Breaking Up With The Pope

I really thought this relationship was going to work, especially since this time I wasn’t demanding perfection. However, now it is clear to me that he isn’t the person I thought he was. More to the point, he isn’t the person I wanted him to be.

Things fell apart soon after we got close physically. Well, close physically in that a few Sundays ago I was in Vatican City where he lives rather than in New York where he does not. I have taken some time to decide whether we are truly finished and, yes, we are. He did two things that broke us up:

Papal audience

I felt we were getting closer (see him above red banner looking right at me)

First, he met with Bernie Sanders, a man who also  insulted the laywoman who was supposed to be running the conference where Sanders appeared. She had said his visit was inappropriate. Sanders came anyway and then refused her handshake after he barged in. The prolonged muddle forced me to face the fact that if the Vatican does not want a woman to run a parish church, it probably does not want a woman to run the United States of America.

My former hero said that anyone who thinks meeting Sanders was an endorsement needs a psychiatrist. Maybe Freud could tell us how a man who was in charge of the Catholic Church in troubled Argentina, and who has been a world leader for three years, could fail to understand how meanings are telegraphed to the world. Is the Catholic Church rooted in Rome or in the inscrutable Orient? Interestingly, Bernie has a pattern of being curt to powerful women, but of course he wouldn’t be finding any of those at the Vatican. See Bernie here with Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the Democratic National Committee. What if he gets to meet Angela Merkel and Christine Lagarde?

Anyway, I learned enough from my break-up with former longtime love Ralph Nader to know that I had to avoid the Socialist from Vermont. Trust me, with Ralph I felt the burn (although there was also my underage thing with JFK). But back to my more recent break-up:

The second final straw was His Holiness’ trip to Lesbos and his airlifting of three vetted Syrian Muslim families to Rome to set an example to us all. Problem for me here is that a few nights earlier, while returning from a visit to Emperor Augustus’ Altar of Peace, I turned on to the Via della Conciliazione where it meets Saint Peter’s Square. Living in New York City, I should be used to suffering humanity by now, but the street’s doorstops writhed with men, including refugees, bedding down under thin blankets, homeless and possibly hungry. I sped past them, fearful and somewhat ashamed. Perhaps His Holiness will soon walk a few hundred meters from his dwelling place to meet these men and to highlight the needy we have literally underfoot. And here’s my other nagging question – why not denounce leaders and movements that drive people from their homes rather than urge the faithful to spare despots by ameliorating crises that should be solved at their roots?

Okay, perhaps I am just a little bitter, but you know how when you look back over a failed relationship you see something that should have brought you to your senses months earlier? Something that lights up a situation like a drone strike? I should have paid more attention last October when he called “dumb” some anguished people of Chile who had strong reason to believe that the new bishop he appointed had collaborated in the sexual abuse of children.

Sometimes breaking up is ultimately not so hard to do. I am starting over. I recall the joy I had with the Dalai Lama. Sure, over the years I got used to him and took him for granted, but he never let me down. Yes, we come from different religions but he lives the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Of course, as stated I have been wrong before but I remember my happiness of years gone by and so I will reach out to him on Facebook. The guy I am leaving can take consolation – the Dalai Lama qualifies as a refugee!

Please share your thoughts by clicking on the headline OR on the blue (sometimes grey) bubble at the top of this post. Thanks!

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Diversity Is MIA at Halftime

 

Since this year’s Oscars nominations inspired a worthwhile discussion of diversity, I’ve been waiting for the entertainment media to say more about inclusion – or the lack of same – at the Sunday Super Bowl halftime show. None of the vanilla-talking CBS announcers mentioned the appearance of The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles. Nor did I hear those boys mention Gustavo Dudamel, the charismatic music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. If they did, it wasn’t enough, even though they fell over themselves promoting Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. (Chris Martin, not so much).

On Monday the twitterverse and post-show analysts gave Chris Martin flack for being less vivid than Beyoncé and Bruno Mars. He received scant credit for generously inviting them to join him on the show in the first place. Nor was Coldplay’s front man hailed for inviting The Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles to back him up. Perhaps he would have gotten his props if he had featured dozens of women cavorting in thongs. That worked for others.

