Reprobate Red Line

Tuesday was an odd day–well, is it really odd when the Red Line does one of its super pratfalls during rush hour?
So let us say Tuesday featured a blow out performance by the Red Line, ably supported by my phone which –at a crucial moment–smugly told me it had encountered a battery situation and was now at…10 percent power.

See, I was calmly sitting at my ease on the train to work when horrid messages of failure and ghastly problems began to be heard. Stations in our path were closed, trains were single-tracking–and suddenly, the driver gave up completely and told us THIS TRAIN IS NOW OUT OF SERVICE, and we were all to out get. To add to the excitement, we were informed that trains were not running to the station where I get off.
Vast crowds of people milled about in the station, and no trains were coming or going.
I thought: I’ll go topside and get an Uber!
It turns out this was NOT a wise move because:

1) many other people had the same idea

2) it was FREEZING COLD outside

3) and my phone went into its little shtick

4) and the promised Uber finally cancelled (first charging me $14.97).

So, I went back down to the station, a train eventually came, I crammed myself into the sad mass of outraged commuters, and eventually got to work, an hour late.
I had at least managed to force my misbehaving phone to email the person whom I was meeting at 9 and set a later time.

But that evening I had a date with an old friend, in town for some conference. Naturally, we waited for one another in different parts of the establishment but fate relented and we had a long pleasant chat with many expensive glasses of wine.
Which he paid for, being a gallant soul.

And then on the train home, I ran into an acquaintance from ballet and we talked all the way to Friendship Heights.
So I have forgiven the Red Line. ONCE AGAIN.


Such a lovely day

Today was the kind of day angels enjoy in heaven, warm and bright with birds singing and everything in bloom. I saw a blue jay posing in the cherry blossoms, a cardinal on the fountain–and my grandson blew me kisses over the phone. I feel blessed.

​​Yesterday I joined my fellow antique citizens for a performance of Cosi fan Tutte (=EVERYONE does it) –a grand performance of Mozart’s fab opera as put on by the Met and delivered to our local movie theater, at a tiny fraction of the cost and vexation of seeing it in New York.
I don’t know why young people are not loving opera, but so it is. Perhaps opera will not end after my generation dies, but I must report that the audience at this event was nothing but whitehairs. And we staggered, clumped, and wheeled our way into the theater.
For this production, it was decided that Coney Island in the 1950’s would be a fun location for the action. Why? Well, opera producers get bored of those damn powdered wigs and gigantic petticoats, I suppose.
The music is completely beautiful–angelic harmonies, amazing singing, astonishing and miraculous. But I was somewhat shocked by the libretto–I am an old lady now, and not as forgiving as I was as a young woman.
The story is about 2 loving couples, under attack by an immoral older man, who persuades the 2 men to disguise themselves and tempt their beloved women to betray them, which they do, successfully. And thus, breaking their own hearts. I have seen reviews saying that Mozart was brilliantly confronting the limitations of the enlightenment, of a world based on reason. Here is what Despina, the star of the show, says:
What is love? Pleasure, convenience, taste, enjoyment, amusement, pastime, fun– it’s no longer love if it becomes a burden and instead of pleasure brings pain and torment.

But that is false, of course. Or at least, false for grown ups. Teenagers frantic for sex may so define love, but surely those more mature would not.
Love is more than sex.
Listening to that heavenly music, I thought, how could anyone believe such crap, despite the gorgeous singing, despite the elegant stage set, despite the charming freak show inhabitants–the snake charmer, the sword swallower, the dwarfs and giants, whose weary cynical faces figured so dramatically in each scene.

Yes, they said, the world is wicked, the world pays us to show how crazy it is—but, you know, the world is not completely crazy. And love is more than pleasure, convenience, taste, enjoyment, amusement, pastime, fun. And this was a mean spirited show, though the music is so wonderful, reminding us that music is how we honor god.

There was a comely youth in my Wednesday night ballet class–his aunt has been a fellow student of mine for many years. Her charming nephew is an apprentice with the New York City Ballet, at the Kennedy Center this week. So wonderful to see these shining stars leaping across our studio floor from time to time–miracles of grace and strength.
And today, I saw the NYC ballet, and there he was. His was a modest part, joining others to back up the brilliant premiere dancers of the company.
This show was all Jerome Robbins, his entertaining and engaging choreography to various composers–complicated and pleasing steps to interesting music. SO much more lovable than the Mark Morris of last week–so generous, so filled with joy!
The first piece was to music by Philip Glass, starting with Rubric-which ​had all the company striding across the stage, turning, striding, leaving, entering–and then beautiful couples, in matching pastel leotards, leaping up from the crowd, stretching, turning–and then the determined walkers striding across again, quick and fierce. And the couples appearing like visions above them. Facades, the next one, was against a dark blue background, a line of women dancers silhouetted across the back, doing quick rhythmic patterns, repeating and repeating, an uneasy feel to it, and then a beautiful couple sailed in front of them, perfect turns and lifts, exquisite. But the last one, to an excerpt of Akhnaten, was truly astonishing, such dancing! 6 men rush onto the stage, perfectly in tune with each other, running, twirling–and then 6 more men, and more, and then the women. Really riveting–a supremely moving spectacle of human achievement.

