Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Defense of Wednesday

Riverside Park. 6:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, June 4, 2015. Rain goes away, leaves a sunny day with the temperature touching 70.

News from the nabe. Doug Blonsky, President and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, announced and welcomed the newest residents of the Park: the chipmunks.

I quote: “For decades, there were no chipmunks in Central Park. No flash of black and white stripes on ruddy brown fur ... no staredown from bright eyes ... no conversational chattering from the trees ... But now, thanks to the work of the Conservancy, they’re back. The Conservancy introduced a new trash management system in the Park’s 130 acres of woodlands, reducing the amount of garbage in the area.

"It started a chain reaction. Without the trash, the rats moved on, so the natives woodland creatures began to return, along with the Tamias Striatus, the Eastern chipmunks who have been spotted in both the Ramble and the North Woods."
More adorable little chipmunks posing for their class photo on the UES.
Wednesday on Wednesday. It was Wednesday. Where else? Michael’s. My lunch guest was Wednesday Martin, author of the new book “Park Avenue Primates,” which I read and wrote about here this past Monday.

Yesterday was the first time we’ve ever had a conversation. I wasn’t surprised that I liked her, having read the book. She’s an outsider looking in on a world of insiders (in their own minds). In fact a lot of the reviews and commentaries are made by people who are insiders or would like to be or are related to insiders or have friends who are insiders. The book is fascinating not because you know nothing about the world of the rich, the chic and the shameless -- and there are a lot of the shameless among them. It is fascinating because it is about how we behave under circumstances known as wealth. (And not always so rich too, but that’s another story).

Martin moved into a neighborhood (79th and Park), a late-married (mid-thirties) girl who came from the boonies (Grand Rapids, Michigan). She came to New York as a college grad with a PhD and an aspiring writer, and met a guy who was a born-and-bred New Yorker (with a previous marriage/then divorced) and had two sons.

Michael's List, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nick Verbitsky
• Ron Insana
Matt Rich
Eva Roosevelt
Matt Rubell
Joe Armstrong with
David Zinczenko
• Peter Brown
• Jim Casella
• John Frankenheimer
• Rachel Goldman
• Steven Greenberg
• Nikki Haskell
• Gerry Imber
• Jerry Della Femina
• Andrew Bergman
• Jeff Greenfield
• Michael Kramer
• Lisa Linden
• Dan Lufkin
• Hugh Freund
• Shelly Palmer
• Norman Pearlstine
• Stan Shuman
• Donna Soloway
• Andrew Stein
• Judy Miller
• Bill Siegel
• John Sykes
• Chris Albrecht
• Brant Cryder
• Jolie Hunt
• Jon Klein with
Joan Lunden
• Bernard Schwartz
• Esther Newberg
• Beverly Camhe
• Dr. Jon Rappaport
She wrote a book called “Step-Monster” about being a step-mother (she had two “step-children,” father of two daughters). The book was not commercial; I haven’t read it, but it came and went unnoticed. Martin is, nevertheless, one of those writers who writes about her experiences with as much honesty as she can muster.

Martin’s book has got a lot of press, mainly from people criticizing the author. A major criticism voiced by more than one writer is that she uses anthropology as a “gimmick” explaining her point of view. Janet Maslin in the New York Times wrote that she didn’t realize until late in the book that Martin got her degrees in literature and not anthropology.

Martin does reference anthropological studies (not her own). Evidently in Maslin’s book one must not refer to subjects with some knowledge unless one is accredited institutionally in the subject. Nevertheless for those less institutionally informed but merely rely on their own personal reading, Martin’s references are helpful and insightful in understanding her points of view in this world of Upper East Side girls who only know baboons and monkeys from the zoo.

Martin has also been criticized for being “media savvy” – something every author in New York would love to have as an asset but doesn’t really know the first thing about it. I don’t know if Martin is as media savvy as she is given credit for. I think she happened upon a subject that is universal to many if not all of us – the life of keeping up with the Joneses in the Big Town. I liked the book and I applaud her for laying it out so clearly and simply that any baboon, even this one, can undertand it.