I was in on the Dudamel-YOLA secret because I am a regular listener of the classical music station WQXR. It became my go-to background station when I realized it would keep me in my chair. Stravinsky’s rousing Firebird, unlike Katy Perry’s Firework, is impossible to sing or dance to (except for those on pointe).

WQXR hosts in the week leading up to Feb. 7 mentioned that Dudamel would be appearing with YOLA, the group of disadvantaged young musicians he founded. This led me to believe that I would see something generous as well as fun at the Super Bowl halftime. I thought the uninitiated would discover the joys of classical music. Not at all, as it turned out. However, one did see some diverse if uncredited faces behind Martin as he ran around bringing the camera to as many of them as possible. Asians! Latinos! Possibly a blonde! Parts of a few kids were glimpsed in the tight shots of Martin, Beyoncé and Mars, but mostly it was their clothing.

Those kids were happy. I’m hopping mad. So here’s my new song of choice: Coldplay’s Life in Technicolor. Since it includes singing, working hours I will go with Vitamin String Quartet’s version.

Please comment below, especially if, unlike me, you heard mention of Dudamel or YOLA. This is a blog of facts

50,000 Frenchmen (and Women) Can’t Be Wrong — Right?

Springtime in New York is particularly tinged by grace notes of Paris this year, as the N.Y. Times has pointed out. The French consulate estimates that 50,000 French citizens live in New York City. Based on the number of tourists milling about, it seems that friends and relatives are visiting most of them. When they ride our subway, do they feel more at home or less? Peruse these photos from the Paris Metro to decide.

casquette de baseball

The N.Y. Yankees have un ami in this Montmartre metro entrance

Easy listening

Easy listening

Graffiti, French style?

Graffiti, French style?

FDR, we are here

FDR, we are here

The Metro really is cleaner

It does look cleaner

Re-attribution for that Clinton Portrait

Nelson Shanks just revealed that he took it upon himself to immortalize Monica Lewinsky in his portrait of President Bill Clinton 6a00e550199efb8833010535c75e34970bthat hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. He also decided to omit Clinton’s wedding ring. Less known is the fact that the work is actually a tribute to newsman Ted Koppel. Unknown

Fashion from the ’70s — the 1070s

New York Fashion Week for Fall 2015 featured spare and bohemian looks from the 1970s, but cutting edge Proenza Schouler showed something… Proenza Schouler Fall 2015 … that harkens back to William the Conqueror, depicted below on the Bayeux Tapestry at the dramatic moment in 1066 when he lifts his helmet to show his troops that he is still alive. William lifts his helmet The classics. notably military looks, always return. Please share your thoughts in the reply box below.

A Small Midtown Business Survives!

Just in time for the Lenten season comes the miracle of a resurrection — Jim’s Shoe Repair is saved! Having now signed a new lease for the space at 50 E. 59th Street that it has occupied since 1932, Jim’s is a rare example of a successful and hallowed New York City business beating back the encroachment of a faceless mega-corporation. Some eighteen months ago the adjacent Duane Reade store, owned by Walgreen, tried to take over the space of the family-owned business, reportedly because to wanted to install refrigerators. Landlord SL Green Realty was ready to kick Jim’s out and it looked like another small New York City business would be swallowed in the maw of a national chain. (See May 2, 2014 post for background) 

Although SL Green drove Posman Books in Grand Central Station out of business, the firm and its tenant Walgreen decided to relent in the case of this repair shop. Joseph Rocco, grandson of the founder, credits his lawyer Bill Brewer who worked pro bono. “Without Bill Brewer we would be out of here,” he said. “He brought his shoes in here one day and said, ‘What do you mean you are losing your lease? You are not losing your lease.'” Rocco also acknowledges the help of Fox 5, the N.Y. Daily News, bloggers who reported on their plight, and customers who signed their petition. Surely it also helped that customer Kim Cattrall was bringing in a black handbag for repair when the Daily News came to do its story.

