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Though I don’t outright dislike classical music, I’ve never been particularly fond of it either.  And while I hate to admit it, I did find the Tokyo String Quartet to be rather unexciting, and left my house with low expectations.  However, I found my expectations defied and enjoyed a fantastic evening.

Walking into Carnegie Hall I prepared myself for the lengthy walk to my seat, and I was reminded immediately of Don Giovanni.  Going up the steps I saw what appeared to be an attractive woman ahead of me, and gentleman that I am, thought of giving her the pleasure of my acquaintance.  But, as she rounded a corner I caught a glimpse of her face, and decided against it.  “Love may be blind,” I thought as I disappointedly continued the arduous climb, “but unfortunately, I am not.”  Finally reaching the top of the steps, I was reminded again of Don Giovanni, and laughed as I thought about how the eponymous character probably would have hit that anyway.

The orchestra was magnificent and I enjoyed it far more than I did the string quartet.  There may have been something intrinsic to the pieces themselves that made them seem better to me, but I think part of the reason for my preference was that the number of instruments involved in the orchestra made everything sound grander.  My favorite part was what I believe were the French horns.  Although I tried to take in as much of the performance in at once – the sounds of individual instruments and of combinations, the movements of the musicians and the conductor – I couldn’t help but pay more attention to the horns.  I tried to anticipate when they would play, and was oddly fascinated with whatever it was that their musicians were doing as they occasionally turned and shook their instruments.  The only negative comments that I can make are about the seating arrangements, and what I think was one foul note played at the end of the performance.  Still, I was thoroughly satisfied coming out of Carnegie Hall.

However, the evening was not yet over.  I’ve been to restaurants that use attractive service to entice customers, and I’ve been generally unimpressed, so my expectations were low when some friends and I went to the nearby Hooters after the show.  However, I was pleasantly surprised by my experience.  The fries were unexpectedly good, and the wings were delicious, even though the last of mine was actually a fried pickle that got mixed in with the order.  Our waitress overheard me recount the story of the woman on the steps from earlier in the evening and told me that I was full of myself.  To which I responded, “I suppose I am full of myself, and hey, if you play your cards right, maybe you could be full of me, too.”  She slapped me.  Hard.  But not being one to hold a grudge, I still left my phone number on the check before leaving.

Even before writing this response I noticed the parallels between the orchestra and Hooters.  My shattered expectations, my encounters with women, the last sour note and the pickle.  Uncanny, yes, but it does seem that, indeed, Hooters is the Beethoven of restaurants.  I’ve since changed my ringtone to the Fifth Symphony in remembrance of this night, and cannot help but be overwhelmed with nostalgia every time it is the waitress that calls me.

Review of Don Giovanni

Settling into my seat in the Metropolitan Opera House, I attempted to work the screen in the seat in front of me so as to have subtitles available, however, it did not function.  There were two possibilities.  Either I did not know how to properly work the screen, or the screen was broken.  Considering my competency with almost all things, I am forced to assume the latter.  Of course, this made little difference to me, as I took it upon myself to date a dozen or so Italian girls during the first months of the semester in order to learn Italian prior to the performance.

My only prior knowledge of the Don Juan legend was Lord Byron’s epic poem.  It is truly ironic, that Byron’s interpretation of a Byronic character would make him so un-Byronic.  Keeping this in mind, along with our class discussion on Donna Anna, I considered different ways to interpret many of the characters in the opera.  Was Donna Anna raped/nearly raped by Don Giovanni? Or was she actually seduced by him?  Is Zerlina an ingénue being taken advantage of by Don Giovanni?  Or is she more of a coquette, who aims to leave behind Masetto for the Don’s charm and rank?  And Masetto, is he rash and needlessly jealous?  Or is he genuinely worried for Zerlina but feels inferior to Don Giovanni?

There were two parts of the performance that most impressed me.  The first, Leporello’s Catalogue Aria, was incredible not just as a musical piece, but also as an aid in the characterization of the Don.  Who knows, if Giovanni did not meet his demise at the end of the opera, he might have lived to reach numbers rivaling my own.  And that brings us to the end of the opera.  It was spectacular.  The flames were intense and entirely unexpected, but even without them, the commendatore’s part alone was enough to send chills down my spine.

Edwidge Danticat’s visit to our campus to discuss the first year common reading provided some wonderful insight into her memoir Brother, I’m Dying.  She opened the discussion by reciting five Haitian proverbs, explaining the meaning of each and how they related to the themes present in her book.  For example, the final proverb was “When you see an old bone on the road, remember it once had flesh on it”.  The saying’s message was a caution against looking down upon those in a worse condition than yourself, as they could have once been the same as you.  This, of course, relates to her two father figures, who were left in incredibly unfortunate situations toward the ends of their lives.  The event continued with a reading by Danticat, who chose two excerpts that dealt with life and death, prominent themes in Brother, I’m Dying.  The first was about when she began the “transition” stage of labor.  Danticat likened the separation of a child from it’s mother during birth to other times of significant separation in life and theorized on there being a similar stage when one exits life as opposed to entering it.  The second reading was a folk story she included in the memoir about a daughter mourning the loss of her father.  The daughter, terribly upset over her father’s passing, is unwilling to go to a wake celebrating his life.  A village elder, though, convinces her otherwise, imparting the lesson that it is “not our way to let our grief silence us”; a lesson that Danticat herself must have come to terms with before writing Brother, I’m Dying.

Before book signing began the discussion was ended with a question and answer section.  Danticat answered many different questions concerning both the book and herself.  Some of which revealed that she was able to begin writing soon after her father died, and that the process was cathartic, but did not provide full closure.  It was this section of the book discussion that most reminded me of the previous author reading we had attended: Jonathan Foer’s reading of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.  Both of these events revealed a lot about the authors and their works, but I preferred that of Edwidge Danticat.  Though Foer was witty and intelligent throughout the interview and Q&A, there was something of a “pretentious artist” attitude present that rubbed me the wrong way.  Danticat, on the other hand, was very down to earth, humble, and even calming to listen to.

Rivera v. Rockefeller

The mural, Man at the Crossroads, is the center of the conflict between Diego Rivera and the Rockefellers.  Rivera was commissioned to paint a mural to be displayed at Rockefeller Center, and included in his work a depiction of Lenin, which, of course, displeased the Rockefellers.  After Rivera and the Rockefellers were unable to reach an agreement, Rivera was paid, but his mural was removed and destroyed.

Two questions came to mind when I heard about this controversy: Why did this conflict even begin? Why did it have to end with the destruction of the mural?  It’s no surprise that the Rockefellers would be pro-capitalist. And Rivera was not subtle about his own political views, as I saw in the works of his displayed in the MoMA exhibit.  So, why did the Rockefellers and Rivera agree to work together in the first place if disagreements could be so easily expected?

What makes the ending of this situation the “wrong result” is the destruction of the mural.  Artists are entitled to their own vision, and should be allowed to develop it however they please when they work for themselves.  However, when hired by a patron, artists are also under some obligation to whoever is paying them.  While I disagree with the Rockefellers’ assessment of the mural and their decision to not have it finished and displayed true to the artist’s intentions, I cannot deny their rights.  The Rockefellers were not wrong in not wanting to have artwork that they disagreed with to be made with their money, and Rivera certainly was not wrong in wanting to stay true to his art.  And so, if the Rockefellers’ did not pay Rivera, and if Rivera was allowed to keep the mural, there would not have been quite as much controversy.

While the history of the mural controversy is interesting, it is not necessary to know this story or the general history of the Rockefeller Center when visiting or evaluating it.  The Rockefeller Center, like any other work of artistic and cultural significance, has an intrinsic value as a piece of art and culture that it can be assessed through without outside information.  But, although it’s not necessary, having some knowledge of the history or context of a work does offer different ways to look at a piece, and gives the viewer a more in-depth understanding of it.


It was a cool and breezy night on Coney Island; large clouds loomed in the sky permitting the almost full moon to shine through only on occasion.  Most of the people were exiting the boardwalk to head home, but a small crowd was gathering around the rails next to the beach, anticipating the upcoming fireworks show.

“I can’t believe it’s almost the end of summer.” said Joshua.

“Yeah,” responded Farina, “there was so much other stuff I wanted to do before school.”

“Hey, I’m the wistful, melancholy one, okay? You’re generally more plucky, so what’s up?”

“I just feel like we didn’t do enough, I mean, we don’t have many summer vacations left, you know?” Farina looked across the beach speaking again, “I don’t what’s gotten into me.”

“Kevin, perhaps?” Joshua suggested with a grin.

“Shut up, we’re just friends!”

“Namaste, amigos!”

Joshua and Farina turned toward where they heard the voice, recognizing their friend Caesar approaching.  He was born to a mixed family so he had a distinct appearance and was easily confused for Hispanic, South Asian, and various types of Mediterranean.  His family moved around a lot when he was a child, too, so he always had trouble answering people when they inevitably asked him what he was or where he was from.  Eventually, he realized he had more fun just making up stories drawing from his background and experience; so, he started pretending to be different ethnicities every couple of days or weeks, which was always entertaining to the people who knew him well.

“So, Indian-Mexican today, huh?” Joshua asked.

“Indian-Ecuadorian, actually.” responded Caesar cheerfully.

“Of course.” said Joshua as he chuckled and turned back to beach.  Shouldn’t the fireworks have started by now?”.

“I heard there was an accident somewhere on the beach, so they got delayed.” said the man standing next to Farina.

“Some drunk crashed his boat on the shore.” continued an elderly woman sitting on the bench.

Farina stretched and groaned, “If the show ends up being cancelled then he’ll have totally messed up our last night out.”

“That’s pretty mean Fay-Fay,” said Caesar. “Aren’t you worried about the guy or if anyone got hurt?”.

“Of course I am.” she responded earnestly.

“Honesty, I expected you to say that Joshua.” said Caesar while pretending to ignore her.

“She’s been stealing my thunder all night.” sighed Joshua.

“Stop picking on me.” Farina said while pouting, making all three of them laugh.

Joshua reached into his pocket to take out his phone and check the time, but accidently pulled his keychain out with it.  It fell to ground and Farina bent down to pick it up, noticing one key in particular.

“Hey Joshy, what’s this?”

“Oh, it’s a handcuff key.”

“A handcuff key?”

“Yes, a handcuff key.”

Farina paused and let out a sigh.  “Should I even ask why you have this?”.

“You should,” responded Joshua, as he leaned on the railing, arms crossed over his chest, “it’s a good story.”

A silence passed over the trio.  Farina stared expectantly at Joshua, while he didn’t take his eyes off the Parachute Jump in the distance. Caesar looked back and forth between the two of them, not entirely sure of what was happening.

“Well?” asked Farina impatiently.

“Well, what?” answered Joshua calmly.

“Why aren’t you telling the story?”

“You didn’t ask yet.”

Caesar laughed and Farina put her face in her palm, “Just tell us the story.”

Joshua shifted his weight, put his hands in his pockets, took a breath, and started. “It was a few years ago, in middle school.  There was this one small store on the corner near the school that my friends and I went to.  The owners were jerks and we were stupid, so we would occasionally steal things – snacks, cans of beer, a few lighters.  We were browsing the shelves one day when one of the workers picked a friend of mine up and threw him behind the counter before calling the police.  The rest of us looked at him, and then at each other, and ran; to the school, to the park, to our homes, anywhere away from the store and without a second thought.  We met up in the schoolyard later and saw the friend that was caught.  After crying and paying for the stuff he had on him the police and store let him go, but we were all banned from entering the store again.  He told us that he really wasn’t trying to steal that time, that he just walked by the door on his way to the cashier.  I still don’t know if he was telling the truth or not.”

“But, where does the key come in?” Caesar asked.

“I bought it a few days later and showed it off as something to use just in case we got caught again.  I actually don’t know if it works, and even if it did, it wouldn’t do much good while it’s on my chain like it is.  I keep it as a reminder of how weak I was then.  That I didn’t do anything to help my friend, that I didn’t own up to what I did, that I even involved myself in the first place.”

The fireworks finally began, and Joshua turned to look at them.  Caesar and Farina looked at one another, unsure of what to do or say.  Joshua looked over his shoulder, smiled, and said, “The fireworks look great, don’t they?”.

“You don’t talk a lot, but when you do it’s some pretty heavy stuff.” said Caesar as he and Farina moved up to the railing.

“You ought to talk more often.” chimed in Farina.

“I’d run out of things to say.” Joshua replied with a shrug.  “We’ve got a few more days off, you guys want to go wander around the city or something tomorrow?” Turning to Farina, he continued, “We could invite Kevin.”

“Who’s Kevin?” Caesar asked while laughing.

“No one! Shut up Joshy!” Farina yelled over the fireworks before joining the other two in laughter.

Coney Island and the High Line speak volumes of the diversity in experiences and people one can find in New York.  “Conceived more than 100 years apart, these two New York City sites are both products of their times, reflecting different ideas about recreation, culture, and society.”  The differences between Coney Island and the High Line suggested in the above statement from our class syllabus put the contrast between these locations mildly.  Coney Island is connected to the amusement side of recreation; fun at the beach, the thrill of the rides, a night at the ballpark, the occasional fireworks show, but also to something grittier.  Coney Island isn’t exactly clean, in any sense of the word, but that’s a part of the fun, at least in my mind.  The High Line used to have a similar feel to it in the city; natural but unruly plant life, the occasional homeless person, but now that it’s been turned into a park it fits in with some of its more artsy surroundings.

I went to Coney Island on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, I can’t remember which.  The sky was cloudy and the air was cool; it felt like one of the first days of autumn.  I took the Q there instead of the B36, thinking I could get some good photos of the area from the window, but none of them turned out well.  Coming out of the station, I walked past Nathan’s and MCU Park before heading to the boardwalk, and from there I went to Luna Park.  I’ve been to Coney Island nearly every summer I can remember, so there wasn’t all that much I wanted to do, especially since I went alone.  It was coming out of park that I noticed something interesting.  Outside of Nathan’s a group of motorcyclists had gathered for some kind of small concert.  Weaving through the crowd of onlookers, I couldn’t help but think of my uncle.  He wore a rather long beard and always had on a pair of dark sunglasses, so he had something of the biker look to him.  When he visited Coney Island with my father and I, my uncle and the bikers would sometimes lock eyes for a while or simply nod without saying a word, as though they recognized a kindred spirit in each other.

Going to the High Line was a little more difficult for me.  I missed my stop on the way there and almost got on the wrong train when I had to transfer. And once I arrived, it was already raining heavily.  The rain wasn’t a total hindrance though, as it did make the park smell fresher, adding to the whole nature experience.  I was a little surprised, actually, about how much I enjoyed being there.  The plant life provided a scenic contrast with the surrounding buildings, and the view over the streets was wonderful.

What really caught my attention though, were the benches. I’m not entirely sure why, but I really like the way they come out of the structure instead of being separate pieces.  Leaving the High I took the first set of steps I saw and got lost trying to find the station.  But before I did that, I noticed a piece of graffiti on a building close to the park and took some photos. I would later find out that it was Monsieur Chat that I photographed, a graffiti cat that originated in France.  More information on him can be found here.

Not far from M. Chat was another piece of graffiti, one that read RIP High Line. I don’t know what the artist’s intended message was, but what I took away from it was a lamentation of the High Line that had been abandoned, but not yet turned into a park, an emotion expressed by Joel Sternfeld, “He would not just like the High Line to be saved and made into a promenade; he would like the promenade as it exists now to be perpetuated, a piece of New York as it really is” (Gopnik).  Having known the High Line only as a park, I can’t completely relate, but I can understand the idea as it relates to Coney Island.  The renovations it’s received are improvements, but I still feel like they’ve taken away some of the character of the island.


Work Cited

Gopnik, Adam. “A Walk on the High Line.” The New Yorker May 21, 2001: 44-49. Print.