Monday, August 31, 2009


TD and I recently went to see Hair on Broadway. I'm telling you, go see it if you can.

This revival of the 60s musical was staged last summer at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. This year in March it moved to Broadway. We had heard good things about it from last summer, and the number that was presented at the Tonys in June on tv (pictured above) was sensational. That night Hair won the Tony for best revival of a musical, beating out Arthur Laurents' re-staging of West Side Story. I decided we should high-tail it up to the box office for tickets.

Hair was first presented off-Broadway in 1967 at the Public Theater run by Joe Papp, and moved to Broadway in 1968. The rock musical told the story of a band of anti-war hippies and included plenty of sex and drugs which was very controversial at the time. It was the precursor to later rock musicals of the era like Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar.

The colorful production up now at the Al Hirshfield Theater is infused with irresistible joy. The cast has the most tremendous energy, spinning and dancing around the stage like whirling dervishes in choreography created by Karole Armitage. The show eliminates the line between the stage and the audience so the cast is in the theater a lot dancing in the aisles and on the seats. I love the clothes from this era and the hippie costumes are an inspiration. The music is great, and of course there is all that long glorious hair waving around.

I had a long hair moment. I always wanted long hair or a pony tail for a Martha's-Vineyard-hippie/Irish poet sort of look so I did grow my hair long for a while. One day I was at the gym and a woman approached me. She said that her husband was a photographer and they were shooting pictures for stock houses. She told me that there was a demand for guys with grey hair and they would pay me to model for a session. She thought I could sign up with an agency. I didn't pursue that but I did do one shoot with them. Here is a picture:

Eventually I cut my hair shorter and shorter. Someone said to me cut your hair shorter so you look younger on job interviews. Oh dear. That's not why I cut my hair, but I suppose you have to be about eighteen, or live in 1968, to pull off a pony tail.

At the end of the Broadway show the cast invites the audience up on to the stage to dance and sing to a reprise of "Hair." Everyone was on their feet for a thrilling curtain call (click on my photo to enlarge).

TD was speechless, and he's seen a lot of Broadway shows.
Let the sun shine.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Last Kennedy

I've been moved by the coverage of Ted Kennedy's funeral services. It's not tragic, as other Kennedy funerals have been, but it is sad. What is it about the Kennedys that really goes to the heart? Certainly there is the style, the handsome looks, the refined upbringing and educations, but what grabs me and raises a tear are the Kennedy values. Though they were brought up in great wealth, there was instilled in them, I believe by their mother Rose, a commitment to public service and making the world better. Yes, more beautiful. The Kennedys felt we could do better and spoke for those who had no voice. And I mean both the men and the women including Eunice Shriver who started the Special Olympics in her backyard, and Jackie Kennedy who infused the White House with art, antiques and culture.

"The inspiration of his faith, optimism and perseverance will live in our hearts forever," said the Kennedy family upon Ted's death. Love, compassion and justice were the ideals that drove Ted Kennedy, which is the opposite of what we see now in some elected officials, like one opportunistic governor who quit the position she was elected to in order to make more money. We cling instead to the elevated values of Ted Kennedy: “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

photo from The Boston Globe

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Day Trip to Herkimer

At the grave stone of my grandfather and grandmother, George and Florence Mumford, at the Calvary Cemetery in Herkimer, New York

Last Sunday Ted and I drove up to Herkimer, New York, upstate for the day for the memorial of my mother's cousin Katie Border who recently passed away. A service had previously been held for Katie in North Carolina, but her daughters, my second cousins Mary, Ginny and Patty, wished to disperse ashes in Herkimer in the cemetery where many of the family lie.

Herkimer you may remember is where my great grandfather Dan O'Donnell settled after coming over from Ireland, married my great grandmother, and raised my grandmother and her nine siblings in a big Victorian house at 611 West German Street, now the Bellinger Rose Bed and Breakfast. Last summer we found our kitten Bell in Herkimer, who is named after the Bellinger Rose.

When we were young we went often from nearby New Hartford to visit my great aunts at 611 including Milly, my grandmother's sister, the first girl to go to Cornell on a scholarship, and the grandmother of the Border girls. 611 and my O'Donnell ancestors greatly influenced my life and the things I love – antiques, books, old-fashioned gardens, travels, candlelight and fireplaces, and a Romantic way of life. Of course they're all gone now so the world lives in my memory.

The three Borders girls were always the same age as my brother Thom and I, so when we got together we had a lot of fun. We didn't see them often because they lived in different places but we really grew up together, in the way that cousins can. After college Mary and I went to Europe together. We went to Ireland, England and France for six weeks, and I spent only $1,500.

