Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Memo from NYC

Election time is coming up and it's looking pretty bleak for the Democrats. This is to be expected for the party in power when the economy is in rough shape. Never mind that it's the Republican who screwed the economy, it's hasn't roared back yet and the public is angry. People like myself find it mind-boggling that the American people would really entrust the Republican party with any kind of power, considering what an awful job they did running the country under Bush. However, if the polls are to be believed, this is exactly what might happen -- and it scare the hell out of me and most normal thinking individual (including the author of this brilliant article from Esquire online; the author does a great job of summing up our fears exactly).

So as summer yields to the fall campaigns, it's time for President Obama to stop being so nice and instead stick his foot up the collective ass of the Republican party. In order to do this, he needs to get Democrats motivated. And I think the best thing for him to do would be to adapt the Brad Pitt speech from Inglorious Bastards as his rallying call. If I were his speechwriter, I'd have him give the following campaign speech right now:

"Now, y'all might've heard rumors about the elections happening soon. Well, in these elections, we'll be doing one thing and one thing only: beating Republicans.

Now, I don't know about y'all, but I sure as hell didn't leave a cushy life in the private sector to teach the Republicans lessons in humanity. Republicans ain't got no humanity! They're the foot soldiers of a Jew-hatin', gay-hatin', working-class-hatin', empathy-hatin' ideology and they need to be dee-stroyed. That's why any and every every son of a bitch Republican we find, we're gonna beat.

We will be cruel to the Republicans, and through our cruelty they will know who we are. And they will find the evidence of our cruelty in the devastated, distraught, dee'pressed faces of their family members that we leave behind. And the Republican won't be able to help themselves but to imagine the cruelty their colleagues endured at our hands. And the Republicans will be sickened by us, and the Republicans will talk about us, and the Republicans will fear us. And when the Republicans close their eyes at night and they're tortured by their subconscious for the evil they have done, it will be with thoughts of us they are tortured with. Sound good?"

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Boycott Shakespeare in the Park!

I'm a blogger, not a journalist, but this past week I decided to do a little shoe-leather reporting to see if I, a regular working stiff, could get tickets to Shakespeare in the Park. And the results were disheartening. Consider this the first Mr NYC Investigative Report.

First, some background.

Shakespeare in the Park was the brainchild of Joseph Papp, the legendary founder of the Public Theater here in NYC. The child of immigrants, Papp grew up in dire poverty in Brooklyn and always believed that theater in general, and Shakespeare in particular, could enrich and change the lives of anyone exposed to it. He wanted to democratize theater, bring it the masses, bring it to people who couldn't otherwise afford to go. His vision for the Public Theater was of a place that would discover new playwrights and dramatic voices -- and also be affordable for average people.

In 1957, he started the Shakespeare in the Park festival where the best actors in the world would perform the Bard's plays in the open air at the Delecorte Theater -- and it would be totally free. This meant a welder from Brooklyn, a cab driver from Queens, a garbage collector from Staten Island, a store owner from Manhattan, or a housewife from the Bronx could take their kids to see a Shakespearean play and give them a cultural experience their economic circumstances would otherwise deny them. This was the heart of Papp's vision for Shakespeare in the Park, his driving dream.

Sadly, Papp's vision has fallen into complete disarray. Today, Shakespeare in the Park has become the exact opposite of what he intended -- an elitist, snobby, and expensive experience. It needs to change.

Last year it was announced that Al Pacino would appear in "The Merchant of Venice" at Shakespeare in the Park. I excitedly blogged about going to see it. I had tried and failed the year before to see "Twelfth Night" with Anne Hathaway so I was determined to see this production this year. But first I had to get tickets.

Now there are a few ways to get them: 1) get free tickets at the Delacorte the day of the show; 2) enter an online lottery at midnight on the day of the show; 3) make a $350 donation to the Public Theater.

Option 2 is obviously the least time-consuming, most cost-effective way to get tickets but you're more likely to get into Harvard Medical School with a full scholarship than actually win it. Option 3 is the most direct way but only rich people can afford $350 on theater tickets.

Too whit: I was recently listening to Howard Stern who said on air that some entertainment hot shot he knew in LA was flying in to see the show and had invited Howard to go with him. The fact that some out-of-town hotshot can "donate" $350 for tickets and take fellow hot shots with them is not, I think, what Papp envisioned for Shakespeare in the Park. And every ticket purchased through these "donations" is one less free ticket available to the public.

