NYC Summer: Highline Park

2011/07/16 § 2 Comments

I’ve been wanting to go to the Highline Park for sooo long.

I plan to go every time I have friends from out of town.  And Lord knows, we try.  But somehow, we just never manage to get there.  We invariably give up around the 8th avenue mark.  All sorts of excuses crop up, from physical fatigue to heat and hunger.  And my friend/s just have to sit in a cafe, pronto.  They refuse to take another step.  And so –  10th avenue seemed like another continent altogether.  Especially with visiting friends who just don’t want to walk  (you know who you are :D).

Summer passed. Then Fall. Winter. Spring. And it’s another Summer.  I finally got to go.  Last week.

And I loved it!

Love how this abandoned elevated railtrack was redesigned as an aerial greenway and park, resulting in a renaissance of the stagnant and unremarkable neighborhood alongside it.

I love the prairie plants, the woodland trees, the smell of  grass and leaves, the different sections, the wooden planks, the flat wading pool, the benches extending from deck planks, the Standard Hotel straddling it, a unique view of the city – from the river to the streets, to building tops, to apartment balconies.

I love how modern and organic it seems yet thoroughly retaining it’s industrial past.

It reminds me of the Lurie Garden in Chicago, at the Millenium Park, which is one of my favorite parks in the world.  That small enclosure of wilderness and aromatics.  Looking out onto the most beautiful architecture past the hedges.  Highland Park is more long and narrow.  More spread out.  But as beautiful.

The linear walk looks out to the shops and cafes of the Meatpacking District

And the super cute, bashful, giant fiberglass mouse (Companion, Passing Through) covering his eyes with his hands by artist, KAWS, outside the Standard Hotel…

Here is the flowing stream of water that children (and adults) love to frolic in…

The outdoor cafe with a view of the river…

The wooden bleacher section overlooking street traffic…

The many, varied buildings on view…

The grassy picnic and sunbathing area…

…surrounded by wonderful new glass and old brick buildings…

Just an absolutely beautiful place in the city to spend the day in…

Highline Park – you are my new favorite place…:D



MoMa: A Day with Twombly, Breuer, Warhol

2011/07/04 § 2 Comments

I LOVE museums.  

Except I usually have to be nudged, pushed and dragged to go to one.  

I have an ingrained resistance to museums.  I don’t like being cooped inside buildings for hours.  I do that for work.  But not for leisure.  Although, I don’t seem to have this problem when shopping.  And I always think museums are boring.  But they’re not!  I have (as an adult) never been bored inside one.  So I really don’t know why I think that. It must be the school trips we had when we were young.  Having to troop in line and forced to listen to a docent point out things I didn’t appreciate or understand and not being able to leave probably caused this.

Just recently, dear friends from Brussels were in town and we spent an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art.  And had lots of fun.  I always have fun when I go to MoMa, actually.  We wandered through floors and halls of classic modern works and temporary exhibits, some of which were quite graphic, sometimes violent or sexual, and all thought-provoking.

I was fascinated by these newspaper front pages that had sections blocked in black and white and were suddenly transformed from newsprint to contemporary art.  Surely, I could have done these myself!  If I only thought of it, of course.

I could stay for hours in this room with walls covered in many different kinds of digital fonts.

Then we come to the Furniture room.

I now appreciate modern furniture.  Even plywood ones, which many years ago I couldn’t abide.

There is nothing I  like more than interior and furniture designs.  I grew up in a very modern ’50s glass house, which I didn’t like too much (and so even when I was very young, I was redesigning the house to my liking, in my mind).  I always thought it was cold and too open and our furniture were edgy and hard.  I think, as a child, I really wanted to live in a tiny rose-covered cottage with comfy tables and cushioned chairs.  What I liked best about our house was the big front area, which was a concrete lawn with a terraced garden.  But it would have been so much better had it been a grassy lawn instead.

I came to appreciate our house and the objects within, unfortunately, when it become derelict.  As I grew older, read and traveled more, I realized how very “modern” our house and furniture were and so many of our stuff are being copied or sought after and fetching absurd prices in the market.  Yet, we left them out in the sun and rain to crack, peel and turn ugly.

As I became interested in modern furniture, I travelled to Germany for a conference.  I didn’t know that included in the conference was a day tour of Weimar.  Imagine my delight when I saw the Bauhaus Museum.  While everyone was admiring the statue of Goethe and Schiller, I went inside the tiny museum and saw many original works from icons in the modern design field, in the birthplace of their movement.

