Sunday, June 23, 2013

NYC 2013: Day 3

Kitchenette, 156 Chambers St.

There is no place like it, no place with an atom of its glory, pride, and exultancy. It lays its hand upon a man's bowels; he grows drunk with ecstasy; he grows young and full of glory, he feels that he can never die. ~ Walt Whitman

The amazing thing about New York is that you can get lost here and nobody notices ... neither our bi-racial family nor J's androgynous looks garner much attention except occasionally from some obvious tourists.

R at Kitchenette
South of Chinatown in Tribeca is a great little diner called Kitchenette (pictured above at 156 Chambers St.) where we had breakfast - it has a real retro feel and the service is great. Wonderful breakfast at a fair price ...

We were waiting for J & S to come down from Long Island so we took a long leisurely stroll through City Hall Park and made it over the the site of the World Trade Centre. The site remains unfinished although there is a new sleek looking Freedom Tower now where the twin towers once stood.

Across the street is St. Paul's Chapel (209 Broadway), built in 1766, which with its tiny graveyard and simple unadorned structure inside has become a memorial for 911. The memorials are still intact ... the chapel was crowded - feeling more like a museum than a place of worship.

We went to Penn Station to pick up the offspring and girlfriend and made our way, by subway, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1000 Fifth Ave. at 82nd St.) to see the PUNK: Chaosto Couture exhibit. We walked through Central Park in a blistering heat ... the park was crowded and joyful with everyone enjoying the sunshine - sunbathing, playing baseball or basketball, riding bikes - to get to Fifth Avenue.

As dazzling as the Chaos to Couture exhibit was with dozens and dozens of vintage punk and punk-inspired couture designer clothes, I was a bit disappointed - I wanted to see a more varied mixture of media rather than just the clothes and very short clips of punk rockers performing that were projected on the wall.

We arrived there much later than I hoped and with half an hour to spare I was absolutely determined to see the painting Madame X (a portrait of Parisian socialite Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau) - I had tried in the past and was unable to find it on my first try a few years ago. This time, different Met staff members kept telling me the wrong info and floor to search for it. Then at 5.20p (the museum closes at 5.30p!) I found her! And she is every bit as beautiful in person as she is in print.

Virginie Amelie Avegno Gautreau
As old-fashioned a painter as John Singer Sargent may perceived to be today - largely a society painter of the wealthy and well connected in the late 19th c. - his work has a quality that draws me in. Gautreau's life story is melancholic, my favourite kind of story. Like all bad girls she was part Italian. I love the legend that when she was being painted her right strap fell down on her shoulder and she was painted that way (you may see a photo of the original painting here). When the painting was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1884, it caused a scandal and was deemed "immoral". Sargent repainted it (with the strap up) and held on to the painting for thirty years. He finally donated it to the Met in the early 20th c. He considered it his best work ... but it took many decades for general opinion to concur.

Gautreau came to regret the portrait as it caused a great deal of speculation about her morality (that dropped strap!) and she was rumourred to have had numerous affairs. But I finally got to spend five minutes with her and then was shooed away by the security guard.

We wanted to take J and S to a great Italian place called Luzzo's (211 1st Ave. between 12th & 13th St.) in Tribeca. The service was unexpectedly indifferent but the food delicious. Two of us ordered pizza, two of us ordered gnocchi - the portions were generous and the leftovers much savoured the next day.

We dropped the girls off at Penn Station just utterly exhausted from the heat (as they must have been) and returned to our hotel room to watch The Killing and Mad Men ...

Something happened during one of our many subway trips - I believe it was on the way to breakfast. We came across a homeless man sprawled across several seats, asleep. It was unpleasant for him (I'm sure) and distressing for the inhabitants of that subway car. People were crowded as far away from him as they could be. No one knows how to respond in these situations.

The amazing thing about New York is that you can get lost here and nobody notices ...

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