So, you might say, why not just go to the Delacorte and get the free tickets that are available? Aye, there's the rub.

See, only about half of the tickets for any given show are available at the Delacorte theater. The free tickets that are available are distributed at 1 PM the day of the show (the performance is at 8 PM). And this is where it gets crazy. People literally begin to line up an entire day in advance! The entrance to the Delacorte is at 81st street and Central Park West. Central Park doesn't open until 6 AM. So people literally sleep overnight outside the park. And the line starting at 81st street goes on ... and on ... and on ... and on ... and on ... and on ... and on ... and on ... you get the idea.

This past week I showed up at Central Park West and 81st street around 5 AM. I had gotten up at 3:30 AM and shlepted all the way from Queens to get there at that time. (I would have gotten there earlier but the trains and public transportation run slowly in the middle of the night.) I showed up and had to walk to 89th street to get to the end of the line. As I walked down the line I noticed that most of the people camped out were young and white, looking mostly like students, tourists, or the unemployed. Some of the people were clearly homeless but most of them were the aforementioned.
(Just so you know I wasn't wrong about my observations: the people right ahead of me in the line were tourists from North Carolina. The people right behind me were unemployed educators. So there.)

At 6 AM the park gates opened and the line was herded into the park. Under the supervision of the line enforcers, we all walked down a path where the line stretched back ... and back ... and back ... and back ... Many of the people behind me (and there were lots who arrived after me) were told they had no shot at getting seats and were told to leave. People in my part of the line were told we had a 50/50 chance of getting tickets.
We waited ... and waited ... and waited ... for hour after hour.
Finally, at 12:45 PM, we were told to stand up and get ready for the distribution. The line inched forward slowly. Then, at about 1:20, people in my part of the line were told that no more tickets were available (each person can get two free tickets, hence it's a crap shoot). Needless to say, I was pissed.

And that's when I had the revelation: if you are a regular New Yorker then you are basically denied the chance of seeing the very theater that was created just for you.

Now don't get me wrong: I'm all for the homeless, students, tourists, and the unemployed getting to see Shakespeare in the Park. But it is impossible for ordinary, working New Yorkers, people with families and responsibilities, people who don't have the time or the freedom to camp out overnight, to get tickets and see the plays. Also, people from the outer boroughs like yours truly have a tough time getting into Manhattan at that hour to line up. And I think it's really sleazy that you can actually pay for tickets but that the price is so high that middle class and poor folks -- the very people Joseph Papp wanted to see these shows in the first place -- can't afford them. And why are rich people from out of town able to get tickets at all?

This ticket-distribution system is totally out-of-whack. Joseph Papp's vision is being discarded and the people he envisioned Shakespeare in the Park for are being shafted. Yes, I recognize that students and the homeless and unemployed aren't exactly elitist money grubbers but I hope you get my point: you shouldn't have to be either really rich, really young, or utterly destitute to see the plays.
And the thing that also galls me, and that's as big a part of the problem as anything, is that Shakespeare in the Park has become like a nightclub: just getting in and gawking at famous people is all it seems to be about now. Al Pacino! Anne Hathaway! That guy from Law and Order! That guy from Modern Family! Shakespeare in the Park is no longer about Shakespeare or good drama or the unique experience of watching it in the beauty of Central Park. Instead, it's become an elitist experience, it's become about celebrity and exclusivity -- not theater that can transform lives.

Joseph Papp would be rolling in his grave if he saw what his great creation has become.

If Shakespeare in the Park is really about bringing theater to the masses, then it would stop performing exclusively at the Delecorte and instead present the free plays all over the city -- Prospect Park, Flushing Meadows, Van Cortland Park, etc. -- in barebones productions with real theater actors and not vacationing movie and TV stars. This would be truly be theater for the people, the kind of people that Joseph Papp came from.

How many people would actully show up to see these less glamorous producitons? I don't know. It might expose the fact that maybe people aren't quite as interested in actually seeing Shakespeare as they are in celebrities. But at least it would return Shakespeare in the Park to its original vision and would be appreciated by the people more interested in seeing Shakespeare and good drama than famous people.