The Roccos were determined to save their business and looked for another location. They did manage to find one last fall, and they thought they had a deal. However, that fell through when their prospective landlord dropped them for another tenant who offered more money. Disaster loomed until just before Thanksgiving when Brewer phoned Rocco, inquired if he was sitting down, and said that SL Green had agreed to renew. By Valentine’s Day the papers were ready. Could it be that mega-businesses like Walgreen, and even Real Estate Board of New York members like SL Green, care about their image? Maybe this time.

The survival of Jim’s is a rare victory for those who love New York City and who fight to help its people to thrive. However, more than blogs and Kim Cattrall are needed if even one more small business is to be saved. Today a stroll up Madison Avenue from Jim’s to East 72nd Street offers a visit of at least one empty store front on every block.

Last July, Danny Meyer wrote in the N.Y. Times about the threatened closure of his Union Square Cafe and called for New York City to create a body like London’s Rent Assessment Panel that has helped to preserve neighborhoods. Recently Mayor Bill de Blasio summoned the perfect metaphor when he said that New York City should not be a “gated community.” Nor should it resemble a strip mall in Stamford, but it does. Within a two block radius of my apartment building on the Upper East Side there are two Duane Reades and two Walgreens, plus a CVS. We have more bank branches than delis, which is no accident because the banks took over the spaces of the family-owned food shops that all used to thrive in the days of commercial rent control. If the city can’t bring back fruitful regulation then it must explore the creation of an arbitration panel for commercial rent rates or a similar mechanism that will promote New York’s economic diversity. If the city’s business elites can’t bother to figure out how they can profit from the economic well-being of residents, let them at least think of the tourists. Those Stanford strip malls aren’t much of a draw to all those people that are flying in from Beijing and Rio. Please scroll down to the “Leave a reply” box and comment.

Note to Met Museum Cafeteria: I’d like a side of atmosphere

It’s not enough for me that New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art possesses Vermeer’s “Women With a Water Jug,” the Temple of Dendur and a large room full of armor. No, what I would like, truly, is to take pride in its cafeteria. That generic basement eatery could be anywhere, including a suburb in a declining Midwestern city. The posters that someone finally installed on its windowless walls have not improved the experience.

Graeco-Roman or 1930s Hollywood?

A nook at the Met Museum public cafeteria. Photos invoke 1930s Hollywood, not the Greek and Roman wing.

In the earlier public cafeteria space, art-lovers could munch on perfect medium-rare roast beef sandwiches in the aura of McKim, Mead and White’s marbled Roman atrium. That was taken over by the sublime Leon Levy and Shelby White Court of Classical Art.  Since then, the cafeteria has been déclassé, despite the high prices. In fairness, a few years ago the Prado’s cafeteria seemed plain, but its gazpacho imparted a cultural experience that was the best of Madrid, the essence of Spain.

The Musée d’Orsay in Paris should be an inspiration to the Met Museum. The food twice is good as Met fare, which makes it seem half the price (a friend paid $19 at the Met cafeteria for a plate of indifferent mashed potatoes and green beans, whereas I paid $23 at the full service d’Orsay brasserie for a large serving of smoked salmon, crudités and bottomless bread basket that I shared with a companion). Price is of course tangential to  visual aesthetics.

At the Musée d’Orsay, patrons at the snack bar, formally known as the Cafe de l’Ours, can enjoy a view of François Pompon’s delightful sculpture of an imposing polar bear.

by Sophie Boegly, free image from Musée-d'Orsay

Cafe de l’Ours snack bar at Musee Dorsay

While the Bear Cafe is just right for many museum patrons, those who want a meal can go to the restaurant that was part of the original Hotel d’Orsay adjacent to the train station that became the Musée d’Orsay.

Musee Dorsay

Restaurant Hotel d’Orsay combining haunt French style and plastic chairs with panache

And for those of us with appetites and budgets just in the middle, there is the Cafe Campana brasserie designed by the Campana Brothers of Brazil. They also devised the set for Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf at the Guggenheim Museum in 2008.

