new york new york new york
… so good they named it thrice.
Jet-lagged as I was on the first day, the pilot seemed to go well with a wonderful contributor, Michelle and her son Burt out in Long Island.
And then I was able to spend a beautifully sunny week hanging out with my friends Mac and Desmond in NYC. It’s been more than 5 years since I was last in the city. So I missed 9/11 and the subsquent decline and reconstruction. I’d also never been in NYC during the summer. I’d been a lot in the past but always in spring or fall. It’s a whole different proposition with syrupy evenings after the gym, strolling through biscuit-gold streets full of relaxed, sunsoft people. Or spending Sunday on the newly lawned piers down at Chelsea, spread out on the grass with a host of the Beautiful and the Buff.
It was also wonderful to be there as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 premiered. I schlepped up to the Lincoln Centre to get tickets for the previews and the woman at the booth rolled her eyes and sighed: “I’ve never experienced anything like this. We have 12 showings a day and they’re all sold out. 9 in the morning and 12.30 at night.” Not bad for a 2 hour piece of political polemic against the Bush administration.
It’s a great but depressing film. As it ended I felt exhausted with anger and sadness for all the hundreds of US troops and thousands of Iraqui civilians killed for the pointless greed of an American oligarchy. The most stomach churning moment for me was when Bush (in the middle of the Iraqui conflict) is shown smugly addressing a white-tie fundraiser. He calls the rich white men and women around him the “haves and the have-mores” and grinningly continues: “Some people call you the Elite. I call you my Base.” Such shameless and tasteless comments would never publically wash in Britain. Blair would be crucified for saying something like that. How can the Republican rulers be so obviously and crassly self-serving and get away with it?
I hope that the huge success of Fahrenheit 9/11 is not just a NYC phenomenon (where it’s really just ‘preaching to the choir’) and its success forces wider distribution. Go see it and let your movie theater know you’re pleased they’re showing it. Some have recieved death threats not to. It’s not a perfect film but it’s a necessary one. Thank God, that Michael Moore exists.
Mac and I also headed upstate to see the Dia Beacon , 80 miles out of Grand Central on the train. It’s a fantastic space filled with some really stunning art. Including 5 heart-clenching Richard Serras and (in extreme contrast to all that rusting steel) some Fred Sandbacks, which consisted of coloured yarn strung out across space to construct planes and patterns in the air.
And on the last day before I went filming the auction sequence of the show, I head out to Brooklyn to visit Mac’s apparment in Williamsburg. What a great neighbourhood! I’d only ever visited Brooklyn once before and that was on my first visit to NY back in 1994 when for some reason I had headed out to the Boardwalk in Coney Island and walked all the way to Brighton Beach to hear all the Russians and Poles talking over tea. But this Brooklyn is cool and in the visible spasms of gentrification. There was a piece of graffiti saying “Kill all Yuppie Artist Scum” presumably from some irate local who was being squeezed out by rising property prices.
(Though more probably by one of the first waves of “artist scum” anxious to hold on to their cheap rents and coolly exclusive neighbouhood.) In anycase it was full of art deco furniture boutiques, a shocking number of t-shirt boutiques and some really tasty boutique restaurants. It reminded me of Berlin and the decade long gentrification of that space.
Hopefully, if the pilot’s a success, I’ll be back for a longer stretch in the autumn. That said, my jet-lagged and then sunburnt performances may have left the broadcaster underwhelmed and me. Britain-bound. Ah well, it was beautiful nonetheless…