Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rain threatening

The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. 2:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, November 16, 2011. Fair but cloudy yesterday in New York with a touch of rain threatening.

The Mayor shut down the Occupy Wall Street congregation in Zuccotti Park in the very early hours of yesterday morning. Despite the official objections to the movement, a lot of New Yorkers have been indifferent to the protest and the protesters. The "neighbors" in that area have been very unhappy with the noise(s). Others didn't understand it while others felt it was politically reprehensible. The words "socialist" and "liberal" get thrown in to serve in the mainstream media screeds about it.
Zuccotti Park on Saturday.
But it was none of those things. I know people, 30-somethings, 40-somethings who went to visit the scene the way you visit a street fair. Or a museum exhibit. Out of curiosity. They came away with "judgments" about how the people looked/clean/dirty/etc., about how they existed down there, and what they were talking about. No one said anything about "why" they were there, or what, if any, effect they were having. Missing from their reports was any sense of urgency outside the presence of the protesters.

The internet journalists have presented a much more substantive report on "why" this is all happening. It has everything to do with the financial situation that many people are in. Nevertheless that issue varies from person to person and those of us who are solvent (or rich) tend to feel much less threatened by any financial misfortunes than those of us carrying a wall of debt and joblessness.
Meanwhile, farther uptown: Fifth Avenue at 55th Street.
Frolicking on Fifth.
As one who lived through the 1960s and the 1970s where protests eventually had a major impact on public policy -- if not always successfully, the "Occupy" protests have seemed not only vague but somewhat obscure in their purpose. The motivation behind this movement clearly has to do with people's financial lives. Anger and anxiety is commonplace among us, because of this. The OWSer movement, however, has not touched the national nerve to create a groundswell of support, possibly because our financial lives vary greatly. Does that indicate a lack of significance? Or is it a clarion call?

However, compared to the anti-Vietnam War protests of thirty and forty years ago, as well as the various liberation protests of that time; and compared to the strikes and protests of the labor movement early in the last century, this one has seemed mild and without teeth.

The girl.
Trump Tower going holiday.
Because of that, it is puzzling why the official handling of this matter has been as if it were in some way threatening to the well-being of the community or the political process. Ironically the generation now running things is also the generation that reaped the benefits of those earlier movements.

Perhaps Tuesday morning's move was seen by the Mayor and his advisers as preventative in nature.

Meanwhile, farther uptown yesterday, the crowds were out on Fifth Avenue yesterday. I went to lunch at Michael's which was packed. At the table next to me was David Huntsman, brother of Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. Mr. Huntsman, who was lunching with Paige Peterson, was in town for the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City.

Walking up Fifth Avenue afterwards, I saw the eternally 7- month-pregnant young woman with her two little well-coated and cared-for Pomeranians encamped in front of Bendel's – along with the book she's deep into, and with her colorful, hand written sign pleading for money to get home.

She is a mystery, a paradox considering her presence, her accoutrements, her manner. I pulled my camera out and she must have seen me do it because she immediately put on a pair of dark glasses. It wouldn't surprise me if she'd even bought them at Bendel's as the girl has a strongly defined sense of fashion.

Across the way on the face of the Trump Tower is the first holiday decoration of the upcoming season. Meanwhile the windows of Bergdorf's were still covered over, save for one newly opened, displaying a cacophony of brass figures and objects set up to intrigue. You had to be there.

Walking up Madison, same thing: lots of people out. Passing Nello's, its terrace still open and occupied, where a bowl of pasta can set you back 35 bucks, I noticed the place was packed with limousines double parked in front. A lot of Euros and their girls.
The line outside Ladurée on Madison Avenue.
As it is every night during this pre-holiday season, there are many events going on all over town. Over at the Mandarin Oriental, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory was hosting its 6th annual Double Helix Medals dinner and honoring Temple Grandin, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Harold Varmus.

Dr. Grandin is a noted authority on Autism and Aspergers Syndrome ( Dr. Varmus who is a Nobel Prize winning scientist, is the director of the National Cancer Institute. And Kareem needs no introduction except to say he has distinguished himself on the roads he has taken from his brilliant early career to the present.

Cold Spring Laboratory is a great organization and was for many years the laboratory of Dr. James Watson, co-discoverer of the Double Helix. Last night's co-hosts were David Stern, Laura and Harry Slatkin, David and Mary Boies, Paul Taubman, and Jamie Nicholls and Fran Biondi.

