Monthly Archives: June 2011

NYC: Fun finds

Pop up piano from Sing for Hope sitting in an NYC park

I came to NYC with a list of places I hoped to experience, but because we’re doing most of the city by foot and subway, I’m stumbling on all sorts of unexpected treasures.

While eating Italian fare on a Greenwich Village sidestreet one day, we saw a local television report a man dubbed the “Crazy Piano Guy,” whose been performing random acts of music on NYC streets since 2003. He’s careful to note in his bio that he’s not actually “crazy” but apparently he’s elevated the slur to a savvy exercise in branding.

That got me searching for New York street music, and soon I discovered an organization called “Sing for Hope,” which has pianos and players fanned out across the city through July 2 — when they’ll present a free concert in an atrium at Lincoln Center. Lizabeth played one we found in a Lincoln Center plaza while we were there to see “War Horse” Thursday night, so I suppose now I can brag about her “playing Lincoln Center.”

I found this farmers market fare while searching for the WTC Tribute Center

I took the subway to and from the Eugene O’Neill Theater Wednesday night for “The Book of Mormon” and ended up a bit off the beaten path while trying to make my way back to the hotel. The subway I can master, but the streets I have yet to memorize. There are more than a few of them here.

I found this Hudson River ferry stop after exploring Poets House

But getting lost has its own rewards — like discovering a pair of pianos in a park where two lovers sat on a nearby bench. The pianos were retired for the evening, and covered in tarps. A middle-aged man walking through the park with his wife gleefully approach one of the instruments, but his wife insisted they move along instead of pausing to play. My heart sank.

I got a little gleeful myself with this next find — the Poets House near the Battery Park City Library I happened upon during a futile attempt to visit the World Trade Center Tribute Center. I visited the library too, which was alive with color and children and conversation. Soon I was strolling a riverwalk realizing that the vibrancy and life in NYC is the greatest tribute to those who lost their lives here on 9/11.

Liberty Community Garden

I never reached the tribute center near Church and Liberty streets because I wasn’t clever enough to navigate all the construction detours, but I did luck upon the “Liberty Community Garden,” another oasis in this city of 8 million. It’s bordered on one side by a giant financial center and a simple outdoor basketball court on the other. I also explored the World Financial Center “Green Market.”

I encounted a bit of street art called “Tiles for America” while walking around Greenwich Village with Lizabeth Tuesday afternoon. It’s a chain link fence strewn with tattered tiles painted in remembrance of 9/11. There’s nothing fun about recalling that dreadful day, but I was delighted to find this art — one of many collections inspired by loss, heroism, love and hope.

Detail of the Tiles for America street exhibit in NYC

I’m eager to experience another fun find, just now in the making, next time I’m in NYC. It’s an art exhibition featuring photos of children from around the globe, and it’s coming to “Park51 Community Center” — a site known to some as “the mosque at Ground Zero.” If you like the project, you can support it via “Kickstarter.” I found this gem by playing with my smart phone as Lizabeth was in a college meeting.

I may have to settle for virtual NYC experiences during our final day in the city. My feet feel pushed to the limit and I’m too thrifty to pop for cab fare. When Jennifer and I visited San Francisco together several years ago, we walked far too many miles through city streets and Golden Gate Park. She ended up needing foot and ankle surgery, and I’d like to avoid a similar fate.

It is possible, I suppose, to have too much fun.

– Lynn

Note: Many of my most cherished photos appear to be lost because of memory card problems, but if my hubby/tech man gets the kinks out I’ll be updating this post with more pictures over the weekend.

Coming up: Musings on “The Book of Mormon”

Going green in NYC

Though large bags of trash get piled throughout the city before garbage trucks can get to them, New York appears to be way ahead of Arizona in the “green” movement. Circular trash bins sit on many a street corner, but in many indoor settings, you’ll find separate containers for paper, glass and the real rubbish that can’t be recycled.

When I attended parent orientation for the incoming class at Lizabeth’s university in NYC today, the food services director spoke with genuine enthusiasm about the school’s many “sustainable” practices — buying local foods and such. More evidence that New York trumps Arizona in the green department.

