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Today I didn’t go to work, having set apart this day–the sixth anniversary of my dear husband’s death–as a day out of the usual calendar, to spend as I choose. And for the sixth time, I traveled the path to the cemetery, winding through the city on beautiful streets now brilliant with new leaf and blossom. The Rock Creek Cemetery is a lovely place, green and peaceful, filled with monuments to the beloved dead. There is a place left in his grave for me, a space on the stone to carve my name.
I left my flowers, wept my tears, and returned home.

And on the way home, I thought of how he enriched my life, how the music I listen to and the movies I watch are thanks to his technology, how whatever expertise in various computer programs I may have is thanks to him–I would never have won my current job without his having shown me the right way to use Word.
Darling Lawrence.
After his memorial a friend came up to me and said she grieved for me–but I should never forget that I had found love, true wonderful love. She never had–her husband had been a cheat and a liar, and she had never remarried.
And yes, I am grateful for wonderful time of happiness I was lucky enough to have.
But wish…just wish…well, there it is.

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Pirates and Happy Dust

Well, dear friends–this has been a week of cultural experience! I am now recovering from overstimulation with a healing Dark and Stormy.

1) I have just returned from YET ANOTHER FINE BALLET SHOW, Le Corsaire –and I’m sure you’re biting your nails with anxiety to hear all about it! I must admit that during the frantic applause and loud cheering that ended the show I found myself thinking NEVER AGAIN. The stupid is very strong in this one, and so much of that cursed miming– I had to stop myself from groaning.
But this was the Mariinsky Ballet, and oh my, the dancing is really really fine. One ballet blogger explained the show’s enduring popularity by the fact that “the whole ballet is just a 2 1/2 hour-long choreographed dance-off.” Truly, the astonishing leaps and turns, not to mention the gorgeous acrobatic flexibility and strength of those beautiful dancers made me gasp.

But, that said, GOOD LORD, this show is about girls being sold as slaves, rescued by Brave Corsairs (=pirates), captured again, and then rescued again. LOTS of scenes with those lascivious Turks drooling over the ladies, who obligingly do their charming dances to show how sad they are about being slaves. Including one number where they do a fetching number while BOUND TOGETHER WITH HEAVY ROPES. Oh those KRAZY Russians! The guys wear costumes of an effeminacy that makes the eyes to open wide. These are brave men.
The story is (loosely) based on the poem by Byron.
I think from now on my tickets will be for ballets choreographed in this century.

2) On Thursday I saw a more modest production, a partially staged version of Porgy and Bess–the stage was filled with the orchestra, and the singers acted in front of them with a very few props. I LOVE this show, every song is beautiful. a masterpiece of melody. The show was at the Strathmore, a beautiful concert hall with brilliant acoustics. The singers were unnecessarily miked, and they were dumpy and their costumes were drab–but I have loved this show all my life, and it brought tears to my eyes. The story is grim and it does not end happy, but the music is filled with joy and no one can hear it without rapture. At least, I can’t! And did you know that Gershwin’s will stated that the opera could not be staged except with an all-black cast? Gershwin, our American genius, felled by cancer when he was only 39.
The audience at this show was all ancient, the halt and the lame–I have never seen so many canes and walkers. Perhaps because it was a Thursday night? Perhaps because the parking is free at the Strathmore? I hope it’s not because younger people don’t love Gershwin.
Here is a link to a La Scala production clip; some of these singers were singing at the Strathmore on Thursday.
But just find a recording and listen to it–you will love it, I promise.

The tender spring and suddenly blooming trees electrified the city–everyone rushed out to see and be seen. And so the traffic was astonishingly vile, and I was almost late for the show at the Kennedy Center. But not!
This was the New York City Ballet, gamely slogging on despite ghastly scandal and lawsuits–a story of truly vile behavior that really, I don’t want to hear any more about. Depressing, deeply distasteful. The worst offenders were fired, though had they been politicians instead of dancers the punishments would surely have been more severe.

Peter Martins was beautiful as a god when he was a young dancer. But he was not a good man.
In ANY case, the company was in town, and I went to see them. They did a collection of dances, and displayed a pleasing athletic grace, and some stunning lifts and leaps.

