Still so much in love with NYC there is hardly time to blog. Of course, I am doing some work as well: have just finalised a book proposal for the medievalism book; and have also been reading PhD drafts and writing references. But Paul is away in Canada for a few days, so I'm doing things with Joel in the afternoons too.
The night we got back from DC, we had dinner with a friend down in the NYU-owned apartments in Washington Square. We spent Monday at home exhausted from travelling, then spent Tuesday afternoon at the Museum of Natural History, including the fabulous Planetarium show — Cosmic Collisions. Again and again in this city, I just get overwhelmed by the scale and the depth of its collections. We toured three out of four floors, marvelling at brilliant dioramas and ethnographic/anthropological displays. Room after room of displays that were perfectly presented. Sometimes one drifts through museums, but these taxonomies of evolution made perfect sense. I really felt I was learning things. Each new branch of species development — the second cavity behind the brain, the cavity in the hip that made it possible for legs to move forwards not sideways like lizards —had its own wing or gallery, with introductory film narrated by Meryl Streep.
On Wednesday we saw Ionesco's Exit the King with Geoffrey Rush, Susan Sarandon, and Lauren Ambrose (Clare from Six Feet Under). Sarandon's part is difficult — the voice of reason is never particularly amusing or engaging — and I'd heard she'd had bad reviews, but I thought she was ok; and in any case, I could listen to that beautiful rich voice for ever. But Rush was just extraordinary: melodramatic, poignant, mournful, joyful, acrobatic and absurd. We booked the cheapest seats online at 60% prices, and were right up the back of the balcony. But the top half of the balcony was empty, so before the play started, we were allowed to move down to the front and sides of that tier, so in effect, we probably had $80 seats for $40. Still and all, I'm glad we saved and saved for this trip so we can do all these things, and not worry too much about the cost. The recession helps, too, without a doubt. Interest rates on our mortgage are down, and competition for our business in New York is high. The second half the play probably does drag on a little, as the King slowly dies, and after it was over, Rush seemed to relish prancing about the stage taking the most elaborate, ballerina-style floppy bow, and bringing all the rest of the cast with grand gestures, as if both demonstrating his own athleticism and flexibility; as well as his relief that he could reverse, or deny the long process of decrepitude.
Today, we wandered down below Canal St, meandering around China Town down as far as the river, in between Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridge, then up around City Hall and back into Little Italy. Joel is developing a knack for finding good places to eat. He found the "Excellent Dumpling House" in Lafayette St, listed in Zagat, and offering incredibly cheap and fresh food. Then later, a gelateria and pasticceria that reminded me of a smaller, less chi-chi Brunetti's (in Carlton), where we had excellent coffee and shared a trio of key lime sorbet, raspberry and tira-mi-su ice-cream. We are no strangers to good Italian ice-cream in Melbourne, but the lime was tangy and sweet; the tira-mi-su included pieces of cake in perfect balance with the gelati; and the raspberry tasted like truly fresh raspberries. Maybe it was because we'd been walking for hours, but every mouthful was like a new act of an opera in the mouth. We then bought Joel purple hi-top Converses for half the price we paid in Melbourne, and congratulated ourselves on the ease with which we found our way home.
I then took myself off to St Thomas for evensong. This time, the boys were there as well singing, and the music was Gibbons, Byrd and Tallis. Jackpot!!
But one of the downsides to this excess of riches is the excess of packaging. Everything is triple packaged. We aren't being as careful as we would be at home, but if we buy a pack of prosciutto, it comes sliced with a piece of waxed paper between every slice, a plastic envelope, and a re-sealable plastic box. A cup of coffee and a muffin comes with a cup, a lid, a cup holder, paper around the muffin, a plastic fork and a handful of napkins in a paper bag. A loaf of bread comes in two plastic bags. We sat next to a woman at the theatre who lives in Denver, but moved there recently from California. She had not been able to throw away her polystyrene coffee cup: "we gave up using these in California 100 years ago", she told us.
P.S. I knew I'd forget something! The other night we walked up a little onto the Upper West Side, and came across a museum of folk art. Inside, an exhibition of wildly inventive quilts on the theme of jazz and blues music made by African-American women, and to celebrate the opening, a free concert from Julliard jazz music students. Wild rich sounds filling the gallery space. More beauty, everywhere you turn.