So for now I'm boycotting Shakespeare in the Park until the Public Theater changes the ticket distribution system, makes it more sane, and ends these phony "donations". I urge all Mr NYC readers to do the same. Tell your friends! Perhaps we can start a movement to return Shakespeare in the Park to the vision and spirit that Joseph Papp had for it more than half a century ago. We shall see.


Elaine: "It's coffee! It's supposed to be hot!"

Kramer: "Uh ... not that hot."

I remember this exchange from a classic episode of Seinfeld. And the same could be said about the summer of 2010 in NYC: It's summer! It's supposed to be hot! But not this hot.

For the last couple of weeks, NYC has been baking in 90+ degree days. Baking and, I should say, bathing in its concomitant humidity. Someone I met recently from Florida told me that this weather is "Florida hot." The moment you walk outside from the air conditioning, your brow, neck and back immediately break out in sweat. People are drinking water like it's going out of style, fanning themselves, and even trying to think cool thoughts. We New Yorkers are a strong bunch, braving the heat and living our lives as best as possible. Luckily there haven't been an brown-outs or blackouts so, as far as I know, no one has been denied air conditioning. Hopefully this unending heatwave will end soon and life in NYC will get back to normal (not that it ever really is normal but you get the idea).

Woody Guthrie once sang about "the New York islands" -- who knew those islands could become tropical? As an old timer might say, this summer is a doozy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mad Men City

As some of you may know, this Sunday marks the return of easily the best show on television -- AMC's "Mad Men." This is a show of such superlative quality, such amazing writing and acting, such beauty and depth, that it almost feels like you're stealing something great by getting to watch it for free (okay, you have to pay for cable -- basic cable -- but it's not like it's on premium).

The show is set in a 1960s ad agency in New York City called Sterling Cooper, a place where the men run the office, the women live to serve them (in oh-so-many ways), people drink throughout the day in their offices, the sexism and racism are rampant, and the most important thing is how you appear, not how you treat others. The focus of the show is the ad whiz Don Draper who's only life is as artificial as anything he and his fellow mad men create. The greatness of this show is that for as much as we see and learn about each character, they are forever shrouded in mystery -- we know there's so much more to learn about them and desperately want to find out. And the central mystery of this show is who is Don Draper? What is he all about?

And who, in the end, are any of us?

"Mad Men" is also a great NYC, set in the city we all know and love but that is, in many ways, very different from today. Since this is "Mad Men" season four premiere week, the New York Times is running a week-long Mad Men City blog about what NYC was like in November, 1964 (when this new season begins). What was in the news? What movies were playing? What could you buy in the stores? What were the hot restaurants and clubs? What was going on in NYC back then? And yes, what was advertising like back in 1964?

If we were to time travel back to NYC at that time, I'm sure lots of it would be recognizable but other parts of it would make our fair city seem like an alien world. My mother was a young woman back then and she's told me stories of what NYC was like back in the early sixties -- and how true to life the sexism depicted in the show really is.

Mad Men Opening Credits

Ground Zero, Freedom, and that Nitwit from Alaska

So there's a controversy raging in NYC over a proposed "interfaith cultural center" to be built near Ground Zero. This center will also include a mosque. Since it's just a few blocks from the site of the worst act of Islamic terrorism in US history, this has gotten some people a lil' upset.


I haven't commented on this broohahhah before (and don't plan to again) because it's one of those divisive subjects I pefer to avoid on this blog. But as a New Yorker who cares about what goes on in his city, I'll just add my two (or four) cents.

First cent: the opponents of this center are calling it a mosque. This is inaccurate. It's actually, as I mentioned before, an "interfaith center" that includes a mosque. So the people screaming about this are distorting what the project really is. And it's not helpful to their cause to lie about it. When one side of a debate is fundamentally dishonest, then it simply torpedoes its credibility.

Second cent: I can understand that some people think it would be innapporiate to put a building including a mosque there. Some people think this might be "insensitive" and, as a good liberal, I'm all about being sensitive. But isn't it interesting how these people (i.e. white people) are all of a sudden concerned with "sensitivity"? These same people aren't sensitive to blacks, Jews, gays, Hispanics, foreigners, or the poor but, when it comes to them, suddenly "sensitivity" is so important. Being PC is okay, I guess, in some cases. So I think this sensitivity argument is a bunch of hypocritical crap.