Our hotel in lower Manhatten is “green” is some deliberate and unintended ways. They’ve got low water usage toilets that turn flushing into a funky form of upper arm workout, and eating utensils in the dining area made by “Tater Ware” — whose slogan reads “We’re the Solution, Not the Pollution.” Both cutlery and wrap are biodegradable. And because the hot water goes out most days, we’re saving energy by taking cold showers.

I’ve encounted another sort of green with alarming frequency here in NYC. It seems there’s a Starbucks ’round nearly every corner. For a while I had great fun photographing them all. But I’ve seen enough now that they’re starting to bore me, with one exception — the dancing cups ala Starbucks in “The Book of Mormon.”

Parks are plentiful in NYC, and I never tire of seeing them. Many feature public art and paths lined with benches. Often they’re the landmarks that help me navigate the city. And they’re never empty, except when closed up for the night. I sat in a park around midnight one evening, and had plenty of company.

But my favorite “greens” in NYC are all those lush window flowerboxes, giant potted topiary and small rectangular plots of plants that surround the trunks of many a tree in all sorts of neighborhoods. I’ve met some lovely people while photographing their gardens, and hope you’ll enjoy these images of their handiwork…

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Coming up: Pianos meet public parks

Don’t bite my head off

Lizabeth was excited after discovering that Magnolia Bakery in Greenwich Village carries “Swan Lake” cupcakes, an homage to the ballet currently being performed by American Ballet Theatre.

I joked about what fun we could have, taking that first nibble — and biting the heads off. I assumed they’d have lovely swans, and the joke was a bit of a jab at all those years of ballet training. Some weren’t so terribly pretty.

But alas, they were merely frosted with an elegant combination of black and white, so I settled for a key lime cheesecake cupcake instead — sadly replacing the calories I’d burned walking all those blocks to get there.

We ate our cupcakes at a little park just up the street from the bakery, where children played in a fine mist of water and couples sat on benches near stone tables etched with chessboard patterns.

Earlier in the day, we’d enjoyed another park just off Fifth Avenue that has one entrance featuring a giant marble arch. Around a fountain, there were four sets of two chess tables — and men about my age or older stopped by to play.

Women pushed baby strollers (sorry, guys — but none of you were out doing the baby things at that point). Some had small white pizza take-out boxes on top. Squirrels darted on and off the paths. Folks fired up laptops on the lawn.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely eatery in Greenwich Village where we split a baked ziti and salad combo. Our table was elevated but just off the street, so we watched puppies walking their pedestrians and hoped the pigeons weren’t partial to Italian fare.

We made a few subway trips, which Lizabeth navigated with ease — even finding a Christopher station on Christopher Street, reminding us of her brother back home. We must fit in fairly well because we ended up giving directions more often than we asked for them.

Lizabeth could easily lead a “famous film locations” tour. “Law and Order” steps, “The Adjustment Bureau” warehouse, “Enchanted” skyscraper. She’s learning various landmarks that help guide her through the city, and I’m having fun playing “find the Starbucks.” If I don’t get my coffee, I really might bite someone’s head off.

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– Lynn

Coming up: Lynn & Liz do Lincoln Center, Fun finds in NYC, 9/11 tributes and memorials

Pasta pizza & public art

Yesterday my daughter Lizabeth introduced me to one of the seven wonders of the culinary world–pasta pizza. A little pizza joint near Manhattan’s financial district was our first stop after making the flight from Phoenix to Newark.

Along the way, she gave me a brief walking tour of the area. The Seaport Historic District, Ground Zero, a city park filled with people and public art — which I captured on camera while she patiently put up with my “Stage Mom” musings.

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Today we’re off to Greenwich Village and the Art Gallery District in Chelsea. We’d love to do Shakespeare in the Park this evening, but tickets are hard to come by so we’ll probably have to save that for a future trip.

– Lynn

Note: The three pieces of public art pictured above, all from City Hall Park in lower Manhattan, are Splotch 15, 2005 from the Lewitt Collection in Chester, CT; Three X Four X Three, 1984 — one of several Sol Lewitt Structures in the park; and Pyramid (Muenster), 1987.

