lundi 22 avril 2013

New York Series 02: The City Baker And The Village Painter

Jet-lag.There is no jet-lag to be had. We were awake for 24 hours the previous day and this morning I got up at 8.30am, a lot earlier than I’d set my alarm for. Again, a crisp sunlight and blue sky pervade through the room with the piano. Benjamin has left for work so there is no one to serenade us.

I put my kaftan on and try to think like a New York animal. The difficulty when visiting a new city is to find a satisfying order in which to link my meanderings through parks, squares, galleries, museums, restaurants, bars and the cheap and glory of watering holes. I also usually need to curb my willingness to quench the thirst in the early hours of the afternoon.

This won’t be a problem. We have plans. Coffee and the rest out of the way and we are reaching Manhattan from down below. I am setting myself ready for a stack of skyscrapers but we are getting off at the wrong stop and end up in the Village. Except that I didn’t realise we were in the Village until we had walked a long way north on 6th avenue. Which means by that time we were not in the Village anymore. Damn Village, I keep it quiet for now.

We are headed towards Bryant Park when we’re suddenly caught by starvation. It is an ambush and there is no escape. There is also no clear remedy in view. We had just left Benjamin’s flat in Carroll Gardens, a part of Brooklyn where every shop serves either organic food or nail treatments. First mis-judgement. The second mis-judgement came when we finally found a place, a chain with a french name that I can’t remember, and I ordered a whole baker’s basket to myself. I don’t know what I was thinking, I had imagined a baguette and a bit of jam on the side. What I got was an actual basket full of a dozen different kinds of breads, the ones you usually see in boulangeries’ shop window. I finished it, left me feeling porous. Now I am not sure why I am spending all this time relating a bread story.

We went to the Photography and the American Civil War exhibition at the Met. The walls of the exhibition space are covered by what I imagine to be burlap although it could be linen. The place is supposed to look like a Civil War army tent but it doesn’t really. Of course it doesn’t and that’s not the point but is the gimmick successful? Aren’t black and white photographs enough to take us back in time? I am not looking for an answer.

Now that I think of it I realise that most photographs seemed dated. By that I mean distant, like the classic painting of a king. Which makes me wonder if that sense of distance is created by a formal pause, a setting too controlled. For a long time I couldn’t apprehend painting for the same reason. But that feeling was changed by Christen Købke‘s paintings - back to the bread theme -, by their unusual subjects (Roof Ridge of Frederiksborg Castle, c.1834-5) and composition (View from the Loft of the Grain Store at the Bakery in the Citadel, 1831).

I would say that the Civil War photographs I appreciated the most were the ones that had been colorized (this is not from the exhibition by the way) but this is not entirely true. There are some powerful photographs to be seen.

After that, still in the Met, we passed on the Impressionism exhibition but went to see After Photoshop: Manipulated Photography in the Digital Age. Highly recommended. And also Street by James Nares (soundtrack by Thurston Moore). And of course William Eggleston. I almost cried.

By then we had spent enough time in the museum and needed a change. Part of me wished I’d known that the $25 per person charge is a contribution, not a requirement; but there you are, American culture you have my support.

The rest of the day was less cultural. A bit of shopping for denim and a stint visit to Apotheke in Chinatown. An ex- opium den serving elaborate cocktails, we should have known. The place looked great but with no tables to spare and a $100 to pay for a jug of their exquisite juice we made our excuses before ordering. Instead we ended up in Joe’s ginger. Chinese restaurant you might have guessed. The choice was in the name. And the "mock duck" was a real treat. No Employees Must Wash Hands sign in the restroom.

A few beers later we just went home. Save some fun for next day. We’ll be picking up the car in Gowanus and head for Montauk. Just don’t mention the monster.

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