🇬🇧 Incidental New Yorker IV

Cecil the Lion

August 2, 2015

⭐ I can definitely recommend Cymbelene in Central Park, part of the set being the rising, slightly waning Moon. The play is one of Shakespeare’s lesser known, but is made of all the true stuff. Lust for power, war, evil, poison, cunning, jealousy, hate, stupidity and yes, true love. It was performed by The Public Theater described by NYT as “the country’s de facto national theatre.” The ensemble performed with such ease and delight, true to Shakespeare, full of mischief, and true also to our times. Okay, so NYC may not offer such thing as a free lunch, but behold! Cymbelene is part of Public Theater’s Free Shakespeare in the Park. They told us from the stage that more than five million people have seen the various Shakespeare performances over the years. Fabulous initiative, funded by Bank of America as far as I understood. Tickets are hard to come by. You queue up before or at dawn. So the audience consists mainly of loyal Shakespeare-lovers. And the walk back though the quiet moonlit park in perfect company, accompanied also by the cicadas was like a fairy tale. Also, early August is when Hamlet is performed at his own castle in Helsingør/Elsinore at home, which I was sort of sad to miss. Shakespeare in the Park more than made up for this.

⭐ Friday I enjoyed the privilege of participating in a conference call with the President … I received an e-mail in the morning inviting me to join a call with Obama at 6 pm to hear him explain the P5 +1 nuclear deal with Iran. So I did, and after a short while he came on with a 25-minute speech on why it makes all the sense in the world to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, while making life easier for the Iranians. I didn’t in the least need to be persuaded, but it was such a terrific experience to just call this number and hear the president passionately explain the deal at his end of the line. Very different and personal that was.

Times Square underground
Telephone conference underground. Times Sq. © Mette Holm

🌔 And fancy, that same evening I experienced a Blue Moon here: the second of two full moons in one month, July 1st and 31st.

⭐ Day or night, like any newcomer, I spend a lot of time looking up here in New York, trying perhaps to get a glimpse of the sky, but mainly to gape at the sky scrapers that tower way above our heads, dwarf us into littlepeople and make narrow valleys of the streets in which for everyone to go about their business. My favourite is the Chrysler Building, which I enjoy watching from my bed; its ever changing appearance, gold at sunrise, silver at dusk, brightly eclipsing the stars at night, sometimes simply disappearing in fog. The other day I looked at a photo I took of the view when we first saw the apartment last November. In the meantime a new building has been working its way up. Deeply worried, we watched floor after floor being added, threatening to block our splendid view. Until the other day, when a huge Stars & Stripes flew from what had to be the top of the building, in the topping-out ceremony, much like we have them on our much lower buildings in Denmark with our Dannebrog 🇩🇰. 

© Mette Holm

⭐ This was also the week that found me in one of these hectic valleys at the feet of the sky scrapers, on 5th Av., desperately trying to hail a cab, while carrying in my arms like a baby our new TV-set in in 32 degrees C/90 degrees F. Okay, maybe not exactly new, but new to us. A 32# LED TV for $120. Found and bargained down on Craigslist by clever woman I know who has developed bargaining into an art form. I picked it up in a small flat where the young couple had bought a much larger TV set. You get the distinct feeling in this city that life without a TV isn’t really life. Remains to be seen. The TV is really nice and works now with the kind assistance of the building’s handyman and a caring woman at the other end of the telephone at the cable company. She was ever so helpful and called me Hon.

⭐ I read an interesting article in the Danish newspaper Politiken (in Danish) the other day on that the real value of a city is at street level, this is where human life and interaction unfolds and society embraces us and take us in. The article states somewhat categorically that in the US a high-rise building is a money making machine, while in Europe it is the realisation of the vision of equal access to modern living. The article explains that in Europe, in Germany and Denmark, the human aspect of the high-rise has always been the main focus. An architect, Julian Chen, explains that in European high-rises the nucleus holds the logistics and infrastructure, lifts, soil pipes and the like. “In Denmark the distance from the nucleus to the façade can’t be more than six metres, because everyone in the building must have a view of and access to daylight. In America the distance is much larger, and the people in third row have neither daylight or a view.” The conclusion is that when the Americans started to construct high-rises one hundred years ago it was to earn money. When Europe actually followed, it was with a social agenda. Everyone had to have the possibility to live in comfortable environs. In Asia, says Chen the architecht, the construction of high-rises serves to signal development, and skyscrapers were built as monuments of ambition. When I visited the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, in the late 1990’es, it struck me that the ruling party, then as now, Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF, used its party HQ to signal its sinister omnipower. There was absolutely no reason at the time to expand the city skywards.

Ode to Cecil? Underpass at E 34th © Mette Holm

⭐ Aaah, and New York became one of the first states to recommend a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers this week. Good news for the fast-food workers and those of us who don’t mind paying the actual price. We can only hope that it rubs off on everyone else who is underpaid. 

🔫  Like most Europeans I just don’t get gun policy in America! The other day the president pointed out that, in the years since the September 11th attacks, fewer than a hundred Americans have been killed by terrorism, and tens of thousands by gun violence. Every day the news is full of massacres or just plain shootings in America; there even seems to be something called “wrong place at the wrong time” which sort explains how people can get shot and killed by bullets not intended for them. For an outsider it is nothing short of unfathomable that deadly arms are so easily accessible, and how come it is possible and even legal for kids as young as four or five to own & use weapons.

⛄ And on an entirely different note, what really went beyond me this week was delegating the Winter Olympics to Beijing in 2022. So China and Kazakhstan were the only candidates, but rather than accepting that only two cities – who don’t accept criticism from their citizens – opted to host the games must truly be a sign that times have changed, and so should the selection process and event in order to remain an event to deserve global public interest. It can hardly be named an international event if only two – decidedly authoritarian – regimes want to host those games.