Thursday, September 23, 2010

First full day of autumn

Looking south from Grand Army Plaza. 9:30 PM. Photo: JH.
September 23, 2010. First full day of autumn. Very warm, slightly muggy. Then about 8:15, 8:30, thunderclaps and heavy downpour, cooling things off. A bit.

The Day. I had a luncheon appointment at Michael’s at one. Third day of UN Week. Riding across East 57th Street heading toward Fifth Avenue, there were 10 traffic cops working the corner of First Avenue and 57th. At Second Avenue and 57th, the orange cones were up, dividing the six lanes: two in the middle for presumably hundreds of VIPs/diplomats and their thousands of security escorts only. Then there are two bus-only lanes, one in each direction, and two lanes for the rest of us hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers traveling in private cars, trucks and/or taxis on one of the busiest thoroughfares in the nation at midday.

New Yorkers are used to the exercising of the “droit de seigneur” of our politicians, riding around in caravans pushing all other traffic aside with their sirens and blue and red whirling lights, as if they’re on their way to more important matters than our day-to-day lives. Even though they’re often just on their way to lunch or dinner.

57th Street between Fifth and Madison. An example of how the street is divided.
It’s particularly galling in the current atmosphere where taxpayers are being told we have to cut back for this that and the other while these guys are basically traveling in the lap of luxury and convenience while at the same time leading us down the path to hell in a handbasket. The existence of the Tea Party is a direct result of this kind of behavior (although God knows put some of them in office and you’ll see the same thing all over again, no doubt, because it is not a partisan affair; it is an exercise of arrogance, period). It also gives you a good idea about why the world we live in doesn’t work a lot of the time: it belongs to the chosen, (ironically, the elected) few. And their security detail.

Contrasts. A friend of mine just came back from a trip to Australia. He told me Australia’s former Prime Minister John Howard was on the same flight from L.A. to Sydney. When they arrived, the former Prime Minister went to the baggage claim, alone. When he got his bags, his son met him at the airport to drive him home. No security, no police escort, no nothing. He was Prime Minister for ten years and left office only three years ago. Must be he’s just not special enough. Or Australia’s not rich enough to afford an army of special security for their VIPs. Or maybe the former Prime Minister’s just not that VI. End of rant.

Meanwhile, it was Wednesday and down at Michael’s. Booked to the rafters, including Terry Allen Kramer and Margo McNabb and pals; literary agent Esther Newberg; Anthony Thompson, Discovery’s Henry Schlieff, Freddie Gershon, Gerry Byrne, Stan Shuman, Harold Ford Jr., Deb Shriver and Michael Trese, Mickey Ateyeh, Katie Rosman, Dr. Philip Romero with Diane Clehane, Toni Goodale, Gordon Elliot with Lorraine Bracco, David Poltrack, Lisa Linden, Peter Price, Richard Bressler, Scott Schiller, Lou Margolis, Walter Sabo and Stephanie Gaines, Marty Peretz, Richard Descherer, Philippe Salomon, Phil Scaturro, Randy Jones with Bettina Zilkha, and in the corner with Peter Brown, the beautiful Metropolitan opera star, Renee Fleming.
Avery Fisher Hall just before the concert.
Aside from all the diplomatic events, the town was hopping last night. I went over to Lincoln Center to the opening night of the New York Philharmonic’s 2010-2011 (the 169th) season with Alan Gilbert conducting. It was a black tie affair, the annual black tie gala with dinner following.

Once we were all in our seats, Maestro Gilbert came on-stage and led the orchestra in “The Star Spangled Banner.” The audience rose and sang in unison. I had forgotten that this was the tradition before a concert, and was emotionally uplifted and stirred by the anthem and the notion of its message, evoking memories of the purity of American patriotism we were taught in school. I was swept back in memory to my New England childhood where we were imparted the values of honor, of courage, of brotherhood, of liberty and justice for all. It was a green world then, in memory, far fresher and more vibrant than folderol of self-importance that we see daily in these blustering times. It was a beautiful moment.

