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Showing posts from April, 2010

Free Verse, Love and Greenwich Village - Where Poetry Burns At Both Ends

April is National Poetry Month, and before the month is over, I thought I would write a few words about some of the well-known poets who have lived or consumed alcohol or engaged in sexual encounters in Greenwich Village. I realize now that the entry would be too vast for one blog post. A tradition of poetry in the neighborhood extends back to the nineteenth century, with Edgar Allan Poe thinking dark thoughts on Amity St. (now W. 3rd.), but the poets really started the migration to these charming streets around 1910, the time when the bohemian self-awareness and identity associated with the neighborhood begins to blossom. It proved to be a large flower.

One of the poets who resided in the Village in the early twentieth century was Edwin Arlington Robinson, the son of a wealthy lumber merchant in Maine. He moved to New York in 1896, having decided on a life of poetry, taking jobs just to get him by. At one point he worked on the IRT subway line. Often in the doldrums, he took to drink…

At the Tribeca Film Festival: "My Trip to Al-Qaeda" (It's Like a Movie)

After writing his 2006 book about the origins of Islamic fundamentalism, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, journalist Lawrence Wright penned a one-man stage play, "My Trip to Al-Qaeda," to explore questions and moral dilemmas he encountered in the process. The film directed by Alex Gibney, and which is receiving its world premiere at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, is adapted from the play that opened off-Broadway in March of 2007. The stage action, now translated to the motion picture, is properly opened up to include film interviews, news footage, and location shots from many places important to the story – degrading Egyptian prisons, the stunningly beautiful Afghanistan, Saudi Arabian streets, and of course, and horrifically, New York City, with footage of the bombing of the World Trade Center. At the center of the documentary is Wright, a journalist who adheres to the traditions and tenets of objective journalism but who is not always comfortable with …

Respite: On the Grounds of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery

Strolling along Stuyvesant Street to the grounds of St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery at its intersection with E. 10th Street and 2nd Avenue connects the walker in the city to those who passed this way a long time ago, the inhabitants of Dutch New York. This land once belonged to Pieter Stuyvesant, the Governor of New Amsterdam, who purchased the farm (or bowery) from the Dutch East India Company in 1661. The Second Dutch Reformed Church stood once here where the current church stands. The 17th century Dutch would not have been familiar with the term for the present neighborhood - the "East Village," that name only coming into prominence in the 1960s.


Pieter's great grandson, Petrus Stuyvesant, donated the land to the Episcopal Church in 1793, with the stipulation that a new chapel should be erected here. Daniel Tompkins, the fourth Governor of New York and U.S. Vice-President under James Monroe, is interred on the grounds along with other members of the church. The st…

New York, New York Films at the 9th Tribeca Film Festival

(Note - For information about the films of the 10th Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, read this post.)

The 9th Tribeca Film Festival begins Wednesday, April 21, and while no doubt the scope of the festival now reaches around the world, highlighting creative filmmaking everywhere, several festival selections this year maintain the Tribeca Fest's original ties to the neighborhood and to the city. As always, the city can provide compelling subject matter. A disgraced governor, creative avant-garde filmmakers, the designer Halston, salsa dancers, a writer in search of Al-Qaeda, and Joan Rivers are just a few of the subjects of documentaries in this year's festival selections. Narrative New York-centered feature films include several comedies, dramas, or a combination of both, many set against the backdrop of contemporary Greenwich Village, Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, and other locations in the city. The programs of short films at Tribeca also feature vivid portraits of New York life, …

Strolling Notes: Restaurants, Cafes, and Walk-Ups (With Dog-Friendly Advice)

• While drive-in windows are standard in the car culture beyond New York, more walk-up windows would be welcome for food-friendly and dog-friendly pedestrian New Yorkers. According to NYC offleash, there are 1.4 million dogs living in New York City. 

For those walking dogs in the Villages, NoHo, SoHo, and NoLita, I am scouting all the good hangouts where we can take our dogs and drink coffee at the same time. A truly civilized society should accommodate people with their dogs, especially when al fresco dining or drinking coffee is concerned. In a recent post on Petrosino Square, I mentioned the convenient walk-up window at La Esquina, a Mexican restaurant near Lafayette and Kenmare, as a good place to order quality tacos and then sit down in the newly-renovated square. My dog seems more than happy with this excursion, but she has also become a fan of Little Veselka, an outdoor kiosk in First Park at the convergence of E. 1st St., E. Houston, and 1st Avenue run by the parent restauran…

Under the High Line: A Guide to Art, Food, Cars, and Theology

In its first year of operation, the High Line, the elevated rail line repurposed as a walking trail, has become a successful and popular attraction, opening up new vistas and ways of seeing the city. Visitors to the city now add the trail to their itineraries. Our new well-designed urban path on high - and most everyone mentions the great design, with its hint of the old tracks, novel seating areas, etc. - is even a practical means of strolling from the West Village and the Meatpacking District to Chelsea and vice versa. So, its popularity begs the question - as more people take to walking through the area via the High Line, what's happening around and below the High Line?

Like with the Bowery, a street and neighborhood with an old history born under an elevated rail line (long gone now), 10th Avenue finds itself in transition, but something like in reverse. Now, the High Line gives the occasion, at least during its operating hours, to bypass walking the avenue and nearby streets…

Playing With the City: Antony Gormley's EVENT HORIZON

The lone figures stand up there along the rooftops and crevices of buildings that you've never quite seen before, until now - MetLife, the Flatiron, and lesser-known structures now new and suddenly fascinating, carving out their universal figures in space against the sky. These thirty-one life-size men fluctuate in meaning, like passing thoughts - as witnesses, sentinels, guardian angels (a little Wings of Desire, without the wings and trench coats), naked dudes (the artist's own body as model), or mute sightseeing guides to hint at famous architecture. The ones on the ground invite closer inspection. When I was checking out one of them yesterday, the one that stands facing south toward the Flatiron's famous curve, several people stopped to take a picture with him. Others drew closer, unafraid of how an inanimate and immovable man might react, and gave him - and it's most definitely a him, a gentle pat on the rear.

British sculptor Antony Gormley (1950-  ), a figurativ…

A Walk in the Village: 15 Captions for 15 Pictures of Trees