Meanwhile, back in the dining room of Michael’s, it was business as usual. Yakety-yak (and don’t talk back). A pleasure for those who like the New York State of Mind.
Last night Joan and John Jakobson gave a cocktail party at their Park Avenue apartment for a good group of old friends. I didn’t know half of them or even three quarters although the host and hostess are friends of mine, and always a pleasure to be with. I rarely go to cocktail parties for reasons having to do with time and schedules so I’ve missed a lot of John and Joan’s.

One thing I noticed was that they had photographs of President Obama in frames on the bookcase. And from close inspection I could tell that the pictures were taken in the Jakobsons’ apartment.
The cocktail napkins at the Jakobsons.
Very impressed, I asked if that were so. Yes, it was, Joan told us, adding, that when Obama came into the apartment he noticed an award John got for having hit two holes-in-one. I don’t know if it were on the same day or not.

But Obama did ask his host if it were true. Hearing that it was, the President commented that he had never even had ONE hole-in-one in his life. Whereupon John Jakobson replied that he, John, had never been President of the United States. So it’s all relative, no?

Drinks were passed out with napkins although I’d never seen these napkins before, so I took a couple so you could get a feel of the Jakobsons’ spirit and personalities. There’s always laughter somewhere nearby.
Catching up. Lapham’s Quarterly celebrated their annual DECADES BALL: The 1780s this past Monday.

If you don’t know about Lapham’s Quarterly, it is published four times a year (duh) and each issue is devoted to one subject. This evening was sponsored by Encylopaedia Britannica and marked Lapham’s Quarterly’s 8th year of publication. The evening also celebrated Lewis Lapham’s 80th birthday.

I’ve been a subscriber to Lapham’s Quarterly since the first volume, and have all of them. The editorial technique is simple but unique. Lapham takes a subject and finds copious stories, examples and anecdotes written by various writers of note through the centuries on the subject from the ancient Greeks to contemporary novelists/journalists/thinkers. The latest issue is on “Swindle & Fraud” which is certainly timely. But fascinating. All about the undying art of deceit, rampant now in political life.  Although when you start reading the pieces within, you quickly realize it has always been timely.

Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater, emceed the evening. The Folio Society presented the Janus Prize to author Stacy Schiff. The evening’s entertainment included lively readings and performances, which highlighted voices from the stage, music, and literature of the era.
Helene Yorke and Kevin Kline reading an excerpt from The Rivals.
Jonathan Groff as King George III, performing "You'll Be Back" from Hamilton.
Julia Bullock performing Mozart.
Performers included Kevin Kline reading Richard Brinsley Sheridan; Jonathan Groff reprising his celebrated turn as King George III in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s acclaimed new musical Hamilton; Mary-Louise Parker reading an excerpt from Choderlos de Laclos’s Dangerous Liaisons; F. Murray Abraham reading from the journals of William Maclay, one of the members of the first U.S. Senate under the then new constitution; Dakin Matthews, reading two of Benjamin Franklin’s letters; and Julia Bullock singing Mozart.

Among the guests: Kevin Kline, Mary-Louise Parker, Sharon Gless, F. Murray Abraham, Tyne Daly, Jonathan Groff, Ralph Nader, Dakin Matthews, Julia Bullock, Alex Lacamoire, Ron Chernow, Helene Yorke, Amy Goodman, Rocco and Deborah Landesman, Barbara Fleischman, Alexandra and Louis Rose, Nick and Jackie Drexel, Tony Hendra, and more.
Oskar Eustis, Lapham's Quarterly Director of Development Laurie Eustis, and Editor and Publisher Lewis Lapham. Lapham's Quarterly Publisher David Rose and Nina Stegeman.
Joe Amodio, Laurie Eustis, and Joseph Thalken.
Mary-Louise Parker. F. Murray Abraham.
Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly.