Hot Town, Summer in the City

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IT’S NOT OVER ‘TIL IT’S OVER, but as soon as you start seeing ads for back to school shopping, you know it can’t be long before the Halloween decorations come out.

The knowledge that it will soon be September has always cast a pall over August. Growing up, I waited eagerly for the big fat back-to-school issue of Seventeen magazine to show up on my local newsstand August 1st. I was so bored I devoured its 600 pages of wool skirts and cable-knit sweaters immediately. Though it was still high summer, I was painfully conscious that its appearance signaled the beginning of the end.

Later this week, I’m off to Montreal and Quebec City for a few days and will be blogging my ass off while there, no doubt, so there’s that to look forward to. In the meantime, the days count down on summer in the city. With frequent forays out of town, y’know, it hasn’t been half bad.

July began with a day trip to Kykuit, below, the Rockefeller estate in Westchester County, a century-old Italianate-style ivy-covered pile, romantic on the outside, boring within. Chief joy and surprise: Nelson Rockefeller’s collection of modern art, relegated to a basement space, world-class though it is, and wonderful outdoor sculptures (like the Elie Nadelman figures below), perfectly placed.

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I abandoned Brooklyn again to ferry over to Governor’s Island, where my daughter is now working, and what a surprise. In the past couple of years, they’ve (almost) completed a park called The Hills, as close to unspoiled nature as you can get in New York City, with a skyline view at every turn.

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For culture, I joined a friend at the Whitney Museum in Chelsea to see Alexander Calder’s mid-century mobiles, below, so simple and yet so brilliant. The views from the outdoor terraces there are always stunning.

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Then there was a two-day road trip to Garden in the Woods in Framingham, Mass., cultivated over a period of decades, exclusively with plants native to the region. We found accommodation nearby at the oldest continuously operating lodging in the U.S., the pre-Revolutionary Longfellow’s Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass., below. (It burned nearly to the ground and was painstakingly rebuilt in the 1950s, so it’s hard to say what’s original and what’s not, but the illusion is impeccable.)

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I tried a few new-to-me Brooklyn restaurants, including L’Antagoniste in Bed-Stuy, a tad precious and a tad pricey, and the French-Senegalese Cafe Rue Dix in Crown Heights.

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Even treading city sidewalks in summer is made pleasanter by overflowing window boxes and creatively planted tree pits.

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Follow me on Instagram, where I’m having some fun… @caramia447

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New Art in the Meatpacking

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CALL ME A PHILISTINE, but I have trouble seeing banged-up gym lockers and plaster utility sinks mounted on a wall as art, much less masterpieces. That’s what one of the Whitney Museum’s curators called Robert Gober’s Ascending Sink, below, at a press preview late last month to launch a 550-work gift to the Whitney by collectors Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner. (The exhibition of new works runs through March 6, 2016.)

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I’ve heard of Cindy Sherman, the photographer who made a fetish of selfies long before the rest of us, and Jeff Koons, my least favorite artist of all time, and a few others, but most of the names were new to me, and most of the art, said to address such issues as advertising, technology, identity, celebrity and capitalism, inscrutable.

The Whitney’s mission is to collect, present and interpret the art of our time, and this is the art of our time, so who am I to say? I’m glad the Hoppers and Calder’s wire circus are still there in the permanent collection, though the latter has lost the prominent lobby placement it had in the uptown building.

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And I was glad to move on to the Frank Stella retrospective, up through February 7, 2016, where I enjoyed the graphic works of his 1960s Pop phase, below, though he lost me with the busier compositions and Day-Glo colors of more recent times.

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Mainly, I had come to see the museum’s new home, by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The building didn’t impress me, or seem much less brutal than the museum’s previous location in Marcel Breuer’s reviled Madison Avenue building, but I love the easy access to outdoor terraces and the views in all directions, notably over the river and the mile-and-a-half-long High Line, top.

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The trip brought me to the Meatpacking District for the first time in a while. I miss Florent, the bar/diner that for many years was the only late-night place to go on Gansevoort Street, though not the metal cans full of cowhide and bloody animal parts.

I lament the fact that, because hole-in-the-wall Paradou was closed at lunchtime and Pastis being renovated and the Chelsea Market claustrophobic, I ended up having lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, the suddenly ubiquitous chain about which the best I can say is that it’s handy when you need a kale salad.

Not being a tourist, or, I suppose, a young person, I felt unhappy with the changes I saw in the neighborhood where once I was young (I lived in the far West Village in the early ’70s), particularly the blocks full of fashion emporia I have no use for. Why must it be all about shopping?

There’s no charm to the new Meatpacking District, no soul, none of that New York grit.

Walking back along 14th Street toward the subway restored my mood somewhat. The city hasn’t all turned into shiny metal and glass. Graffiti lives.

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