Selling the Bear Necessities

August 17, 2015



PinkyOtto, a women’s clothing store with several locations in New York City, is advertised as “a fun-filled, charming place for stylish girls.”

Their whimsical window displays include mannequins topped with teddy bear heads. These fashion figures are in the Flatiron District store at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street.

Teddy Bears

Upside Down Hello

March 28, 2015

While strolling along East 23rd Street in Manhattan I notice a man coming towards me. He is walking briskly, purposefully, while wordlessly carrying a child upside down.

I look into the child’s eyes and call out, “Hello!”

“Hello!,” comes the reply.

We draw closer. We are nearly abreast.

“Upside down hello!,” I say.

“Upside down hello,” responds the child.

And then we begin to pass each other.

“Upside down goodbye!,” I exclaim.

“Upside down goodbye!,” the child echoes, as he and his silent beast of burden head west and I continue to walk towards the east.


I Shudder to Think …

August 30, 2014

I was walking along 15th Street when something caught my eye — a spot of bright blue that seemed out of place on the sidewalk in front of a toy store.

I stepped closer to investigate. A blue bowl and a basket that were labelled with small paper tags.

However, the words I read gave me pause. I know that orange juice is made from oranges, and apple juice contains nothing but apples.  But what is the stuff in that blue bowl, and how was it made?

I shudder to think.

Kidding Around 2
A spot of blue on the sidewalk

Kidding Around
A closer investigation

Kidding Around 3
What is in that bowl?

Kidding Around

ETHEL at The Winter Garden

June 24, 2014

“Don’t call it a string quartet. It’s a band.”

— Steve Smith, The New York Times

If the words ‘string quartet’ conjure up an image of stuffy, somber classical music, then you haven’t met ETHEL.

ETHEL is a group of string instrument players who, while based in the traditions of classical music, incorporate elements of jazz, blues, folk, post-rock and neo-classical music in their performances. The musicians perform new, original work as well as pieces by prominent contemporary composers, many of them written especially for the group.

ETHEL’s unconventional approach to string music reflects the musical backgrounds of its members: In addition to leading orchestras, they have played and recorded with rockers Sheryl Crow, Roger Daltrey, Tom Verlaine, Thomas Dolby, Joe Jackson, David Byrne, Jill Sobule, and Todd Rundgren. The band’s shows include improvisation, choreography, lighting, and video displays.

Tonight the River to River Festival featured ETHEL and guest guitarist Kaki King in a performance of “…And Other Stories,” in the Winter Garden Atrium at Brookfield Place.

The program included an interpretation of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #6 as well as works from ETHEL’s repertoire, original compositions by Kaki King, and a rearrangement of Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov’s Logbook.






Kaki King
ETHEL performs “…And Other Stories” with Kaki King at the River to River Festival
Facebook: ETHEL

Bang On a Can Marathon

June 22, 2014

Founded in 1987, Bang on a Can is an organization dedicated to bringing new music to new audiences. Based in New York, Bang on a Can performs, presents, and records diverse musical works worldwide.

They are best known for their annual Marathon Concerts, usually performed in the Winter Garden at Brookfield Place. During a Marathan, an eclectic mix of pieces are performed one after the other. Some audience members stay for the entire Marathon, while others feel free to wander in and out during a program that can last anywhere from 12 – 27 hours.

This year’s Marathon, held once again at the Winter Garden, lasted nearly 13 hours and included the following artists and compositions:

