Letter from New York During a Very Cold Winter…

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Everyone wants to escape to warmer climes when the weather is cold, and often for good reason, but we, who have gone skiing every year since we’re married, don’t mind the cold. Bundling up has its own charm, and drinks in a warm room at the end of a brisk walk feel somehow more welcome when one’s breath is crystallized.

New York IS, there is no doubt, a cultural paradise with so many Museums, Theatrical Attractions and events so venturing out need not require adventure; merely the desire to embrace what’s around.

TO WIT… We made sure that SO FAR we saw “The Imitation Game,” “The Theory of Everything,” “Into the Woods,” “Mr. Turner,” “American Sniper” and “Whiplash,” so that the Oscars would make more sense; although they often don’t anyway.

Went to our favorite restaurants and ate the “comfort food” that freezing temperatures encourage.

Since so many New Yorkers are “away,” doctor checkups are de rigueur.

Waited until the holiday tourists left to revel in the Met Museum’s offerings, including more time with those Greek statues. Even found solace in the creativity of all those mourning clothes.

Tried to make sense of the Cooper Hewitt’s TOOLS exhibit; reading the texts was impossible, but there were Museum of Natural History cooperative efforts that brought the space age to life.

Had a surprise evening at Lincoln Center with a young Jazz group who were training at Juilliard… a little Lena here, a little Billie Holiday there; a smattering of Art Tatum but without the deep understanding of what blues really meant at the time the Blues were Born. Things have indeed “lightened up.”

The Winter Antiques Show is a tradition that now has the recipients of philanthropists’ largess standing in a row to welcome us as the enthusiasts stream in to view those treasures of the past. They look nervous but happy as we all smile at each other; it’s a win/win for all.

Some of the plans we all have are blocked out by the snow during a few days that our mayor says will be the “worst” ever, but they’re not. We’re sturdier than that.

Soon we’re back on track, attending a dinner party of a friend, listening to the great Garrick Ohlsson play Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev and Scriabin at Alice Tully Hall. This is a man whose major impression upon me so far has been his delicate, fluid interpretations of Chopin, but here on this piano he shows his darker, more assertive side with pieces that leave one breathless. Especially the Scriabin –- so powerful throughout that one would think he is completely spent; but then, he does two encores: Scriabin at age 15, then a ripple at 42. The two men are spiritual soul mates for sure.

Of course, we watched the Super Bowl, which turned out to be an extraordinary example of the Best of the Game. New England won, but mostly there were moments of derring-do and athletic prowess (and shame) that were historic. Somehow, we all won by “being there.”

We all enjoy Theatre – Broadway, off Broadway, “Off off” … and every year in February the Drama League pays tribute to someone special: This year the great James Earl Jones. This was a Broadway play in itself, with artists from every walk of his life singing, speaking homage to this Giant Talent. Then the Magic Man himself speaks deferentially and with sincerity to proclaim his love for the theatre and his thanks to all for being there. It was a Love Fest of major proportions; so memorable and worth while… snow boots and all.

The Met Opera launched a new “Cav/Pag” with Iolanta and Bluebeard’s Castle this year. Valery Gergiev conducted (brilliantly) Anna Netrebko as the blind Iolanta whose life is transformed by love and the mysterious doctor who makes her see again. Then, sad for the second heroine Nadja Michael, she never emerges again from the foreboding castle after asking ….yes, one too many questions. There is much to enjoy with Tchaikovsky’s “Iolanta,” but much to suffer through with Bartok’s “Bluebeard.” Still, opera IS opera, and a new experience in this case.

Saw as many friends as possible that we’d missed during the crazy holidays for lunch and dinner.

Enjoyed a French Burgundy dinner complete with requisite Ambassadors and distinguished French visitors, celebrating The Grape.

Watched/listened to three boys from one Persian family give recitals on Saturday afternoon. The two oldest (15 and 13) are Juilliard students, the third (10) is studying piano and was given a commendation by LangLang. The family are immigrants from Iran who settled in Queens and live a totally cultural life encouraging the arts, music and Persian calligraphy. A story to make one proud.

Tried to understand the full meaning of the Dark Universe show at the Museum of Natural History. Kids are transfixed -– all those stars and planets whizzing around with dramatic music to boot. We decided we need a beginner course with Neil deGrasse Tyson instead.

Next day more snow: Friends actually had to cancel a special dinner party (caterers and all) because the Guest of Honor got snowed OUT…

Next evening New York City Ballet performed “Pictures at an Exhibition” by Mussorgsky, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky; Oh, did he ever find his perfect match in this piece. It is so exquisite, rapturous, delicately drawn and poetic that I had tears in my eyes at the end. Can never see this enough! “Rodeo” was fun and athletic, “Mercurial Manoeuvres” a tour de force for both the piano and the dancers. Very satisfying evening indeed.

For those who enjoy a good debate, there is IQ2 founded by Robert Rosenkranz a number of years ago. Debate #100 was “Declinists be Damned: Bet on America” and two proponents: Joseph Joffe at Stanford; also publisher/editor of DIE ZEIT and Peter Zeihan, author of “The Accidental Superpower,” debated two declinists: Chrystia Freeland, journalist and member of Canadian parliament, and James Rickards, author of “The Death of Money.” Rebroadcasts are on the internet and NPR but suffice it to say, the USA won hands down.

Gave a dinner for some 30 members of ArtTable with Glenn Adamson, Director of the Museum of Arts and Design as speaker; ART at MAD of course was the subject at hand.

And as I write this, I’m also thanking our hosts for St. Valentine’s dinner on Saturday which was, as always, fun and cozy to celebrate.

Here’s hoping for continued health and energy to enjoy this vibrant City we all love… especially now. What is the saying? “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going? I can only hope….

Barbara Tober

One Response to “Letter from New York During a Very Cold Winter…”

  1. Dear Barbara,
    You make us feel like a couple of wimps. Sydney and I cancelled our escape from Mardi Gras to New York because we were anxious about slips and slides on the ice.
    Now I wish we’d been there to share glorious Gotham with everyone either away or hiding out indoors.
    Walda Besthoff

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