The Dakota in April
april has always been a busy month in world history. just glance at any timeline and you'll see activity spike like a surge on wall street. looking over one now, the following highlights jump out at me, tho i'm not exactly sure why these, specifically...
april 1775: paul revere decided to take a midnight ride.
april 1815: some poet coined the phrase, "april showers bring may flowers."
in the mid 1890s, april brought new york city (and the world) its very first movie--premiered at koster and bial's music hall.
in april, 1912, the titanic sank. april, 1917: the u.s. congress declared war on germany.
on april 4, 1968, martin luther king jr.
was assassinated in memphis.
and in april, 1970, paul mccartney announced that the beatles were breaking up
(a week later, his first solo album, mccartney, was released).
while many of these events seem tragic, i've never been one to mourn the break-up of the beatles. for starters, it was hard, at the tender age of 2 1/2, to connect with the news. quite frankly, i was probably more concerned with the transition from two naps a day to one (what i'd give now for just one nap a day).
also: i've always been a bigger fan of john lennon
. and while he certainly came of age as a songwriter as part of the mccartney/lennon team, it wasn't until the split that things really got interesting. cliche as it may be, the 1971 single, "imagine," by my way of thinking, is one of the most haunting songs ever written. with its simple C-F-G three-chord verse, sadly, it continues to find a new audience with every new war.
imagine there's no countries
it isn't hard to do
nothing to kill or die for
and no religion too
imagine all the people
living life in peace...
working in the dakota
from 1991 to 1996, i got to hear a lot of lennon stories from both the residents, and the staff. entering the building through the main arches on west 72nd, where lennon was murdered in 1981, my thoughts would invariably turn to him, as i wondered what it would be like were he still alive--as i wondered if the tourists would still be lined up on the other side of the street, taking photos of the infamous entranceway 100 years from now. 200 years from now.
during my dakota tenure, yoko ono kept a few apartments there (she still may, for all i know). one was her office, another was the one she and john lived in when he was still alive. rumor had it, she hadn't changed a thing since his death. i think another apartment was used just for storage, or so i was once told by a custodian.
sometimes, on the weekends, when i wasn't working on leonard bernstein's
music, i'd stroll around the inner catacombs of the building--taking in the architecture (even the underside of the stairwells have ornate detail on them), thinking up stories like: what if roberta flack
(a resident at the time that i'd frequently run into in the elevator) invited peter tchaikovsky
for lunch? (tchaikovsky had had dinner in the dakota as guest of his publisher, g. schirmer, in the 1890s when the composer came to america to open carnegie hall) what a wild
lunch that would be. i imagined myself the butler, standing just behind the lunch table, ready if someone dropped a spoon, but secretly recording everything that was said for a future tabloid article: TCHAIKOVSKY MEETS WITH FLACK IN DAKOTA!
once, as i strolled by yoko's apartment, i heard "strawberry fields" playing on her stereo. (or on someone's stereo). as i got closer to the front door of her apartment, i noticed the door was ajar. guess what was holding it open? guess what she was using as a doorjamb? a grammy award!
"gee, now let's see what i can stick down here to keep the door open while i bring the groceries in..hmm..oh this old thing will do...sure. why not. we've got enough of 'em."
if that didn't make you smile, maybe this will (dig the glasses!):
note the date the i.d. card was made: april 19th, 1994...and the dakota, built by the architect henry hardenbergh
, first opened it's doors in, (when else?) april, 1882.
was up at the dia museum
in beacon, ny, over the weekend. the building itself is phenomenal--gigantic--HUGE--bigger than a schwarzenegger movie. most of the rooms inside are lit naturally, with light falling through slanted windows situated on the roof of the buidling (a former box-cutting factory, built in the '20s)
in fact, the structure itself is worth travelling up the hudson for. call me a philistine, but i found the grounds and the building much more impressive than the artwork.
they don't let you take photos inside, and even caution from using images of the exterior (i thought the cold war was over)...so here are some shots i took of the grass, just outside the building.
once, when i was 24, i had dinner with barbra streisand
and larry kramer
. i know, it sounds like a wispy first line to a novel, but it's true. the back-story behind why i was invited to eat with these two polar opposite personalities is not important (but no, i wasn't sleeping with either of them). the thing of it is this: we were talking about the artistic journey, or, more bluntly, the road to success, and how most artists fall into one of two categories:
first there are those like george balanchine
, who was brought to our country by lincoln kirstein
. kirstein provided the choreographer with dancers, income, rehearsal space, studios, a home--everything he needed to get the new york city ballet
off the ground. kirstein was, perhaps, single-handedly responsible for balanchine's lasting success.
on the other hand, there are those artists like streisand and kramer (especially kramer) who had to bust ass to get where they were going. who had to do it alone, without anyone's help--who had to overcome obstacle after obstacle to make a living from their respective talents.
being 24, i didn't have too much to say. i think the sum total of my contribution that evening was: "barbra, can you please pass the salt?"
but i did listen attentively to everything that was said. and i did retain most of it, running home after dinner to scribble it all down in my diary. looking back over that journal entry now, i wish i could communicate with the me of 12 years ago. if i could, i'd have the following two pieces of advice:
one: DO NOT, even if barbra streisand and larry kramer insist, eat two pieces of poppy seed cake for dessert. it's just not the kind of smile you want them to remember you by at the end of the evening.
