Saturday, July 6, 2013

July Monthly Read

As Phil Rizzuto would have put it: "Holy cow!"
Really. Hard to believe it's been two months since I last blogged but a daughter, house and busy life have kept me away from the keyboard. Nonetheless, the city keeps grinding along, not caring a wit whether I blog about it or not. (How dare it.)

Well, I won't try to re-hash all the events the last two months but here are a few things that have been going on in NYC recently. 

1. The death of James Gandolfini. The great actor died a few weeks ago in Rome from a heart attack at age 51. His funeral last week was a big event

Of course he was great on "The Sopranos" and in movies like True Romance and In The Loop. His death is a big loss. He was so talented and compulsively watchable on screen. Like most great actors, you could feel the complex emotions and thoughts that were boiling under the surface of his characters. He made Tony Soprano so real that at times it's hard to remember that Tony didn't even really exist! Truly great. I was fortunate to see Gandolfini on Broadway in the play "God of Carnage" in 2009. My review of this play and his performance are here.

So long, Jim. You will definately be missed.

Interesting side note: Gandolfini's funeral was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine's which is also where my grandmother's funeral was many years ago. Small world.
2. After Sandy. There has been much discussion about how to protect NYC from another hurricane or natural disaster. The big proposal is the construction of storm barriers along the NYC waterfront, particularly in the areas most vulnerable to flooding. This New York Magazine article explores Mayor Bloomberg's exhaustive proposal for building various storm barriers as well as ceding various low lying areas back to nature (i.e. not building on them again). This project will take years, decades even, to complete, and cost billions of greenbacks. But we probably can't afford not to do it -- the  city might not otherwise survive. 

What's great about this article is not only its exploration of Bloomberg's ambitious plan but also putting it in the historical context of NYC's waterfront -- and
our relationship to it. It's so easy to forget that NYC is unique because it is truly a city of islands -- over 40 of them! -- and so much of the city is literally water. Since I can't put it any better, I'll quote the article: "Glance at a map of New York, and what you see is a lot of blue, ringed by a piecrust of boroughs. This is a largely liquid city, a stunningly obvious fact that for decades was almost forgotten and that we’re only just beginning to remember ... New York’s relationship with its waters is a long and crazy romance, fueled by manic energy, gilded dreams, violence, abandonment, and elated rediscovery."

New Yorkers just don't live around water but also under it and in it. Water defines this city as much as buildings and parks, Wall Street and Broadway, the Mets and Yankees, delis and department stores. We've always had a complex relationship with our waterfront -- either ignoring it completely or trying to redeem it somehow. For decades, Robert Moses cut us off from the waterfront with highways and it's tak
en us decades to fix this with parks and places like Chelsea Piers and the South Street Seaport. Now with the explosion of ferries, we can get to places like Governor's Island which opens us the city even more. Reclaiming our waterfront for the people is a great thing but water can also be dangerous, as Sandy showed. Build to close to the water and it can literally be deadly.  "[T]he water is beautiful, alluring, and vicious. The storm demonstrated that we can’t get away, we can’t ­confine it, and we can’t beat it back. As the Bloomberg report makes clear, the only option is a cautious love."  

3. Whither Manhattan? Ever since the the City of New York (i.e. Manhattan), the City of Brooklyn, and the counties of the Bronx, Queens and Richmond (i.e Staten Island) consolidated in 1898 to become Greater New York, the identity of NYC has always been more or less defined by Manhattan.

The other boroughs, "the outer boroughs", were simply satellites of the mighty central isle, provinces of a great metropolitan empire. But the city, times, and the culture are a'changin'. Sure, Manhattan plays a big part in NYC culture -- still the center of fashion, theater, food, museums, etc. -- but these days the outer boroughs are stealing its crown.

Brooklyn is now considered the cultural hub of NYC. Look at the big hit TV shows set here -- like Girls and Two Broke Girls, plus other shows like the late Bored to Death and others -- and they're proudly set in Brooklyn, not Manhattan, In fact, Manhattan is now being influenced by the culture of Brooklyn!

And Queens is getting in the game too. In fact, amongst the biggest mucky mucks in the food world many believe the borough is one of the greatest and most exciting food destinations in the world. Not just the city but -- bang! zoom! -- the world! Having lived in Queens for six years, I can attest that this is a great, great place to eat. 

The cultural inferiority complex of the outer boroughs is clearly waning. And that's a great thing.

4. Woody Allen. How's he doing? When Ed Koch died earlier this year, NYC lost one of its great mascots. But, thankfully, we still have one of our greatest alive and thriving.

Woody Allen, the legendary film auteur, is still making movies. He's produced almost 50 of them, including great ones like Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters and the recent Midnight in Paris. Woody's been directing for forty-four years now, ever since the first year of the Nixon presidency, and he just keeps going and going -- and going and going and going and going and going -- winning a few Oscars along the way and writing a chapter in film history.

What's amazing is that while the film business -- not to mention the city and country in which he lives and works -- has changed in so many ways, Woody's approach to movie making remains the same. He just keeps making his small, personal films on low budgets but with big names. He even still types his film scripts on the same small manual typewriter that he's been using for decades. He doesn't Tweet or use any social media -- he just makes films and enjoys life. And at almost 80, he keeps going strong.  

5. Jean Georges. Wow! What a great restaurant! Recently the wife and I got a baby sitter and headed out to celebrate our anniversary. We decided to try to try this place and had one of the best meals of our life. There were two prix fixe menus -- a regular plus a Spring menu -- and she got one and I got the other. Many of the dishes included fish, chicken, plus egg dishes that included caviar. The food was unbelievable. We also got excellent cocktails that were, to put it mildly, damn strong. Best of all, the service was incredible. When the restaurant found out that it was our anniversary, they gave us a surprise anniversary cake, as you can see here. This great restaurant made for a memorable anniversary.   

6. NYC domain name. Hey, if they can do it for porn, why not for NYC? This headline says it all: New York City gets its own .nyc Domain Name

7. Mayor's Race. I was going to do a post about this but I realize that it's gotten so crazy and complicated that it deserves its own post. To be continued.

So there are my updates -- for now. More will be coming -- in less than two months. 

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