I drove in Friday, bringing with me furniture for Marjorie & Jonathan and Andy. Friday evening we dropped off furniture at M&J's, and I saw their apartment for the first time. It's on East 9th Street in the Village, a great neighborhood. Very nice newish building, 14th floor. You may remember that Oxygen and Home Depot helped her to furnish it for a couple of shows on the air. It is small, but utterly charming, beautifully decorated. The walls are pinkish-purple, the paint put on with a textured roller. Moroccan scarves form the window treatments. The tables and chairs are very chic, a combination of homey, funky, and high-tech. Schniepeck, the cat, has survived a myriad of diseases with Marjorie's love and money. He gets daily insulin and steroids and is, as before, fat, stupid, and lovable. The most amazing thing is the sound wall, with a huge flat-screen TV, amplifier, satellite cable TV, DVD player, VCR, and an electronic VCR that allows you to tape programs in advance digitally and watch them later without commercials. This means six remote controls lying on the table. Jonathan is in heaven. Then we went on to meet Andy and Neal at Osnot's Table in Williamsburg. Such a great restaurant --Lebanese/Moroccan/California cuisine in a funky-Middle Eastern atmosphere. Neal is just wonderful--warm and good-natured, with all the right values. He withstood the Phunn Phamily's test and passed with great distinction. And for the parents...such naches...a Jewish doctor! We began with a plate of mezze (which I thought was the best dish of the night), and other appetizers--fattoush (mushroom salad) and grilled marinated sardines. The main dishes were grilled marlin, braised leg of lamb, Moroccan flank steak (only fair), root vegetables over spiced rice, wild striped bass with arugola, and agnellotti filled with grilled eggplant. All were superb. The wines were my favorite Lebanese Chateau Musar 1991 red and a Sokol Blossom Muller Thurgau from Oregon, a sweet white that was good iced. For dessert, a bread pudding, an apple gallette, and a walnut date cake with caramel sauce. Excellent coffee. And a glass of muscat dessert wine. We stopped back at Andy's apartment and brought up his furniture.
Saturday morning, Jonathan and Marjorie met us at Barney Greengrass's. We had the divine whitefish appetizer, a lox/whitefish salad platter, an extra pletzel, and pickled green tomatoes. The best breakfast in New York. Then we drove down to Oxygen. It is on three floors of the old Nabisco building in Chelsea. It was in the offices of Oxygen that the first Oreos were made. You enter the building, and on the first floor is Chelsea Market, a series of food shops with New York (and the world's) finest foods. A terrific fish market, butcher, Amy's bread (you can see the bakers working behind glass windows), an Italian grocery, a stupendous wine store, ice cream, milk, pastries, cookies, brownies. Everything the very best and not terribly expensive, either. There is just nothing like New York. Upstairs at Oxygen it's another world. What a change for Marjorie! She used to work at her laptop in the quiet of her apartment in San Francisco. We walked into the offices (400 people work there), which is a huge soundstage/office combined. The writers and producers and graphic artists and techies are on camera while they work at their desks. It is huge. It looks like the set of a sci-fi Arnold Schwartzenegger movie, but for women. Hundreds of computers, cameras, equipment that I don't understand at all. The control room looks like the war room on the USS Wasp. You feel the excitement and electricity pulsating through the place, even on a Saturday morning. After we toured Marjorie's office, we went downstairs and did some shopping and had lunch on samples from the various stores.
Saturday night, we went out for pre-theatre supper just up the street on 86th at The Parlour, an Irish Pub. At night, it becomes a swinging singles bar, but in the early evening, it serves absolutely wonderful simple food, cheap. For $19.95, you get appetizer, main course, dessert, and coffee. Carol had a plate of fresh grilled vegetables as an appetizer (which we split), and the best fish and chips for a main course--light, non-greasy with great fresh French fries. I had a great cheeseburger (ground sirloin with mozzarella and cheddar on a bulkie roll) and fries for $8.95. A better burger at half the price than Michael Jordan's. For dessert, we split a hazelnut cheesecake. Good coffee. Good service. Nice atmosphere. Good cheap wine by the glass.
Then, on to "Porgy and Bess" at the New York City Opera. What a triumph!
What a work of genius! I've heard it on recordings, I've seen a road company
on tour twenty years ago. Now, I'm more musically knowledgeable, having
been singing for twenty years now. There is nothing like it. Gershwin imitates
no one. Such rich harmonic writing, such complexity of vocal writing. It's
like "Boris Godunov," in that the chorus is the anchor of the piece. But
Gershwin's chorus is in 10-part harmonies. And every chorister is a character
with solo lines. It's like Verdi or Carmen, in that it consists of one
hit tune after another. The staging and direction were gripping. The orchestra,
led by the man who first conducted it in Houston as a fully-staged opera
in 1975, was wonderful. Every lead singer was great:
Porgy, Bess, Crown, Sportin' LIfe. They sounded better than William Warfield and danced better than Cab Calloway. One of the best performances of any opera we've ever seen. There was a seven-minutes standing ovation at the end.
Sunday morning, we joined Andy and Neal and Marjorie for brunch (Jonathan was in flight to Phoenix). We had intended to go to "All You Can Eat," (a fitting name for a Farklempt noshalogue) on Amsterdam Avenue. But there was a huge line, and Marjorie pronounced it an Upper West Side trendy yuppie place filled with Jews and baby carriages, so we went across the street to a place called Fred's (named for a black Labrador retriever who failed the course in becoming a guide dog for the blind and instead opened a restaurant), which was really quite wonderful. We had wonderful poached eggs Florentine (named for Fred's sister Florence) and eggs Benet (named for Jon-Benet Ramsey, they were tiny poached eggs representing her breasts, on gravlax, spattered with ketchup) and asparagus brie omelette. The brunch with a bloody mary or mimosa or juice and coffee is $11.95. The eggs were better than those at Brennan's in New Orleans, which cost $32 just for the eggs.
Sunday afternoon, Carol and I went back to the City Opera to see Tosca. We had seen the same production last year with different singers. But it was beginning to wear a little thin. Tosca was Ann Johnson, who looked, as Oscar Hammerstein put it, like "a thin-lipped virgin with blood like water." She sang rather nicely, but she just didn't have the fire of a real Tosca. The Scarpia was Mark Delavan, who is big and menacing with a nice leer and a fine baritone, but that role is a piece of cake, like the villain in a black cape who ties the heroine to the railroad tracks. After Porgy, nothing would have sufficed.
It was a great weekend of family, friends, food, and fun.