Coming up: Gardens & greenery of NYC; Of scooters & subways; “Kickstarter” project supports art near Ground Zero; NYC: The good, the bad and the ugly

NYC in Scottsdale?

My husband James stumbled on a great pizza joint last Friday night while making a pet store run. Lovebirds can’t do pizza, so Trixy got bird food and we got slices from Joe’s New York Pizza in Scottsdale. Cheese for Lizabeth and Hawaiian for me.

March for gay rights in NYC, 1976 (Photo: Warren K. Leffler)

He walked in the door with dinner just after I’d watched a CNN broadcast of a short speech by New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The occasion for Cuomo’s remarks was the passage of a marriage equality act in the New York legislature.

I already had New York on the brain because I was readying for this week’s trip to NYC for Lizabeth’s college orientation. Lizabeth starts a B.F.A. in acting program this fall.

As Lizabeth weighed possible colleges earlier in the year, I was mindful of the political landscape in the various states where she might go to school — though I never mentioned things like my Cuomo versus Christie musings.

Cuomo spoke last Friday night of New York as a “social justice” state. “I’m always proud to be a New Yorker,” said Cuomo. “But tonight I’m especially proud to be a New Yorker.” Cuomo was among those leading the fight for marriage equality in New York.

In his remarks, Cuomo spoke of New York’s leadership in several fights for equal rights — the movement for women’s rights, the push for worker’s rights after the tragic Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and the most recent battle — equal marriage rights for gay and straight couples.

“Social justice,” said Cuomo, “is an evolutionary process.” He recognized others who’d championed this cause for New York citizens, and praised “the advocacy community from across the nation.” I’m sure some in Scottsdale embraced the vote with a “we’re all New Yorkers tonight” mindset.

I’m thrilled to be enjoying NYC with Lizabeth this week, but there are folks in Scottsdale that I’ll be missing while we’re away. Trixy, Pinky, Rugby — plus James and our other two children, also college students. But also Lizabeth’s teachers from the Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre, where she studied theater last summer.

Before we marched for marriage equality, we marched for women's rights and workers' rights

The conservatory presents its 2011 performance at the Scottsdale Community College Performing Arts Center Wed, June 29 and Thurs, June 30. They’re presenting “Strange Bedfellows,” which is set in my daughter Jennifer’s favorite city — San Francisco. They have a thing for civil rights too.

“Strange Bedfellows” is the tale of Senator Cromwell, “a politician who keeps his women under stern rule.” His son, Matthew Cromwell, is a young congressman who “dutifully follows in his father’s political footsteps — except when he marries a beautiful and determined suffragette.”

It examines “the coming of age of a woman’s right to vote” — and features “the escapades that ensue as the suffragette converts the women in the Cromwell family to her way of thinking.” Who doesn’t love a good conversion story?

I’m told that “shades of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata and San Francisco’s brothel district come into play as each side tries to out-maneuver and out-smart the other.” Aristophanes, by the way, was a comedic playwright of ancient Greece.

I know the actors, theater professionals and teachers of Scottsdale Conservatory Theatre played a part in helping Lizabeth achieve her dream of studying and making theater in NYC — and I’m grateful.

Thanks to James and Joe’s New York Pizza, we can always enjoy a bit of NYC in Scottsdale. But this week, we’re carrying thoughts of Scottsdale with us in New York.

– Lynn

Note: Check out the “Stay Fancy Free” blog for more nifty black-and-white photos of suffragettes — plus lovely fiber arts fare. Click here to check out the site where I found the photo shot while the Democratic National Convention was in NYC during 1976.

Coming up: Shakespeare NYC-style, A stroll through the theater district, NYC: museum highlights

Art adventures: PhxArtKids

After spending last Saturday morning at the Phoenix Public Market, enjoying local arts and crafts in a farmers market setting, I was ready to stroll through cooler fare — so I headed to the Phoenix Art Museum with my college-age son, Christopher. They recently re-opened their PhxArtKids gallery, and I was eager to explore it.