Last Sunday Ted and I got up early and drove straight up the Thruway to be at the cemetery by noon. Thankfully he came with me to share the driving. We got there in time to stop and have a look at 611. The owners now, Chris and Leon Frost, are taking wonderful care of the house and have been generous to the family; in fact, in 2005 I organized a big O'Donnell reunion at the house with more than one hundred relatives attending.

Across the street from 611 and up a hill is a park where Thom and I and the Border girls went as kids and walked along this creek on hot summer afternoons when the air was heavy and even the bees were sleepy. We were like characters out of Tom Sawyer, exploring new adventure around every bend and turn.

The Calvary Cemetry is on a hill overlooking the Mohawk Valley and offers a scenic spot for a final rest. Many of the O'Donnells are buried there.

It seems like it would be a refreshing spot with cool breezes blowing but it was hot! It must have been a record for Herkimer. We met up with Patty and Ginny with her husband Ron and daugher Johanna. Ashes were dispersed and we talked about Katie who was a lovely person with a dry sense of humor. Afterwards we went to the home of my mother's cousin Philip and his son Philip and Diane and their children who blessedly offered us a swim in their wide swimming pool and a wonderful lunch where we talked more about family stories and histories.

But before we left the cemetery we took this photo at the family stone – Ginny, me, Patty.

And here is a photo from 33 years ago. This was at the funeral of our great aunt Zibby and we are in the sitting room at 611 at one of the last family gatherings there – Ginny, Mary, Thom, Patty and me.

Time passes but love remains.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Little Something

I'm just back from the Barney's Warehouse Sale. The guy at the bag check-out said I look like Hugh Jackman. That was a first. At the sale I was looking for something sensible like a summer sport jacket or a winter coat. What I came home with was a silk Etro pocket square (shown above, with Rose inspecting) because it really caught my eye. I love Etro, and these mad colors – orange, purple, green, blue – combined together on one small piece are delicious (click on the photo to see it better). Very bohemian. I'd just like to hang it up on the wall so I can look at it. I'll wear a white shirt and a navy blazer with these bits of bright color sticking out of the pocket. It will cheer me in cold January.

But now it is steaming in New York City. I took a hot run today along the Hudson River Park. The city is deserted; there were about two people laying in the grass which is usually packed with sun bathers. Like Andy Warhol said in his Diaries, "All the attractive people have been invited out to Fire Island." But I love summer in the city.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mark Morris

We went last night to see the Mark Morris Dance Company with our friends Jennifer Ales and Ellen Peckham. Jennifer is an artist and jewelry designer who made our 14k gold commitment rings, and you may remember La Peckham – we attended her birthday party last September.

The performance was part of the Mostly Mozart Festival, the Lincoln Center program, and staged at Rose Hall, a new theater on the fifth floor of the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. The 1,000-seat theater is modern but features a lot of warm wood, and it was completely sold out.

I am not a great dance or classical music expert – TD knows a lot more about it – but I really enjoy Mark Morris which I've seen before. I think it's the clothes. Or I guess I should say costumes. In any case, they're always interesting and very visual. In the first dance last night, the clothes for the men and women dancers were flowing tunics and pants in green, golden and ochre tones. The next dance featured marching band-like costumes in jewel colors of blue, red, green and yellow with tuxedo stripes down the side of the pants. The last dance, pictured above, had half the dancers in blue shirts and shorts, and the other half in white tank tops and trousers – a refreshing look on a hot August night.

Guess who was sitting in the row in front of us to the left? Mikkail Baryshnikov. It looked like he was alone. The two women sitting next to him started talking to him immediately. TD also spotted retired ballerina legend Heather Watts at intermission where we met up with our friend Brian Healy.

Choreographer Mark Morris, 52, was born in Seattle and formed in 1980 his own dance company which is now housed in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. He was the resident artistic director at the Theatre le al Monnaie in Brussels from 1988-1991 and developed a reputation as the genius bad boy of dance. His dancers are famously "normal" looking – not the classic ballet type – and his work is known for its musicality, delicacy, expressiveness and humor. He choreographs contemporary dance to classical music so its modern and romantic at the same time which I love.

For all three dances last night, the renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax performed. My favorite dance was the last, called V and set to the music of Shumann (1810-1865), the romantic German composer. In a tonic of blue and white, the dancers moved lyrically around the stage. The beautiful music lifted the dancers with a lightness and a charm. The art work progressed in great waves of music and movement that went on and on, reaching higher and higher.