Third cent: a lot of the opponents of this center (again, it is not primarily a mosque) are saying that this place has been funded by people linked to terrorism -- but they have provided no proof. Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Kelly have said they have no problem with this center being built and that investigating it is "un-American." Now, no one has been more critical of Mayor Mike than Mr NYC (read most of this blog) but I happen to agree with him here. Trying to shut down a place of worship that you don't like is about the most un-American thing I've ever heard of. What about religious freedom? That's the most American thing I can think of. It's also exactly what the terrorists on 9/11 were targeting -- and which we've been fighting for the last nine years to preserve.

Preventing the building of a mosque, any mosque, would be like if a group of people wanted to tear down Catholic churches because so many priests have turned out to be child molesters. It might be understandable but would also be an attack on religious freedom and totally un-American.

Fourth cent: this controversy has been inflamed by that genius of American politics Sarah Palin who injected herself into the debate with the following, gracefully written Tweet: "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." (In fairness, she then we re-wrote the message with "Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.")

I'll let you chuckle at her inventive uses of the English language yourself ("refudiate" is kinda brilliant although then comparing her new word to something Shakespeare would have done is chuzpah if I ever saw it). Point is, the former half-term Governor of Alaska clearly doesn't know what she's talking about -- she's repeating a lie. And again, Mz. Palin is only dividing America, trying to marginalize Muslims at a time when making them more mainstream in American society would only highlight just how whacked out those radical terrorists are. It's an example of bad leadership at its very worst.

Every time this woman opens her month, I can only shudder at the idea that she might have been only a heartbeat away from the presidency. And if you think a mosque at Ground Zero is disturbing, the idea that some people think she should be president is even more disturbing.

But New Yorkers and their fellow Americans are a lot smarter than that. New Yorkers reject the bigotry that accompanies the opposition to this mosque just like the American people rejected Sarah Palin for the vice-presidency in 2008. And hopefully the very freedom -- religious and otherwise -- that the terrorists on 9/11 tried to extinguish along with those 3000 lives will continue to thrive in NYC and America at large, long after we've killed the last terrorists and as well as the political careers of the likes of Sarah Palin.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wanna be a Mayoral Intern?

Then you better be the son or daughter of someone very rich or very politically connected.

The offspring of ordinary people have no shot at getting one of those coveted internships.

Yes, that friend of the common man, that champion of the working stiffs, billionaire Mayor Mike Bloomberg does not want their offspring muddying the hallowed halls of his city hall. Instead, only the children of the rich and powerful are allowed to intern there.

Now this isn't unusual. Very often the children of big contributors or personal friends of politicians get these internships. But supposedly Mayor Bloomberg is "above" politics, "above" the rotten quid-pro-quo of political dealmaking. He's the anti-politician, or so he likes to tell us. He doesn't do business as usual.

What a fraud.

It most certainly is business as usual when it comes to this kind of thing. Internships are supposed to be merit-based honors that go to young people who want to learn more about how their government works. In turns out, of course, that they're a patronage mill for the children of people who already know how their government works (wink wink) so that these kids can grow up to become the exact same kind of people. And in Bloomberg land, in this case, that's just politics as usual.


Sands Point Preserve

In my previous posts, I have raved about the parks in NYC. They really are some of the best of the world. Thing is, they're usually very crowded, particularly in summer. What if you want to go find some green-space but with a minimum of people?

Well, if you have a car and $5, you can head out to Long Island's Sands Point Preserve. Located on an old estate of the Guggenheim family, it is a beautiful, big space with lots of nature trails and ponds where you can get away from it all.

Best of all: it has a beach. It's a small, pebble-strewn beach with lots of algea and muscles washed up on the shore but it has a beautiful view of the Sound and, unlike other beaches that are constantly bombarded by surf, it has none of these rip-tides so it's easy to swim in it (warning: there's no life-guard so swim at your own risk).

Sands Point Preserve is a good place to check out if you want to escape the urban jungle and take a moment to repose.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Remember Ally Sheedy?

