The Island of Manhattan - my Home for 31 Days


Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York

M & M Store At Times Square

M & M Store At Times Square
M & M Store At Times Square

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Cost of Culture

I stumble around this city day after day exploring different streets, neighborhoods and boroughs like a voyeur, a witness and criminal investigator. The characters I meet throughout my day are strong, interesting and all worthy of their own great novel. It is beginning to become more obvious – who lives here and who is visiting and a distinct divide is starting to emerge.

New Yorkers tend to avoid Times Square in particular yet going to live shows is an important part of their social culture. Last night I had dinner at the Russian Tea Room surrounded by d├ęcor and diners from another world. Gaudy gold trimmed mirrors on every wall, bright red couches and speckled carpets, deep arctic green walls complete with a hand painted solid gold ceiling, it could almost have been the Velvet Cigar - resplendent in pimp and circumstance! (Not a typo – the waitresses dressed very similar to the hostesses at Brisbane’s most famous gentlemen’s club) Woody Allen clones – tiny artistic thick accented expressive New York men with their beautiful doll like wives – of various ages and styles – sampled the Kiev, the Borscht and the Caviar. Musicians, Actors, Directors and Theatre Goers alike were served by a more efficient wait staff I have never seen. The table waiter swept over to my table in between courses, re folded the napkins, rearranged the table, refilled glasses, decrumbed and decreased the table cloth in a split second. I could almost hear his sweet satisfaction as he finished his tidying task – ah yes a perfect job for a perfectionist! :-)

Naturally the restaurant itself is one big store with everything for sale. A merchandising gift shop is standard in this fair city selling items such as a hand painted Babushka doll set for $1500.00. The sale of fantasy to a tourist seeking New York magic is relatively easier when engaging in light banter about country of origin, reason for visit and length of stay. From those few questions, any New York salesman with half a brain can more than double their income by selling the eager happy tourist the particular illusion they came here for. :-)

What a great lesson in enterprise!
What a wonderful tutorial in commerce?
What a wonderful seminar for life?

After dinner, I went to see the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Lorin Maazel was the conductor and they performed Beethoven’s 6th and 7th symphonies.

The hall filled quickly and was quite a buzz with chatter. It seemed like most of the people knew each other. If this night was a movie, I was right in the middle of a 21st century Fiddler on the Roof. I had a ticket in the Dress Circle – almost nose bleed territory – yet incredible seats! Remember those tiny teeny little wooden chairs we had in primary school? Well someone covered them in red velvet and installed thousands of them in rows not more than nine inches apart into every level of Carnegie Hall.

The bell rang, the lights went down and the concert began. Beethoven is certainly the king of building tension through his music. I was fluttering through the breeze with the birds and next I was feeling the drama of the seasons – it was beautiful. The lady sitting beside me clasped my hands at the end of the first movement and in her finest Fran Drescher esque accent she whispered – “We don’t applaud here until the end.”

The musicians stop – take a breather and the audience mumble to each other softly and shift in their seats and then it all starts over again for the next few movements until the crescendo and the finale. Phew! I made it – I can now clap and yell “bravo”! Maazel did a fine job in the 6th but it was the 7th where his showmanship glittered. The second movement of this symphony featured in this year’s movie KNOWING starring Nichola Cage. As Sam had taken quite a fancy to it, I couldn’t help but feel quite emotional during the performance. The third and fourth movements were astounding and Maazel began to dance and jump and conduct wildly with the same passion that I remember my intoxicated father had while conducting the stereo in our lounge room during my childhood in the 1970s. Orange wallpaper and Beethoven’s Fifth – ah memories…..:-)

Everything featured in this night, the hall, orchestra, seating, staffing, services – have been heavily supported by New York patronage. $80 million dollars a year is provided through sponsorship and donation to keep this one arts organization alive. There are thousands of other such arts organizations being given the breath of life on an annual basis by similarly generous individuals. Art and Culture costs much and people like me get to appreciate it through the continuous support of wealthy New Yorkers. This is no small thing. My exposure to the various forms that business takes while in New York is a greater education than I could have ever paid for at university. This system of wealth is comprehensive and of enormous value.

It was delicious listening to the various characters around me. Mrs. Fengelstein’s leg was playing up, Mrs. Zechandorf’s hips simply couldn’t make those stairs and Mr. Kaufman’s legs were way too long – he needed an aisle seat! :-) Sure I sat in the middle of a walking sticked, orthopedic shoed, grey haired audience, many of the men wearing skullcaps and the tiny impeccably dressed bird like women were definitely going to the same hairdresser however I loved it and felt right at home. I couldn’t imagine anything sweeter than to live in a small village like NY and get together with my mates at gigs such as this one. :-)

So I get to go to a rock concert featuring the world's greatest celebrities and stars at Madison Square Garden and a few days later I listen to one of my favourite composers played by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall - and all for the cost of a medium priced pair of shoes.

How lucky are we that so many other people pay the cost of our exposure to this culture?

1 comment:

  1. WOW ! DOUBLE WOW ! Nicki, Im speechless with delight, keep writing...HT


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