From these inspirations, my ideal house has become more and more minimalist in structure.  A white box with white concrete floors.  There are certainly some modern furniture I long to have but I’m not a purist and  have always had eclectic taste.  For all that I want an uncluttered house, I also want romance so will most likely have a salon with an eight-feet tall baroque chandelier hanging from a twenty-foot high ceiling, filled with nothing but an antique chinese cabinet , a vintage french burlap covered sofa, an Yves Klein Table Rose, a pair of molded plywood Eames lounge chair or a pair of le Corbusier sling chairs or a pair of Breuer’s Wassily chairs ( I can never decide which pair I want more), one wall of books and art, lit by tens of candles at night and perfumed with vases of garden flowers.

Now back to reality and into the museum.  Jackson Pollock.  One: Number 31

I wish I was exposed to more and different kinds of art when I was younger instead of the mannered, realistic art that we were brought up to appreciate.  Maybe I would have realized that I could throw, splash and drip paint onto a canvass and find beauty and enlightenment there somehow.  I look at Pollock’s work and think – wow, I could have done that when I was 5.  But to innovate and work with new techniques at an older age obviously requires more talent and artistry than I could ever hope to have.

These large-sized photos by Boris Mikhailov set against the industrial city of Kharkov explores the circumstances of people left homeless by the collapse of the Soviet Union.  They document the “oppression, devastating poverty, and everyday reality of a disenfranchised community living on the margins of Russia’s new economic regime.”  Very moving.

The famous “Girl with Ball” by Roy Lichtenstein

And I really, really want this.  Not any of the Campbell Soup Cans.  Or the Marilyn Monroes.  Or his self-portraits.  I want this.  Rorschach.  Warhol.  What does it say of my state of mind?

And what does everyone think of this huge piece of concrete meat hanging from a hook?

A woman walking between Eva Hesse‘s Repetition Nineteen III, a collection of “anthropomorphic” empty containers and Lynda Benglis’ Modern Art Number 1 which I tell you is a pair of one bronze and one aluminum (shown on foreground) cast of a big turd.  It would be amusing to have one in the garden and have guests sit on the literal “slab of sh*t” while eating or drinking….

And here is a Cy Twombly sculpture, Untitled (Funerary Box for a Lime Green Python), which attracted me because of the use of palm-leafed fans that we frequently use in the Philippines.

Amongst artists of the same genre, I love Twombly the most.  While I find many of Pollock’s work too heavy and dreary, Twombly’s paintings are visually light and refreshing, despite some explosive themes.  Through all the scribbles and splashes and drips, there is beautiful, luminous pale or arresting colors.  And stories.  And humongous flowers.

I also like many of Willem de Kooning‘s work such as Untitled XIXA Tree in Naples and Pirate.

So much art to see, so little time…


A Japanese Garden

2011/06/15 § 8 Comments

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with everything Japanese.

My parents used to leave me in the care of my Japanese grandmother when I was very young.  {If you’re wondering how I have a Japanese grandmother, she’s the wife of my paternal grandfather’s youngest uncle.}  I would play with her japanese dolls, marvel at her  beautiful kimonos, walk around in her geta  wooden japanese shoes, listen to her japanese music, drink tea and slurp noodles noisily with her.

In addition to this, my highschool bestfriend lived and spent many holidays in Japan and would bring home all these exquisite or quirky things from her trips – notebooks, pencils, folders, shoes, shirts.  Japanese food, books, pottery abound in her house, which I frequented.

I was increasingly drawn to their lifestyle, their art, their produce and have always wanted to experience living in a Japanese house and being in Japanese gardens.

I love gardens of all kinds but Japanese gardens have a different attraction.   More than the aesthetic beauty, their form and design invite some kind of contemplation, philosophical or otherwise.  I love that they are abstract, assymetrical and always reveal something hidden or unusual.  Rocks and stones remind one of mountains and raked gravel and sand simulates the feeling of water.  Winding pathways open up to wider vistas or to a shinto house.  The water feature – lake, fall, stream or tiny fountain soothes and calms…

 So I’m always happy to spend time in a Japanese Garden when I find one, which I did a couple of weeks ago…

How is it that I’ve traveled to so many countries, yet have not gone to visit Japan?


Ferries, Picnics, Ponies and Bubblies

2011/06/07 § 5 Comments

It’s picnic and polo Sunday!

A whole morning and afternoon spent in ferries, splayed on grass, gripped with excitement, feasting on fabulous food  and baking under the sun.

Even waiting for the ferry is fun.  

Everyone rushing to line up with their picnic bags and basket, dressed in all sorts of fascinating attires.  Women in five-inch high wedges, short flowery skirts, maxi dresses, hot pants, kaftans, demi-boots, fascinators, fedoras, cloches, tiny parasols.  Men in white linen suits, madras shorts, orange bowties, navy blue jackets, boat shoes, loafers, seersuckers, pink belts, red faded pants, tall hats with feathers.  Name it.

