Thursday, May 3, 2012

Post-card from Manhattan April 2012

New York April 2012 - postcard back home …

Our yearly pilgrimage to New York was as pain-free as possible with United Airlines looking after us yet again. It was a little stressful arriving at a new building even though it is in the same area as we normally stay. The doorman was actually waiting on the footpath outside the Fitzgerald Building: “Are you Mister Byrne?” as we pulled up about 9pm. The apartment is larger and far better appointed than our old lodgings. It is also bright and sunny with an outlook down Broadway towards Columbus Circle as well as a sliver of the Hudson River down 74th Street.

The Metropolitan Museum has several special exhibits at present including a pre-dynastic Egyptian collection (my favourite period) and one of late Byzantine and early Islamic art (600 to 800AD). Both were fascinating with many objects of interest and carefully worded explanatory notes in each room.

Our musical schedule started on day three with the New York Philharmonic doing Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony and Mozart’s 9th piano concerto at Avery Fisher Hall with Maestro Blomstedt. We had splendid front row centre seats almost underneath the piano … we feel very privileged to just drop in from nowhere and be looked after like royalty, largely because we booked so long ago I suspect.

Next we had La Traviata at the Met on Saturday night, the second outing of this opera in a month, having seen it Sydney on a pontoon on the harbour (but that is another story - see my opera blog). Unfortunately at the Met performance the soprano Natalie Dessay expired at the end of Act I rather than Act III - and was replaced by the understudy. Dmitri Hvorostovsky was the star as Papa Germont, infusing dramatic intensity with glorious vocalising. The ‘clock’ production was avant garde and eclectic. I saw another more satisfactory Met Traviata performance the following week with Ms Dessay in better voice.

An early spring had sprung just before we got here. Cherry trees were still covered with blossoms but herbage was fast outstripping the blooms. Forsythia was finished and not a single yellow flower was to be seen around the boundaries of Central Park. Likewise the snowdrops, magnolias and daffodils were well and truly finished but tulips were in full bloom in formal gardens all over the city for our arrival in the city. A full circle of the larger variety in yellow and red ‘flame’ tulips surrounded the statue of Verdi next to 72nd Street Station.

We had a box of grog delivered from our favourite shop on lower Broadway near Astor Place. The ‘Liquor Warehouse’ has wine and spirits at prices which are less than duty-free shops and a huge range. French wine is much cheaper in New York than in Australia so we ordered three bottles of Sancerre, three of Muscadet and a bottle of Sicilian red wine for cooking. Just because we were on holiday I asked the owner for a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne. Ever the comic, he said: “Do Australians still drink ‘Agent Orange’?” He also had various stories about wine down the ages, whisky and even Irish whiskey, my personal favourite being Jameson green label (or the gold label which can only be obtained in America).

The Manhattan apartment is very classy compared with the previous one we stayed in. There is a large separate bedroom with a dining room and large lounge and three large windows facing south (where the sun comes from in the northern hemisphere). Despite being above Broadway, the eleventh floor is quiet and we are right across the road from Fairways the provisioner and Zabars is only a few blocks north. The owner was apparently responsible for one of the great box office disasters in Hollywood history. “Ishtar” was set on location in Morocco with Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. There is history everywhere in this city!

Meeting at VA Fort Hamilton on Friday went well and I had the privilege of meeting some old Vietnam soldiers and airmen with various ailments. Beth Israel Medical Center kindly invited me to address their Leadership Meeting on Wednesday 25th and I also met with a leading expert on buprenorphine. The Thursday saw the start of the Ring operas with Rheingold, a single act lasting two and a half hours!

As we walked home after dinner one evening we just ran into a larger than life ‘Elmo’ from Sesame Street just walking down the road. He had a ridiculous red hairy suit, huge languid eyes and an orange drip nose (see photograph).

On Friday 27th April 2012 we were treated to a bird’s eye view of the original space shuttle atop a NASA jumbo jet being ferried from Washington to JFK to then be floated to a museum - yet another sign of America’s previous greatness.

More anon!  Greetings to all from New York.

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