Friday, September 28, 2012

West Village doors

West Village doors, snapped while on a jaunt this summer to the High Line. The red deco door above (in a 19th century building) was spied on Christopher Street, while the others are on West 11th. I think I could spend all day snapping doors. The City is chock full of them. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Christopher Street

The Christopher Street Subway at Sheridan Square at 7th Avenue. I love the old green tile, which is not unlike the Victorian fireplace tile I have on hand to do god-knows-what with. I snapped these pictures while waiting for the train uptown after a long walk along the river with a friend. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

wallpapered kitchen cabinet doors

Wallpapered kitchen cabinet doors. That's what I am thinking of having, using the wallpaper by Andrew Martin you see above. I'm imagining tall-doored cabinets that go to the ceiling (either black or white), the doors being inset with the wallpaper above, the thought coming to me after looking at the pictures of my tiny Manhattan kitchen in the previous post. I found the paper here. The idea is to fool the eye into thinking that the kitchen is no kitchen at all, but part of the living room library. Mad perhaps, but I love with whimsy of the idea. What thinkest thou? Can you see it?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frame & Fate

The large ebonized Aesthetic Period frame that I found at the flea market a few weeks ago? My father would have loved it. But unfortunately, he won't get to see it, nor will I be able to tell him about it since he died this past Tuesday. His health was failing for about two years, but until he went to 'rehab' in July, we'd get on the phone and he'd ask me what I found in my foraging at the Antiques Garage between 24th and 25th Street.

He loved old wood, iridescence, Tiffany, turquoise and silver, big belt buckles, fountain pens, Stetsons and cowboy songs. A big man at six foot five, his contemporaries called him Slim as a young man.

I was thinking of this and many other things as I took these photos. Funny. I hadn't planned on making a post in a long while. I was supposed to be writing, right? Fate had other plans. 

I saw him the day before he died. He charged into a clearing after not speaking coherently for about a month, even having something to eat after not being able to swallow for a week. Recognizing my face, and saying my name was gift enough. Then came the humor when he slyly said: I'm glad I could get you all together again, between spoonful's of applesauce And he has. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Change is in the air

Lincoln Center Plaza

I walked past the  bejeweled Former State Theatre at Lincoln Center yesterday - where I used to sing with New York City Opera -  during the 'blue hour', just the time when I would have been entering for the 'half-hour'. There are lots of good memories on the building for me! One is auditioning for Beverly Sills and being ushered into the company for the next twenty-three years. God. I had a blast. 

In years past, this was the week when NYCO would open its Fall Season. But that is no more. City Opera imploded more than a year ago, leaving Lincoln Center and necessitating the reorganization of hundreds of lives, including mine.

I had that wonderful feeling of being in the theatre when I walked by. Getting ready, putting on makeup, walking to the stage, hearing the overture and being shot out of a cannon and singing, singing, singing. Nothing quite like it. 

Now there is another shift in my life: I am stepping up my efforts in becoming a published author in my chosen field of vocal pedagogy and hear the whisper of intuition telling me it is time to turn my attention more fully to that endeavor as well as to my other blog: VoiceTalk. To be frank: I am not sure when I will be returning to post here. Needless to say: I am very grateful for the you - the reader. It's been fun being- as my friend Blue so adroitly put it- a man about town.  My sincere thanks to you! 

Monday, September 10, 2012


Yep. That's my icon above. The one I was 'writing' (you write rather than paint them) in the basement of the beautiful Italianate House of the Redeemer on East 95th Street with the well-known iconographer Vladislav Andreyev.  The place had/has ghosts. No. I am not kidding. I didn't see them. But a colleague of mine did. Apparently, he was in the basement late at night doing some catering, and turned around and saw a woman approach him. She was wearing a black dress and small glasses, and then disappeared before his eyes. He dropped the pan that was in his hands. Me? I was there for six weeks or so and didn't see a thing. I did ask one of the priests who ran the place if it was true that the place had 'presences,' and he told me that - yes- it did. He hadn't seen the lady in the basement, but he was present when the organ in the library starting playing one night. Others heard it too, even though the pipes had been removed long ago, leaving only the casement behind.

Back to the icon. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to progress past the first of three 'floats,' egg tempera being applied in three successive layers. My teacher thought I did pretty well however, even asking me if I had studied art. A nice compliment, I actually made it my business to study his work. What I didn't get right, however, is the red line around the halo. It's too wide. But that's another matter. 

Learning to write an icon is not unlike learning to sing, the process involving a 'going within.' Hard to explain to those who haven't had either experience, creating beautiful images or beautiful tone  involves intention and attention - both bringing about 'focus.' In the case of writing the icon above, I had a curious experience which I remember still. I was applying the halo, which is done by using one's breath, getting very close to the wooden surface and applying breath as a vapor from which the gold can then adhere. This took me awhile. It also took a tremendous amount of 'focus.' That night, after having finished the application of the halo, I dreamt I fell into it. It was bliss. The kind of which made me realize that there are some things - that are not things - far beyond our comprehension.

