Happy: September 2005 Archives


I was up by the Central Park reservoir (the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir) yesterday. It was one of the last days of summer and I was anxious to find some sign of color or life other than the green monotone of the brush surrounding a body of water deliberately kept pretty sterile. As I peered over the fence, hoping to spot a flower or a duck, I spotted this slightly ragged, yet still rather natty gentleman standing on the rocks below.

Incidently, a low, elegant black-painted steel and iron fence now separates the reservoir from the busy jogging path which surrounds it. I checked when I got home and was surprised to find that it's been there two years, a huge improvement over the seven-foot chain-link horror most of us always associated with this underappreciated pond.

handsome, running fence


I was walking with Barry and some friends along 11th Avenue just above 24th Street when I spotted a birdhouse shape on the far side of a tree [by coincidence one of my most favorite trees in the entire city]. I went to investigate and discovered the entrance hole blocked by something constructed of wood and painted black. Concerned for any potential occupants, I poked the obstruction with the end of my umbrella and what looked like water flowed out of the perch/spigot below. The "water" turned out to be vodka.

I don't know this fairytale at all.





It was already early Saturday evening. We were walking down through Hudson River Park with a destination in mind, but we had started to assume that we would arrive too late to see the posthumous [performance?] of Robert Smithson's 1970 sculptural concept, "Floating Island", an homage to Manhattan and Olmsted's Central Park.

I stopped at the shore railing for a moment with my camera in order to capture a golden lining on the last clouds to witness a sun which had probably already set.

Then I caught up with Karen and Barry and we soon spotted downriver what the world had only seen as a child-like sketch until that afternoon: a little tugboat pulling a small barge along the shoreline, the barge filled with what looked like a chunk of landscape from the park itself, complete with shrubs, grass and boulders [the rocks borrowed from the park for the occasion].

The excellent skipper of the "Little Toot"-like tug had amazing control of his charges, and none of the spectators were disappointed, whether they stood on the shore or on the piers, as he passed by with his chunk of Manhattan in tow, then turned and passed again and again and again along the edges of both.

The three of us weren't even disappointed that we had forgotten about invitations to receptions which had promised food and drink. We had lingered too long among the temptations offered by Chelsea galleries that afternoon. By the time we arrived at the scene by the piers further downtown black-garbed, white-aproned caterers were emptying lots of unused bags of ice into the Hudson.

But the chase and the catch (here, the art, a delightful late-summer gift to the people of New York) was the thing, we reminded ourselves, especially if we couldn't picnic on the barge. It was now almost totally dark, so we crossed the highway and headed into the West Village to track down what turned out to be a fine dinner with excellent company.

One last thought: At what age did we first learn that most islands don't float?

I couldn't begin to say who's the prettiest

The caption supplied with the photo reads:

Bavarian herdsmen in traditional dresses drive their beasts on a road during the return of the cattle from the summer pastures in the mountains near the small town of Oberstaufen, southern Germany, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005. Cattle are returned to their owners after the summer grazing period.
When heard in the mountains, the cattle often out of sight, the sound of even one of those bells is absolutely sublime.

[image by Diether Endlicher for the Associated Press]

Robert Boyd Heaven's Little Helper (from the series Xanadu) 2005 video still (Manson Girls)

News flash! ArtCal now has pictures as well as information. Well, it is all about the visual arts, so offering some images along with direction only seemed [more than] appropriate.

Marking the unofficial end of summer, there are gazillions of art openings this week, and most of them are on Thursday (see "Opening Soon" on the home page). The site's convenient geographical and, in the case of Chelsea, even sub-geographical arrangement of listings will help all you fanatics find your way through the rich offerings. Press the print button and you're halfway there.

Maye we'll all bump into each other. Say hi.

[image of a "Featured Opening" from ArtCal]

A 'Gay Parade' gets under way in the French Quarter of New Orleans. as a determined handful of hurricane survivors vowed to keep the spirit of New Orleans alive. The official parade was postponed because of the arrival of Hurricane Katrina six days ago. [caption from AFP]

New Orleans has a better chance of surviving if New Orleaneans are there to keep it going. Nobody should even think of leaving it all up to FEMA. Agence France Presse shows us today a little bit of how it's going to happen.

NEW ORLEANS, United States (AFP) - Music, Mardi Gras beads, costumes and confetti returned to the French Quarter as a determined handful of hurricane survivors vowed to keep the spirit of New Orleans alive.

Decked out in a red polka-dot tutu and purple parasol, Candice Jamieson, marched through the city's eerie abandoned streets, rattling a tambourine.

"We're having a decadence parade," said the 21-year-old student, referring to the annual gay pride march, usually a massive and raucous affair that rivals the city's famed Mardi Gras festivities.

"We're trying to bring up everyone's morale," Jamieson said moments before reaching out to catch beads tossed by the only populated balcony in Royal street.

"It's usually a lot bigger," Georgia Walker, 53, called down as she tossed more beads.

. . . .