Then came Fancy Free–that absolutely adorable piece by Leonard Bernstein, the 3 sailors in New York, the pretty girls, the bar–and again, astonishing dancing.

The last piece was a more traditional one, Verdi’s 4 Seasons, with charming costumes and delightful dancing.

One of the men fell during his stunning solo as lord of Summer, and though he finished his act, he was not there for the grand bow at the end. I fear he may have severely damaged himself.

Ballet–so beautiful, so dangerous.

The Shape of Friday

​​Somehow in the very early morning I convinced myself that it was Saturday–and turned off the alarm clock, wakening at a luxurious 7:30 instead of 6. But while in the shower I suddenly realized that no, it was in fact FRIDAY, and so made haste to breakfast and catch the next bus. As I sat on the bench at the bus stop in the brilliant spring sunshine, I read a few emails. AH: there had been an electrical fire at my building, and power was out on the west side.
Now, my office is on the west side.
Should I not just go back home?
But there was the bus, and I thought I would just go in and see if maybe all was well.
It wasn’t–the place was dark, lit only by emergency lights.
So, I returned home and here I am.
This is not the Friday I expected.

Pan’s Labyrinth was a fascinating–and terrifying–movie, as I have mentioned many times before, dark and beautiful.
Guillermo del Toro’s new movie, Shape of Water, is equally dark and beautiful, an odd menacing fairy tale, set in some vision of 1960’s America. Ebert mentions the disagreeable aspect of using real events of that time as backdrops, and it’s true that they stand out blankly amid all the magical elements, but the charming love story of the lady and the beast is irresistible. SUCH a beast! A sort of lovely fish-lizard man, with astonishing powers, as we discover. PLUS, he is able to bring joy to Sally Hawkins, who is quite wonderful as the mute cleaning lady Elisa. How fine she was as the mom in Paddington! Though, the role I remember best was Anne Eliot in Persuasion. To watch her is to be entertained.
She illuminates this movie–which can use the light, MY it is dark, both physically and metaphorically. It ends with Elisa and her lizard love somehow escaping the terrible fate that had seemed inevitable. I like to think they lived happily ever after in Never Never Land, having little lizard-human babies.

Today I had tickets to the Mark Morris Dance company, at the Kennedy Center.
I am not a fan of Mark Morris, but I recognize that he has created some truly beautiful moves. I didn’t love his version of Nutcracker (“The Hard Nut”) but it always gets great reviews–other people love it.
This show, called Layla and Majnun, is based on an Azerbaijani opera that has roots in ancient Persian poetry– a sad tale of love lost.

This modern dance adaptation included the Silk Road musicians and famed Azerbaijani singers Alim Qasimov and his daughter Farghana Qasimova, performing on stage.
We heard the whole song cycle before the dancers came out. The music is impressive, dramatic and tragic, long held notes, quavers, odd chords.
Nice, but a little, well, LONG.
The translation was not inspiring:

“My soul is on fire because we are apart
I want to join my beloved…

Then more musicians and more singers came in, and the dancers.
The men wore long blue coats over loose white trousers, and the women wore singularly unattractive orange dresses. It happens that orange and blue is one of those combinations that I particularly dislike, but I earnestly strove to overcome this shaming prejudice.
The dancing is pleasingly symmetrical, with patterns emerging and repeated, handed back and forth between the men and women.

What was odd was how seldom a man and woman actually danced together–no duets here. Constantly, they would surge towards each other and then–pass by.
Morris explains:

“In Romeo and Juliet, the lovers have one night of fabulous teenage sex, and then they die, and that’s perfect. But this is beyond that. And that’s because God eludes them. In the end they drop their bodies and become pure spirit. It’s about infinity.”

Infinity is all very well, but I miss the duets. And, Romeo and Juliet (Macmillan’s choreography, to Prokofiev’s score) has the most beautiful duets in the world.

So, snow

A LOT of snow came falling from the sky today, but really, it is already melting, and one feels one could have left it where it lay–but after all, my ballet class has been cancelled and one needs some exercise. So I dutifully shoveled the walk and the driveway.
Yesterday le tout Washington kept an attentive eye of mild alarm on the heavens, waiting for this Winter Storm to blanket the city. Which it politely did not do until this morning, and now the sound of running water is to be heard everywhere, together with bird song. The birds know that it is spring and there are VERY important things to be done.
But the humans can’t help playing in the snow.

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