Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today is the day

Looking southwest towards 20 East 72nd Street (the building with the yellow flag) from the corner of 72nd Street and Madison Avenue. Wednesday, 10:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday. September 24, 2015. Beautiful weather here in New York.

Today is the day. Pope Francis I arrives from Washington at 5 p.m. and goes immediately to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. His anticipated arrival has been a major event for Manhattanites already, what with the blocked streets and the massive security apparatus, as well as the public event equipment. The re-routing of traffic is especially hard for New Yorkers on business days.

There is something about Francis’ arrival that has lifted the mood in the city. That, coupled with the Yom Kippur holiday. Thinking about that, yesterday afternoon, coming in from that atmosphere I picked up the September 14th issue of the New Yorker  to read Alexander Stille’s “Letter from the Vatican; Holy Orders – A determined Pope Francis moves to reform a recalcitrant Curia.”
Francis conducting a papal audience at the Vatican last month. PHOTOGRAPH BY MASSIMO VITALI FOR THE NEW YORKER.
I’d passed it by when I was looking through the magazine to read a couple of weeks ago. I’m not Roman Catholic and was not particularly interested in something about a religion I don’t know much about. It was not on my priority reading list.

But I went back to it yesterday afternoon. Read it, if you can get your hands on a copy.  Stille’s reportage brings the Vatican to real-life and Francis emerges as a representative of the better part of our Self, here for all to see. One might call it being a true Christian. I prefer to think the Christ would have called it being a true man or woman.

The Pope, as everyone knows, is staying at the Vatican’s residence on East 72nd Street between Madison and Fifth Avenues. JH’s parents live on that block also, and last night after the Breakfast at his parents’ apartment, he took a few shots of the block preparing for the arrival tomorrow night of His Holiness, Pope Francis I.
The scene on the corner of 72nd Street and Fifth Avenue.
The same scene from above.
The view across 72nd Street looking east towards Madison Avenue.
Looking across the street towards the Pope's temporary residence.
Today is the 121st  anniversary of the birth of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the American author who dazzled and inspired three generations of many young Americans, including this writer, with his short stories, his novels, and of course “The Great Gatsby.” When he published “Gatsby” in 1926, he was already a very successful American writer having published many short stories and two best selling novels “The Beautiful and Damned” and “This Side of Paradise,” all of which were timely aspects of his era which he referred to (coining the term) “The Jazz Age.” Fitzgerald’s early success led to a boozy life of endless parties wherever he and Zelda landed, mainly in Paris and New York, and death at forty-four in Los Angeles in 1940.

Among his famous lines was “There are no second acts in American lives.” He himself was “washed up” and boozed out in Hollywood at the time of his demise. He had possessed the perspicacity of youth, but had not lived long enough to gather the wisdom of age, and to learn that his famous “quote” was often not so.

Had he lived another ten years, he would have witnessed a renaissance of public interest in his work that has continued for more than seven decades. “The Great Gatsby” has sold more than 25 million copies and steadily sells more than a half million every year.  It has been made into a film three or four times, as have others works of his. And the stories of his life, his glory, his fame and his crash are now legend.

One of the best pieces I’ve read about the writing of “Gatsby” appeared in the September 9, 1996 issue of the New Yorker by Barbara Probst Solomon, “Westport Wildlife” (“In 1920, the waterfront town of Westport, Connecticut was everything that Manhattan was about to become. F. Scott Fitzgerald was there, and so, maybe, was Jay Gatsby.”)  You can find it in the New Yorker archives online. You will not forget it.
Young Scott and Zelda, jazz babies of the Jazz Age when they were two of the most celebrated literary figures in America.

Contact DPC here.