Whitney Biennial at the top, where there were pieces collected from previous years. I especially liked a work from one of my favorite artists, Cy Twombly, that was from his blackboard painting period. Then we continued downstairs to the current artists. There were several pieces that really stuck in my mind, starting with the huge fabric installation by Piotr Uklański that begins one of the floors. It’s hard to tell from the photograph, but in person it has a great tactile presence. I was also amazed by the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s art ambulance, with its love/hate monologue to America along with videos projected on the front window while its light mournfully flashes. I thought Pae White’s huge painting of cigarette smoke was riveting. I was really surprised that I found a lot to like in the video art section, which can sometimes be migraine-inducing. Ari Marcopoulos’ video of two young guys making crazy noises with distortion pedals was the noisiest piece there, but really interesting in its adolescent aggression, and I was both amused and disturbed by Josephine Meckseper’s video made in the Mall of America. However, my favorite was the diptych video piece by Kerry Tribe, featuring the case study of H.M., the man who lost his ability to create new long term memories after a brain surgery. I found it hard to tear myself away from it, but I knew my friends were waiting down in the gift shop.
We got much needed coffees at a little bakery, and then Eszter and I went down to the World Financial Center to see a free production of Hamlet. It was a fun production, because not only was it in an unusual space, taking place in what is basically an office building and food court, but it moved all through the building. Scenes were acted out in front of escalators and rows of mall-like palm trees. Others were more haunting, with the construction equipment at the World Trade Center site lit up out the windows in the dark. The actors were behind and in front of the audience, sometimes even in it. The acting was pretty entertaining, and the guy who played Hamlet definitely made the character the most insane as I’ve ever seen him.
After the play, we went to Williamsburg for falafel and then had drinks at the Barcade, where we also played some quarter video games. I was a little tired and was not able to get a high score as I have in the past with the Qbert game, but it was still fun. When Nintendo 64 gets old enough to be kitsch, I’ll just get high scores on GoldenEye multiplayer instead.