Asked whether he thought some people might consider the parade in poor taste given that hundreds of survivors remained stranded and that rescue workers were harvesting the bodies of storm victims from streets and flooded homes, [Michael Skidmore] said the city was in desperate need of a little joy amid the carnage.

"We're going to make life better, even if they laugh at us, we want them to laugh," he said as his grass skirt flapped in the breeze.

Dancing in the streets is a traditional way of honoring the dead in the region, explained Diana Stray Dog as she held a pole flying a huge American flag against her shoulder.

"In New Orleans we celebrate death. When people die we go in the streets and sing," she said, adding that she was marching to return some life to the battered city.

"Amid all the tears and all the sorrow we have a big heart and it's not going to die."

One of a number of places sheltering the life which continues in the city, in defiance of the authorities' orders to leave, is Molly's at the Market, described in better times by one fan as "Our favorite watering hole in the quarter, full of dropouts, queers, freaks, and phds. Oh yeah, and a fabulous juke box."

A patron spends the afternoon at Molly's at the Market, one of at least two bars in New Orleans' French Quarter that has remained open after Hurricane Katrina despite a lack of electricity and running water on September 4, 2005. Many residents of New Orleans who live in the few areas on high ground that escaped flood waters say they will defy official requests for them to abandon their homes. [caption from Reuters]

UPDATE: For more on the "tribes" of the French Quarter, see this AP story, the stuff of tomorrow's legends.

[top image by Robert Sullivan from AFP, second image by Shannon Stapleton from Reuters, both via Yahoo!]

the author's home, before the flood

I have a stack of neglected newspapers on my right as I sit here at my laptop looking at the staggering reports of human tragedy flowing in from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I saved yesterday's NYTimes "House & Home" section for later, mostly because of this article [with another, very different picture] which appeared at the top of the front page. A few minutes ago, while looking for something else, I saw it for the third time on Tyler Green's site.* I decided I had to read it now, and I'm glad I did. In the midst of so much reason for despair, the writer, Frederick Starr, recalls a community which has been all but destroyed this week, but he also offers some hope for its survival.

My home is there, a West Indian-style plantation house built in 1826, standing as an ancient relic amid a maze of wooden houses a century younger. Some are classic bungalows, but most are distinctly New Orleans building types, with fanciful names like shotguns and camelbacks. I watch as a neighbor is rescued from his rooftop. Dazed, he has emerged from his attic, wriggling through a hole he hacked in the roof, swooped up by a Guardsman on a swinging rope. He is safe. Scores of others aren't. Bodies float through the streets of the Ninth Ward. Presumably they are from the diverse group that inhabits this deepest-dyed old New Orleans neighborhood: poorer blacks and whites, Creoles of color and a sprinkling of artists.

My neighbor Miss Marie is also one of the lucky ones. Born on the ground floor of what is now my house, she is 81, residing in a shotgun house that her husband, now deceased, built 60 years ago. She has spent most of her life within a perimeter of barely 30 yards. Both her speech and her cooking were formed right there. A painted plaster statue of the Virgin has protected her through all previous storms. But this time she pleaded with my friend John White to take her as he left town. Satellite photos show the shadow of her roof beneath the filthy water. Her house is gone, but John saved her life, driving to Atlanta, sleeping on benches at rest stops.

. . . .

We are just beginning to appreciate the human disaster occurring in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Hundreds, maybe thousands, have already perished. Hundreds of thousands will lose their homes and all their worldly possessions. Untold numbers of businesses will close their doors, throwing huge numbers of people out of work. New Orleans, its population already in decline, now faces economic and social collapse.

It also faces the loss of some of America's most notable historic architecture. Maybe not in the French Quarter, which may emerge relatively intact, or the Garden District, which was spared most of the flooding. The dangers lie in neighborhoods like Tremé and Mid-City, which extend along Bayou Road toward Lake Pontchartrain and are rich in 18th- and 19th-century homes, shops, churches and social halls. They have been badly hit by the violent winds or torrents of water. And so have hundreds of other important buildings and vernacular structures throughout the city and across the breadth of South Louisiana and the Gulf Coast.

. . . .

Louisiana, especially South Louisiana, is a living archive of American social and cultural history, and not just in its buildings. In no other state is the proportion of people born and raised within its borders so high. As a consequence, they are something that is ever more rare in a homogenized and suburbanized America: the living bearers and transmitters of their own history and culture. Katrina, and those fateful levee breaks in New Orleans, put this all at risk.

. . . .

Now [my own house] is under water. If it survives at all, it will need massive rehabilitation. Just as likely, it will go the way of Miss Marie's house and of hundreds of other pieces of the region's heritage.

But I do not intend to give up easily. Why? Because I am absolutely convinced that New Orleanians will not allow their city to become a ghost town. And I intend to be part of the renewal that springs from this determination.

Go to Green's site, "Modern Art Notes," for regular updates on cultural loss in the Gulf area, and suggestions on how to help, along with very helpful links.

[image from the NYTimes]

This page is an archive of entries in the Happy category from September 2005.

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