Then we were on board…chugging away, past lower Manhattan buildings.  On to the brick houses, grassy knolls, massive fort and colorful trolleys at Governor’s Island.

The picnic ground was filled with umbrellas and loungers, mats and blankets, picnic hampers and tons of food of all kinds.  Our spread consisted of baguettes and prosciuttos and chorizos and brie and gouda and cold soba noodles.  Melons, grapes, strawberries.  Gauffrettes and cherry pies.  Neighbors around us had hummus, pita, pasta, chicken, fries, edamame, siopao, popcorn, terrines, caviar, blinis.   The works.  Yumm.

And champagne.  The ground was overflowing with bottles and glasses of Veuve Cliquot.  The event sponsor.

Everyone was eating, drinking bubbly, napping, sunbathing, chatting, playing cards, outfit-watching, while waiting for the polo match to start.

And the match begins!


Divot stomping on the field

Second half resumes

Nacho rides by the crowd during the break

One more chukka

And it’s over!

The players salute the crowd after the match and receive their warm round of applause

Time to pack up the picnic mats and baskets

And board the ferry back home.

Til the next lovely picnic day…


Summer…and Roses…are here

2011/06/05 § 4 Comments

It’s in one of those weekend walkabouts that I noticed a shaded restaurant tucked within a courtyard and a walled garden right beside.  With a riot of red roses craning for attention.  Down the street…the most beautiful yellow roses spilling out of iron fences.  Eight feet tall trees adorned with delicate white roses.  Tiny pink ones climbing a townhouse window.  Fiery orange ones crowning terracota urns.

Everyday since, I see more roses gorgeously outdoing each other in beauty, in scent, in color…

Summer…after a long wait…you are finally here

And what a way to announce yourself…


My Perfect Sunday

2011/06/04 § 2 Comments

A whole morning spent lazing in bed is a perfect start to a perfect Sunday…

And reading the Sunday papers on a stoop if I only had a stoop…but I don’t

Instead, I happily squabbled with J over “draft picks” for our Game of Thrones teams.  I started reading the books while he watched the shows and we decided to choose characters we want on our side.  I originally chose Bran, Tyrion and Gendry – thinking that Gendry had more purpose than to prove that Baratheons have black hair.  While J chose Jon Snow, Daenerys and Arya.  Having only read a few chapters then, I asked to change my third pick although I had to pick someone a bit weak because I changed.  I chose Sir Barristan Selmy.  J’s fourth choice was Varys and mine was Sam Tarly.  So there you go – I had a cripple, a dwarf, an old knight and a craven for my team.  J had the Lord Commander of the Nightwatch, the Dragon Queen, a blind lady (perhaps going to be a Faceless One), and the head of the Spiders.

This went on til it was time to drop by the church to give thanks for the myriad blessings bestowed.  Good health and safety for family, friends and loved ones most of all.

Then a late brunch with a dear friend from out of town.  Many stories and laughter over tomato, basil and mozzarella omelette, eggs benedict, freshly-pressed orange juice and bowlful of coffee.

And in the evening, a trip to Carnegie Hall for a night of lyrical, dreamlike, enchanting music from the Russian pianist, Katya Grineva.   I close my eyes and I hear water trickling from fountains, the pitter-patter of raindrops, moonlit nights, days of yearning, stormy seas, young sweet love …

Then it’s back home with a smile on my face and a prayer of thanks for another lovely day.


My Perfect {schizophrenic} Saturday

2011/06/02 § Leave a comment

Some days are just perfect.  Like the Saturday past.

FC Barcelona won the Champions League finals in Wembley against Manchester United.  And they did it with the elegant style, ruthless passing, unsurpassed positional play and immense skill that has characterized the Barcelona game in the past three years.  Supposedly the culmination of the totaalvoetbal espoused by the Dutch and introduced by Cruijff in our hallowed Camp Nou.  It is intelligent, patient, precise.  It is as beautiful a futbol as anyone can ever see.

Although I cannot decide which between this or the November 29 El Clasico I like best – perhaps I should choose Saturday’s game if only for its significance.  [And for Man United’s class and courage]  The November Clasico was but another La Liga game.  One among 38 played throughout the season.  [Even if it were against Real Madrid.  The eternal rival.  And against Mourinho.  The crude and craven coach.]  While last Saturday’s was a Final, from among the best of Europe, the second in three years, the third in six, which essentially confirmed this Barcelona team’s place in the pantheon of greats.  And not just because they won the trophy, but especially in how they won it.  With their breathtaking, sublime football.