  • Great Noise Ensemble
    Armando Bayolo: Caprichos
    Carlos Carrillo: De la brevedad de la vida
  • Adrianna Mateo, violin
    Molly Joyce: Lean Back and Release
  • Great Noise Ensemble
    Marc Mellits: Machine V from 5 Machines
  • Bearthoven
    Brooks Frederickson: Undertoad
  • Anonymous 4
    David Lang: love fail (selections)
  • Dawn of Midi
    Amino Belyamani and Aakaash Israni: Excerpt from Dysnomia
  • Roomful of Teeth
    Judd Greenstein: AEIOU
    Caroline Shaw: Allemande and Sarabande from Partita for 8 Voices
  • Contemporaneous
    Andrew Norman: Try
  • Meredith Monk & Theo Bleckmann
    Meredith Monk: Facing North
  • Jherek Bischoff & Contemporaneous
    Jherek Bischoff: Works TBA
  • Meredith Monk, Theo Bleckmann, & friends
    Meredith Monk: Panda Chant II from The Games
  • Jace Clayton, electronics; David Friend, Emily Manzo, piano; Arooj Aftab, voice
    Julius Eastman and Jace Clayton: Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars
    JG Thirlwell: Anabiosis
    Paula Matthusen: ontology of an echo
    Julia Wolfe: Big Beautiful Dark & Scary
  • So Percussion
    Bryce Dessner: Music for Wood and Strings
  • Bang on a Can All-Stars & friends
    Louis Andriessen: Hoketus
  • Mantra Percussion
    Michael Gordon: Timber










Bang On a Can
Band On a Can Marathon
NY Times: Eight Hours of Free Music at Sunday’s Bang on a Can Marathon

The 21st Annual Hot Chocolate Festival

February 21, 2013

The holidays are over. The winter feels as though it will last forever. You long for an escape from the cold but you can’t leave the city.

In Manhattan, City Bakery has the solution. Every February, when the weather is at its bleakest, they host a  Hot Chocolate Festival. Now in its 21st year, the Festival celebrates the rich, creamy drink by featuring a different special flavor every day of the month. This year, the flavors range from Bourbon (February 8) to Vietnamese Cinnamon (February 10) to Creamy Stout (February 15th).

Today, I’m being a bit of a purist, with Darkest Dark Chocolate Hot Chocolate (so thick you can eat it with a spoon) topped with one of City Bakery’s home made marshmallows. And suddenly, February doesn’t seem long enough.




The City Bakery
The City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival

The Land Where St. Patrick Walked

March 17, 2011

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue is the world’s biggest, noisiest, happiest celebration of Ireland and its patron saint. Between the dancing, drinking and green hair, it is easy for an observer to think that those who hail from “the land with 40 shades of green” have always been welcome and accepted here.

But the story of the Irish in New York has many a tragic side. Most terrible is the reason that so many Irish citizens arrived on our shores 150 years ago; they were fleeing the disaster known as An Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger). The devestation began in the late 1840s, when a virus attacked the potatoes planted in the fields of the land where St. Patrick had walked.

Cheap, filling, and easy to grow, potatoes were an essential source of nutrition for poor, rural Irish families. When the virus caused the potato plants to wither and their crops to fail, it wasn’t long before starvation set in.

The Great Hunger, also known as the Great Potato Famine, lasted from 1845 to 1852. During that period approximately one million Irish people died and two million more emigrated, many of them landing in New York Harbor. Now, in a quiet corner of Battery Park, near the spot where those desperate survivors arrived, stands the Irish Hunger Memorial.

Created by New York artist Brian Tolle, the memorial opened in 2002 on a quarter-acre of land shaped to resemble a burial mound cut from an Irish hillside. The base of the memorial is made of slabs of concrete interlaced with bands of plexiglass-covered metal bearing excerpts from reports, poems, songs, sermons and letters describing the desperation and destitution of the victims of the famine. These are intermingled with information about world hunger today.

After walking around the base, visitors walk through a short, dark corridor where recorded voices recite facts about the Hunger and emerge into a small atrium lined with stone walls. A dirt path winds up the hill past thirty-two massive stones, each marked with the name the Irish county that donated it, a roofless stone cottage, wildflowers and grasses, all imported from Ireland.

Every aspect of this small patch of land is significant and symbolic; even the size of the space reflects the Irish Poor Law of 1847, which denied relief to those living on land larger than a quarter of acre. Small, subtle and enormously moving, the Irish Hunger Memorial helps illuminate the wonderful, terrible history of the Irish in New York City.

Approaching the memorial from West Street

Closer to the entrance

Plantings overhanging the concrete

Through the entry corridor

Words on the walls

More quotations on the walls

The words stretch on

Climbing the hill

The view from the top of the hill

CRG Gallery: Brian Tolle
The New York Times: A Memorial Remembers The Hungry
New York Magazine: Irish Hunger Memorial
NYC: Battery Park
Battery Park Conservancy


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