Notes from the East

opera ceilingOn the wall at the New Museum, a fur orb, breathing as deeply and slowly as if he is in a coma.  Really scary.  I like to be that kind of scared.

Rosemarie Trockel had a lot going on in her show.  A room of white tile, an upside-down palm tree, and formerly alive birds in in a cage.  Her drawings, many of them on the front covers of booklets that might or might not say anything inside, are mean enough to remind you she is German, and each was clever in a new way.  She had blobby ceramic pieces, and black yarn textile pieces like minimalist paintings, and there were some white boxes on the floor that were half-covered (the innermost portions) with a black cloth.  I didn’t know what to make of that last thing, but I’m still thinking of it, so that’s good.

A glass case with bird shapes made of paper, and one with a flat paper lady on her belly looking at pictures, a bassinet with a baby and another deeply, slowly breathing shock of fur at the baby’s feet.  Hard to believe she fathered such a diverse family.  An artist who’s all over, instead of stapling herself down to one thing to force herself to wiggle.  Different.

Perhaps the nicest thing at the New Museum was a stop-motion film starring two beetles and a grasshopper.  It was a love triangle story.  Very European-romantic.

I drank a hot toddy from a short glass mug.  Floating in it, a lemon, sunk to its bottom, a cinnamon stick like one timber of a lost ship, and bobbing around, a clove that relaxed into the shape that was insectual, every time I sipped around it, I reminded myself: it’s not that.  It’s delicious, warm in my hands, for a moment respite from downtown wandering, downtown so foggy both Empire State and Freedom have heads in the clouds, like they don’t care to see me.

It was also cold after the opera.  I felt beautiful at the opera, which is part of the reason I wanted to go.  Saturday night opera people watching is also a big step up.  I love the gay couples who look so good without appearing to try at all, and the women who wear their long dresses that you can wear hardly anywhere else, and the men who wear tuxes, and also the man who goes alone and eats a banana and read a folded-in-half newspaper while leaning on the heart-red velvet wall during intermission.  I ate a mozarella and tomato sandwich from a plastic wrapper while I looked up and down from the sections of the open front of the place, people in line for drinks and people chatting about each other.  My dress was knee-length.

It was very cold after the opera.  My dress was summer weight, in addition to being knee-length, and I had bare legs, and no hat on my poor ears, and it was almost midnight, and everyone middling who had been at the opera or the theater that night was wandering lost-doggishly.  The bottom tier (that is sometimes me, but not this night) were already on the subway or walking home, and the top tier were in their cars one way or another, and their feet don’t touch the ground.  I was luxuriously about to get into a cab and be driven all the way home in warm comfort for the outrageous price of twenty-five American dollars.

We stopped and bought waffles from a waffle cart.  “What?”  I said.  “Oh, like crepes.”  Which made me sound more worldly than I am, but then, I had just been to the opera.

Incidentally, at the very second that the lights fell before intermission, I climbed over everyone in my row because I had to pee more than I’ve ever had to pee before.  I had spent Don Giovanni’s party obsessing about how uncouth it would be to crawl out to the bathroom during the show, how much the people to our right would hate it.  Yes, it was inelegant, and painful, but that’s art for you.  Sometimes it goes that way.

“Are you staying warm?” someone said to the guy in the waffle cart.  He was wearing plastic gloves and slicing strawberries for someone’s waffle.  He had a hat on.  He said, “Kind of.”  His fingers were warm enough to manage a knife better than mine ever can.

The ceiling of the opera house is the gold of the inside of a chalice, and the chandeliers are spiky and a little rough, because they are American.

I ate my waffle with ungloved hands, so my hands froze hard.  We walked and walked and I sort of lost my logic of what we were walking for and cab strategies.  We murmured in turn about how hard it was to find a cab, the neighborhood, the hour, the avenue that goes south or one that goes north, hmm, without the least bit of rancor or outward frustration, not because we have to pretend to be polite, like we didn’t know each other.  I wasn’t pretending.

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