Saturday, May 23, 2009

Journal: The Met Museum and Sondheim Cabaret

Woke at dawn after very little sleep (due to annoying noises all night), intending to go to the Met Museum in the morning when it’s empty-ish, only to find an offer of a proofreading job I knew I'd love, so I had to wait till noon for the messenger (sleeping mostly), but it came and then I took the bike by subway to 81st Street and biked across the Park – in shorts, a mistake, as there was a deep puddle on the transverse – and brought along carpet slippers to change into for the museum.

Saw the show on French Renaissance bronzes (which closes on Sunday), quite fine, lots of gods and goddesses and Bourbon kings (half the things labeled “model for the famous equestrian statue destroyed in the Revolution” or some such), lots of items never much seen, from the Louvre and from Dresden, and from HM Elizabeth II, having been collected post-Revolution by George IV, the aesthete king – aesthete kings like Charles I and Richard II have never been popular in England. Far too many historical errors in the signage - who, pray tell, is Tsar Paul II? and Charles I was not Henri IV's brother-in-law, he was his son-in-law. Like that, but lots and lots of it.

From that through a show on “Muses of Fashion” – great fashion models of the post-WW2-to-now era and the dresses they wore, which was crowded but did not interest me except in the last room there were half a dozen Galliano party gowns from the nineties with elegant hand-stitching in the style of Met Opera costumes from the early 1900s, and I loved those (too fat to wear them, though), and a few gown-ish photos from the 1940s and ‘50s, a strange era to me (and most of the far younger crowd, I suspect).

Then to the Francis Bacon centennial show, which has just opened and was even more crowded, so I’ll go back later in the summer. My favorite paintings were not reproduced on cards: a naked man slipping through a diaphanous curtain, and a tweed coat over a chair - but I also liked some self-portraits and a pope or two. When asked why he painted self-portraits, Bacon snarled, "Everyone else died."

Ducked through European painting to say Hi to a few friends like Velazquez’s Juan de Pareja, and overheard a bit of a lecture by a charming white-haired lady on Vermeer’s Woman with a Pitcher of Water. Then happened to pass the Byzantine aisle beside the great staircase, though I object to their signage here too: “The empire gradually came to be known as Byzantium” – no, it never did, its inhabitants always called it “the Roman Empire.” “Byzantium” was invented by a German historian in the late 16th century, because idiots get confused if you call it “the Roman Empire” as late as 1453, which I do anyway. Noticed a wonderful panel in opus sectile, just dug up at Caesarea in Israel, and a marble bust of the Empress Flacilla (who?) which looked exactly like my bulldyke cousin Amy. She will not be happy to hear me say that. Flacilla, if you are curious, was the first wife of Theodosius I, that nasty Spaniard who outlawed pagan practices in the empire in 391 c.e.

Then I biked home (about nine miles), pausing at 23rd Street to buy fruit from a Bengali (cherries, apricots, red peppers), wondering how to pass the evening - but at 6pm I fell on my bed and died. So I was up at 11, and went out at midnight. I went to Ty's, which was not interesting, and then wondered what might be interesting at that hour on a Friday night. The answer was clearly Sondheim Cabaret, where I have not been in a year or so.

Sondheim Cabaret at the Duplex (upstairs, Fridays, after 11:30) is an awfully young crowd for me, and you never know whether they're going to sing American Idol sort of stupid stuff or too many renditions of "Being Alive," but on this occasion it was actually a great success. Kate Pazakis and some fag were hosting it, and they played "Diva Tag," which is to say they sang "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," each one emoting and then tagging the other at the most embarrassing moment, whereupon the other had to be right on the note or melisma or whatever, and this was quite funny. They also did an open sing of "525,600 Minutes," which I am too old to know (but I do). A number of volunteers shanghai'd from the floor did uninteresting songs from recent shows, and I did "Necessity" from Finian's Rainbow impressively badly if I do say so myself, and a guy finally did sing "Giants In the Sky" to assert our Sondheim credentials, and someone named Roger Crom (unknown to me) sang a song about Spanish boys and then his version of Sondheim's version of Oklahoma (Oklahomo), which was quite sublimely witty and sophisticated and well performed, and then some rather sweet little guy named Dom Giovanni who claims to be the gayest person in New York sang a dynamite Rose's Turn, and the MC attempted to flirt with a really hot hetero Scottish actor I'd never heard of who was just sitting with his girlfriend in the audience (but the emcee checked him out on Wikipedia right there on the stage), and I had had a couple of Long Island ice teas by this point so it was time to go before I attempted "Begin the Beguine."

But I was feeling full of energy on a warm New York night so I biked over Houston Street to the bike path on the river, which is fun to bike on because it is pretty well kept, no potholes to watch out for, and there was hardly any pedestrian traffic either at 3am, so I biked as hard as I liked up to 28th Street to consider going to the Eagle (I was in a leather vest and boots), but it was past 3 already, so I turned around and biked very hard to Canal Street, then home. Still not sleepy. I can always proofread crime writing till dawn.

Still haven't made the Picasso show in Chelsea. The Met has a show coming in from the Kabul Museum end of next month – yum! (Truly.)

I want to go bike around Ridgewood Reservoir before it gets hot. Never been there – it’s on the Queens-Brooklyn border someplace. Queens is full of parks I do not know. (Manhattan, the only borough I know well, is much the smallest of the five.) I wish I'd had my bike when I was in Rome.

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