(Thursday, April 29. Warning: this is going to be a long entry. Go get yourself a drink or take a bathroom break or something.)
Unsurprisingly, after staying up late the previous evening, I slept in. (Certainly doesn't help that New Yorkers start their days three hours earlier than NORMAL people...) Julie made me hot chocolate and toast with lemon curd. The breakfast of champions!
I spent some quality time in Julie's shower (not shown here -- I may take pictures of all manner of things, but even I have my limits), finally got dressed and got my rear in gear, and we headed out on the subway...
...to Columbus Circle. Behind the globe is Trump Tower, probable storage space for hundreds of bad toupées.
Behold Merchants' Gate, a mighty entrance to Central Park! (Oo, shiny!)
You can't tell from this photo, but Merchants' Gate was living up to its name that day, with scores of people surrounding the entrance and hustling for a buck -- selling photographs, renting bikes, cooking up what Julie calls "street meat," and offering guided tours of the Park.
In Central Park it was busy being a beautiful day.
We passed through a brick tunnel...
...and on the other side noticed this little guy contentedly playing with leaves.
The juxtaposition of urban metropolis and lush green space is sometimes startling.
This is The Pond, rather grandly named...
...and home to many contented waterfowl. But ducks and geese aren't the only birds who make their homes in Central Park.
There are also zoo critters to be reckoned with.
This little robin seemed quite content to hatch her eggs inside the Central Park Zoo...
...albeit in a somewhat unorthodox spot for a nest. (It amazed me that no one had disturbed her -- you could literally reach your hand up and touch the nest from the ticket window.)
We saw many other birds in the zoo...
... including this fancy fellow (a type of pheasant)...
...scarlet ibises (this one was doing some sort of minuet with a tortoise)...
...this little guy, who looked very punk-rock...
...and a Victoria crowned pigeon.
"I'm a pretty bird!" Yes, yes you are.
The concrete eagle directed us toward the sea lion enclosure.
It looked like the sea lions were having a good day...
...and getting lots of encouragement from their keepers. Also lots of fish.
We also took a look at the polar bears. This is Gus...
...and this is Ida, who seemed to be in a wistful mood.
A golden tamarin, a particularly teeny little primate, who was hard to take pictures of because he almost never held still.
We passed under the Delacorte Clock (I often wonder if the moving-animals design of this clock inspired the clock façade of "it's a small world" at Disneyland)...
...and made our way toward the Tisch Children's Zoo.
This section of the zoo is full of things for kids to do...
...but many of the signs and exhibits could use a little love.
The turtles were out sunbathing in force.
It looked so relaxing that Julie decided to join them. Her new native name is Dances with Turtles.
A rather recalcitrant alpaca did not want to have his picture taken...
...but I was patient and wily.
A word to the wise.
Mr. Moocowman! (The zoo was full of school classes, speaking all sorts of languages from French to Yiddish. One little boy caught sight of this cow and hollered, "¡Mira, mira, es un caballo!" and I calmly replied, "No, no es un caballo, es una vaca.")
This was one happy potbellied pig. His tail was in constant motion, like a propeller.
Leaving the Zoo, we walked further into Central Park and took a short breather on a bench...
...where we listened as The David Ashkenazy Quartet (temporarily a trio) went to town. Woot!
We didn't sit here, however. It's Cupcake Nederlander's bench. (BTW, I recently discovered that Cupcake is apparently a miniature Yorkshire terrier. That's a lot of bench for a little dog.)
Most of the benches in the park are dedicated to someone or other.
I liked the slightly goofy/cryptic ones best of all.
We passed the World War I memorial, leaving Central Park for the nonce...
...and began our peripatetic wanderings around the Upper East Side in search of the perfect burger.
I'd have more to say about this photo, but society controls my mind. Sorry.
Can you see the three amigos looking down from the balcony?
That's right, my little heart yearns for architectural details. So sue me.
And really, there were so many to choose from!
Look at all the goodies on this one building alone!
It's an embarrassment of riches, I tell you.
This is Stately Squirrel Manor. It had steel squirrel cutouts mounted along the street-facing wall and everything.
Eventually we grew tired of this goofiness and repaired to J. G. Melon (not pictured here) for a nice medium-rare bacon cheeseburger. Hey, sometimes you just gotta have a burger. (Unless you're vegetarian. Or Hindu. Or a Hindu vegetarian. But I'm none of those things, so I've got it covered.)
The wind then picked us up and blew us, Flying Nun-style, over to the Met.
But we were not there to see Picasso. Oh no.
We were there to see this. A very rare opportunity to examine up close the pages of the Belles Heures of Jean, duc de Berry, as illuminated by the Limbourg brothers.