Lively atmosphere with decor of art

Who could have a bad time at this brasserie designed by the Campana Brothers of Brazil with art piece room divider?

Yours for 25 euros!

Yours for 25 euros!

Providing a more imaginative experience at the Met Museum cafeteria could be monetized. Do as the French. Remember: Exit through the gift shop!

 

Are NYC Pedestrians Less Important Than Carriage Horses?

In New York City, biking safety is measured by pedestrian body count. Not too many individuals are killed by lawless bike-riders, therefore biking is safe.

Nonetheless, most people I know, even cyclists, report that they are terrorized by bike-riders on sidewalks and in crosswalks on a daily basis. It is poor sportsmanship to say that cyclists should obey traffic laws or that they are anything less than a public good. When I was hit by a delivery biker while I stood behind the pedestrian barricade at the Second Avenue subway construction site this summer, the useless safety guard was amazed that I could expect any assistance. That wasn’t her job description, apparently. She thought it was an explanation when she snapped, “I am here to help people.” Not to worry, I stopped limping the next day.

Well today Jill Tarlov, 58, was stopped completely. The Connecticut wife and mother of two died this morning after several days of brain death caused by cyclist Jason Marshall, 31, who struck her down near West 62nd Street in Central Park on Thursday. The N.Y. Times reported the incident as well as the passion of New Yorkers whose concern about lawless cyclists is habitually ignored. As of this posting, he has yet to be charged with a crime. The N.Y. Post reported that Marshall has boasted of speeding on this $4,000 bike on the website http://www.strava.com. As of this posting, he has not been charged with a crime.

Hopefully, since one specific horror can illuminate festering wrongs, Tarlov’s death will be as transformative as the knock-out punch thrown by former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice against his then-fiancee. Revealed on a security video tape, it brought into focus the chronic violence against women that the National Football League and our Super Bowl-loving nation has long ignored. Now even the football commissioner has been shamed into paying attention.

Clearly, the city’s two-week police crackdown last month on cyclist law-breakers did not work. We need serious law enforcement every day, including the law that forbids anyone over the age of 14 from riding on the sidewalks. In addition, we need statues that require all cyclists to be licensed or registered and to wear large, visible registration numbers on their backs. Above all, cyclists must affix working headlights to their bikes and turn them on, as cars must, when twilight begins. Cyclists wearing black clothes in the black of even early black night are invisible to hapless pedestrians who dare to leave their homes after sundown.

On Monday morning as Tarlow’s death was announced, a woman wearing a Central Parks Conservancy volunteer tunic was at the accident site urging cyclists to obey posted notices that forbad bike riding on park pathways and also to get them to stop speeding through red lights. She told me she didn’t mind if they slowly rode through red ones (I do, however). For the most part, cyclists seemed to know they had to watch themselves. The volunteer told me, “I have seen the man who killed her many times. He speeds all the time. I do this volunteer work because I am a cyclist and I want it to be done right.”

Even so, cyclists know laws are not really for them. Tarlov’s husband was probably planning her funeral when I took these photos of the spot where she was struck down:

Scofflaw

The green light at left means that this biker had a red and should not be in crosswalk. Police presence did not faze him.

 

Future Killer?

Breaking the law at the scene of a brain death

 

 

 

Could he kill your parent or child?

This man rode away when volunteer told him to dismount when on a pedestrian pathway. In this photo he returns to ignore park rules and rejoin a female companion who dismounted and waited for him.

Outside the park, this cyclist grimaced and dismounted after I took her photo. Maybe she heard about Tarlov.

Outside the park, this well-heeled cyclist grimaced and dismounted after I took her photo. She knew she was doing the wrong thing. If I did this while waiting for a bus, what could police accomplish?

