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Showing posts from March, 2011

Capote, Taylor, Warhol, Williams

Truman Capote, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, and Tennessee Williams were not only giants of their respective fields, but their mutual friendships inspired some of their greatest works. As a young artist in New York, Warhol idolized Capote, modeling his path to fame on the writer's own journey to celebrity. Taylor, who passed away last week at the age of 79, just days before the 100th anniversary of the birth of playwright Williams, brought four of his dramatic characters to life on screen.

After Williams died in 1983, Capote penned an article for Playboy titled "Remembering Tennessee," illustrated with a Warhol portrait. This coming May, Warhol's "Liz #5," a rare beauty, goes up for auction, expected to bring in at least $20 million. These friends constituted a mutual appreciation society of high accomplishment and fame. Only the others could really understand what that level of fame was like. What follows is a list of selected intersections between two …

A Walk to Macy's Flower Show

Strolling from Washington Square Park to Macy's in Herald Square makes for a short but entertaining walk, filled with window-shopping, excellent eateries, expensive shops, cheap bargains, breathtaking architecture, historic parks, hotels, and pedestrian-friendly places. That is, if you walk via University Place to Broadway and then up to Herald Square. (A map follows.) There much to do, and no wonder these streets are often crowded.



Macy's Flower Show opened Sunday, offering a chance for those of us who simply cannot wait for spring blossoms to go someplace where they are already in full bloom. The day was chilly but brilliant, one with translucent blue skies. It was one of those days where the wind had blown away any stagnate air, so that the skies seemed to confer perfect vision. The sun was strong enough to draw people outside to dine on the sidewalk or to take their time with window-shopping.



The old stretch of Ladies Mile between Union Square and Madison Square, once the…

New York Scenes in the Life and Death of Tennessee Williams

March 26 is the birthday of American playwright Tennessee Williams, whose centennial we are celebrating all year. As anyone who has followed the life and work of the playwright of The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and many other famous plays, the author was a restless soul, never content to stay in any one place. But New York was the home of the theater, and so his work brought him here. And New York is where he died. Here are a few notes on Tennessee Williams's life and fitful relationship with the city, taken from biographies and letters, arranged as scenes. Imagine them set to music.

Scene One
In July 1928, when he was 17, Thomas "Tom" Lanier Williams (born March 26, 1911 in Columbus, Miss.) stopped in New York City on his way to Europe with a church group led by his grandfather, Reverend W. E. Dakin. The two stayed at the Biltmore Hotel, a luxury hotel next to Grand Central Terminal. While in New York, the teenager and his grandfat…

On the Site of the Triangle Fire, 100 years Later

On March 25, 1911, a terrible fire killed 146 garment workers working inside the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Building at 23-29 Washington Place. At the time of the fire, the building housed a factory that made women's blouses and employed 600 workers, most of them immigrant women and many of them quite young.



They worked long shifts and were paid low wages. When the fatal fire broke out in the factory, seamstresses on the ninth floor found one staircase full of smoke and flames, and the other exit door was locked. Many jumped to their deaths. The shame of the working conditions revealed in the tragedy helped spur growth of the International Ladies' Garment Workers Union (now part of UNITE, Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees). Today, March 25, 2011, marks the 100th anniversary of the horrible event.

iPhone Apps for New York Culture On the Go

For those wanting to know more about the Met's exhibit on guitar craftsmen, the latest Public Art Fund's installation in Central Park, the history of the Flatiron Building, ticket availability for Wednesday's matinees on Broadway, or hear a favorite chamber music performance at Lincoln Center,  just pull out the smart phone. Yes, "there's an app for that," to quote Apple's now popular and trademarked phrase. Several New York institutions and publications have jumped on the mobile bandwagon by developing apps to supplement your culture on the go. Here are several worth downloading.

The links provided below connect to their iTunes previews. Prices listed for the apps, where applicable, are subject to change. A few of these apps are available for the iPad and iPod touch, as well as other operating systems including Android.