I’ve been enjoying the Phoenix Art Museum with my children, sometimes as a school field trip chaperone, for more than a decade. Thanks to evolving interests and changing exhibits, it never gets old. In many ways, it’s like several museums in one. Sometimes I’m in the mood for European classics. Other days I’m drawn to contemporary works.

But I stop by the PhxArtKids gallery every time I’m there, and hope you’ll enjoy these photos from my most recent visit…

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You can click here to learn more about Phoenix Art Museum offerings especially for kids, but remember that the museum offers a little something for everyone — and that it makes a great escape when summer temperatures soar.

– Lynn

Coming up: “Stage Mom” reviews of “The Book of Mormon” and “War Horse,” this year’s Tony Award winners for best musical and best play

Nifty photo opps

A tool of the trade for the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

Recently the Blue Bike Kids Show shared a few photos taken with their nifty Time-O-Portation device, which inspired me to go in search of photo exhibits around the Valley.

The Phoenix Art Museum presents “Pure Photography, Post Production and Mixed Media” through August 14.

Mesa Contemporary Arts at the Mesa Arts Center presents “Picturing Maricopa” through August 7. It features photographs by 15 photographers who worked with 15 non-profits to capture images of “crisis care for vulnerable populations.” If legislators continue their “slice and dice” approach to health and human services, the gallery will need a lot more exhibit space dedicated to this topic.

Dallin Branch photographed by the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

Shemer Art Center and Museum in Phoenix presents “Seeking the Source: Water in the Desert” featuring works by photographer Bryon Darby through July 28.

If art and desert environments are your thing, check out the “Desert Initiative” led by Greg Esser at the ASU Art Museum. The project supports “independent and collaborative research into desert cultures and environments through the arts and sciences.”

Ellie Branch photographed by the Blue Bike Kids Show gang

The Scottsdale Gallery Association presents a “Summer Spectacular Art Walk” Thurs, July 7, from 7-9pm — featuring artist receptions, live music and prize drawings. Several participating galleries exhibit photographic works.

Method Art Gallery, for example, specializes in “photography, contemporary art and local artists.” And “Ancient Light Gallery” features the fine art photography of Cheyenne L. Rouse, who uses digital techniques to “capture rusted, abandoned artifacts of The Old West.”

Rouse offers walking photo tours of historic Old Town Scottsdale, spending time at her gallery talking with participants about their goals for the tour before heading out for a one-hour shooting session.

Meet the Blue Bike Kids Show gang at Tempe Beach Park on Sunday

I’m still partial to photos captured in that funky Time-O-Portation thing operated by the Blue Bike Kids Show trio, but I’ll try to keep an open mind. Those of you who have yet to meet the Blue Bike Kids Show gang can head to Tempe Beach Park Sun, June 26 from 5-7pm.

They’re hosting a free picnic complete with hot dogs, root beer floats and purple cows — and tell me the BBQ will be fired up for those of you who want to bring your own fare for the grill.

Expect a celebratory vibe (and maybe even an “Old-Timey full body swim suit” sighting) since they’re off and running with production of their first full-length show. Though no RSVP is needed, you might want to let them know if you’re joining the fun. A massive run on purple cows could get ugly.

– Lynn

Note: If your venue or organization has a photography exhibit this summer, just comment below to let our readers know. And click here to learn about other exhibits in the Valley.

Coming up: Photos from Ground Zero

Happy campers, merry wives

From the Kids Love Shakespeare! website: Ursula, Hero and Margaret of Much Ado About Nothing

Before campers from Childsplay’s “Twelfth Night” summer class began last Friday’s performance for family and friends, teachers Katie McFadzen and Debra K. Stevens had them share a bit about the what they’d learned during the week together.

“I learned not to laugh at my sister,” shared a girl whose twin sister took the same class. The audience laughed, and one of the teachers asked how she did it. The girl explained that she simply acted as if the action taking place during their scene was really happening to them.

A boy noted that theater games played early in the week helped to lessen the “tongue-twister” effect of using Shakespearean language, and another camper talked about the poetic nature of Shakespeare’s plays — saying it was easier to recall her lines when she remembered that most of them rhymed.