It’s time to get serious. Mayor deBlasio believes he had to take a principled stand again carriage horses. Let him take a stand against cycling scofflaws who ruin the quality of life of people who are trying to walk down a sidewalk or cross a street. CBS News, which employs Jill Tarlow’s widower, has promised to report on the issue. For most of New York’s media, that would make a real change. Here is the statement from Anton Guitano, Chief Operating Officer, CBS Local Media, and Peter Dunn, President, CBS Television Stations: “We are heartsick over the passing of our dear friend and former 1010 WINS Radio colleague Jill Tarlov. As we mourn the loss of our friend and console Mike and his family, we are committed to doing what we can to bring greater public awareness of the perils of unsafe and distracted driving by motorists and cyclists that endangers pedestrians. Far too many people have been killed or seriously injured on our streets.” To this I would add: Terrorized too.

Funny the rider in the photo lower left doesn’t look under age 14 to me.  Please comment and click on  “Leave a reply” below.

 

 

Paris Has a High Line! Qui savait que?

Present in the City was present in Paris and files this report:

It’s not as exciting as New York’s High Line, even for a New Yorker excited about Paris, but the City of Lights does have its own elevated park. Opened in 1993, 16 years before the 2009 debut of Manhattan’s newest landmark, the Viaduct des Arts/Promenade Plantée runs on the abandoned Vincennes Railroad viaduct northeast of the Gare de Lyon and then continues at street level.

Lovers of the High Line who run out of other things to do in Paris, and find themselves seeking tranquility or the understated scribbles that mimic Gotham graffiti, might check it out. Although it’s mentioned in guide books, it is still not easy to find. It is marked on the Paris aver Rues map available at metro stations and is a bit of a stroll from the Bastille stop. Walk down the Rue de Lyon until you come to the red brick wall. Meanwhile, New Yorkers staying home can check out the new section of the High Line opening Sept. 21. Here are some views for comparison (click for enlargements):

Promenade Plantee

Quiet Contemplation

Peaceful lunch

Dejeuner sur bench

Skeptical Parisians

Cherchez graffiti — they are waving, really

Viaduct des Arts

The base of the Promenade Plantee

Health Enthusiasts

Health Enthusiasts

Bridge at Viaduct des Arts

Sky Bridge

Viaduct des Arts

No grass to cut at this level

Send the Children Home

Multi-cultural New York City, through governmental and non-profit immigrant service agencies, is working to find shelter and other needed resources for the tide of unaccompanied children pouring over the southwest border of the U.S. from Central America. Since last October, according to the N.Y. Times, federal officials have sent 3,200 of these minors into New York State alone. One potential source of housing for them is a former convent in Syracuse.

Some attribute the influx of these hapless children to immigration policies that are more lenient to children than to adults. The Obama Administration blames the poor state of the economies of Central America. As for what is to be done now, some say turn the kids back immediately, others say they should be allowed to stay.

For myself, I am going with the opinion of my friend Milly, who has a life history of being pro-immigrant. A U.S. citizen since birth, she has done social work in Mexico, worked with immigrants arriving on these shores, and now teaches English to newcomers from all nations in New York City. She insists that the children must be sent back to their homes immediately. She has seen first-hand the horrors – robbery, rape and murder as well as exposure to the elements – that such children face on their journey from Honduras to the southwest border. Milly insists that any such travel must be blocked and discouraged. Certainly, it should not be rewarded.

I am left with two questions: First, did NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, deliver as promised? It seems not to have engendered the “certain” boost to the Mexican economy that would keep its people thriving at home. In the U.S., even factoring in automation, it deprived U.S. workers without college degrees of needed work, forcing them on social support at taxpayer expense. It was good for shareholders and intellectual property rights. It also dealt a big blow to unions. Learn about other outcomes here and see one of NAFTA’s proponents make a case for her work here.

Second question: How fast can we de-criminalize drug use and regulate and tax the sales of substances from marijuana to heroin? You can bet the drug lords of Mexico and the gangs they sub-contract to don’t want this to happen. Neither do those who live off the tax-funded U.S. prison system, which is supported by drug convictions and is, statistically speaking, the destination of many of today’s scarred and unaccompanied immigrant children.