Sunday, November 22, 2009

micro-bubbles of life in the city

*  The mournful notes of a saxophone wafting up on the evening air, from a busker who stands below our windows each night - it's like our personal serenade.

*  A red-tailed hawk seeking shelter from the frigid winds and driving rain on the topmost corner of a high-rise apartment across the way.

*  A very pregnant woman travelling on the subway wearing a surgical mask as a protective measure against swine flu (known here as H1N1).

* Colours of Central Park: smouldering-ember red (Japanese maples), Hot English mustard (beech), cinnamon (oaks), lemon-peel yellow (ginkgo). The ginkgo trees are my favourite, littering the paths with masses of delicate Egyptian-fan-shaped leaves. They are also known as maidenhair trees because of the way the leaves cluster along the stem, resembling maidenhair ferns.

chrysanthemums and japanese tako drums

Last weekend I dragged a mildly protesting H. to the New York Botanical Garden, all the way in The Bronx (actually, just 25 minutes by subway) to see the Kiku display (that’s ‘chrysanthemum’ in Japanese). Once we were there, he was as entranced as I was, wielding his camera with each footfall (witness the pictures). You would never have believed chrysanthemums came in so many colours and varieties – curly, spiky, whorls, pinwheels, dopy mop-heads.

Specially trained and trailed with the same meticulous attention that the Japanese apply to bonsai trees, there were waist-high single stems with giant heads, single stems that splayed out into a dome-shaped mass of over a hundred blooms, and flowing waterfall cascades of flower-heads. Most enchanting were the names given to the single-head flowers, whimsical poetic allusions to snow, wind, mist and rain (I can’t for the life of me put my finger on a single one right now).

Best of all, though, was the tako drum performance by an endearing bunch of Japanese schoolkids in traditional costume, the girls with chrysanthemums pinned to their hair. There were ancient gongs, massive tako drums, little drums and steel percussive instruments. Led by a handful of teachers and with great solemnity, but also with great gusto, the pint-sized pupils worked their way through an array of traditional Japanese drumming rhythms. One girl, in particular, stole our hearts with her pigtails and defiant hands-on-her-hip attitude. I couldn’t help but marvel at how these kids were engaging in an ancient ritual infused with such significance that it had endured for centuries. There was something in the deep booming resonance of those drums that captured the soul.

Friday, November 20, 2009

OMG! Linus Roache!


(As in, Oh … My … God … mouthed by giddy teenagers like Lindsay Lohan and any of the Gossip Girls in NYC’s snippy TV show.) The other evening I was introduced to and SHOOK HANDS WITH the yummy Linus Roache… I couldn’t sleep that night I was so over-awed. I don’t know if anyone remembers the 1994 movie Priest, in which he played the dishiest gay priest ever to walk this earth. I’ve had a crush on him ever since. (He’s not gay, just in case you're wondering.)

This momentous occasion took place at a Barnes & Noble store, where a well-known American couple (Ed and Debbie Shapiro) was marketing their latest in a multitude of books on meditation. They’d managed to gather around them an illustrious line-up of actors, spiritual writers and meditation gurus – among them, Robert Thurman, Andrew Cohen, the actress Ellen Burstyn … and Linus Roache.

A NY friend of mine (and Linus!) are pupils of Andrew Cohen, who heads up a spiritual organisation on evolutionary consciousness called EnlightenNext, and it was she who invited me to the talk (I’m forever grateful).

After being personally introduced by my friend to Linus (hyperventilate) and, later, Andrew Cohen, we managed to commandeer front row seats and sat a foot away from the stars, all of whom spoke independently, then bantered with each other in a wonderfully informal way … while we looked on as breathless voyeurs.

One woman stood up, looked at Linus, and said, "I came here tonight to see a star, but now I also want to learn to meditate." Which just goes to show what pulling power NY's leading lights wield.
Recently Linus joined the cast of Law & Order as an assistant district attorney, after the cable channel decided it needed to create a little extra frisson in the show.
Guess who’s going to be tuned in every Friday night…

New York Marathon in technicolour

The euphoria is slowly subsiding, the giant gold medal is hanging in H's office and the $6650.00
H. personally raised (well done, H!) has gone towards the Multiple Myeloma Fund. But we can't let the event go without some inspiring colour pics, so here they are!

Friday, November 6, 2009

new york marathon 2009!

It’s five days down, and we’re just getting over the euphoria (both from a runner’s and a non-runner’s perspective) of the New York Marathon. What a buzz! It was as if the entire city had been mobilised for the event – barricades and flags and luxury buses and police cars and uniformed officers everywhere you looked. I didn’t sleep a single minute the night before out of sympathy nerves for H. I’ve never seen him so hyped before a race, never mind that he already had three marathons under his belt. It was quite an emotional experience mingling with thousands of runners at the Jacob Javits Center the day before to get H’s number. So many foreign languages floating in the air; you could cut the charged atmosphere and nervous energy with a knife.

H. had to get up at five a.m. to catch a bus to the start at the base of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (when it was built in 1964 it was the world’s longest suspension span), which connects Staten Island with Brooklyn. He only ran at 10 a.m.! Not that it’s deterred him; he’s already entered for next year’s race… Meschuggah.

The route takes in the five boroughs that make up New York City: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Manhattan. Together with some friends, we cheered the runners on at First Avenue and then Fifth Avenue, where I screamed my lungs out at every South African who ran by – clearly identifiable by their flag vests or running shorts. They all looked mightily surprised to hear a South African bystander holler them on.

42,000 runners, 100 bands and 2 million supporters … what a party atmosphere.
H. looked amazingly strong – and hugely pleased to see us – both times we caught up with him. So strong that he crossed the finishing line within 2 minutes of his goal time: 4 hrs 17 min. Go Hershey! All he could mouth was, Where’s the closest cold beer? so we had to rustle him off in his space blanket to the nearest pub. Where there was much noise and celebration and high fives with crowds of other runners, after which many champagne corks apologetically coughed.

The great black-and-white images are courtesy of our Dutch photography-studying friend Yvonne, thank you! Colour pics still to come.