Thursday, August 19, 2004

Festival Express

This is not a movie review. I've heard Festival Express is boring, but I haven't seen it. I am traveling on my own Festival Express, a train rumbling at top speed through the dizzying landscape of indie art, music, theater, and dance taking place in New York this week and next. I've had friends in town, which has been great fun, but I must admit I'm slightly exhausted and looking forward to a morning on my own tomorrow before the next guest arrives!

Sunday, my friend W. took us to the Bowery Poetry Club (yes, I'm a groupie... no, I don't pay rent there) to see the closing night of the Jollyship the Whizbang: Sleepless Fishes, a rock puppet comedy musical that was hilarious. The show has acquired a bit of a cult following; this was W's third time seeing it! You can catch an earlier episode brought back to life at the Kitchen on Sept. 18th.

My friends J. & F. visited me this week. We went to see Decadance Vs. the Firebird at the Fringe Festival on Monday night. It was billed as a hip-hop ballet and that's exactly what it was, an interesting and often very beautiful blend of hip-hop, jazz, modern, and ballet danced to a "remix" of Stravinsky's Firebird. The lighting was terrible, but otherwise I like it a lot and totally recommend it. I'm going to see another Fringe show called Le Fromage de Mon Oncle on Saturday afternoon, and possibly also a dance show, M'Oro Flamenco.

Yesterday, we had lunch and walked around Williamsburg, and had a couple of serendipitous experiences. While looking for the bar NorthSix, we ran into a friend of a friend, a photographer who showed us his most recent project: a series of photographs illustrating a lesbian western romance novel written by none other than.... Lynne Cheney. Yes, that Lynne Cheney. I am not making this up. The photographs were great and can be seen at - adult content! - though you may need to subscribe to see them. Anyway, after showing us his photographs, he suggested we check out Brooklyn's best used clothing store, Beacon's Closet, which was a veritable treasure trove, sorted by color.

On our way there, we made an even more interesting discovery, a scent gallery. It really was a gallery, with small bottles displayed elegantly on shelves, arranged in short series by theme. We spent at least half an hour talking to the proprietor and sampling different scents, from "water 1" to "dirt" to "bazooka" - he said you could smell the powder on the outside of the gum and he wasn't kidding - to every flower, food, or spice you can imagine, and more. He explained that customers come in for a consultation and design their own perfume, which is then kept in their library of perfumes for that person for the rest of his or her life. Too expensive for me, but I would love to sit in on a few of those consultations - the process is fascinating to me. So many of our emotions are tied up in smells; I have often smelled my ex's aftershave while walking down the street, and looked around for him. After my grandmother passed away, my aunt redecorated her house. I deeply felt grandma's absence the day that I entered her house and found not only the furniture moved around, but the smell of the place changed. She had remained present through her scent. I have been searching for a perfume that captures the smell of the jasmine that grew along the walkway to my co-op house in college in California - not the same scent as typical jasmine perfumes. So - if you are going to get your own personal perfume concocted, please email me so I can tag along!

And tonight we went to Surf Reality at PS 122, a collection of short, strange, sometimes hilarious comedy and performance art pieces by local artists. After the show, they led us on a tour of the East Village, pointing out sites where various artists used to live and work, where activists clashed with the police, where Giuliani shut down dance clubs. We ended up at Two Boots Pizza. The first strange thing that happened was when we were stopped watching a piece of street theater in Tompkins Square Park, a police van actually drove up and watched over the whole thing. As the tour's leader said, "That's about as much chaos as they've ever allowed." It was just a rock band and a gathering of listeners! The second strange thing that happened was when we entered Two Boots, one of the performers said something - I didn't hear what - to a woman eating there, who proceeded to throw a fit and demand that the managers call the police. Certainly she had a right not to have her dinner interrupted, but we were a pretty low key, respectful group who'd been promised free beer by the organizers of the tour and the HOWL Festival, of which it was a part. Her reaction was so extreme that for a while most of us thought it was yet another piece of planned performance art! But it wasn't.

And somewhere along the way, I found a bicycle wheel abandoned in (well, on) a trash can, and decided I could use it to make something for my classroom, perhaps a gyroscope. You never know when you'll want an old bike wheel.


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