Another boy explained what he’d learned about character development — explaining that changing how he walked and talked during his scenes helped him to be the character instead of merely act like his character.

A young girl talked about learning about the characters’ names. There’s “Viola,” the name of a musical instrument. And “Orsinio,” who delivers the now-famous “If music be the food of love, play on” line. His name, explained the camper, means “bear.”

From the Kids Love Shakespeare! website: Script for student production of Twelfth Night

One of the campers was excited about being able to enter middle school and high school with more knowledge of Shakespeare than other students. And all of the students did an amazing job of telling the “Twelfth Night” story with outrageous humor that really brought the play to life.

It made me want to see more performances of Shakespeare’s works, so I was delighted to come home to an e-mail announcing that NCM Fathom, Globe Theatre and Arts Alliance Media are presenting a four-part series of classical Shakespeare works (captured during 2010) in movie theaters this summer and fall. 

Event organizers note that “each performance will include a historical perspective on the Globe, the reconstruction process, the work of the Globe today, and a behind-the-scenes look at each production with interviews from the actors and creative team involved.”

Shakespeare’s Globe London Cinema Series” starts Mon, June 27, with “The Merry Wives of Windsor.” Come August and September, movie-goers can enjoy “Henry IV Part 1,” “Henry IV Part 2,” and “Henry VIII.”

Those of you eager to enjoy a bit of Shakespeare in cooler parts this summer have a couple of options. A family at the Childsplay “Twelfth Night” performance told me about the Shakespeare Santa Cruz festival, where you can blend your Shakespeare with a bit of time at the beach.

From the Kids Love Shakespeare! website: Lysander and Hermia of A Midsummer Night's Dream

I’m heading with Lizabeth later this summer to the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah — where we enjoy the cool pines and small town ambiance. We’ll be attending six shows in three days, and taking in our favorite local sights, like the the Groovacious record shop, which always reminds me of our own Hoodlums Music & Movies here in Tempe.

I’m eager to enjoy a related art exhibit while we’re there. The Braithwaite Fine Arts Gallery on the campus of Southern Utah University currently houses both the “Southern Utah Art Invitational Summer Exhibit and Sale” and “The Costume Designers’ Art: 50 Years at the Utah Shakespeare Festival.” Admission is free and summer gallery hours are Mon-Sat 10am-8pm.

I’ve long dreamed of a similar exhibit of Childsplay costumes. But for now, I’m plenty content to just see the smiles on happy campers’ faces as they work their Shakespeare magic donning shorts and T-shirts with homemade costume touches like veils and liturgical garb.

– Lynn

Note: Images in this post are from “Kids Love Shakespeare!” — a website offering scripts for student productions, ideas for Shakespeare-inspired art activities and more. Click here to learn more.

Coming up: NYC in Scottsdale?, Nifty photo opps

Art adventures: Phoenix Public Market

I headed to downtown Phoenix with my son Christopher last Saturday, eager to check out the the Blue Bike Kids Show booth and other offerings at a festive farmers market-style event at the corner of Central & Pierce in downtown Phoenix.

We found all sorts of cool vendors — sharing fresh foods, arts and crafts, unique gift items and more. It reminded me of a similar morning spent many years ago in the French Market District in New Orleans. There was even a live band on the scene.

The Phoenix Public Market is a program of a non-profit organization called Community Food Connections. The market consists of Urban Grocery and Wine Bar plus Open-Air Markets held Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. It’s located just three blocks south of the Roosevelt/Central light rail station.

It was our first visit, so we just made the rounds with camera in tow — but we’ll have to return one day for some grub. The Urban Grocery and Wine Bar menu, which you can explore online, includes egg dishes, pastries, smoothies, sandwiches, soups, salads and more.

The market works to increase access to fresh and healthy foods in an underserved area, to help micro-businesses launch and increase capacity, to create jobs and family self-sufficiency, to help farmers stay on the land and to create a vibrant gathering place for community members.

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The Open-Air Market, in existence since 2005, features in-season fruits and vegetables, flowers, jams, baked goods, dried beans, free-range eggs and honey. Also live plants and local arts & crafts wares. Even hot foods and plenty of things to sample. Everything there is made by the person selling it.