1. Easy, set to Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs, by Leonard Bernstein
This is a Sneaker Ballet, the lads and lasses in soft shoes and bright pink/yellow/blue outfits. Fun, rather!

2. In The Night, set to various beloved Chopin preludes
The traditional ballet, 3 couples, 3 lovely duets, and I will admit that I dozed a teensy bit in the first couple’s dance, resumed sentience in the 2nd, and was completely exhilarated by the 3rd–OH MY! Such excitement, such swirling skirts, such thrilling lifts! The lady wore a black skirt with red petticoats underneath, and when her partner swept her into the air there was such a heady billow of tulle!

3. The Runaway, set to music by Nico Muhley, Kanye West, Jay-Z, and James Blake
Well, well, rather loud, but not disagreeable. These are world class dancers, and they can do all the moves. But the costumes were NOT becoming. The inspiration was sort of Black and White Japanese Anime, and some were quite witty. But–BLOOMERS! ON THE MEN! With large black NECK FRILLS! These are the fittest, most comely men in the world–but even they looked silly in these dreadful outfits.

4. Something to Dance About, set to various Broadway musical tunes
This gave us the Jerome Robbins dance routines we know and love, with a lady singing the songs on the stage, while the dancers whirled and twined around her. An homage to the the man, with everyone on stage venerating his image at the finale.

But you know what–he is worthy of such praise.

The traffic on the drive home continued horrid. But such a lovely day, it didn’t bother me.

Today I celebrate the change of the seasons! I have done Three Significant Things to mark the passing from winter to spring:
1. I threw off the plump winter quilt and reverently laid on the bed my charming summer quilt.

2. I removed and discarded the old brush head on my toothbrush, replacing it with a fresh new one.*

3. I replaced the shamefully grimy filter in my heating/AC system, replacing it with a snow white unsullied one.*

And then I set off to drive about and see the cherry trees, whose lovely pale pink blooms float like clouds in every neighborhood, set off by the valiant forsythia, shining brilliantly yellow in every corner. Spring, the sweet spring, the year’s pleasant king!

*Note that accepted advice in these matters recommends a more frequent change in both these items. But one need not be a SLAVE to society’s expectations for heaven’s sake.

My little drugstore vial of face paint finally sputtered its last bit of magic juice, and so off I went to replenish my store. However, I simply could not manage to match the colors on sale with the color of my skin, and I thought–what about all those bedizened harpies lurking at the makeup counters in department stores? Surely one of them could solve the problem.
Prudently first checking online to ascertain which brand was the thriftiest (=Clinique) I made my way to Lord and Taylor’s, the Old Lady Store in my neighborhood. The make up counters are the first thing you see upon opening the doors to that place, and I found one of the harpies loitering about. I boldly begged her assistance in my quest, indicating that Clinique was my choice.
Ah, that was not her department! She dealt in Chanel, wouldn’t I like a little Chanel? At, quite literally, THREE TIMES THE PRICE.
Actually no, I wouldn’t.
So she sighed and started rifling through the Clinique samples, opened a bottle and poured a vast splodge into her hand, grabbed a paintbrush and daubed it on my face. I was a little taken aback–my usual technique is to dab a bit of the stuff on with my fingertips–but gamely said I’d take it.
As we were engaging in this business, a customer came up asking for some particular Chanel moistening agent. My harpy sadly replied that it was Out of Stock. OH NO, said the lady–when would it come in? Maybe Wednesday was the response. The lady was in despair. I thought, what, Amazon doesn’t carry Chanel? But politely kept my mouth shut.
Then it was time to purchase my paint–and lordie lordie, it took forever, she just couldn’t find it– well, finally she found something almost but not quite the same color.
WHATever, close enough.
My patience in department stores is brief, very very brief.
So I took the precious little bag and went home, thinking: I will buy online next time.
Now that I know the color.
Or at least, close enough to the color.

Three Shows

My entertainment portfolio this week has been mostly frivolous, as usual. But, as I may have said before (OH not more than a hundred times, Hope), the best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them.

