Sunday, January 05, 2014

New Year's remembrances, thank-yous, and resolutions.

When I started my morning walk on New Year's Day the first song my iPod served up was the Byrds' "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better (when you're gone)." 2013 was for me, as any year must be for most people, a mixed bag. A project I'd been working on since July of 2012 ended in mid-November, putting me into what I'm confident will be a relatively short period of unemployment. Recently, I've been saddened by the death of friend, neighbor and fellow Grace Church parishioner Bronson Binger. There's a transcript of an interview with Bronson here. I spotted one error: "Church of Avenue Rest" should be "Church of Heavenly Rest." Mis-hearings are a hazard of oral history, as they are in court stenography. I once had to correct the transcript of a deposition of my then boss that had his first job in the reinsurance business as "excessive loss underwriter," which, if true, should have gotten him fired, instead of "excess of loss underwriter."

Others whose passing I've noted here are (in chronological order): Stan Musial and Earl Weaver, who died on the same day and are commemorated in the same post; George Jones; J.J. Cale; Seamus Heaney; Lou Reed; Arthur Danto; Nelson Mandela; and Yusef Lateef. Some I didn't post, but should have, include Joan Fontaine, Annette Funicello, Al Goldstein, Frank LautenbergElmore Leonard, and Doris Lessing. Dave Coles and I both mourned the death of Greenwich Village as a Bohemian community. An interior designed by Frank Lloyd Wright was demolished. And there was the Boston Marathon bombing. Addendum: I just received the latest Harvard Law Bulletin, from which I get the sad news of the death in 2013 of one of my favorite professors, Detlev Vagts.

There were also reasons for celebration. Grand Central Terminal had its 100th anniversary, later commemorated by a parade of trains. My wife and I had our 22nd. Thanks to friends, we enjoyed a long weekend on Cape Cod that included tastings at Truro Vineyards and the Cape Cod Brewery. After a bout with cancer, Sharon Jones is back performing. The Mets finished third, not fourth in the NL East and the Red Sox (my second favorite AL team, after the Rays, and my wife's favorite, period) won the World Series. In Zagat's fifty state sandwich survey both beef on weck and the Connecticut lobster roll got their deserved recognition. Bill de Blasio was elected Mayor.

Google analytics tell me that "Grace Slick at Seventy" remains my most popular post of all time, so I must again thank Michael Simmons for supplying the photograph, and for being a continuing source of interesting bits of news and observations, many of which have inspired me to post. In second place, but in first place over the past year or so and therefore gaining fast, is "Lady Day: Henry Ossawa Tanner's Annunciation," for which another repeated thank-you goes to The Rev. Stephen Muncie, Rector of Grace Church, who first showed an image of the painting to me.

Enjoying third place on my all-time post hit parade is "Pierre Bonnard, 'Late Interiors,' at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." As I note near the beginning of the linked post, I was inspired to see the Bonnard exhibit by the interest shown in that artist by my friend and neighbor, the painter Mark Crawford. A year ago I promised to do another post about Mark's more recent artwork, and I'm sorry to say that I haven't done it yet, but I resolve to do it in 2014. Meanwhile, you can see his work on his website.

Eliot Wagner and his blog Now I've Heard Everything have been a continuing source of inspiration. He provided the video for one of my most popular posts this year, Puss n Boots doing Neil Young's "Down by the River". Thanks also to Marshall Chapman for returning to New York after seven years and giving a great performance, which Eliot also attended, and which I memorialized, with two videos, in this post.

A post from 2012 that has enjoyed steady popularity is "Divine Dvořák; scintillating Shostakovich," for which I must thank the New York Philharmonic, and especially James M. Keller, whose notes I quoted to good effect.

Thanks to my Lion's Head friend Tania Grossinger for the opportunity to review her autobiography, Memoir of an Independent Woman. Thanks also to Dermot McEvoy for keeping me, and many others, up to date concerning alimni/ae of "Lion's Head University." Dermot has a new historical novel in the works, The 13th Apostle, which I will be reviewing here. It has a Facebook page which, if you're on Facebook, I encourage you to visit and, if you choose, to "like." Another good read this year was friend Adam Haslett's Union Atlantic. Adam, who has written for the Financial Times as well as other periodicals, wrote a gripping tale of financial and sexual intrigue. Addendum: His comment on Facebook reminds me that I should also thank Francis Morrone, both for the help he gave me in identifying the provenance of vault paintings in the Graybar Passage at Grand Central, and for the usefulness of his An Architectural Guidebook to Brooklyn as a reference.

As always, thanks to "Homer Fink," publisher of the Brooklyn Heights Blog and The Brooklyn Bugle for allowing me another outlet for my writing mania, and kudos to my BHB colleagues Karl Junkersfeld for his videos and Heather Quinlan for her award-winning documentary about New York speech, If These Knishes Could Talk.

Thank-yous to immediate family are customary, but I have a considerable debt to my wife, not just for her patience, but for providing me with ideas, especially from her regular perusals of the Archivist of the U.S.'s blog, and for sharing my work with others. Thanks also to my daughter for her support, and for turning me on to Hyperbole and a Half, John Mulaney, and The Violent Femmes.

Resolutions? This summer I saw two great art shows, Sargent Watercolors at the Brooklyn Museum and Hopper Drawing at the Whitney, both long gone, and about both of which I meant to post, but kept putting it off. I resolve not to let such opportunities pass again.

The plaque in the photo at the top of this post is on a row house across the street from where I live. You can hear the first stanza of New Year Letter here.