I usually blog about my trips to New York City on my Williamsport Web Developer blog but it is more appropriate to blog about them here. This is the first trip I have made to New York City since the pandemic. I last made a trip to the city in 2019 so it has been four years. The first thing I noticed as the bus approached the city is that the tallest skyscraper appears to be one near Central Park. After a little research I believe this is Central Park Tower. I did take some photos of this skyscraper. On the four hour bus ride to the city I read The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Domination on my Kindle. This is a collection of short stories but I was stuck reading a long novella, The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon.
I arrived in the city at 10:00 a.m. The bus left us off in front of the Times Square Church on West 51st Street. This was pretty close to my first destination, the Museum of Modern Art, so I walked there. The arthritis in my right knee bothered me a lot on this trip. I wore a knee stabilizer but it did not help much. The Museum of Modern Art does not open until 10:30 a.m. so I arrived there too early. I went to the MoMA Design Store across the street and killed some time examining everything they had for sale. Everything was over-priced so I bought nothing. I was wearing a winter coat over a light jacket which would have been too hot for the museum so I went in the coat check line to get rid of my winter coat. You had to enter your phone number into a touch pad instead of getting a coat check token.
After a bit of wandering around I made a beeline for the Francis Bacon painting Study for Portrait VII 1953 which was on display on the fifth floor. This was the only Francis Bacon painting they had on display. I am currently reading a biography of the artist, Francis Bacon: Revelations by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. I bought this book after seeing his studio in Dublin, at the Hugh Lane Gallery. Reading this book on a modern artist has made me wonder if I should take generative art more seriously. Generative art is the only form of modern art I am involved in. It is a very niche art market but it does allow me to wear all the hats; artist, collector, gallery owner, and art investor. There is even a Generative Art Museum but it only exists as a virtual space online. My art gallery is also just a web site that displays my NFTs. I don’t take generative art too seriously. To me it is just an elaborate game. But there are hundreds of artists making generative art and there are connections with the real art world.
The only example of Artificial Intelligence art work I saw at the Museum of Modern Art was Anatomy of an AI System by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler on the second floor. This was a huge data visualization which was meant to represent the vast networks that underpin a single Amazon Echo smart speaker. I saw several exhibitions at MoMA including the Between Two Rivers exhibition of photographs by An-My Lê. Many of her photos were pretty interesting and covered a wide variety of subjects. Picasso in Fontainebleau gave me an opportunity to see some rare works by the master of modern art. I wanted to see the Now Then exhibit of Ed Ruscha but I could not find it. Only as I was leaving the museum did I notice an information panel which revealed that it was on the 6th floor. This was really the fault of MoMA since their directories on the other floors did not have this information. Anyway Ed Ruscha’s work interests me because he did some pop art work that is very geometric. I’m pretty sure I can reproduce his Standard Station in code with only a slight loss in detail. Sometimes I like to reproduce geometric art in Processing just to show that it can be done. I did go outside the museum to the sculpture garden and took lots of photos of the sculptures out there.
I left the museum of Modern Art at 11:30 a.m. My next destination was the Drama Book Shop on West 39th Street. The Drama Book Shop was forced to move so they created a whole new store with a very fancy interior design. The store features vintage theater posters and sculptures made out of books. It is a real destination for theater lovers and playwrights. I had a shopping list but I could not find any of the books I was looking for. I was looking for individual plays by Marina Carr but they only had the collection Marina Carr: Plays 1 which I already have. I was also looking for plays by Howard Barker but they only had Scenes from an Execution which is the only book I have. I went to the bookshelf for books on playwriting and settled for Breaking From Realism by Michael Bigelow Dixon. At the very least, this book will direct me to the work of more experimental playwrights. The cashier found the book interesting enough to take a photo of it. Buying a book on playwriting at the Drama Book Shop struck me as an important symbolic gesture.
My next goal was to head downtown to the Chelsea neighborhood to find the Irish Repertory Theatre. Of course, I know where to find it but after four years my New York City navigation skills were a little rusty. With my bad knee I could not cut things close. So I made my purchase at 12:30 p.m. but still needed to head downtown to be near the theater by 2:00 p.m. On 40th Street I came across the 42nd Street Station – Port Authority Bus Terminal Station. This subway entrance takes you to the immense underground subway hub where you can walk down a long corridor to the 1 line trains going downtown. I bought a new Metro Card because my old one was surely expired. I only spent $15.50 on this because I only needed it for two rides. I took the 1 train going downtown to the 23rd Street Station in Chelsea. As soon as I emerged from the subway entrance I saw the famous Chelsea Hotel so I took some photos of it. The Chelsea Hotel has a long history as a bohemian haunt. There are several books written about the place but now I think it is just an expensive hotel. Anyway, I had carefully examined the crossroads on Google Maps so I quickly found my way to the Irish Repertory Theatre to take some photos of the exterior. I had some time to kill so I located the Le Zie Trattoria restaurant and took some photos of that from across the street. I then rested on a metal bench for awhile. I did snag a free copy of El Especialito, a Spanish newspaper, because I am studying Spanish.