1)

Bride for Rent: a Philippine Rom-Com
You may well CRINGE. But the young man was so very beautiful–

and the grandmother is the star! So how could I not love it! The lad must get married so that he can receive the money from his trust fund. Adorable shenanigans ensue. His wise grandmother sees that the silly–but completely lovable and decent–girl he’s hired to pretend to be his bride is really WORTHY, not to mention her completely lovable and decent family. And, of course the young people fall in love eventually. Believable? No. Sort of fun? Yes.

2) Happy New Year: a Bollywood vehicle for Shah Rukh Khan, that silly charmer
OK, this one is something of a shamer. There is really no excuse for watching this kind of thing. But SRK is such fun! He is a street fighter, there was a betrayal, and now he must DANCE.

Lots of striding forward with his shirt opened down the front, displaying a VERY impressive set of abdominal muscles. Plus whirling about with lovely girl who also has an admirable torso. He and his team go about their business with great energy, and fun is had.
OK, on to next much worthier show:

3) La Rondine, by Puccini
The music from this wonderful opera has been singing in my mind all week. I LOVE this show. Yes, there is the heart-of-gold courtesan and her enraptured lover , ignorant of her sordid job–but also, there is the cynical poet in love with the lady’s maid, and the lady’s maid, so whimsical, so filled with passion! Oh my, this story is irresistible and the music is simply lovely. Here is Renee Fleming singing the Bel Sogno di Doretta, the take away song of the opera–but there are so many others. I have the Metropolitan Opera video, set in the Gay Paree of the 1920’s, with everyone dressed in very fetching frocks and suits as they frolic amidst those elaborate sets.

Here are the characters at a table in a Wild Paris Nightclub. That’s Magda on the right, in disguise as an innocent girl, instead of the TAINTED KEPT WOMAN she actually is. The tenor adores her! Bliss! They rush off to the Riviera! But when he ardently tells her that his parents have written to bless their marriage, she breaks his heart (and her own) by leaving him weeping on the floor of their love shack and going back with her Sugar Daddy. Because he must not marry a soiled creature like herself.
And really, he couldn’t afford her.

I am getting old, dear friends, and it takes a day or so to recover from the excitement of a family party –well, well, it included dinner for 11 including my darling grandson, and even in my days of strength that was a catering feat. And in those days I didn’t have a demanding job! But I cooked up the viands for my dear family, and it was a lovely evening.

And the next day the lad, his mother and I went to the ZOO!
It turned out that we were not the only ones with this splendid idea, and the place was teeming.
First, the Great Apes House.
I had forgotten the sorrow and shame one feels at seeing these creatures imprisoned, shambling about behind bars. One of the gorillas seemed pleased with his toys, and that lightened our hearts a little.
But the orangutans! They leaned over, in attitudes of complete despair.

We left that place, but my grandson could not bear it. He wanted to go back, to make sure they were OK. He refused to continue our promenade, and had to be firmly strapped into his stroller. He was inconsolable, and we had to promise to return to the orangutans after the elephants. Of course, he couldn’t help but be charmed by the elephants, those huge peaceful beasts, radiating such calm dignity.
So then we returned to the Great Apes House, and were relieved to find that the orangutans had been given their lunch and were now looking fairly genial, supping on tiny green peas and other fare, seeming to accept their fate with a good will.
A quick visit to the lions and tigers gave us a thrill, and then we went home.
They left the next day and off I went to work: I had to pick up 3 visas from the Chinese Consulate, and submit the forms for 2 more.
It turns out that Monday is a BAD DAY for this sort of thing. The place was even more crowded than the zoo, and MUCH smaller. I was there for FOUR HOURS. The worst moment was when my first number was called, to pick up the 3 visas. At last! I rushed over to the window, handed the lady my 3 pink slips, and opened my back pack for my wallet .
Which was not there.
Sigh. Left it in the bag I took to the zoo. I am an IDIOT.
So, fine, sat down to wait for the visa application lady. Four hours, as I said, and when I finally confronted the lady with my meticulously completed forms and documents she said–BUT NO, we can’t do this, these people are from other places where they have other consulates.
GACK.
However, I made the noises of distress, and she looked again at the VERY OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS OF INVITATION. And said, I will ask my manager. Who apparently said YES, because she came back smiling, and gave me the precious pink slips, and tomorrow we will get all the visas and send them off to our travelers.
Who are leaving Friday.
So that’s OK!

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