Down at Doubles, the New York Committee of the American Humane Association
gathered to greet Dr. Robin Ganzert who came up from Washington to thank the committee for their help in organizing the 10th Anniversary Tribute to the Hero Dogs of 9/11. One of the first winners of the Association's Her Dog Awards, "Sadie" demonsterated her fire prevention and arson detection skills by finding nitroglycerin in one of the guests shoes. The evening kicked off the non profits Red Star Animal Emergency Servies Centennial Campaign, a $10 million effort to expand the animal disaster relief teams capability across the country.
Jerry Means and Sadie give a demonstration.
Frederick Johnston. Jerry Means, Mark Stubis, Scott Mendel, and Sadie.
Margo Langenberg and Hartley du Pont. Robin Ganzert.
Sherrey Henry and Margaret Hedberg.
Barbara Senchak. Wendy Carduner and Wendy Sarashohn.
IMG_4005-Hilary Block, Liz Anderson, Mary Van Pelt
Ferris Andler and Jen Bawdin. Melissa Morris and Sadie.
Christine Biddle and Scott Mendel.
Among those attending: Melissa Morris, Mallory Hahaway, Jennifer Bawden, Franchesca and Charles Biondo, Sharon Bush, Alicia Blythewood, Leighton Candler, Hilary Cushing Block, Gigi Fisdell, Ali Wentworth, Judy Gordon Cox, Charlene Haroche, Hartley du Pont, Margaret Hedberg, Valerie Jennings, Karen Klopp, Margo Langenberg, Anki Leeds, Ann Rapp, Barbara Senchak, Jean Shafiroff, Mary Van Pelt, Christine Mortimer Biddle, Carole Bellidora Westfall, and Prince Lorenzo Borghese.

Over at the Whitney, there was a book party for Julia Reyes Taubman and her new book, a photo journal of Detroit and its architecture and its anthropology. It's called Detroit: 138 Square Miles. With a foreward by Elmore Leonard, a lifelong resident of the once famous Motor City.

Click to order Detroit: 138 Square Miles.
This is a document of a great American city in ruin. What is so haunting is the scope and intensity of the deterioration of a community. It's as if this great center of American industry atrophied. Looking at it, I was trying to think of comparisons across the world. Detroit is not a ghost town but it certainly is a cemetery for what we came to call the American Century.

Is it grim? Yes, but it's rich and deeply affecting and thought provoking. I was reminded of a friend I had in the mid-60s named Pete Sutherland. Pete was a guy in his early 30s and involved in the import business, especially with Japan. He used to say: "Japan is the future of the auto industry." We used to chide him about his offhand pronouncements. We lived in America, home of Detroit. Japan to us '50's and '60's post-War kids, was where they made cheap trinkets sold in American variety stores for a penny or a dime.

Sutherland at one point put his money where his mouth was and imported a very small compact called the Sambar. It had wheels but no legs in the marketplace. However, Sutherland's prediction about the future of the automotive industry was ridiculous in the context of the moment, but true. Too, too true. As witnessed by Julia Taubman's extraordinary book. It is telling us something. Like the Occupy Wall Street movement, not so coincidentally.

Mrs. Taubman is the chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and is also the daughter-in-law of Alfred Taubman who built his real estate empire out of Detroit. 

She is a documentary photographer and architectural historian. She spent six years focusing her lens on the 138 square mile metropolis in transition. Or ruin.  She shows us the land, the air and the water, She chronicles the changing landscape manipulated by nature and time. She shows you the scale and the solidity of the buildings that characterized the former "Motor City" at the height of its industrial wealth and power.
She suggests its the changing attitudes of Americans towards urbanism. I was still reminded of my friend Pete Sutherland's take on Japan. A great metropolis obliterated.
The gathering last night at the Whitney for Julia Reyes Taubman and her book Detroit: 138 Square Miles.
The book's introduction is by the great Elmore Leonard, a lifelong resident of Detroit (who was there last night). In it he addresses the social and cultural significance of the post-industrial condition of this metropolis.  "It is not a disgrace but a privilege and an obligation to listen to the stories only ruins can tell," Taubman writes in regard to this book project. "They tell us a lot about who we were, what we once valued most, and perhaps where we may be going."

The Whitney had a big crowd. I was reminded of the book signing for Hermes Mallea the night before. A big cross-section of New Yorkers enjoying the pleasure of a cocktail party in New York where you're sure to see, perhaps meet, maybe run into: someone you know, would like to know, or would like to see across the room.

The cocktail party was a long time fixture on the social circuit down through the decades although it lost its way into the charity fold a number of years ago. Now living in the Age of Tech, it is being reborn with a purpose, possibly a noble one, such as selling a good book, and giving people the opportunity to actually talk to all those people they're always texting. The most popular books I've seen have, of course, been the ones with lots of pictures.

Photos by Annie Watt (American Humane Association).

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