The main focus of my trip was to see the play “Translations” by Brian Friel at the Irish Repertory Theatre. After having gone on their Dublin trip, I now feel a bond with this theater. I don’t really have any connection with any other theater in New York City. As I have mentioned before, the Irish Repertory Theatre is now your best bet to see a classic serious play, as long as it is Irish! Brian Friel is probably the greatest contemporary Irish playwright, in the era after Samuel Beckett. Even so, I can’t say I’m terribly interested in his work. His plays with a spiritual bent, Faith Healer and Wonderful Tennessee show an interesting longing for the sacred, but Wonderful Tennessee in particular reveals that his imagination could not take him to the ancient mysteries. I’m sorry, but it is just an intellectual pretension that the sacred is lost to modern man. There are many people who are more spiritual than Brian Friel and artists who possess the visionary imagination of the Romantic poets. Williams Butler Yeats is of more interest to me and I plan to read his biography soon. Currently I am studying his poetry. Perhaps the most interesting Irish poet was George William Russell (aka AE), practically the Irish William Blake.
But let me review “Translations”. This is an interesting play about how the English attempted to standardize the place names of Ireland. Although this might seem like an innocent enough task, it actually had the sinister purpose of erasing the Irish language and the history surrounding the place names. Even today language is being changed for a sinister purpose. For example, the gender crackpots are busy replacing every word we have for women in an effort to colonize women’s spaces. It is gotten so bad that you can be canceled for even attempting to define a woman, hence Matt Walsh’s controversial documentary What Is a Woman?. I’m sure some people in the theater community would be made uncomfortable by this application of the play’s message, but it is quite valid. Our language is under assault by lunatics who cannot accept the most basic aspect of the human condition. Although many people believe that changing the language around something will change the reality, it does not work that way. Even though English did replace the Irish language that was not enough to erase the tribalism that eventually forced the UK and Ireland to go their separate ways. The Great Famine is a shocking example of how little regard the English had for the Irish, as England let millions of Irish starve to death. The play does foreshadow the Great Famine even though it is set in a time just before that tragic event. A common language never changed the consequences of decades of colonial abuse. I was surprised that Greek and Latin were taught in the hedge schools, but I guess this was common for education at the time. It makes the rural characters seem very sophisticated and gives them a certain nobility.
After the play was over I quickly left the theater and walked a short distance to the restaurant Le Zie Trattoria were I had a reservation for 4:30 p.m. I immediately took a Tylenol using my glass of water because my right knee was beginning to feel very painful. I ordered the Black Truffle Mac & Cheese which was the best macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. The cheese was quite thick and the black truffles added a lot of taste to the dish. I made sure to use the cramped restroom near the kitchen even though I didn’t feel the need to go. It is a good idea to keep your bladder empty because public restrooms are rare in New York City. For desert I had two scoops of ice cream. This was a mistake because ice cream always gives me diarrhea on a trip. I don’t know why. I paid the bill at 5:05 p.m. It was only $43.11.
After dinner I had no specific plans. But I wanted to get back uptown to be closer to where the bus would pick me up. So I took the 1 train to the 50th Street Station. This train was extremely crowded. I had to stand near the door and was only able to take a seat on the 42nd Street stop. I did have an idea to go to an Irish pub and sit at the bar to have a cider. First I looked for the Emmett O’Lunney’s Irish Pub on West 50th Street but they were gone, out of business. Then I tried the Playwright Irish Pub on West 49th Street but every seat at the bars was taken. I even found the bar upstairs but the place was just too crowded. Eventually I found Hurley’s Restaurant & Bar on West 48th Street across from the Walter Kerr Theatre. I found a place at the bar and ordered a Magners, my favorite Irish hard cider. Made from apples, this cider tastes like apple juice only not as sickeningly sweet or tart. I had to use the restroom because the ice cream had given me diarrhea. The bar maid directed me to the restroom downstairs but I found the only stall locked even though nobody was in the stall. The barmaid then directed me to another restroom.
After finishing my drink which cost me $10 I wandered around the theater district taking photos of Broadway theaters. I think the drink helped to anesthetize my throbbing knee for awhile. Eventually I came across the Theatre Circle store. This store mostly sells merchandise related to Broadway musicals but in the back there are a few bookshelves of plays. For some strange reason they mostly stock cheap Dover books and actor editions. Still I managed to find “Amy’s View” by David Hare which might be interesting.
On the way home I was unable to play any music on my smartphone because I didn’t have an app to play music. I have MP3s on my SD card but Amazon Music refused to play them. This meant that I could not listen to celebratory music during the long bus ride. That is usually when I feel most inspired by my trip to New York City. Instead I had to settle for reading more of the long novella, The Space Between by Diana Gabaldon on my Kindle. We did stop at a Burger King in an Onvo travel plaza in Blakeslee PA. I ordered a fish sandwich but what I really needed was the small coke so I could take another Tylenol.
In conclusion I think this trip furthered my intellectual and artistic interests. Everything went as planned but the pain in my right knee was a constant distraction. I have a doctor’s appointment on Tuesday but I doubt that he will do anything to help me. I may need to get a second opinion or otherwise pester the hospital system.