At the end the audience went nuts with applause. For the curtain call, Mark Morris came on to the stage with his dancers, wearing a suit and dark sandals with white socks. We four turned our heads to the left at the same moment to see if Mikkail Baryshnikov was enthusiastically applauding. He seemed that he was.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Garden Downstairs

One advantage of all the rain this year has been that the container garden on the sidewalk in front of our building is going berserk. You may remember my container garden – a few years ago we dragged some pots and containers off the roof and threw some plants in them. It's so easy but it has a big impact.

I am partial to low-maintenance plants like impatiens and ivy. The ivy will last the winter if it's not too cold and grow more next summer. If there is already ivy in the pot from last summer, I just add in some impatiens or other plants which is easy. Impatiens you practically can't kill and they come in a wonderful variety of flowers. You don't have to dead-head them or trim them - they just go.
This ivy will grow down the railing for a country effect. Because, you know I am a country boy.

If you put a few containers together with plants overflowing it almost looks like a real garden.

Impatiens, pansies and ivy. Three different kinds of plants in each pot is good.

In this little corner, ivy is growing over the railing

More impatiens – they're not exotic or fancy but they can't be beat. It's hard to believe this pink flowered plant came out of a one inch pack.

More ivy growing up the railing.

The other day TD and I were watering the pots. He said our-across-the-street neighbor Susan Sarandon was walking her dog and watching us. I wish she had said hello! When I was outside later in the day a woman stopped on the sidewalk, looked around, and said, "Is this a flower shop?"

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Week at the Beach

TD and I had a great vaca on Fire Island. Though the weather did not co-operate at the end, it was sunny and hot at the beginning which was heavenly. We rented the apartment which we took last year in Fire Island Pines, the popular gay community. By now you know that we love the beach. Fire Island is a narrow strip of sand so you are never far from the ocean. It's reached by ferry boat and there are no cars on the island. For that reason it has kind of a wild hippie feeling about it, and it is relaxing to get away from cars and traffic and that kind of noise. We go to the beach every day, me under an umbrella, and read, eat, run, relax.

Here's the view from under the umbrella.

I was reading this book: The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake about French fashion in Paris in the 1970's which basically revolved around Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. I think I bought this book because I love its cover design. It's a delicious read and I highly recommend it; a wonderful writer is such a delight to discover, and great company at the beach.

Beach hippie: from left to right, a bead bracelet with one gold 18k bead that I bought at Bergdorf Goodman, a sterling silver bracelet TD bought for me when we visited an Indian reservation in Taos, New Mexico, a beaded bracelet that I made, and wooden Buddha beads I bought at the flea market in Hell's Kitchen.

Last weekend was "Black Out" in the neighboring town of Cherry Grove, and the Pines – a beach party for people of color. Our knowledgeable friend Philip suggested that after we had a drink at low tea dance around 7:00, to proceed on to another destination, Sip 'n Twirl, to see DJ Lina in action. We walked up the wooden stairs to find a crowd of people dancing to R & B outside at dusk. Lina is transgendered – you can see her below in the green dress with arms raised. Though this picture is illuminated with a flash, it was dark and sultry with everybody swaying back and forth. It was small, it was intimate, it wasn't the typical Pines crush of people, and the DJ created the magic of community with her music – yes, it was an Obama moment!

Here is DJ Lina the next night, Sunday night. Fab look, no? But not the same crowd and not the same magic.

Here is TD at the beach...

enjoying the view.

It was great to get away to the beach, and nice to be home again too.
Hope you are having a good summer also --

from BB.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The September Issue

This preview of the upcoming movie The September Issue is a real treat. This documentary by director R.J. Cutler is about how Anna Wintour and the editors at Vogue put together the September 2007 issue. Though only two years ago, it was another era, when the economy was flush, and magazines and newspapers were fat with advertising. Still, it looks like it offers a fascinating close-up of how Vogue and its editor-in-chief work:

A must-see for anyone interested in the world of fashion, luxury, magazines, media. Opening on August 28th in New York City and on September 11th in Los Angeles and select cities.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Goin' Fishing

I am taking a week off from the ad agency for a beach vacation on Fire Island. We are stocked up with Saint Andre, Pinot Grigio and the September Vanity Fair. Have a good week!

A Walk to Brooklyn

The other night TD and I walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to visit our friends April and Matt who lived in our apartment building before they moved to Dumbo. Ted and I met downtown in City Hall Park which is near my office at the ad agency. It's a pretty park where I sometimes eat a sandwich at lunch time. Scenes of Ugly Betty have been shot here.

