Monday, April 19, 2010

Parading


Yesterday I walked from home into town, to save the $2.25 of course, and visited the Metropolitan Museum, where I am a member. Magnificent as the Met is I have not normally belonged, preferring to support several other institutions. However when the economy turned bad and my finances suffered I let those drop and the Met membership was a gift. The walk was about 9 miles with a stop for lunch at a nice cafe in Astoria, with a big production flash heavy web site, where I spent to much on coffee and a Pannini and desert. The girls there are as easy on the eyes as the break was easy on my feet. Frugality and fitness should always be so pleasant. Before reaching Astoria I had walked along Roosevelt Avenue for a while enjoying the medley of South Asian and Latin American businesses.

The walk across the 59th St. Bridge, only a tourist would call it the Queensboro, gives great views. These are slightly marred by the pedestrian/bike crossing being the old trolley lane that is on the North side of the bridge. The best views of lower Manhattan and the vista towards Brooklyn and the harbor would be had from the South side of the bridge but that passage is open to automobile traffic.

In the museum I spent some time looking for visiting items from Oberlin that are scattered around. The brochure gave thumbnail images of each piece and a map indicating locations but it was hard to locate them. Better signage to guide someone attempting to use this as a self guided tour would have helped. The guards were exceptionally polite. In addition I took another look at the Art Deco room with the glass panels from the SS Normandie, I offer my pics of them here for Marie Claude.


The image available from the wiki article on the Normandie is better.

My mother remembers as a little girl seeing a relative off who was traveling on the Normandie. The ship's loss, while undergoing conversion to a troop ship in WW-II, is one of those wounds, like the loss of Penn Station, that time inflicts on civilization and which can never be undone.

Finally I saw a temporary exhibit again of funerary statues from France entitled The Mourners. This is exceptional and I urge anyone who can to see these works from the Court of Burgandy. The individuality and humanity in these images is breathtaking and should give anyone pause to reflect on their prejudices about the perceptions of people in the Medieval age before the Renaissance and Enlightenment compared to our own. Unfortunately no photography was permitted there so I can only offer the superior images from this web site.

In town I caught the end of the Greek Independence Day Parade as I walked up 5th Avenue. In New York we have an excellent tradition of community parades. In other places these events have become rally points for confrontation between communities, as with the Ornge Day parades in Ulster. In New York the focus is diverted from displaying pride before and seeking to dominate rival communities to what may at first seem a more retrograde and class conscious approach that paradoxically works. Each group gets a day to parade not in the face of their rivals, which may seem democratic, but rather before their social betters, which seems positively feudal. The parades take place on 5th Avenue before the apartments of the rich and powerful. The sweaty ethnic masses get to march and blow horns and make noise. Some groups leave trash and vomit on the doorsteps of the wealthy and others do not. The aristocrats or "malefactors of great wealth" or society swells who inhabit the towers facing Central Park resist the temptation to pour boiling oil or slops out of their windows. Instead they abandon the city and head to their country homes. Bloody revolution is avoided. The Romans had a Saturnalia to relieve class tensions, the Japanese permit a salaryman to get drunk and tell off his boss, the English drove home the importance of social responsibility and duty to the community into their gentry so effectively that they got up and walked into the machine gun fire of the Somme. The French nobility treated their servants with undisguised contempt and lost their heads. In America we allow the people to parade.

2 comments:

stormcrow said...

For a couple of years when I was a teenager my father was the building super at 40 E. 84th St. just a block or two from the Met and I spent many happy hours there after school and on the weekend. In those days it was free to all, there were no lines or entry process, you just came through the front doors into that great entrance hall which somehow has remained in my memory as being always nearly empty of people. I can still see the bronze statue of Shiva at the top of the stairs.

One of my favorite places to wander was the hall in the American wing with all the colored glass from the 18th century. And equally wonderful was all the medieval woodwork and sculpture, which sent me uptown to the Cloisters looking for more.

But best of all was the great Rodin bronze called the Burghers of Calais, easily the most expressive piece of sculpture I've ever seen. Sometimes I'd spend an hour or more walking around it, half expecting to see one of the figures come to life.

The only thing that comes close to it was Michelangelo's Pieta, which I saw at the World's Fair in Flushing with my sixth grade class. There was a long wait on line for just a moment or two to file past it, but whether it was the lighting or the marble. or the genius of the craftsmanship, it seemed to breathe. My best friend Theresa and I were so impressed we ditched the rest of the group in order to stand on line for another hour and see it again. My mother was one of the chaperones and we caught hell for it afterwards, but it was worth it ;)

marymcl

stormcrow said...

For a couple of years when I was a teenager my father was the building super at 40 E. 84th St. just a block or two from the Met and I spent many happy hours there after school and on the weekend. In those days it was free to all, there were no lines or entry process, you just came through the front doors into that great entrance hall which somehow has remained in my memory as being always nearly empty of people. I can still see the bronze statue of Shiva at the top of the stairs.

One of my favorite places to wander was the hall in the American wing with all the colored glass from the 18th century. And equally wonderful was all the medieval woodwork and sculpture, which sent me uptown to the Cloisters looking for more.

But best of all was the great Rodin bronze called the Burghers of Calais, easily the most expressive piece of sculpture I've ever seen. Sometimes I'd spend an hour or more walking around it, half expecting to see one of the figures come to life.

The only thing that comes close to it was Michelangelo's Pieta, which I saw at the World's Fair in Flushing with my sixth grade class. There was a long wait on line for just a moment or two to file past it, but whether it was the lighting or the marble. or the genius of the craftsmanship, it seemed to breathe. My best friend Theresa and I were so impressed we ditched the rest of the group in order to stand on line for another hour and see it again. My mother was one of the chaperones and we caught hell for it afterwards, but it was worth it ;)

marymcl