In the 1980s, native New Yorker Ally Sheedy was something of a movie star -- her big hits were War Games and The Breakfast Club which have become cult classics (The Breakfast Club is probably the best movie about teenagers ever made; War Games was party responsible for President Reagan launching the SDI initiative, I kid you not). Her career slowed down after that although she was in a really good movie in the late 1990s called High Art. Now she's in a new movie called Life During Wartime by Todd Solondz, the guy who made Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness (two of the sickest, funniest movies I've ever seen). Hopefully this will be the start of an Ally Sheedy comeback.

There's a profile of her in today's Daily News about her childhood and life in New York. She's one of these actors who not only lives in the city but is of the city. Very cool.

The Things People do for Real Estate

In NYC, real estate is power. With so little room and the demand for it insatiable, they who have great real estate here call the shots. In many ways, this city is like a medieval country -- how much land or property you have is your measure of status. More than the total number of your dollars in the bank, where you live, how much (or, better yet, how little) you pay for your property, and where in the city it's located is all that matters.

There's a big story today about a family saga over a $4 million apartment on Central Park West. It's a psycho-drama if there ever was one and the story includes, of all things, a sex change operation. You must read this to believe it -- if it's even possible.

And if you're interested in how real estate in NYC shapes lives and relationships, you must read the book or see the movie Slaves of New York -- the concept being that people who can't afford their own apartments and are forced to live with those who can become, in fact, their slaves.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

George Steinbrenner, RIP

Well I certainly didn't expect to be penning two Yankees obit posts back-to-back but God works in mysterious ways.

The biggest news in town today -- and probably for the rest of this week -- is the death of Yankees owner and guru George Steinbrenner. The shipbuilder from Cleveland who bought the down on their baseball franchise in 1973 and turned it into a powerhouse died of a heart attack in Florida yesterday morning. He was 80 years old.

It's hard to describe what impact George Steinbrenner's Yankees had on NYC. Many of us take for granted how good a team the Yankees are but it wasn't always the case and it wasn't necessarily destined to be so -- it took George's bullying grit and huge payroll to build up a phenomenal team. He owned it for 37 years and in that time the Yanks won 7 Word Series and 11 American League pennants. That's an amazing record -- for nearly a third of his reign, the Yankees were either in or winning the World Series. Wow.

The stories of what a tyrannical boss Steinbrenner was are legendary -- there probably isn't anyone who worked for him whose balls he didn't bust (and I'm including the women). In the 1990s, Steinbrenner was popularized in the American imagination in Seinfeld during the seasons where George Costanza worked for him and Larry David played him to hilarious effect. I'm sure working for him was hellish and he could probably be monumental mean and unfair ... but the team's results speak for themselves.

So an era in NYC's history ends. Today is the first day of the post-George Steinbrenner period (his sons are running the team but it won't quite be the same). I'm sure the Yankees will do well without him (he hasn't really run the team since 2007 and they did win the World Series last year) but his ghost and legacy will loom large over of them for many years to come.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bob Sheppard, RIP

The Voice of God has fallen silent.

Veteran Yankees public announcer Bob Sheppard died yesterday in Long Island. He was 99 years old and had been the Yankees' PA guy from 1951-2007. Generations of Yankees fans were shuttled in and out of the stadium by his voice and listened to him announce the games with his pitch-perfect diction. In a town celebrated for tough accents and attitude, his was a refined, classy anti-dote that made fans behave themselves and instead concentrate on the game. You knew that however good or bad the game went or however rowdy the fans might get, this was a game that was going on under adult supervision and everything would be okay. If George Steinbrenner is the Yankees' daddy, then Bob Sheppard was it's respected grandfather.

During his reign -- and what can you call a 56 year run as anything else? -- Bob Sheppard saw all the great Yankees legends play (except, I guess, for Babe Ruth): Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Mickey Mantle, Johnny Mize, Thurmond Muntson, Reggie Jackson, Derek Jeter, A-Rod -- the list goes on and on.

And while New York rose and fell and rose again during this era -- the glories of the fifies, followed by crises of the sixties and seventies, followed by the crime of the eighties, followed by recovery of the nineties, followed by 9/11 and the frustrations of the early 21st century -- Bob Sheppard remained a constant during this amazing time.

When he started his job, Vincent Impelilteri was mayor. When he retired, Michael Bloomberg was mayor. Wow.

He was a one of a kind and this town will never see the likes of him again.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Park War!

