Howl on the Road

August 11, 2007

After a couple of years’ absence, the Howl Festival is back. The event, named in honor of Allen Ginsberg’s landmark poem about love, madness and death, is designed as a celebration of art created in Greenwich Village and the East Village.

This year, the ultimate downtown festival has taken a detour uptown to participate in Lincoln Center Out of Doors: Summer of Love: Celebrating the Spirit of the ‘60s.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the “Summer of Love” gathering in San Francisco—a defining moment of the era …. For its own “Summer of Love” 2007, Lincoln Center Out of Doors offers music, dance, street theater, and family events highlighted by artists and styles of the period.

Held on Josie Robertson Plaza, the celebration included art, music, dance, puppetry and even a fashion show. Participants dressed as hippies sang, danced and distributed flowers, incense and love beads. 

Three interactive art installations added to the experience: Block Busting by George Spencer, Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy, and Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota.

In early September, the complete, full-blown Howl Festival will return to its home turf downtown, in and around Tompkins Square Park in the East Village.

Minds! New loves!
Mad generation!
down on the rocks of Time!
Real holy laughter in the river!
They saw it all!
the wild eyes! the holy yells!
They bade farewell!
They jumped off the roof to solitude!
carrying flowers!
Down to the river! into the street!
Allen Ginsberg, Howl

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

From Howling and Other Justifiable Actions by Terry S. Handy

Wink by Jan Lynn Sokota

Hippie chicks

The self-described “Goth Ethel Merman”


Hungry Marching Band

Block Busting by George Spencer


Monsieur Pierre (Todd Shaffer)

Paper peace dress

Channeling the spirit of Janis Joplin

Flower child

The Federation of East Village Artists
Howl Festival
Terry Hardy
Jan Lynn Sokota
Hungry March Band
Wikipedia: Bob Holman
East Village Dance Project
Howl at Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center Out of Doors
Josie Robertson Plaza
Footnote to Howl
Wikipedia: Howl
NY Times: Special section on Allen Ginsberg
Literary History: Allen Ginsberg
The Beat Page: Allen Ginsberg
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl’s 45th anniversary
Lawrence Ferlinghetti on Howl & Banned Books (click under his photo)
GOH Productions
Bonnie Sue Stein
Village Voice: Ed Woodham
Martha Tornay

A Midsummer Day’s Mess, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

August 8, 2007

Early today, while most of the city was still asleep, Brooklyn was hit by a tornado.

The storm was the most powerful to strike the borough since the National Weather Service began keeping reliable records. With wind speeds reaching 135 mph, the tornado tore through Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, downing power lines, ripping up trees, shattering windows, tearing roofs from buildings and crushing trucks and cars.

The storm dumped three inches of rain on the city in just about an hour, overwhelming the sewer system, flooding streets, tunnels and subways and disabling the subways, trains and busses.

As hundreds of thousands of people tried to go to work, a spokesman for the Transit Authority, interviewed on a local television station, said, “The entire subway system is virtually shut down. If you can stay home, do it.” Unfortunately, the people who most needed to hear that messsage were already en route. Outraged commuters were stranded, the transit authority’s Web site crashed and chaos ensued.

Fortunately, the worst of the tornado’s ferocity bypassed my neighborhood and by the end of the day, most of the city’s transportation system was running with limited service. It was definitely time for something light and entertaining.


Shakespeare in the Park is a longstanding, beloved tradition in New York City. More than 50 years ago, Joseph Papp (who was subsequently accused of un-American activities), began to stage free productions of Shakespeare’s plays in at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.

Today, the shows are still free, but entrance to the famed open-air theater comes at a price.

Approximately 1,500 seats are available for each performance. Tickets are distributed on the day of the show on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to two per person. It is not unusual for people to camp out in the park overnight in order to obtain a pair, a feat that has been described by the New York Times as an “endurance test” requiring determination, patience and fortitude.

All tickets are for reserved seats and are non-exchangeable. If a performance is rained out, the ticketholder is simply out of luck. The well-heeled, of course, avoid the long queues by either hiring others to wait for them (the going rate is about $100) or by donating money to Shakespeare in the Park (a $150 donation earns one reserved seat).

When a friend offered me the opportunity to attend a run-through of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the show will officially open on August 23), I headed straight for the soggy subways.

Thanks to the storm, it took me about two hours longer than usual to reach Central Park, but it was well worth the trip. Those who braved the muddy fields and branch-strewn paths were transported from the chaotic, storm-torn city and treated to a calm, clear night, a first-rate company and more than a little much-needed magic on a midsummer night.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act V, Scene 2


Daily News: Brooklyn becomes Tornado Alley!
Newsday: Tornado, storm wreaks havoc in NYC
Gothamist: Wild Wednesday Weather
NY Times: Free Theater, But the Lines? Unspeakable
NY Times: It’s Free Theater, but With a Price
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Public Theatre: Shakespeare in the Park
Public Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Central Park Conservancy: Delacorte Theater Delacorte Theater
NYC Department of Parks & Recreation: Central Park

Lord Ganesh of the Lake

August 5, 2007

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Races are held on Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Corona, Queens.

The ground around the lake is swampy and slippery, full of tall reeds, grasses and deceptively deep, muddy hollows. On Saturday, as I moved closer and closer to the edge to take photographs, I cautiously kept my eyes pointed downward.

When I reached the shore, I noticed something bobbing on the surface of the water. It appeared to be the back of a picture frame. I carefully reached down, grabbed it and turned it over.

To my amazement, it was an image of the elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh, the god of intellect and wisdom. The picture had gotten a bit gritty, but being submerged in the lake didn’t seem to have done it any real damage.

I wrapped the dripping frame in a plastic bag and brought it home. It now occupies a space in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen.

However, I can’t help wondering: How did Ganesh get into the water? How long had he been there? And — was there any significance to the fact that, out of the thousands of people assembled by the shore, he washed up at my feet?

Any theories?


Wikipedia: Ganesha

The Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival

August 4, 2007

Dragon Boat racing is only in its 17th year in New York, but in China, the land of its origins, the tradition goes back more than 1,500 years.

Dragon Boat racing stems from the death of poet and reformer Qu Yuan, who served the emperor in the kingdom of Chu (present-day Hunan and Hubei provinces) and was regarded as wise, loyal and honest. An idealist who was loved by the common people, Qu Yuan drowned himself in the third century B.C. to protest governmental dishonesty and corruption.

One of his poems says:

In sadness plunged and sunk in deepest gloom,
Alone I drove on to my dreary doom.
In exile rather would I meet my end,
Than to the baseness of their ways descend.

Remote the eagle spurns the common range,
Nor deigns since time began its way to change;
A circle fits not with a square design;
Their different ways could not be merged with mine.

Yet still my heart I checked and curbed my pride,
Their blame endured and their reproach beside.
To die for righteousness alone I sought,
For this was what the ancient sages taught.

Heartbroken, Qu Yuan grasped a large stone and plunged into the Mi Lo river. Nearby fishermen raced to save the beloved poet. As they went, they tried to frighten away harmful fish and “water dragons” by beating drums and splashing their oars on the surface of the water. Sadly, they failed in their mission and Qu Yuan’s body was never found. Ever since, dragon boat races have commemorated his death and the efforts to rescue him.

The people of Chu believed that Qu Yuan’s hungry ghost came back to the river every year on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, and tried to help him by throwing rice in the water. Today during the Dragon Boat Festival, people eat a dish of rice steamed in bamboo leaves called Joong or Zonzi (also known as Chinese Tamales) to symbolize the offerings of rice.

In China, Dragon Boat Races are a major holiday and the tradition has spread to communities with large Chinese populations around the world. In New York City, the Races are celebrated at Meadow Lake at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens, not too far from Chinatown. 

This year more than 150 teams competed, most of them sponsored by corporations and community groups. Each team had its own tent near the lake, where crew members and their supporters could relax, prepare and celebrate. Some teams even had their own portable restrooms.

They raced in boats made of solid teak, 40 feet long and weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Each craft is decorated with a wooden dragon head at the bow, a dragon tail at the stern and painted with dragon-like scales. A drummer sits in the bow and beats a drum while crew members row furiously.

In addition to the races, the crowd was treated to musical entertainment, martial arts demonstrations, modern and traditional Chinese crafts and sponsor-supplied games and giveaways.

If you decide to go next year, one warning: because the teams supply their own rest areas and cater their own meals, there is very little seating, shade, food and drink available for spectators.

Festival newbies squinted in the bright sunlight, repeatedly trekked to the boat house for water, filled their rumbling tummies with dumplings and noodles (the only foods available throughout the day), and squatted on the scorchingly hot grass. Experienced festival attendees arrived laden with umbrellas, parasols, lounge chairs, picnic baskets and barbeque grills, sat back and enjoyed the spectacle.

Relaxing inside a team tent

Spectator with parasol and dragon tattoo

Working in a sponsor’s giveaway tent

Tying knots in the craft tent

Selling knots at the craft tent

Calligraphy at the craft tent

Paper Joong/Zonzi for sale in the craft tent

Face painting at craft tent

Flying a kite

Leaving the shore

DSCN1463Getting into position
Getting into position

DSCN1455 Ready to start rowing
Ready to start rowing

A drummer in the bow

Crossing the lake

Rowing hard

Manuvering on the lake

Nearing the turnaround point

DSCN1519 Turning

A photographer captures the scene

DSCN1421 Posting race results
Posting race results

A winning team

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival in New York
Home | MAD Dragonboating Club
Xtreme NY – Dragon Boat Crew of New York
Yang Hsien-yi & Gladys Yang: Poetry of Qu Yang
Making Joongzi
Making Joongzi 2

A Legend Early in the Morning

August 3, 2007

Every summer two popular television programs compete for early morning audiences by broadcasting concerts live from New York City.

The National Broadcasting Company’s Today Show holds their concert series on the Plaza at Rockefeller Center. Concerts from the American Broadcasting Company’s Good Morning America program take place in Bryant Park.

Both concert series are held in midtown Manahattan, both are free and open to the public, both include a variety of performers and musical genres. Good Morning America’s offerings take place on Fridays; the Today Show’s concerts are generally held on Tuesdays or Fridays.

Recently friend asked why I, who live so close to the venues and enjoy music so much, have never attended one of these peformances. This note from Good Morning America’s Web site might explain:

Show up at Bryant Park (41st and 6th Ave) around 6:00am, or earlier, to get a good spot in line.

Nevertheless, I decided to set my alarm extra early and give a (practically) crack-of-dawn concert a try today when R&B singer, songwriter and pianist John Legend appeared on Good Morning America.

Legend, a Grammy-award winner, performed romantic ballads influenced by gospel, jazz and hip-hop. After the show, the audience received free samples provided by the program’s sponsor, Listerine mouthwash.

Wonder whether the Listerine is at all responsible for Legend’s sweet, mellow sound?

The temporary stage in Bryant Park
The temporary stage in Bryant Park

Singing during the rehearsal
Rehearsing with back-up singers

Singing during the rehearsal
Singing during the rehearsal

Joking with Diane Sawyer & Sam Champion

John Legend performing with the band

John Legend making hearts flutter
John Legend making hearts flutter

John Legend
MySpace: John Legend
Today Show Concert Series
Good Morning America
Bryant Park: Good Morning America Concert Series

A Texas Honky-Tonk in New York City

August 2, 2007

Castle Clinton was constructed at the southern tip of Manhattan for the defense of New York City. Designed as a near-twin to Castle William on Governor’s Island, the building stopped functioning as a military base after the War of 1812. The castle was converted to an opera house, then an immigration processing center, and finally an aquarium before being named a national monument in 1946.

Today this circular red sandstone building in Battery Park serves as the ticket office for ferries going to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. And, for a few magical summer evenings each year, it is transformed into an open air concert hall. A portable stage is erected, folding chairs are opened, a refreshment stand set up and tickets (first-come, first-serve) distributed to the crowd that waits outside in the sun for hours.

Why do they stand so patiently in the middle of a heat wave? Simple. Because the space is intimate (only 600 seats are available), the price is right (free), and the acts are first-rate.

Today, as day turned to night, this former military fortress became a Texas honky-tonk when Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock — also known as the Flatlanders — performed for those lucky enough to score tickets.

The sounds of these veteran country singer-songwriters had the New York City crowd clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and finally, up on their feet and happily dancing under the stars.

The Flatlanders on the stage

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore

Butch Hancock
Butch Hancock

Joe Ely
Joe Ely

Rob Gjersoe on bass
Rob Gjersoe on bass

Joe Ely singing
Joe Ely singing

Butch Hancock singing
Butch Hancock singing

Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing
Jimmie Dale Gilmore singing

New West Records: The Flatlanders
Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Jimmie Dale Gilmore – Welcome
Wikipedia: Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Joe Ely
Wikipedia: Butch Hancock
Castle Clinton National Monument

More Broadway in Bryant Park

August 2, 2007

Another sunny summer Thursday, another free lunchtime performance in the Broadway in Bryant Park series.

Once again, the concert featured excerpts from current shows and I was able to catch some of the best moments from Hairspray, Mary Poppins and Stomp.




Ashley Brown & Devynn Pedell from Mary Poppins signing autographs

Ashley Brown as the title character in Mary Poppins

Jacob Levine, Ashley Brown and Devynn Pedell in Mary Poppins

Jacob Levine and Gavin Lee singing Let’s Go Fly a Kite

Singing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious from Mary Poppins

Broom dance from Stomp

Dancing with brooms from Stomp

Cast dancing with poles from Stomp

Mary Poppins
Devynn Pedell
New York 106.7 FM: Broadway in Bryant Park
Bryant Park: Broadway in Bryant Park
Bryant Park
New York City Department of Parks: Broadway in Bryant Park

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