The program opened with the U.S. Premiere of Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony (Symphony No. 3) which was also broadcast worldwide live on PBS and WQXR. The Marsalis work was a co-commission of the NY Philharmonic with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and The Barbican, London. The world premiere was held this past June 9th in Berlin.

The gorgeous instrumentation included 3 flutes, 3 oboes (one doubling English horn), 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, tam-tam, tom-toms, bass drums, snare drum, xylophone, a variety of cymbals, marimba, vibraphone, bongo bell, timbale bell, congas, clave, guiro, tambourine, and strings plus a jazz orchestra comprising 5 saxes of various sizes, doubling clarinets, bass clarinet, and flutes, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, piano, bass and drumset. Altogether on the stage of the Avery Fisher. Wow.
From the terrace of Avery Fisher Hall during intermission of the Philharmonic, looking across the Josie Robertson Plaza in the rain at the David H. Koch Theater.
Among the guests attending: Alec Baldwin, Caroline Kennedy and Ed Schlossberg, Desiree Rogers, Deborah Roberts and Al Roker, Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis, Barry and Fran Weissler, Borough President Scott Stringer and Elyse Buxbaum, Tony Bechara, John and Gaily Beinecke, Joshua Bell, Roland and Lois Betts, Charles and Myra Biblowit, The Honorable Donald M. Blinken and Vera Blinken, Charles and Bonnie Bronfman, Calvin and Jane Cafritz, Ken and Kathryn Chenault, Peter and Brooke Cohen, Joyce Cowin, Mary Sharp Cronson, Nathaniel and Lucy Day, Elizabeth de Cuevas, Richard and Jennie DeScherer, Renaud and Christine Dutreil, Katherine Farley and Jerry Speyer, Christy Ferer, Pamela Fiori, Jay and Randy Fishman, J. Christopher Flowers, Robert M. and Dale Frehse, Jr., Michael Fuchs, Alan and Sandra Gerry, Alan and Kajsa Gilbert, Peter and Jamee Gregory, Günther and Renata Greiner, Paul and Diane Guenther, Patty Hambrecht, Gurnee and Marjorie Hart, and Joan Hornig, Howard and Ellen Katz, Mrs. William T. Knight, III, Bruce and Suzie Kovner, Fred Krimendahl and Emilia Saint-Amand, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Larry and Dalia Leeds, Richard and Karen LeFrak, Linda and Sandy Lindenbaum, Robert V. Lindsay, Bob and Martha Lipp, Jim and Ellen Marcus, Branford and Nicole Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Peter and Leni May, Crystal McCrary, Tom and Diahn McGrath, Mervon Mehta, Gene Mercy, Philip and Cheryl Milstein, Vivian Milstein, Sylvester and Gillian Miniter, The Honorable Michael Mukasey and Mrs. Mukasey (Susan), The Honorable Frank N. Newman and Mrs. Newman (Lizabeth), Morris and Nancy Offit, Dennis Paul and Coralie Charriol Paul, Norman and Liliane Peck, Itzhak and Toby Perlman, Charles and Elaine Petschek, Heather Randall, Liz Robbins, Dr. Leon and Paula Root, Jonathan and Diana Rose, Sandra Priest Rose, Dr. Elihu Rose and Susan Rose, Ben and Donna Rosen, David and Lisa Schiff, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Ric Scofidio and Liz Diller, Martin and Edith Segal, Joel and Joan Smilow, Maurice Sonnenberg, Paul and Daisy Soros, Oscar and Argie Tang, Douglas and Duhanne Tansill, Donald and Barbara Tober, Ronald and Christie Ulrich, Tom and Ann Unterberg, John and Lauren Veronis, Stephen and Diane Volk, Herbert and Svetlana Wachtell, Mary J. Wallach, Stanford and Sandra Warshawsky, Sue Ann Weinberg, The Honorable James D. Wolfensohn and Elaine Wolfensohn, Ermenegildo and Elena Zegna and Edoardo Zegna and Angelo Zegna. Enough already? There were many more distinguished personae and music lovers.
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