Manifesto

The experience of the event currently at the Armory on Park Avenue is so astounding it is a challenge just to describe it. So what must it have been for Cate Blanchett to play 13 completely different roles in 13 different short stories, all espousing the manifestos of various idealists and artists? One minute she is a toothless tramp, the next a Russian diva, then a school teacher, a Southern mother, a drug induced teenager. One character quotes Jean-Luc Godard saying ‘It’s not where you take things from, its where you take them to’y. Another talks about taking all things mundane, cleaning your teeth, wiping your hands, going to work, and flushing them into consciousness – everything is art! There are so many quotes and ideologies emanating from screens around the cavernous amory that it becomes a whir of chatter, building to a crescendo when suddenly and simultaneously Cate appears close up on every screen. Then the images recede and the cycle of the films start again. Surrounded by darkness and an audience silently moving from one screen to another, the impact is dramatic and unforgettable. Full credit to the artist Julian Rosefeldt for his intense creativity. But even more-so to Cate Blanchett, who does the county and the craft proud…

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A perfect Pi

Mathematically speaking, there is no equation between frozen puddles and filo pastry. But somehow the seasonal appearance of the former magically conjures up dreams of the latter, along with golden sunshine, blue water and all things Mediterranean. This picture may not have added up, except for the authenticity of Pi, a Greek Bakery on Broome Street that creates a classic destination with no swimsuit required. Fortunately.

Almost everything at Pi is hand made – the bread ( sesame encrusted Koulouri ), the baklava, the painerli and the pastries. Some are sweet and others filled with sundried tomatoes and feta. Honey comes from Greece, and ‘sweet spoons’ – jam-like indulgences that you just dip into – come from Cyprus. The biggest mouthful was the galaktoboureko, a filo custard pie garnished with sweet lemon and orange infused syrup, that not only restores the reputation of custard but recalculates the whole experience. And then there was almond cake initialed for 2017 and baked with one hidden coin, the finder of which would have good luck for the new year. The math for success was implicit just in the wish – it is going to be an exceptional year…!

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It’s not easy being green

Christmas trees don’t last very long. Especially the frozen ones. In fact the tree Sean and I chose this year would not have lasted 5 minutes – or 5 seconds – in the blazing heat of my family’s Port Lincoln Noel. But it would have been just as welcome there as here on the bright and joyful day we celebrated yesterday. In glorious sunshine a ride through bustling Chinatown ended at a much photographed, tweeted and instagrammed new destination – Taiyaki. This tiny Tokyo and Taiwanese inspired icecreamery is responsible for the latest culinary craze in NYC – freshly baked waffles in the shape of a fish wrapped like a cone around a spiraling of whipped icecream and festive condiments. Red bean – more like sticky dates – line the tail, creating a little sweet surprise at the end. Alas the end comes too quickly! The Christmas Tree, available only for a few more days, comes in green with shiny sprinkles and a star. But green icecream, being matcha rather than lime flavoured, is not as appealing as chocolate. So a chocolate Christmas tree it was, deliciously decorated and devoured with seasonal ceremony…

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Merry Christmas!

Father Christmas hasn’t even arrived and there is fun and frivolity everywhere. The Frick set the pace as usual for the festive season with a jazz band that had staff swinging while Vermeer and Rembrandt tapped in the background. Mickey dressed as Santa at the local fire station. Snow fell for a little pre-Christmas crooning, decorating pine trees in white but not disturbing the sellers while they slept on-site. Berdorfs won the window competition with gorillas and giant rabbits in glorious green. Who needs elves?! Scrooge grumbled at the Morgan celebrations during the reading from the original Christmas Carol, but that didn’t stop yours truly toasting the season from JP’s desk. And as always on the street there are the spontaneous moments where people pause on their way to party, balancing bears and balloons. It is time for some traditions to become history, like cookie day at The Frick, and for new ventures to be sought. We have a film to make and family to go home to. So let’s raise a glass and enjoy the moment. Thank you for a great year and all the best from NYC for the next. Cheers!

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Presley & Punk

Sotheby’s is on the opposite side of the grid to the museum mile and is not generally listed in the ‘must-do’s’ of the NYC art world. There is a perception that this imposing institution is only for the rich, and that stiff noses and intimidating staff may glare down any non-bidding visitors. But this is Sotheby’s New York. If the wine shop on the ground floor is not invitation enough, there is a café on the roof, school groups have scheduled tours, the local hospital staff swing by on their lunch breaks and the public is actively encouraged to visit. Unlike most other museums or galleries around town, the exhibitions you will see here may never be available for public viewing again. Treasures pass from one private hand to another, so during this brief exchange, make the most of it.

