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City flora

11th Ave & 23rd St
Nice to be reminded that even in Manhattan there are lots of pretty growing things
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The Ashbery collection

a Freilicher peonies
What a treat to spend a little time this afternoon at the Loretta Howard Gallery, way west on 26th St, looking at some of the art (and bric-a-brac) John Ashbery has collected over the years. Unsurprisingly (for an art critic), he has good taste: there are several Joseph Cornells (not my faves, except for one that's a plain almost empty, weathered box called "The Storm that Never Came"), and works by Henry Dargar, Joe Brainard, Trevor Winkfield, de Kooning (both Willem & Elaine), Joan Mitchell (Johnny's favorite), and a beautiful Jane Freilicher "Peonies"—probably the single work I most would want.

Except wow things really cost a lot. "Inflation," Johnny snorted. Hey we have Brainards at our house. Johnny also had a little drawing Larry Rivers did as a cover sketch for Johnny's novel Mangled Hands, but he lost it.

Well-chosen excerpts from Ashbery's poems make it homey, as in You Are There in his pad. The show is there till November 2.  Read More 
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My advice is

Don't ever get in an accident, because not only does it hurt but you will have to talk to insurance companies for the rest of your life, and you might cry, and you might see steam coming out of your ears you will be so angry, and you might get so exhausted that you can't do any of the fun things that you are put here to do.  Read More 
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Wildness and woe

One of the best books on Southern music I've read is Rythm Oil, by Stanley Booth.

Not just music but the 1950s onward, what it's like to hang with musicians like Furry Lewis and his wife Versie, ZZ Top, and Keith Richards, or go to the funeral of Mississippi John Hurt as a sort of insider (he was asked to speak).

Booth is a good reporter & researcher: for example, this quote from a Memphis pianist about Phineas Newborn Jr: "He had a boogie-woogie left hand, a bebop right hand, and this... third hand." A good writer too, describing Newborn's style as that of Secretariat or the young Muhammad Ali. "He could think of things to do that no one else had ever done, and then he would do them." Maybe my favorite moment is when he says to Fred Ford, "I can't believe I'm sittin' next to the man who barked like a dog at the end of Big Mama Thornton's 'Hound Dog.'" And Fred Ford says, "I was gonna meow like a cat, but it was too hip for 'em."

Elvis, B.B. King, Janis and so many more are respectfully and appreciatively described. He knows his stuff! The Trumpeteers, man!  Read More 
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Lou Reed

What a year for people dying. But Lou Reed! Seems unlikely, more than anything. I saw him perform in London in 1979 (I'm pretty sure that was the first time), & around town in subsequent years. He was our downtown Mick Jagger. As present & obvious as Katz's Deli. I bet half the people I know  Read More 
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Coming Clean

Just finished a memoir about hoarding, Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller. Remarkable that she grew up in the chaos of her father's mental illness, in filth & fleas, yet still loved her parents staunchly, protectively, sweetly.

Could her dad help it? Alcoholics stop drinking, gamblers stop lighting their money on fire. An interesting take on this is  Read More 
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Walker Evans & Magritte at MoMA

Joe's Auto Graveyard, near Bethlehem, PA, 1936 (the picture itself says 1935)
Dropped by MoMA this afternoon to breeze through two shows & look even more briefly at a couple of others (Hopper, a chair made of white corrugated paper).

Luckily, Johnny's a member so the claustrophobia was a little lessened by getting waved through the long lines. I found it hard to be alone with the art when there was so little space to stare & absorb.

Predictably I liked Walker Evans's junkyards & old cars the best. As I've written before, I find shabby to be both soothing & inspiring.  Read More 
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OK, I'm not going to make this blog a rolodex of the dead, but want to note that the poet Frank Lima died a day or two ago. "Raw, gritty, nervy and switchblade-quick," as Tom Clark called him, he was born in Spanish Harlem in 1939, and accidentally fell into poetry while in drug rehab. After that it fell out of him dangerous & gorgeous.  Read More 
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LK redux

It's 40 years—October 22, 1973—since one of my closest friends died. Lucy Kerschberger was 22, in London on a Marshall fellowship, and apparently had an aneurysm. She was a talented writer with a throaty chuckle that belied her fragile blond prettiness. I still feel such pangs of sorrow, but no longer know if it's for the  Read More 
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Lawrence Klein (1920–2013)

Noting the death today of Lawrence Klein, 93. In 1980, the year he won the Nobel in Economics, I was working for someone who was working for Klein at the Wharton School in Philly. The Phillies were in a pennant race that year, and in a great examples of first things first, the headline in one of the Philadelphia papers ran: "Phillies Fan Wins Nobel Prize."  Read More 
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