Saturday, May 30, 2009

In you're in NYC tonight . . . .

For my friends from the Backspace Conference--

Think about joining me at a contra dance tonight. You'll enjoy the music of a terrific band, Nightingale, and one of my favorite contra callers, Rick Mohr, calls amazing dances. Dancing starts at 8:00, following a beginner workshop at 7:15.

The Church of the Village
201 West 13th Street, NYC
$16 (you'll get a pass to come back for free)

No partner required, but wear lightweight clothes. And bring clean, soft-bottomed shoes for dancing--no high heels allowed.

For additional information visit or
call the Dancephone, 212-459-4080


Cho Dang Gol (Korean) is known for its excellent home-made tofu dishes. 55 W. 35, 212-695-8222.

If you can't get good Chinese where you live, try

Szechuan Gourmet (21 W. 39 St., 212-921-0233) for some of the best Sichuan cooking in Manhattan,


Grand Sichuan (229 9th Ave. at 24th St., 212-6205200), which offers food from other regions as well. I'm especially fond of dishes like pork with chestnuts from the Mao's Home Cooking section of the menu, and Green Parrot with Red Mouth (cold spinach).

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Under the Tower Snake

This afternoon I returned to Huang Yong Ping's Tower Snake at the Gladstone Gallery. The only two other visitors were leaving as I entered, so I got to walk all the way up it on my own.

This time, when I reached the top, I was more inclined to keep standing than to sit. Feeling like the eyes of the snake, I looked up, out, down, and around, and saw two men enter the room separately, walk around it, and leave without climbing.

Finally, I did sit, but not for long, because the tilt of the narrowing bamboo walkway made sitting awkward and uncomfortable.

On the way down, looking down, I realized there was another view I had yet to explore. So when I got to the bottom, I looped around the snakes's tail, and walked into the spiraling path between the bamboo supports.

Looking up from below, watching and listening to others climbing, might not have been as thrilling as being on the snake but was moving and lovely in its own way.

Once I reached the center, sitting down felt natural--what the snake wanted me to do.

After a moment, I lay down and enjoyed an amazing view, marred only by fluorescent tubes overhead. I stayed there till four newcomers walked in--they felt like a crowd.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Join the Dance Parade!

Rain or shine, but I'm hoping for shine, on Saturday you'll find me at New York City's third annual Dance Parade.

Beginning at 1 pm on 27th Street, some 4,600 dancers--doing everything from African to ballroom to Bulgarian to ecstatic to hip-hop to Middle Eastern to Zydeco and then some--will step, swing, shake, leap, and boogie their way down Broadway. We'll end up at Tompkins Square Park for a dance festival with free performances, lessons, and dance party (3-7 pm).

I'll be contra-dancing in the parade with Country Dance New York (

To find a group you might want to dance with, check out

Monday, May 11, 2009

Musketeers and Tower Snake

Both times I visited the amazing show of Picasso's late work at the Gagosian Gallery on West 21st Street, I had to first wait in line outside for a few minutes--and I'm glad I did.

Waiting in that line for the second time, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a giant dinosaur skeleton inside the Gladstone Gallery.

Not a dinosaur, as it turned out, but a temple-like structure built of bamboo in the form of a coiled snake--the work of Chinese artist Huang Yong Ping.

After an hour in the company of Picasso's musketeers, matadors, and their women, Jim and I wound our way through the snake, from tail to head, on a creaky bamboo walkway.

I plan to go back many times before the Tower Snake closes on July 31. Only three people at a time are allowed inside the snake, but I'm hoping to be there alone one weekday and sit down and meditate in its head.

You can catch the Picasso show Monday-Saturday through June 6.

The Tower Snake may be visited Tuesday-Saturday through July 31.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gypsy Musical Comedy and Super-party

"Gypsy dance instruction begins at 7:45," promised the email flyer for Viva Patshiva, and we were determined not too miss it. So Jim and I wolfed down our dinner at Desi Deli on 10th Avenue and rushed up to the Interart Theatre Annex, where Rolling Rocks and several varieties of box wine were already being proffered, free with admission, in the waiting room.

"This is the first play I've been to where they try to get you drunk first," Jim said, starting his beer. Christine thought the Cabernet wasn't bad for box wine.

But what about those dance lessons? Yes, I was told, they usually have them but not tonight, maybe because there were so many of us, but that shouldn't stop us from joining in for the big dance number. We didn't really need to know the steps.

Rollicking and ribald, Viva Patshiva aims to be a "super-party" as well as a musical. With a lively, soulful score, a fine band and strong singers pouring their hearts into their performances, it largely succeeds.

Close to the stage in the rugged, intimate space, we felt almost like part of the Gypsy band.

Though the plot--involving a romance between a Gypsy dancer and a motivational speaker, whom the Gypsies are hoping will give them money to keep from being deported--seemed a tad unfinished, we accepted that as part of the show's home-grown charm.

Catch Viva Patshiva now if you can--it closes May 16. Sit in the front row if you'd like some extra attention from the cast, and do join in that big dance number.

If you've got the energy--we didn't--stay for the "Gypsy-style After-party with drinking and dancing into the wee hours." I'm guessing closing night will be a blow-out to remember.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Trashing the School Cafeteria

While folks in the film industry are trying to make film production more environmentally friendly, I've just seen signs of an opposite trend in New York City schools.

Last Friday, on my fifth substitute teaching gig, I found myself in a gloomy middle school basement cafeteria, where the trays are styrofoam, the utensils are disposable plastic, the floor gets covered with litter minutes after a janitor sweeps it, and even recyclables get tossed.

My forty minutes of cafeteria duty consisted mostly of gathering the kids' trays after they finished eating (or not eating), and tossing them, along with many uneaten apples.

Seems that this school instituted the teacher-as-busboy practice to prevent food fights, and according to the dean who told me about the policy, it's been working. "We've only had a couple of food fights since," he said.

Unfortunately, it's also teaching the kids that they're not responsible for cleaning up after themselves--a great addition to the model of environmental negligence that the failure to reuse and recycle provides.

I wonder whether teachers or students ever discuss the practices of their very own cafeteterias during the inevitable environmental unit--and whether there are any schools still using washable trays . . .