From the lobby, you go through the medieval exhibits and downstairs to the good stuff.
On our way, we stopped to look at the temporary exhibit of The Mourners, a set of tomb sculptures from the court of Burgundy. The most remarkable thing about this set of numerous small statues is that from a very limited theme -- a monk in mourning -- the sculptors were able to create what appear to be limitless variations.
I think this one may be my favorite.
But as lovely as The Mourners were, they were not the primary reason we were there. Ordinarily part of the Treasury housed at the Cloisters, the Belles Heures had been unbound for this exhibition and each page of the book was on display for close examination. We picked up a couple of magnifying glasses at the entrance and took a closer look at the amazing detail in this illuminated manuscript. It was breathtaking.
The page for the month of May. The bottom illustration is meant to represent the astrological sign of Gemini. Look at all the detailed scrollwork in the sky behind each tiny illustration, only a few inches wide. The Limbourgs were trained as goldsmiths, and their attention to detail is visible on every page.
This illustration is unusual in that it depicts a practical joke played on a Catholic saint. St. Jerome was said to be a strict disciplinarian who rose very early in the morning, and one day the monks decided to pull one over on him by replacing his usual severe clothing with a woman's dress. Waking in the pre-dawn, Jerome groggily put on the dress and walked into church for first prayers. The legend says he was so mocked by the monks that he eventually fled the place.
There were many, MANY more pages on the life of Christ, the story of St. Catherine and legends regarding numerous saints. Being a calligraphy geek and a fan of tiny detailed objects, I was in heaven. Julie had to leave early to take care of some film festival-related business, but I stayed in this one exhibit sighing over the beautiful work until it was nearly closing time and they were forced to kick me out.
So having been thrust rudely out of Eden, I had to return to Central Park.
Cedar Hill is rather idyllic this time of year, no?
Eventually I discovered the King of Poland holding court by the water's edge...
...and looking pretty stylin'.
The King's domain, aka the Turtle Pond.
Also overlooking the Turtle Pond is Belvedere Castle.
It's pretty spiffy.
From there it was a quick downhill walk to the Shakespeare garden.
It was truly beautiful.
Just beyond that was the Swedish Cottage and Marionette Theater.
As is the case with most things Swedish, it was Scandilicious.
Paparazzi shot! While in the park I ran into Gotham billionaire Bruce Sciurus of Stately Squirrel Manor, who kindly let me take his picture. Thanks, Bruce! (Some conspiracy theorists claim that Bruce maintains a secret identity after dark, using his billions to transform into the notorious mystery vigilante known as Ratman, but that's just nonsense.)
I then walked down along West Drive...
...wandering through many a tunnel along the way.
By the way, I like the rowing on Central Park Lake. I guess that's why the lady is a tramp.
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church caught my eye as I walked along.
Eventually I made it back to Columbus Circle. Columbus was quite insistent about having his picture taken this time.
After picking up some much-needed water, I got back onto the subway...
...and rode to the West 4th exit.
When I surfaced, I found IFC waiting for me.
While waiting for Julie to answer her phone and/or come out to get me, I had a film discussion with a homeless man who, before taking his leave, informed me he held court at Washington Square if I should ever need to find him. File that under potentially useful info.
Anyway, the Columbia Film Festival lineup had some very strong entries in the short film category; I thought it was a much better lineup than the one at Tribeca, frankly. I saw six films: Tango of the Condor (a very sad film about a former policeman haunted by past choices), Loop Planes (obviously), Veterans (an aging hooker and a young, scarred war veteran heal each other), On the Road (hilarious interlocking stories of three groups in different cars), The Pool Party (an aging servant performs thankless jobs for a spoiled, unappreciative family), and Babyland (whoa!).
After the screenings everyone migrated several blocks over to a bar called, appropriately enough, Dove. It was, however, not very peaceful. A low-ceilinged shoebox of a basement bar, packed to capacity and beyond with people all shouting conversations at each other, it felt like a fire hazard in there. As Van Johnson so notoriously put it, "It's not the heat, it's the humanity." Plus there's not very much for a non-drinker to do inside a bar, other than hold up a "designated driver" sign. By this time I was feeling hungry, so Julie and Darcie Fontaine walked me over to Mamoun's where I proceeded to scarf down a falafel sandwich. Not half bad for $2.50.
Around about midnight Julie grew tired of doing the mix-and-mingle thing and we caught the subway back to the apt. I flopped on the guest bed and wrote and wrote until I was nearly asleep with pen in hand. Thus ended a most satisfying (and picture-filled) day.