•  Asian Art New York
This monthly guide by Asian Art Newspaper to Asian and Islamic art in galleries, auction houses and museums, sear…

Moon River

Johnny Mercer wrote the lyrics for "Moon River," the song from 1961 that won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The song belonged to Breakfast at Tiffany's, the film version of Truman Capote's novella. Mercer and composer Henry Mancini tailored the song for Audrey Hepburn, the actress playing the lead role of Holly Golightly, the Texas girl who fled her roots in poverty to make a new life for herself in New York City. The song about "two drifters off to see the world" has only nine lines, but Mercer's poetic river reverie aches with a longing for a better future.





The lyrics of the song reveal a self-conscious awareness that dreams can be broken, but the dreamer also asserts the determination to make it. In this respect, "Moon River" may be seen as part of the tradition of New York songs that comment on the willfulness it takes to become successful in the big city. Kander & Ebb's "New York, New York" and the Jay-Z and

The Long Green Line: Pictures from the St. Patrick's Day Parade, New York City

See also this updated 2012 post -Walks for the Weekend: A Great Day for the Irish.

Prepare for an extra dose of green.

While New York's St. Patricks' Day Parade was shortened a few blocks this year, ending at 79th Street instead of the area north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as has been the custom, it seemed to take longer than usual. Several marching bands and legions of proud Irish were still marching up Fifth Avenue at 5 p.m.





The weather on Thursday brought a hint of spring green, right on cue. It often feels like New York owns the seasons, with spring not allowed to officially commence until the sons and daughters of Ireland hit the streets of the city.

The New York of Augustus Saint-Gaudens

As we're celebrating all things Irish on St. Patrick's Day, it's time to take note of the contributions of Irish-Americans to New York City's culture. While the list is long, here's an artist of note. While walking along 2nd Avenue between E. 19th and E. 20th Streets be sure to check out the fancy gate on the east side of the avenue. The playground is named after the Irish-American sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the Gilded Age creator of the Admiral Farragut Monument in Madison Square Park, the golden Sherman monument in Grand Army Plaza, and the Peter Cooper Monument in Cooper Square. His well-crafted works are known for their balance between realism and a heightened emotional expression.


Born in Dublin to an Irish mother and French father (hence the last name), Augustus was raised in New York City after his family immigrated. He was just a baby. The growing adolescent showed great skill in the arts, apprenticing to a cameo cutter while taking classe…

25 Great Things to Do in San Antonio

This fast-growing cosmopolitan city encompasses a great number of natural, culinary, historical, and artistic attractions. Several can be explored along the River Walk or clustered in other areas of the city. Here are 25 favorites.

1. The Alamo. Begin with the shrine at the center of Texas history. San Antonio is celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo (read WOTBA's account) with events all year. Watch living history reenactors demonstrate how people lived, fought, and worked in the Texas of 1836.

2. The San Antonio River Walk. Stroll the historic walk along the San Antonio River and enjoy restaurants, shops, and music. Read about the major expansion of the historic downtown River Walk.

3. Tower of the Americas. This 750-foot-tall signature feature of the San Antonio skyline, built for HemisFair '68, is open for great views, dining, drinks, and even a 4-D theater show.

4. Menger Bar at the Menger Hotel is where Theodore Roosevelt recruited his Rough Riders…

In San Antonio: Stories of Remembrance and Reclamation, Part II: Reclaiming the River

Anyone who has visited San Antonio, Texas over the past sixty years or so would no doubt be familiar with the city's lovely River Walk (Paseo del Rio), but for those who have not made it back to the Alamo City in the last couple of years may be in for an awakening. The existing River Walk, the popular and lushly landscaped feature that is lined with restaurants, shops, and hotels, and importantly tames the downtown section of the San Antonio River, has undergone a major $384 million expansion project. To the north, a $72 million project called the Museum Reach opened in May of 2009, adding 1.33 miles of art and historical-themed landscaping to connect downtown with the San Antonio Museum of Art and the now repurposed Pearl Brewery complex. To the south, an even more ambitious project is underway, the Mission Reach, a stretch of the river that not only will meander all the way down to the city's historic missions but also reclaim the river itself. It's an urban planner'…

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 64 - 70

And thus concludes this 10-week series, created on January 1 as a New Year's resolution. The initial idea was to walk a couple of miles each day for 70 days and take a picture along the way. While I entertained an expectation that the walks would lead to some weight loss, the main impetus was to get out of the apartment and have something of an adventure, not necessarily dramatic, every day of the week.

