Thursday, December 14, 2017
As we hurl towards Christmas Day with colored lights and wreaths displayed everywhere, perfumed trees for sale on every other block, Sidewalk Santas ringings bells for charity, we reminisce on the year coming to a close (what a bizarre year it's been!) and think about the year to come, that big blank slate ahead.
I don't know about you but, whenever a New Year begins, I think "I made it. Another year! Another year added to my headstone!" Such lovely thoughts I have.
But ghosts haunt us. Memories of people and places gone by. They're gone, in some cases long gone, but they imbue our thoughts and souls, never fully leaving. We remember, not always because we want to, but because we can never forget.
This is all a big fancy way of saying that you should really check out these two big articles that summon up the Ghosts of NYC Past.
One is about the relationship between the great pop artist Andy Warhol (who died 30 years ago this year) and his "Factory Girl" muse Edie Sedgwick. Was it love? Sort of. It was complicated. And sad. Very sad. One thing is sure: in these politically correct times, we shan't see their likes again.
The other is a 30-year retrospective on the great Tom Wolfe novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. Set in a nightmarish NYC, it's a tale and a document about another city in another time. Some things are still relevant (racial tensions) but the idea of this city being a boiling cauldron of rage seems totally dated. I shared my thoughts about this book ten (10!) years ago and it seems more distant than other.
NYC will always have these ghosts and, in my opinion, they are a crucial part of our identity and our future.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
To: The People of Alabama
Re: Special US Senate Election
From: The People of NYC
Thank you! Thank you! A million times thank you! You've restored a shred of faith in decency in America! 8.5 million people (or least most of them) can't thank you enough!
We are all Alabamans today!
The NYPD is (a few notable exceptions aside) an outstanding organization. They keep 8.5 million people safe every day, not to mention an uncountable number of other millions visiting from around the region, the country, and the world. And when incidents like the explosion in the Times Square subway happen, they're on the scene.
But they have brothers and sisters in arms: the Port Authority. On Monday, when that dope detonated that bomb, four Port Authority cops rushed into the passageway where it happened, captured the suspect who literally had wires coming out of his clothes, and secured the area. They did lightening quick and, as a result, a near-catastrophe was averted, the bad guy arrested, and life in NYC went on as (almost) normal. It was an amazing feat of professionalism and courage.
The Port Authority has had a rough few years, mainly thanks to the shenanigans of the can't soon-enough-to-be former Governor of New Jersey (Bridgegate anyone?). But that black-eye was due to the corrupt political leadership of the Port Authority that uses the public utility as a patronage mill and cash cow. When it comes to the lifers that actually work for the organization, however, professionalism reigns, and we can all go to sleep at night thankful that it does and safer for knowing it.
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Over the years I've blogged about my love for F. Scott's Fitzgerald's novel 1925 The Great Gatsby.
Yes, it's the Great American Novel, one of best in all of American and world literature.
Yes, it's a beautifully written snapshot of life in Roaring Twenties NYC -- the parties, the bootleggers, the indulgent affluence leading to the Great Depression and the Second World War.
Yes, almost everyone reads it in school and either loves it or hates it (or, more accurately, either "gets it" or doesn't).
Yes, it's been made into movies, including the 1974 version with Robert Redford and the 2013 with Leonardo Di Caprio, two of the biggest stars ever.
Yes, it's the final word on the promise and tragedy of the American dream.
And that's where the novel's "greatness" lies. It shows that the American dream lies betwix and between tragedy and promise, between hope and loss, that both are true at the same time. After all, we're the same nation that declare freedom and human happiness the keys to human dignity in our nation's founding documents -- yet affirmed slavery at the same time.
Jay Gatsby, poor boy from North Dakota, reinvents himself as a Long Island millionaire (thanks to bootlegging) in order to win the heart of his lost love Daisy. But it all goes horribly wrong and he dies. He hope, as Fitzgerald writes, to recreate the past and, even though he fails, the hope endures. It is symbolized by the green light at the end of Daisy's dock that Gatsby stares at, night after night, his hope of winning her love back never dying. Love endures, hope endures, even when tragedy is everywhere.
Another thing that attests to the greatest of Gatsby is that you don't have to be an American to appreciate or be moved by it. Australian Baz Luhrman, who directed the 2013 Great Gatsby, writes movingly here about his love for the novel. Best of all, he reminds us that, as free people, as hopeful people, we should all "live for the green light."
F. Scott Fitzgerald couldn't have said it better. And these days, like the novel itself, it's more relevant than ever.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Friday, December 1, 2017
Today is Woody Allen's 82nd birthday. The legendary filmmaker has been nominated for and won numerous Oscars but has made it a habit never to present or accept Oscars or any awards. He has said he doesn't believe that awards should be given to art because quality is all basically subjective.
However, in the months after 9/11, Woody made his one and only Oscars appearance where he encouraged filmmakers to keep working in NYC. He also presented a tribute film. As usual, Woody was brilliantly funny and one only wonders how much better Oscar shows would have been had he gone to them more often.
Thursday, November 30, 2017
Now that the municipal elections are over, it's time for the newly elected and re-elected members of the City Council to choose their leader, the Speaker.
There are currently eight people vying for the job and, for whatever reason, they're all men. After the mayor, this is the most powerful job in city government, since the Speaker decides which legislation gets voted on in the Council.
Like a Papal Conclave in the College of Cardinals, the Speaker's election falls into the hands of a small elite club where they choose, mostly behind closed doors, which one of them gets the top gig. Let's hope they choose wisely -- our city's future depends on it.