two: DO NOT assume that just because you're 24 and having dinner with two mega-influential people, your own journey will be eased-on-down-the-road by a lincoln kirstein figure. cause it's not going to happen that way. just be content with what comes your way. try to get it through your ever thickening skull: the journey is more than half the fun.
so here we are in 2004. the first day of spring. my editor, danielle durkin, and i have been talking about cover concepts all week. the journey continues. there is there there. only it's not to be found at the end, rather, all along the way. i hope to be able to post a few samples of the jacket soon, and maybe, if random house is agreeable, have you all vote on which you like best.
meanwhile, danielle just informed me that we've been assigned an ISBN number! (international standard book number)
pretty fucking exciting.
also exciting, though apropos of nothing i've written thus far: last night's "dialogues on architecture & music" lecture at cooper union
. bernard tschumi
spoke for a couple hours on the concepts of permanence and impermanence in both architecture and music.
my favorite moment: at the end, during q&a, someone asked both artists to talk about a time when their work was used in a way they had never imagined when they created it. moby had a few answers to the question, but the best was this:
one night some years ago, he was suffering through a terrible sleepless night. neighbors were throwing a party and the noise was keeping him up. then, just as he was on the verge of sleep, a booming techno groove started vibrating the floorboards. he thought to himself, great, now they're playing some techno crap
. only to discover, of course, that it was a song he'd written.
what do phalaenopsis and paphiopedilum have in common, other than the fact that i can't pronounce either correctly? (my stabs can't even begin to be represented typographically)
that's what i learned yesterday at the 24th new york international orchid show at rockefeller center.
it was lovely. people milling around talking flowers. everyone should do it once a year. it's like a nasal-decongestant for your eyes. i've posted a lot of photos in the gallery. check 'em out here
also yesterday: major league baseball declared april 15th, jackie robinson day
. i have to say, having recently visited the negro leagues baseball museum
in kansas city, it's been a long, LONG time coming. i can't think of anyone who did more for the game of baseball--to say nothing of what he did to advance the african american cause in general.
Another from My Archive
with apologies to those who take this stuff seriously
Nip it in the Bud?
with passover now behind us (tho its effects still lingering), i've been thinking about a new product for next year. who wants to join me in my latest get-rich-quick venture?
i've already done some packaging layout. drop me a line
if you're into it.
last night was the swink launch party
on ludlow. got there early to make sure i wouldn't have to stand. and man was i glad cause there were a ton of people standing.
about the only thing worse than standing uncomfortably with a winter coat draped over one arm because you were stupid and didn't know that it was going to be spring-like when you left the house in the morning (but then again it has been unseasonably cold) and a large gym bag of some name brand or other slung over your shoulder through an hour+ of readings is standing uncomfortably with a winter coat draped over one arm because you were stupid and didn't know that it was going to be spring-like when you left the house in the morning (but then again it *really* has been unseasonably cold) and a large gym bag of some name brand or other slung over your shoulder through an hour+ of shitty authors reading their shitty little stories.
thankfully for those who had to stand uncomfortably with a winter coat draped over one arm because they were stupid and didn't know that it was going to be spring-like when they left the house in the morning (but then again it *really* has been unseasonably cold, if you don't believe me, click here
) and a large gym bag of some name brand or other slung over their shoulder, last night's group of authors were not of the shitty variety, nor were their stories. in fact, looking over my first copy of swink, there's hardly anything shitty about it (not counting the fact that there are no stories in it by yours truly, of course).
the highlight of the evening, and let's face it, of most any reading out there, was the realiably-hilarious-but-last-night-really-out-did-himself-especially-given-that-he-had-a-large-ear-coning-candle-sticking-out-of-his-breast-pocket, jonathan ames. (check out his website here
for upcoming readings and speaking engagements to see for yourself).
his story ("a young girl") was about an author--who he swore was not
him--who gets an email one day from a toady young undergraduate student (aka "his biggest fan"). in response, he writes her one sentence back, "what do you look like?" and from there, things quickly progress to instant messaging and, ultimately, a one-day stand in which the author brings himself to orgasm by grinding his penis into the floor while eating her out.
you have to buy (or better yet, subscribe) to swink to read the rest of not only his story, but the others as well. (chris offutt's
piece, "maybe delillo is there!" was also very well done by the ailing chris offut, who'd flown in from iowa just for the event).
the ames story especially resonated with me as just a month and a half ago i, too, had written about a guy (one of the three protagonists, yes, three, in my new novel, working title: the pervert, the hypochondriac, and the feminist
) who humps himself to orgasm. surely, there are many stories out there about mildly perverted men humping various objects until they go blind. but how many feature guys humping the floor, specifically? that certainly narrows it down, wouldn't you say? after all, a floor isn't as humpable as, say, a bed, a couch, or a pillow (as in that police song
: "made love to my pillow, but it didn't feel right").
i guess this is all to say that i really enjoyed the evening, on many levels. it was well produced, even though all the writers (except jonathan) complained about the lack of light on stage. editor, leelila strogov, was on hand, whom i got to meet at the party afterwards, and the drinks were free
. plus when i subscribed to the magazine, some nice fella working the cashbox gave me two free
swink shot glasses. what more could a schnorer
ask for from a lit launch? okay, some free fingerfood, but we won't hold that against them.
going to the swink launch party
tonight--new, savvy lit zine. lots of interesting readers on the bill. more importantly, there's an open bar. whoo-hooo!
also upcoming: the 24th new york international orchid show is coming to rock center. april 14th. scratch n sniff