Friday, September 7, 2012


While in Spoleto, Italy, this summer, I went to the Sant' Euphemia Church Museum (where Umbrian Serenades sang last year) and found myself seeing blue everywhere. Subject matter notwithstanding, the color has an otherworldly quality which induces introspection, especially when contrasted with gold. Interestingly, Indian Yogi's had their disciples mediate on it (see here).

These works reminded me why the Pre-Raphaelites were so enamored of this particular hue.  I'm happy to have a dash of it in a small antique prayer carpet now lovingly draped over a chair in my living room. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Breakfast in Italy

Spoleto to be exact. The Hotel dei Duchi to be even more particular. Was it only less than a month ago? I miss the cappuccino with a dusting of chocolate, warm pastry fresh from the oven, elegant and tasty cheese, sweet prunes, ripe melon, prosciutto, tomato and apricot. Oh so simple and so delicious. More please! More meals from the culinary gods. More wine tastings. More walking through 18th century architecture worthy of a Rossini opera. More exquisite places to sing in like the San Francesco Church Museum in Montefalco. More music-making on the porch of the Duomo. More Umbrian Serenades in the green heart of Italy! 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Youthful Hercules

Youthful Hercules in the atrium of the Greek and Roman Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I snapped a few pictures of him while on a visit to see Bellini, Titan and Lotto: North Italian Paintings Accademia Cararra, Bergamo, an exhibition that is now closed. The latter, of course, made me think of my all too short two weeks in Italy this summer. 

But back to the son of Zeus. He's an eyeful, larger than life and towers over everything in the gallery. Of course, it's interesting to contemplate what he might have originally looked like, since it is now known Greek and Roman statuary was polychromed

The embodiment of masculinity, muscles and might, his descendants can be found in gyms and comic books, magazines and movies. One of them is Thor. He entertained on the plane returning from Rome.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Merchant House

No. I did not see any ghosts at the Merchant House when I was there with a friend last weekend, but I was left with the distinct whiff of melancholy in the bedroom you see below. Then again, this may have been the austerity of the horse-haired chaise at the foot of the bed talking. Elegant to be sure, it was there when the house's last occupant died in bed at the age of ninety-three in 1936.  

Owned by a single family from the 1830's onward, Merchant House still retains its luxurious appointments, from cut glass knobs to the damask bed hangings. 

Curiously, the walls - except for the servant quarters which are painted a pale blue- were never painted anything but off-white. Was this to bring more light into a house that only has windows front and back? Perhaps so. That said, the house's carpets are quite colorful. They are being reproduced for the main rooms- or so I was told by the affable and informative guide on-site. 

It may be hard to see from my photographs, but the bed, while grand, is not very long. My six foot frame wouldn't do very well, I'm afraid. We forget that people were shorter in the 19th century, don't we? It's only when you see an interior such as this up close that your realize that the tall ceilings would have seemed even that much taller to its inhabitants.   

The red, green and gold shimmers when standing in the room. And the gilded finials? I wanted to take them home. 

I have an Empire dresser in my own bedroom, and the armoire above makes me appreciate it all the more. This one is really beautiful. I only wish I could have jumped the rope and viewed it up close.

You get a better idea of the interior of the bed in this picture. The frame is identical to one in an adjacent room, though that one has no gilded ornamentation. 

Downstairs, in the formal dining room, there is a breakfront that is also Empire in style. One can imagine the room filled with candle and gas light, the jewels of the ladies softly sparkling. 

This classical mirror is across from the breakfront, and towards the left of a large black marble mantel that mirrors the one in the front room. It matches another mirror and console on the other side, creating wonderful symmetry. 

The front parlor retains its original Gasolier, which matches the one in the dining room. They have been reconfigured to more better approximate their original appearance in terms of wattage, which isn't very  great, of course. Interestingly, candles during this period often had shields since it was believed that an unshielded one put strain on the eye. 

The later addition of a Rococo settee and chairs in the front room misses the mark for me, the fabric color an odd choice. But I also wondered if the fabric had faded over the years- a matter which I did not think to ask about while there. The original red damask sofa used in the room was taken to the breakfast room next to the kitchen on the lower floor, which you can see below. A very simple room, it was probably also the warmest in the winter, being next to the kitchen. 

From the kitchen itself, the servants would have heard the call bell located on the second floor. There are many more in the kitchen. 

Servants were responsible for tending the oil lamps (one of the most important jobs) as well as replenishing the coal fires twice a day. Imagine carrying 20 pounds of coal to every room twice a day. It was a workout for a girl from Ireland, which is where the servants hailed from. Four lived on the top floor, the only part of the house painted a a color, in this case the aforementioned blue. 

Original gas fittings on the second floor that have been rewired.

The banister on the parlor floor which faces the front door which is about twenty feet away, making for a long hall. 

Turning around from the banister and taking a step back, one enters the dining room from a back door  and sees an Empire sofa in its original horsehair covering. The curtains in this room, like that of the front parlor, are red damask. The carpet is exuberant in coloring which makes up for the lack of pattern on the walls. 

The front door vestibule, which is marbleized a warm ocher. All in all, Merchant House is a fascinating place, a step back in time, one which I'd like to take again, perhaps in the evening in October when candlelight tours are offered.