I had no idea on January 1, of course, that the winter weather in New York this season would turn out so cold and snowy, with the snowiest January on record. When we weren't having a blizzard, we often had cold winds. Conditions often made it hard to motivate myself to get out and walk. Sometimes, I would walk in circles close to my neighborhood so I could get back inside quickly. On several days in the worst weather, I fell short of the 2.5 mile goal. I sometimes felt defeated.


It was fun for me to walk at least a few days in my home state of Texas. Warm weather with sunny ski…

In San Antonio: Stories of Remembrance and Reclamation

Part I. Remembering the Alamo. March 6, 2011, 6 a.m. The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of the Alamo, a multi-day event held in downtown San Antonio near the iconic shrine that symbolizes the historic siege, culminated in a solemn pre-sunrise ceremony on the clear and cool Texas morning of March 6, 2011. In the early morning darkness, hundreds of visitors, some direct descendants of the fort's defenders, gathered around the re-enactors as announcers memorialized the last moments of the fallen. Men representing Travis, Crockett, and Bowie resembled their movie counterparts, at least in costume details, but the ceremony, too, asked those who had gathered to remember all those who died - several women, many of Texian-Mexican descent, their children, the slain soldiers of the Mexican army under President General Antonio López de Santa Anna, and others now lost to history. Piercing the cool quiet morning was the shockingly loud sound of musket fire, awakening the …

Pictures from 70 Days of Walks: Days 57 - 63

It's been a week of long strolls in two cities. Plenty of great food, diverse urban landscapes, two Alamos, and many tourists. More in the coming week on San Antonio and its relevance to New York, so consider this just a teaser. This is the second to final installment in a series that began January 1, 2011.




A Tale of Two Alamos

Photo below from Wednesday, March 2, 2011 5:13 p.m. "Alamo," (1967) a sculpture by Tony Rosenthal (1914-2009), Astor Place, New York, New York. Rosenthal said that his European-born wife, having read a lot of American history, started talking about the Battle of the Alamo and told him that he should name this sculpture "Alamo." He said OK. Many people just call it the "Cube." (Source of story - this video interview with the artist on The Hamptons website.)


Photo below from Thursday, March 3, 2011 4:04 p.m. (CST) The Mission San Antonio de Valero, San Antonio, Texas. The story of how the building came to be known as the Alamo remains vague. Some contend that the Alamo refers to the company of soldiers once garrisoned there. Others talk of the Alamo as the Spanish word for the cottonwood tree, prominent in the area. The name grew in popular acceptance in the few years prior to the Battle of the Alamo (February 23 - March 6, 1836). The battle took place 175 …

At The Skyscraper Museum: Vertical Urban Factory

According to the instructive exhibition, Vertical Urban Factory, on exhibit through June at The Skyscraper Museum, thousands of factories and hundreds of thousands of factory workers once kept New York City humming to the sound of machines. In our day, those numbers have considerably dwindled. The enormous shift from a roaring manufacturing city that made, shaped, or assembled material goods to a high-tech city that creates and manipulates symbols constitutes one of those most important undercurrents in the contemporary life of the city.

Tall buildings that once housed teams of workers running integrated factories now accommodate fashion designers, artists, public relations professionals, and digital entrepreneurs. As factory production shifts overseas, most notably to China where urbanization is hurrying along at breakneck speed, New Yorkers must explore the possibilities of creating new types of sustainable industry within the city. Vertical Urban Factory, curated by architectural h…