If I were ever to create a spin-off blog to this one, it would probably be about parks (yeah, real exciting I know but I'm a dork so sue me). Like most semi-normal people, I love parks. No matter how you're feeling, they are a wonderful refuge from the vagaries of life. Every time I've visited a park in NYC, I've always felt better leaving than when I entered it. Parks are the heart of this city, the yings to this cosmopolitan wonders' many yangs.

There are over 1700 parks, playgrounds, pools, and recreation centers serving the 8.3 millions people who live here. But there are two parks in particular that are the big dogs in the park pound: Manhattan's Central Park vs. Brooklyn's Prospect Park. Both were designed by Frederick Olmstead and Calvert Vaux, both are huge, gorgeous, perfectly landscaped, and incredibly popular. Because of them, the cost of living even within a mile of them costs a fortune. They are the masterpieces of the New York City park system, the top of an amazing heap.

So which park is better? That is a question that is explored in today's Times where a resident of Brooklyn and a resident of Manhattan engaged in a "smack-down" of sorts, each trying to prove that their respective parks (Prospect vs. Central) is the better one. Reading these exchanges, there are some interesting points made about each but, ultimately, it is an exercise in futility, pure mental masturbation -- neither park "wins" this rather silly debate.

And why does it need to be a debate at all? This is what drives me crazy about today's media -- everything is always a contest, everything is always a divide and conquer, mine is better than yours, playing-for-keeps battle. It's stupid. Instead of forming consensus, it's always about trying to prove some point. It's totally unproductive.

The nub of this debate is that Central Park is the tourist park of NYC while Prospect Park is the park of "real" New Yorkers. Central Park has all the culture while Prospect Park has all the fun. One park is pretentious while the other park is somehow genuine. But I think this misses the greater point.

The way I see it -- and I don't see it as one park being "better" than the other -- is that Central Park is the place that shows New York as the great international, cultural city that it is while Prospect Park shows New York as the great place for people to come together. Central Park is the park of the popular NYC imagination while Prospect Park is the park of the great NYC heart. Both are wonderful, both serve a purpose, and both should be embraced -- by New Yorkers and visitors a like.

Happy NYC Christmas in July!

Saturday, July 10, 2010


So sorry for not blogging this last week, the life and times of Mr NYC have been busy -- not necessarily so interesting that it's worth blogging about, but busy. That's my first update.

The second update is that this past week has also been one of the hottest in New York City history. New Yorkers everywhere have been boiling and wilting under the strain of multiple days with 100+ degree humidity and heat. This weekend we're having a veritable cold front -- it's only in the 80s. But next week it's back to the 90s -- ouch.

And if New Yorkers weren't suffering enough from the heat, we got the double-whammy this week when the news broke about someone who will NOT be moving to NYC anytime soon -- LeBron James. The Cleveland basketball wiz kid declined to join our Knicks and is headed to Miami instead. New Yorkers are gnashing their teeth and bemoaning their bad fortune, sad that prince charming has slipped through their fingers and won't be taking us to the NBA ball. Adding to insult to injury, the coach in Miami that LeBron will be playing under is non other than Pat Riley -- the man who led the Knicks in their glory years. Double--ouch.

According to some, this is a lost generation for the Knicks who have become the black sheep of NYC sports. Think about it. This is an era when the greatest city in the world -- which is also the greatest sports city in America -- has had some amazing teams: the dominant and domineering Yankees, the formidable Giants, the ever striving Mets and Jets. They have either won or come close to winning championships but the Knicks ... they've just fallen through the floor. LeBron was to be our ticket out but sadly it was not to be. But hopefully the Knicks will learn that perhaps a star player isn't the way to victory -- it's building a great team.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Picasso at the Met

One of the most famous and important painters of the twentieth century was Pablo Picasso, who's long career spanned many decades and even more artistic styles. Although he is most famous as the creator of Cubist painting (where he painted pictures of people and objects as cubes, giving his subjects a new dimensionality and complexity) his work spanned many different styles from neoclassicism to surrealism to even Asian and African influenced styles. His lived from 1881-1973, producing his first notable works around 1902 and he worked right up until the end of his life. He had an amazing, almost unmatchable artistic career.

