Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Music for New York

Weegee, Lighting Over New York

The trip to San Francisco is off. Michael is just too sick to travel. He came down with some kind of ferocious stomach flu yesterday, and is in bed with the cats now.

So, we'll leave our hearts in San Francisco some other time.

Michael, like most native New Yorkers, hates New York. And yet, he's never lived anywhere else. He's traveled extensively, but he's never picked up and moved to another place, except from Long Island to Manhattan to Queens to Brooklyn.
I can't imagine him in any other place that he would not find boring or irritating after a month or two.

Until about 20 years ago, I lived like a Bedouin, moving from Texas to Missouri to Michigan, to Kentucky, back to Missouri, and to New York.

In my art school days, Woody Allen's Manhattan shaped my conception of New York.

I liked the movie less when I actually settled here. That magnificent opening that made sad trashy late '70s New York look so glamorous precedes a long epic about the most boring group of people in the whole city, privileged intellectuals. The movie is 2 hours of people who have everything whining. It's not even about New York or Manhattan. It's almost all set on the Upper East Side, New York's most affluent and boring neighborhood.

Woody Allen makes a great case for seeing the city in Black and White (though his black and white is very artful Edward Steichen Black and White, certainly not Weegee's or Jacob Riis' screaming high contrast tabloid flash camera black and white).

For me, New York is dark grays and umbers punctuated with spots of brilliant color (a fruit and flower stall in front of a deli, or a parade, or a neon sign). My early experiences of it were less grandeur, and more tiny little dark corners that could be very cozy, friendly, and magical. There are times when the city can be tremendously exciting and exhilarating, just like in so many movies. And there are so many other times when it can be irritating and dreary.

George Gershwin's music is for that grand glamorous New York of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald and for all of their spiritual descendants haunting the city's more expensive night spots.

For me, the music that best captures the experience of New York is Duke Ellington; the sophistication, the sex appeal, the fun, and the fear and suffering of life in New York are all there in his music.


it's margaret said...

Oh dear.... I hope your household returns to health soon. And --you don't put off your trip too long.

JCF said...

So sorry about Michael, and the trip's delay. Give him some chicken soup for me!

[Drop me a line, Doug, (jcf1899 at gmail dot com) when you reschedule? I really would love to connect if at all possible! :-)]

Counterlight said...

Thanks folks.

It will probably be next year before we can try again.

Counterlight said...

We were cutting things a little close with my teaching schedule. I'm already working on the coming semester (and even on the semester after that).

I'd really like to get out there much sooner, but I don't see how we'll be able to do that until next summer.

JCF said...

Well, see y'all when you can (except in the unlikely event I get back to the Big Apple before then! ;-/)