You can find a vendor list online too — which includes several with whimsical names that caught our eye. Alley Cat Art Studio. Art and Soul Designs. Dirty Bird Soap. Fresh From the Goddess. Happy Snappy Dog Treats. Horny Toad Farms. Life Lemons. Mom’s Gone Nuts. Pat on the Back. Tiny Tater Tees. You get the picture.

Even Desert Marigold School, affiliated with Arizona Waldorf, brings produce and flowers from the school’s garden — as well as handmade crafts.

There were lots of parents and children milling to and fro the morning we attended. Many stopped at the Blue Bike Kids Show booth to get blue balloon animals or have a photo taken — proof positive that there’s more to life than cruising the mall or racing to see who gets first shot at the remote.

– Lynn

Note: The Blue Bike Kids Show is holding a way-cool nostalgic-style picnic in Tempe on Sunday (June 26). Watch for details on the picnic –plus “a couple time-o-portation pics” they took at last weekend’s Phoenix Public Market event — in one of two Sunday posts.

Coming up: Summer of Shakespeare, NYC in Scottsdale?, Art adventures: Broadway!

Cars 2: Conspiracy theory?

I hadn’t even realized a “Cars 2” was in the the making until political pundits got hot under the collar this week alleging some sort of conspiracy by the movie’s makers to push alternative energy sources.

The last time cars were of any great concern at our house, my son (now in college) was a toddler taken with Richard Scarry’s “Cars and Trucks and Things That Go” book — plus all manner of construction trucks, real or playground version.

So naturally I had to see what all the fuss was about. I saw “Cars 2″ with Christopher — and a theater packed with kids from toddler to tween age — at Harkins Shea 14 Friday morning.

A little boy named Alex, there with his father (or very young grandfather), sat nearby — naming each “Cars 2″ character as it appeared, often adding an adorable “zoom” sound like a real car engine.

It was his first movie experience, and he came dressed for success. Think khaki pants, crisp white T-shirt and plaid hat with a brim all the way around. He looked to be about preschool age, and had trouble negotiating the theater seat until he got his hands on a booster seat.

Both Alex and his grown-up laughed heartily throughout, and it was great fun to hear their reactions to the movie’s many plot turns and action-adventure sequences. Reviewers have claimed the film is plodding and predictable, but I really enjoyed it.

Christopher offered two observations as we walked out of the theater after the credits rolled. First, that it seemed much more violent than the first “Cars” movie — with more guns, bombs, fires, explosions and such (though no one really gets hurt). And second, that the storyline about oil versus alternative fuels felt unnecessary.

We didn’t feel like we were watching a message movie. “Cars 2″ is a great visual romp. No more, no less. I’m not the least bit interested in cars or racing, but I loved seeing all the different makes, models and colors of cars. I’ve owned more than a few of the cars deemed “lemons” in the film.

The beauty of “Cars 2″ is its settings — a small American town, a large metropolis in Japan and three European cities. Plus all the landmarks you’d expect to see, but with an automotive twist. “Big Ben” in London, for example, becomes “Big Bentley.”

I loved the attention to detail. The pope (a car) inside his pope-mobile. The truck raking sand in a Japanese rock garden. The tiara on the British monarch car. Also the many depictions of arts and culture — live theater, musicians, museums and more. The credits even thank the orchestra for making the music sound so good.

Your kids might enjoy learning some of the easy foreign language vocabulary used in the film. It never hurts to know how to say “thank you” or “excuse me” when traveling, and the movie’s world travels vibe might motivate young kids to try their hand at some new words from other countries. (This assumes, of course, that they know the importance of good manners in English too.)

If there’s a message in this movie, it’s not that oil is evil. It’s that friendship is good, and that friends accept one another “dents” and all. I suppose it might be offensive to those who insist a rigorous “rugged individualist” approach should prevail. But I’m guessing most parents who see the film with their kids will welcome the themes of loyalty, acceptance and forgiveness.

– Lynn

Coming up: Family fun with Changing Hands, What a difference a summer makes