Punk may be dead, and the burning of several million dollars worth of memorabilia last week by the son of the Sex Pistol’s manager may have created some heat, but Sotheby’s nevertheless salvaged the band’s boat banner proclaiming God Save the Queen. It may be one of the few remaining souvenirs from that time – and that is only one piece of the amazing Rock & Roll exhibition about to go under the hammer. A hand written copy of the words to ‘Blowing in the Wind’ by Bob Dylan is expected to fetch up to $500,000. Having a Nobel Price is obviously good for sales. Then there are alternative covers for the Beatle’s Abbey Road album, posters from the Rolling Stones tour of Australia in 1973 and a double billing of The Beatles and The Beach Boys in Washington for the fab four’s first USA concert. But by far my most favorite piece in the whole collection comes from Elvis. Of course. An intercom system from the 70’s with a bullet hole through the front also has a hand written message on the top saying ‘to open the gate faster next time’. Elvis signed it ‘E.P’. I wonder if it would look any good on top of the fridge…

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Hello and goodbye

The psychologist is in at the Union Square subway station. At least he was a couple of weeks ago, encouraging straphangers to pause and post a note about the presidential pantomime. But what started as therapy quickly turned into a frenzy of colour, a swath of sticky notes, papering not only one wall adjacent to the six line, but many. Layer upon layer, pillar upon post, thousands and thousands of notes that together made art rather than anger. An excellent outcome.

Meanwhile across town people lined up around the block from the Cuban Embassy, waiting to sign the guestbook that had been collecting signatures for 9 days. No post-it notes, but lots of emotion.

And in midtown outside the Trump Tower, the Mayor was contemplating the cost of cops.  The tally comes in at $500,000 a day to protect the first family and some of his second and third. That will be $35 million by inauguration day. The oft circulated idea of turning Fifth Avenue into a bus-only zone may make the job easier. But Fifth Avenue with no cars…no cabs…no limos…no bicycles…?! Hmmmm…  it might be a good time to invest in Post-It notes…

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Happy Thanksgiving

This is a time to pause and be grateful for all the colour, the adventure and the opportunity. To be thankful for the love of family and the kindness of strangers. To know that life is what you make it, that pumpkin can decorate and be delicious. And to know that whatever happens next will be the cream on the cake…

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Buon Appetito!

A small sandwich shop in the middle of the financial district is the last place you would expect to find love. This is the tough end of town, where wolves from Wall Street and politicians from City Hall prowl around wheeling and dealing. You have to be something special to survive. Eatily may be the glamorous new addition up the road, and South Seaport to the East may fringe Brooklyn views with trending waterfront eateries. But Pisillo on Nassau Street has Carmelo & Antonella and a team of Italians that are as passionate about their welcome as they are about food.

Seeking out the famously generous and authentic sandwiches favored by Mayor De Blasio and the ravenous locals, Sean & I were caught out by the cash only sign. Not wanting to venture back out into the 2*C wind for a bank, I presented $11 and asked if this would work for a taste of Italy. It may as well have been a hundred dollars. Within moments we were presented with a mega panini bursting with fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes and layer upon layer of finely flounced prosciutto. This was not just a sandwich, it was a work of art.

The windows and walls of Pisillo are covered with messages from happy customers around the city, and around the world. No wonder they have expanded into next door with coffee and cake offerings – they are going to need the wall space. And that’s before the Australians arrive. When I spoke to Carmelo about coming back before he gave everything away, he just smiled. This is a love affair that is just beginning…

 

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Blessed are the Cheesemakers

The sun is up, the sunshine is glorious and there is much to celebrate. Forever onward! Sisters are grandparents for the first time, old train sets are running anew for anyone who can fit inside the bubble, leaves are setting Central Park alight, and ice skaters are not the only hot property in Bryant Park. Newly installed festive fooderies have visuals to tempt the best of us, particularly when a dangerously diminishing round of baked cheese melts in front of your eyes, the grilled gooiness of raclette dripping onto a crusty ciabatta with smoked ham… trainssamshowoffracletteblessedmeltingmelting2melting3

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Don’t say I told you!

The Amateur Comedy Club on East 36th street is a club for members only, they do not advertise and they actively discourage publicity. There are no signs outside, no listing of performances in the press, there are no tickets issued for shows and money does not change hands. Ah, the success of an ( almost ) secret society! If it were not for the immense merriment that glows from this clandestine clique, then I would not be in the know. Not that I am, and not that I’m telling you about it…

The club grew out of an intense boredom with Victorian dramas, when, in 1884, six fellows got together and elected an absent seventh as president. Thus began an actor’s club for members who like to drink, or alternatively, a drinking club for members who like to act. Men only of course, producing and acting each show, with female roles being played by guests of the club. This is a quirky tradition that has survived three thousand nine hundred and thirty four performances, and that’s not all. Female players are ‘announced’ at the beginning of the show, but not the men, unless they are making their debut. At half time, lemonade and coffee are served in the library as is alcohol at the end – unless you have access to the men’s locker room where whiskey and vodka are stashed. Black tie is mandatory at the weekend performances and if you come underdressed, wardrobe will be provided to accommodate those ‘delinquent’ members of the audience. Then there’s the Snarks, the sister group of women actors, who put on their own performances each year and no doubt have their own collection of eccentricities.

Last week I was privileged to be invited on a member’s allocation of seats to see How the Other Half Loves, a gleeful comedy of misadventure from Alan Ayckbourn. The play was delightful, and all the more fabulous just by being in the club itself. The walls in the library where we took club crested coffee were covered in rich memories. Posters from performances long past, photographs of famous actors, books, leather couches and reviews. No-one gets a bad one at The Amateur Comedy Club and perhaps that is why this is the oldest continuously performing theatrical group in the United States. There’s no judgement, it’s just all about having some fun…

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