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Across 110th Street

The Bronx is up. The Battery is down and the Bronx is up. I was thinking about that days ago. I was thinking about that when Criterion streamed a restored version of On The Town (Frank Sinatra bored, Comden and Green jealous at Lenny Bernstein for stealing their thunder, Gene Kelly itching to dance with an animated mouse), but then the 1 train crossed into Harlem, and everything went Tarantino.

The Bronx river. Who knew? So idyllic. I cannot say the same for the 240 or so streets the 1 train takes across Manhattan.

In keeping with my philosophy of visiting great cities, London, NY, Paris, and always doing something I’ve never done before, I took to leaving Manhattan and going north. I went further north of Yankee Stadium, but south of Legoland in Westchester (which is west of Eastchester). It was a long ride, foreign, and somewhat uncomfortable. In London, when you go astray (and with the lack of a grid system this happens a lot) you simply pop into a pub to get your bearings. And your wits. Somehow, I never thought that would be a good idea north of 110th Street. Single white middle aged gay guy on the NY subway… I was the no man in someone else’s land. The Bronx only has, you know, half of the ten worst neighbourhoods in NYC.

The 1 train goes elevated after about 149th. I had mixed feelings about it all.

A few hundred streets north lies the hundred (265) acre woods (park) called the Bronx Zoo. So, virgin experience and all, you know.

Toucans and hornbills. You really want a sit down with Darwin, right? It’s like Gerry (“Thunderbirds”) Anderson and Amy (“Big Eyes”) Keane had a sit down with Disney, and God, and you know, came up with something over drinks.

Pop quiz: More bird species on the planet or mice?

Wrong. Mice. And look at these cute elephant mice.

But we’d all prefer to have birds in our house. Less Hanta virus.

Know what that is? Me neither. Never saw one in the Toronto zoo, in the Sydney zoo, in the San Diego zoo, never seen one period. Red panda. Who knew?

The proverbial monkey business. Mum watches the young ‘uns have a go.

Snow leopards. Also playful. Always good to visit a zoo post tourist season.

The okapi. Poor cousin to the magnificent giraffe, but a magnificent animal all the same. Solitary and wary, the only one I’ve ever seen was in the Toronto zoo and it was, how shall I put it? Solitary and wary. This ably habituated okapi has the NYC attitude we should expect of animals in captivity. “What are you looking at? You looking at me?”

Then we have the flip side of that attitude. “Look at me you big ape! Look at me. Look at me! Oh, God, please, please look at me…”

The 6.5 acres that make up the gorilla enclosure, replete with waterfalls, are perhaps the highlight of the Bronx zoo and a paramount reason to visit (profits are fed back to the Congo gorilla conservation efforts).

Even Richard Avedon was smitten. Joking! This was me. 2019. Gloriously, enviously, over the top in rapture.

So there you have it; the big trek north, the big trek south.

For dinner I needed to break Misery Monday. Saturday was airline food; Sunday was basically pub fare to meet the two drink minimum at the Public. So tonight I went to the highly recommended Frenchette.

Given that I had plans, I arrived early. It was teeming with “drinksters” even though dinner was not quite being served. Crying out for real food, I ordered a simple salad and braised ribs. In Grade 9 Home-Ec they said the four “Cs” of a salad were cool, crisp, clean and colourful. Slam dunk. So wonderful. Restaurants are always trying to wow with fat, salt, sugar and finesse; so lovely to have just palatable greens on the side, cold in a cold bowl, not overdressed, not overthought. And as for the main, tender ribs in celeriac, baby root vegetables, and a caramel-like glaze, it was like Eurydice wandering the forest with the nymphs.

Speaking of which, there was no time for sweets; it was the 1 train back uptown to Lincoln Center. (I’m getting a typo on Center, and it grates to write it, but there you go USA. USA. USA. USA.)

Orfeo is a Baroque opera. Sometimes Baroque operas are a tad long (Handel’s Julius Caesar at just under five hours anyone?) and at other times they are concise. The Orfeo by Gluck is of the latter; around 1.5 hours, no intermission.

Mark Morris, the choreographer, directed. Isaac Mizrahi did the costumes. And the conservative, staid, New York opera fans found it not staid and conservative enough. Honestly, what works for these pedants? It’s not the best opera on the block; Morris did a stellar job in reinventing the concept, a chorus tiered behind the leads, dancers filling out the space. And for the first time ever I was in a box; I like the corridor and private door; it lends a Hitchcock crossed with Feydeau-esque ambiance to the occasion. Alas, no soldiers with moustaches drunk on Madeira crashed into box C on the Grand Tier…

Above you can see from the pics chosen here my obsession with the starburst Populuxe chandeliers is patently clear.

Three quarters of the audience stayed, standing O. The rest left early. Finicky lot opera goers.

The author of Here Hare has traveled to over 45 countries on six continents, and has lived in Canada, the UK and Australia.

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