And so we lined up really early outside our favorite pub to guarantee seating in what became a packed house.  We were dressed in our blaugrana jerseys, scarves, caps and flags – draped  around our shoulders, tied around our necks.  We were going to be the superhero fans in the pub to our superhero players on the pitch.  [And it took superhero effort on my part to stay inside the pub for over five hours of sweltering heat once it filled up.  The airconditioning wasn’t working.]

Then it was Kick-off.  Our hearts were pounding.  We gulped our beers.  Man U started brightly.  A strong showing for ten minutes.  Then Pedro scores a goal in the 27th minute.  Rooney equalized promptly with a similarly brilliant goal.  We were biting our nails.  Gulping our beers.  Halftime.  More of Barcelona “passing, moving, offering.”  Stretched opponent’s defense here and there.  Formed innumerable triangles.  And laid to waste any of Man U’s shape or form.  Inevitably, Messi produced a magical Messi goal, followed by an even more amazing one from Villa.  We were standing on top of chairs.  Gulping more beer.  Over twenty more minutes.  Tiki-taka .  Tiki-taka.  Dazzling.  Mesmerizing tiki-taka.  Tic. Toc.  Game over.  We were jumping up and down.  Hugging everyone.  Screaming with joy.  Singing the “cant del barca.”  Spilling our beers.  All Hail the Kings of Europe!!!  Hail another majestic display!  Brilliant, brilliant Barcelona!  VISCA BARCA!!!

We were delirious.  Abidal lifted the cup.  We were fairly close to tears.  [For this wonderful man to battle liver tumor.  Come back in time to play the final.  For Puyol to give up the chance to be the only captain to lift the Cup three times in his favor.  What generosity.  What grandness of spirit in this team]

I walked home.  Still garbed in blaugrana, my shiny bandera grande fluttering behind me.  Tipsy, dizzy, happy.  Feeling both foolish and absurdly proud.  So many stopped to ask me the result.  To ask me how the game went.  And many congratulations even from Manchester United supporters.

The day was far from over.

Had to rush to dress for the ballet.  Giselle at Metropolitan Opera House Lincoln Center.

The New York Times had this to say of what I went to see:

“A double climax occurred on Friday and Saturday evenings at the Metropolitan Opera House when the two most idolized interpreters of the title role today, Diana Vishneva (Russian, from the Mariinsky ballet of St. Petersburg) and Alina Cojocaru (Romanian, from the Royal Ballet of London) danced for Ballet Theater. Here was the most luxurious exercise in Giselle compare and contrast by any Western company since Natalia Makarova and Gelsey Kirkland danced the role at Ballet Theater on consecutive nights in 1977.”

Of Ms. Cojocaru –  “Not since Ms. Kirkland has the role had so spiritually right an incumbent…she is a marvel.  Her art is one of transcendence.”

Of Mr. Hallberg – “No dancer today matches the noble perfection with which Mr. Hallberg executes steps; the refinement of his line, the arch of his feet, the clarity of his delivery are all miraculous.”

I was particularly impressed by Ms. Cojocaru’s warmth and sweetness.  That graceful, graceful shoulder, those arms.  Her flexibility and lightness.  And “her diagonal of entrechat-quatre” followed by a “succession of impassioned arabesques.”  Simply marvelous!  While Mr. Hallberg’s series of entrechat-six was just amazing.  Amazing.  Theirs was real poetry in motion.  It was a performance worthy of the long applause, standing ovation and numerous curtain calls.

Bravo!  Bravo!  Bravo!

After the show, we crossed the street from Lincoln Center to Bar Bouloud for a very late dinner of:

Escargots Persillade – Wild Burgundy Snails, Garlic and Parsley, Potato Croquettes

Tartare de Bouef Parisien – Black Angus Tartar, Gaufrette Chips, Capers, Romaine Leaves

Tarte Caragin – Salted Caramel Tart, Dried Chocolate Crepe Flakes, Cardamon Cream

Dinner was in keeping with the excellence that is the theme of the day.  Loved the tartare.  Lightly and perfectly seasoned.  As well as the mushroom fricasee and cauliflower gratin.  The salted caramel tarte was simply inspired.  It tasted like melted caramels with burnt spicy chocolate on top which was the perfect combination of sweet, salty, bitter, gooey, flakey.  Mmmm….

So this perfect day started in a pub.  Crowded, sweltering, tense.  People shouting and sighing  {profanities turning the air blue – all in good spirit}.  Despairing and exulting.  A primal and open appreciation of the performance on display.  A performance full of grace and refinement. Equal to what we later saw on stage at the ballet.  Except the spectators at the ballet were hushed and silent.  Similarly awe-struck.  And dressed in fineries.

The day ended with me and good friend chatting and catching up in leisure over light and wonderful dinner.  A wonderful and schizophrenic day, n’est-ce pas?

Thank you dear Lord for these kinds of days….


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