Saturday, June 4, 2011

How Can it Get Better Than This?

Our New York Marathon
Day 4
Thursday, June 2, 2011
How much greatness can we pack into a day?

Today begins in what has become our normal way, as we pick up the New York Times at the newsstand on the corner of our street.  We slide into extraordinary when we order our breakfast at the Mocha CafĂ©. Our lattes are exquisitely presented with hearts traced in their froth.  We loll away a leisurely hour at our table on the sidewalk--reading our paper, eating our pastries and sipping our lattes as the world of New York bustles by.

We take the subway uptown, and walk to St. Patrick's Cathedral, where we step into grandeur beyond words. The stained glass windows glow, dimly illuminating the stone tracery of the vaulted ceiling soaring high above us.  Votive candles flicker at alcoves dedicated to saints along the walls.  The vastness of the space swallows the people within, and it is very quiet here—truly a refuge from the world outside the cathedral's massive doors.  We linger, light a candle, and find it hard to pull ourselves away.

Just down the street, the Museum of Modern Art awaits.  There are so many wonderful things there it is hard to pick favorites. It is always wonderful to get up close to the Impressionist paintings and absorb all the colors in the brush strokes, especially Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. 

My favorite discovery is a contemporary artist from Mexico, Francis Alys, whose work is featured in a temporary exhibit now showing at MoMA.  He creates and documents art projects, and the one that tickled me most was Where Faith Moves Mountains, "a project of geological displacement."  The objective was for 500 volunteers with shovels to move a 500 meter wide sand dune in Lima, Peru.  The plan was to start early and shovel one hour to avoid the 90 degree scorching noonday sun.  In actuality, since this was Peru, practically no one showed up by 9:30, and when the volunteers finally showed up it took until three p.m. to get the work done.  The exhibit documents the whole process in photographs, video, Alys' journal entries and his personal commentary.  Putting the best possible spin on the situation, he says "During all that time, not a single cloud passed over our heads. Fatigue can lead to a collective hallucination, a taste of a kind of social sublime."  In summary, "The physical dislocation was infinitesimal, but not its metaphorical implications."  Ah, such is the case in so much of life!

Dick's favorite new discovery is the art of Umberto Boccioni. This is Dynamism of a Soccer Player, which he painted in 1913. 

Our other favorite experience is an elegant lunch on MoMA's fifth floor terrace, overlooking the museum's courtyard far below, with row houses and apartments across the street that remind us of a neighborhood in Paris.

Mid-afternoon we leave the museum and head to Times Square to get half price tickets at the TKTS booth.  We wait a little over an hour, and are rewarded with eighth row seats for our first choice show, Billy Elliott.  Then it's a quick subway ride home to feed Willis and warm up some left-overs for ourselves, before heading back to Broadway for the show.

Billy Elliott, the son of a striking coal miner, discovers he has a talent and a passion for ballet dancing, and secretly takes ballet lessons instead of going to his boxing class.  The dual plots of his father's coal strike and Billy's dancing progress unfold in a dark and gritty fashion, peppered with a bit of humor from the kids in the cast, and there are many.  We are awed by the singing and dancing talents of the actor who plays 11 year old Billy, as well as the many other kids.  Billy Elliott has  plenty of outstanding music and impressive dance numbers (many creatively using chairs as a dance prop—not sure why), but the conflation of the plot lines is just a bit too much for us sometimes (little ballerinas in white tutus and miners in their dirty work clothes weaving around the stage together—what's that about?). 

Our bottom line on the play:  It is top notch entertainment, but we both like Sister Act better.

Our bottom line on the day:  We are exhausted, but we wouldn't change a minute of it.

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