Running at the Met until August 15 is the first major exhibition of Picasso's works in the United States. The Met has pulled together all of the paintings, drawings and sculptures by Picasso that it has accumulated over the decades and is exhibiting them together for the first time ever. Walking through this huge exhibition, you see how Picasso's work changed and developed overtime, how new influences and experiences shaped his drawings and paintings. Picasso was a true romantic, with a turbulent love life and many ups-and-downs in his career, and all of this can be seen in his work. Because his career was so long, it had various "periods" where he would paint only one kind of painting: the most famous of these is the Blue Period, the Rose Period, Cubism, classicism and surrealism. Whatever was going on in Picasso's life at the time, that informed his work.

He was one of those artists, one of those most amazing and exasperating of people, who managed to work all the time, be incredibly prolific, and also have a full and complete social and romantic life. The man must never have slept.

One of the most famous paintings on display in this exhibit is At the Lapin Agile, a portrait of a harlequin looking sad and having a drink at the famous Parisian bar (which still exists today). This painting inspired a play call Picasso at the Lapin Agile written by, of all people, Steve Martin.

If you have the time, I strongly recommend that you check out this exhibit. It's an amazing art history lesson, a look at the one of the greatest painting masters of all time.

Weather Fit for a Queen

If you take a gander at the little weather meter on the right hand side of this blog, you'll notice one thing and one thing only: it's hot!

Crazy hot.

Starting yesterday and going through Friday, NYC is going to be experiencing a heatwave of historical proportions. It will be over 90 degrees everyday, and tomorrow the mercury is hitting the "century mark." I was out earlier today and the city is bathing in a steam heat that makes just standing outside like visiting a sauna. It's nuts.

So stay cool! The city is advising that people drape their windows and keep their air conditioners at a reasonable temperature. Best of all, the city has cooling centers around town, places you can go to beat the heat. If you want to find one near you, go here.

Also, if you have any problems with your electricity, make sure to call Con Ed at 1-800-75-CONED (1-800-752-6633) and have your account number handy.

And if this weather weren't crazy enough, how about the fact that one of the people who will be exposed to it tomorrow is
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith. Yes, Queen Elizabeth II will be in town tomorrow, her first visit to NYC since 1976, and she'll living through this heat with all of us commoner. Talk about suffering in good company.

So this is literally a royal heatwave. Good luck to all New Yorkers in surviving it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July!

The New Hot Neighborhood?

Interesting article today on Bushwick, a neighborhood that used to be the epitome of working class Brooklyn. Bushwick still is, to a large degree, blue-collar haven and it has some of the few factories left in NYC as well as thriving Jewish community.

But in the last few years fancy cafes and yoga classes and yuppies are starting to appear. Increasingly it is getting gentrified. I've heard of people from Manhattan moving to Bushwick and buying big houses and renovating them. Just watch: in a few years, like Park Slope and Williamsburg before it, Bushwick will be the hot New York neighborhood that everyone wants a piece of. And don't say you didn't hear it here first.

My grandmother was from Bushwick, and then and out now it was a neighborhood with lots of immigrants. It's one of those neighborhoods that make NYC such an amazing and unique place.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Mafia Life Lesson

It's been over three years since The Sopranos went off the air but doesn't mean the real mafia went anywhere. Anyone who thinks that the mafia still doesn't exist like it used to is living in a dreamworld. There's a scary, revealing article in the recent Village Voice about a how a hip bar owner on the Lower East Side got shook down by the mob -- in this case, by a 93-year old gangster!

This story is a must-read if you want to understand how the mob still operates in NYC -- and how anyone can become their victim.

For other previous Mr NYC mob-related posts, you can go here and here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Swim NYC

Now that summer is upon us, the heat and humidity are pounding down without mercy. The most enjoyable way to relieve the stress, naturally, it to take a swim. Some of you might be lucky enough to have, or know people who have, pools in their backyard or in their buildings. But for the rest of us stiffs, we need to search them out.

There are two routes to this: you can find and go to one of the cities fifty-four public pools. The NYC Department of Parks and Recreation has a wonderful list of all the pools in the city with detailed information on each. Or you can pony us some cash and hit one of our city's hotels where you can pay for an all-day pass to use their pools. Some of these hotels include spa packages and range from as little as $60 to as much as $250 (including massages, etc.)

There's also the beach, which I blogged about recently, but if you're not a fan of salt water or sand, these are probably the best ways to cool off this summer.

Live from New York, it's . . . The Beatles!