February 21, 2005

Christo, the Chrysler Building and one bad oyster

I'm back from New York City and, as always, she was amazing. Can’t get enough. I’ve got to do more of these spur of the moment quickie trips. Four hours and I’m there. Maybe next time I’ll take the Fung Wah Bus. For fifteen bucks each way, you’re delivered between Chinatowns – Boston’s and New York’s.

I did some of my regular New York things – photographed the Chrysler Building 99 times; sucked down a platter of mollusks at Grand Central’s Oyster Bar (I actually met an oyster I didn’t like – from Kitana Bay. Quite milky, and it sat too deep in the shell, making it hard to get to); ran the city and found more bronze plaques marking historic sites (I now know where Nathan Hale, hanged in New York City at age 21 by order of General William Howe, uttered his last words, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country” and where Thomas Edison screened what was the world’s first “movie”); marveled at the life-sized stuffed horse and elephant ($15K) at FAO Schwarz and watched two young staffers – maybe Julliard students – play The Entertainer with their feet on the piano Tom Hanks danced on in Big and passed on the $16 to-go banana split on offer at the street level ice cream shop; hung out in Bryant Park behind the New York Public Library – the food kiosks were closed, but the lovely hunter green lawn chairs were out, and many homeless people sat in the sun, sleeping.

But I spent most of my visit in Central Park enjoying Christo’s Gates (see last post). The whole thing was great fun, and I think that’s the idea. Enjoyment, glee, happiness, good feelings, freedom. Whatever you call it, art or not, it made people smile. And I mean grin really big. Thousands of people walking around smiling. What a lovely gift. Something vast, intriguing, colorful and temporary bringing joy, for 16 days, to everyone in or around Central Park. Even people I overheard professing to hate it (“What is this? Art? We could do this. String some material over some poles...”) kept walking through saffron-draped gate after gate after gate. The naysayers were having a good time, and I didn’t see any of them turn and leave.

Christo and Jeanne-Claude took a few spins around the park in a gray-silver chauffeured luxury car. Jeanne-Claude had her window down in the 16 degree cold, gleaming and waving, her giant red hair laughing on top of her head. I focused on her so long that I only saw Christo as a shadow by her side.

All kinds of people having a huge, happy time in a supreme public space in a city where superlatives are the norm. In February. In sub-20-degree weather. Art? I think so. Powerful, good vibes.

Everyone related to the miles of flowing orange curtains in his or her own way. I listened to a fit, steel-haired man in his 60’s, talking to a friend on a cell phone, say, “I’m under the gates. I’m right under the gates. Get yourself into the city, Sandy. There are women here. Lots of women...”

Ribbons of Highway proceeds continue to go to tsunami relief. Thank you.

Where shall we go next?