Then we headed over the bridge. I've never walked over the Brooklyn Bridge before, though the centennial of the bridge was celebrated the summer I moved to New York in 1983. When it was completed in 1883, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world – a feat of engineering dreamt up to replace a ferry boat crossing. Construction began in 1870 and it took thirteen years to build the bridge. John Roebling was the engineer but falling bridge timbers crushed his toes which had to be amputated, and he later died of an infection from the injury. His son Washington Roebling took over but he suffered a paralyzing sickness as a result of underwater decompression diver's disease. Subsequently his wife Emily supervised, spending eleven years working on the bridge construction. Go Roeblings!

It was a pretty spectacular walk over the East River, starting in downtown Manhattan and ending up in downtown Brooklyn. I thought it would be a wide promenade for strolling (I've seen it on Sex and the City!) but it was a narrow walkway, with bicyclers passing on the left. In some places it got quite crowded with pedestrians. Cars travel on the level below.

Off to the left is the Williamsburg Bridge.

A look back towards Manhattan.

Approaching Dumbo.

It's a pretty invigorating slope up to the top point of the bridge, and then a walk down. On the way down to the Brooklyn side we approached a group of men standing on the bridge. One was sitting in the middle on a high seat. Good looking African American guy. Big horn rimmed glasses. Yes, it was director Spike Lee filming a movie."It's Spike Lee, it's Spike Lee!" I said to TD through gritted teeth as we passed by him because you have to keep walking and not stop to gawk since that would not be cool. "Action!" Spike Lee yelled, and four actors, one man and three women ran down the bridge in jogging clothes. Only in New York, kids.

Over in Dumbo we stopped at a wine shop to pick up some pink Champagne and then rang April and Matt. Their building has a fantastic roof deck with breathtaking views.

We had dinner on the roof. April whipped up a delicious feast.

It is such a treat to be in the city and be outside, the best combination.
TD and April.

The night got darker and the lights came on. A full orange moon rose up in the sky. Matt brought out some homemade grappa. In the summertime New York City really is a dream.

Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm a Country Boy

Gladiolas at the Union Square Farmers Market

Last week we had a "summer Friday" off at the ad agency. I was concerned about the weather forecast calling for rain, but I really wanted to get up to Central Park. I love living in New York City, no doubt about it, but I grew up in upstate New York, and I still definitely need ground, trees, grass, nature around me. Trying to beat the call for rain, I jumped on my trusty blue Schwinn at 10:30am and headed up Sixth Avenue.

One advantage of all the rain this year is that the trees and plants are happily drenched and Central Park is gloriously green and redolent. The Park was surprisingly quiet. I rode my bike through the woods and robins flew ahead of me at eye level showing the way; I felt like I was in a Disney animation movie. Then it started to rain. I was stuck at the north end of the Park, far from home, but the rain stopped. I locked my bike and tried to run around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, but there were puddles on the path from all the rain, making running difficult.

Then it started to rain a second time. I stopped under a tree for shelter, and a girl stopped under a tree on the other side of the path. We both silently waited for the rain to stop in the grey, green, quiet park. Eventually it did, and I was on my way. I rode my bike over West 93rd Street, I think it was, to Riverside Park which runs along the Hudson River. The tall old apartment buildings which curve along Riverside Drive are so beautiful. Riverside Park was also quiet and deserted. It's flat as it runs along the Hudson, with giant trees overhead. I was gliding along all by myself. It really was kind of a dream. I was on the bike for about two and a half hours which was a good work out.

On Saturday TD and I went over to the Union Square Farmers Market which is now in full tilt with lettuces, tomatoes, peaches, berries, you name it.

Carrots, anyone?

Here is the Eliza Doolittle of the Farmers Market.

After the market I went to my yoga class at the Chelsea Piers, and then sat on the sun deck cantilevered over the Hudson River. It really is one of the best views in New York.

At the market, we got flowers and vegetables.

For dinner we had flounder, salad, corn on the cob and potatoes, all from the Farmers Market, all from farms and waters nearby. I love to eat like that.

Growing up in the summertime we used to drive to the farm stands in nearby Clinton, New York, to buy corn on the cob and gladiolas like those pictured at the top of this post. We ate outside a lot in the summer. My father grilled steak and we ate, the six of us, around a picnic table in the back yard. After dinner we played hide and seek and my father found us when we hid in the bushes as night time fell. Corn on the cob and gladiolas are my Proustian madeleines.