Monday, February 18, 2013

A Windy Day

So most of the snow has melted, and the skies were clear and bright today. But the wind!  It was below freezing, and the wind itself was certainly making it feel colder. We had a big agenda today, and did most of it, but it was a struggle, as always, to get up when the alarm rang. Paul had finished an artilce and I had finished the introduction to a special issue of a journal, and we were up late to send them off.

Joel made breakfast with the astonishingly rich and juicy blackberries we are eating in the middle of winter; and we headed out. We rode the subway down to 86th, then walked across Central Park, just south of the Jacqueline Onassis reservoir. Lots of folks running the circuit. I've found it is possible ot run, even when there is snow lining the track, but your hands, ears and face do get very cold. Running in the cold wind would have been pretty nasty on the lungs, I would think.

We were at the Guggenheim by 10.30. I'd seen the name Kandinsky advertised, but in fact this was just a tiny exhibition off the side, of his work between 1911 and 1913. The rest was the work of the post-war Japanese collective, Gutai: some wonderfully inventive works. And what an amazingly beautiful building it is. As you walk down and around, it's amazing to think how much space and light there is around each work. I couldn't help wondering whether the little inner wall would meet modern health and safety standards: it felt just a little low and easy to fall over...  But one of the great things about exhibitions here is that you just go in, start at one end of the spiral and move at your own pace, but in the one direction. So in a group, you don't have to keep checking where the others are: they are either ahead of you or behind...

We then walked back over to Lexington and got the subway down to Astor Place, then walked through Washington Square to the Blue Note jazz cafe for brunch, with a sextet from the Juilliard school. Joel recognised the bass player as having toured Australia with Terence Blanchard last year; and the pianist, Jahann Sweet, is someone he has seen on YouTube. Not a great lunch, but washed down with a mimosa, and some really nice playing, all around the music of Charles Mingus.

After this we headed out into the wind again, and walked quite a few blocks over to Roosevelt Park, where we had read there were some Chinese New Year festivities on; and indeed, we caught the last stages of a procession, complete with long dragons, lions, lots of floats sponsored by community groups, fire twirlers, martial arts demonstrations, and some dancing girls, wearing high heels, very short sparkled blue and silver costumes, long plaits and tassels. Over the parade, people were letting off little crackers, and tossing bunches of little sparkles and streamers. As we walked away, we saw a couple of the dancing girls, their cheerful smiles fading to grimaces and tears as they succumbed to the bitter cold and wind. We also saw a little puddle in the road, filled with coloured tissues, streamers, foils and fragments of colour.

Feeling pretty confident of my navigational skills, even though my phone had run out of battery and we had no map, we wandered back through Little Italy, looking for a decent cup of coffee and a little cafe. Lots of restaurants, but we eventually found a little cafe where we shared a couple of canoli and I had a goodly strong coffee. It takes ages, every time you sit down or get up again, to put on or take off coats, scarves, gloves and hats. But it's worth having all this stuff on when you head off out into the wind again. We were going to head up to the Strand, and again, I was navigating us ok, but then I found the NYU bookshop and I nipped in to pick up Carolyn Dinshaw's How Soon Is Now, which is essential reading for the last chapter of the book I am writing with Tom, who will be here in just over a week. So the writing goes on. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Wintry Mix

We've been here nearly a week now, and have settled into a little routine. We have to set the alarm or we would sleep in through the dark and quiet. We make the coffee, experiment with different cereals, and then struggle with the tiny shower and compare methods of avoiding the cling of the plastic shower curtain....  Paul and I head to the computers and check the night's emails before getting to work. It's been a bit slow, but the introduction to my special issue of Exemplaria is coming along nicely now. I'm planning to finish it in a few days, if possible. Joel reads, or explores youtube on the ipad, or plays piano, and sometimes heads out for a walk with the new camera.

After lunch some or all of us head out for another walk or an expedition. On Wednesday I went down to NYU with Joel and picked up my ID card, which means I can browse the library's terrific online holdings from home, if I don't want to spend the day in the library. We also wandered over to Little Italy and found a terrible cappuccino and a magnificent canoli in a little cafe. Most nights we are heading out to hear some jazz. The last two times, at the Dizzy's at the Lincoln Centre, and at the Blue Note, you get just the one set while you eat an average pub-style dinner. But the music has been excellent. It's great having a piano in the apartment. When Joel feels inspired after the previous evening's concert, he plays well and freely. But it's a bit clangy, and needs a tune, and he says it makes playing scales and doing technical work rather difficult. That's the story, anyway.

Today the news is full of the impending storm. It's already started snowing, and they are threatening up to eight inches by this time tomorrow. But before then, it's the "wintry mix" of snow, sleet and rain. By Sunday it will be sunny and bright. It's hard to know how it will affect what we do today. We were planning to go to MOMA this afternoon as it's free admission after 4.00 on Friday. We'll see how that goes.  Right now, back to my intro.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

The First Day

The day kind of started at 4.30 this morning: the jetlagged brain leaps into action and has to be forcibly restrained with slow deep breathing and sheer determination to keep the eyes closed and the body horizontal. I was still awake, I think, around 6.00 but the next thing I knew Joel was knocking on the door saying it was 12.30.

The flight over was very smooth, though Qantas is now clearly economising on food and luxuries. I missed my chamomile tea... But what is normally the worst part of the flight — sitting bolt upright, desperate with twitchy aching legs on a domestic connection from LAX across to the east coast — is much easier and faster when it's done in a big 747. Travelling with family is so much easier than travelling on your own. Who cares if a son or partner climbs over you in the middle of the night? Not me. And can you leave your bags in the airport when you go to the loo? Yes you can!

Our apartment here, which we found through sabbaticalhomes.com, is fabulous. Up on 108th and Broadway, the streets are much quieter than the theatre district where we stayed in 2009. We have a small bedroom, a small bathroom and small kitchen, but a decent sized loungeroom and separate study. There are three desks for working at. And there is an upright piano. Our landlord is a guitarist and music professor. It's also spotlessly clean. I will sort out photos soon, I hope. We're up on the second floor, and the apartment is an L-shape, built around central courtyards and inlets. Not a huge amount of natural light, but it's warm and cosy. It's good being in a place with books and music.

We are also travelling with a friend who's with us for a few days, visiting her daughter who's here on exchange but who has become quite unwell. So our joys are tempered by concern for this other family.

The three of us have just walked down Riverside Park for thirty blocks. I love that we can walk uninterrupted by the traffic lights at the end of every block, and I can see myself running there (with hat, gloves, and long pants, of course). We walked about thirty blocks, then stopped for black bean soup and quesadillas, before Paul and I came back, walking along Broadway, to meet our landlord's friend and pick up the second key. Joel is off wandering on his own, re-orienting himself.

It's now 4.30 pm, and I think we might now head out again, to get the last of the afternoon light and do some shopping for food: apparently the markets around here are pretty good. I have borrowed Robyn's fabulous coat; I have a fleecy hat my mother made me years ago; I have fleecy gloves I bought in New York in 2005; and I have a lambswool scarf I bought in Edinburgh in 2000. It's 29º or -2º. Not too windy; no rain; no snow. So with the right gear, it's nothing but bracingly pleasant.

Here's our building:http://streeteasy.com/nyc/building/the-manchester

I'll see if I can link to googlemaps to show where we are:
http://maps.google.com.au/maps?q=255+W+108th+St,+New+York,+10025,+United+States&hl=en&ll=40.795358,-73.961935&spn=0.042041,0.057421&geocode=FQOabgIdClqX-w&hnear=255+W+108th+St,+New+York,+10025,+United+States&t=m&z=14: