Americans in NY

On our last full day in NYC, we decided to split our time between Iceland and France–with a morning at MOMA’s Bjork show, dinner at Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro, and an evening at An American in Paris.

We started with a quickie brekky at everyone’s go-to NYC staple: Europa Cafe.  Where nothing is European but everything is brightly lit, fast, and fairly cheap.


Why does she make these faces? Sigh.

Then, Bjork at MOMA.  This show has been savaged by critics.  I get it–a lot of what’s here wouldn’t be out of place at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or the Experience Music Project; swan dress, I’m looking at you.  But, I would argue the criticism of the “songlines” poem that guides one through the exhibit is really off the mark.  The story may seem a bit twee, but it also captures the persona and context that Bjork has adopted and that has remained a clear through line in a varied career.  And, the pacing of the exhibit moves one through the twists and turns in this career as though in a musical labyrinth–forcing thoughtfulness and constructing a narrative of Bjork’s journey that prepares the listener to embrace–fully–her story on view in the powerful “Black Lake.”  It’s difficult to think of many artists who would rip themselves open in such an unflattering and savage display of heartbreak and pain, straddling the fine line between pity and self-pity.  So well done.  Does the walk through exhibit work completely–no–but no grand scale show I’ve seen at MOMA has or anywhere else has either (except maybe Ai Weiwei’s).  Last thought:  the Alexander McQueen bell dress (seen below) deserves to be on display in the design collection permanently.  It made me tear up in its architectural beauty and so sad to think that an artist like McQueen is gone.

After “Black Lake,” we had the option of continuing on into the video room showing every single Bjork video.  Um, yes.  The space was outfitted like a giant 70s living room conversation pit with a killer stereo system and a massive screen.  We plunked down and watched almost two hours of Bjork videos–from “Human Behavior” through to “Stonemilker.”  In the dark cushiness of the room, the kids cuddled in and napped on and off.  It was like having the hippest living room.  (MOMA had a similar space but much smaller for the Tim Burton show; we loved that, too.)  And, last word on Bjork: the walk through exhibit may lead one to ask, “why is Bjork in MOMA?” The videos explain why–each one is remarkable: alienating, engaging, outrageous, gorgeous.  Loved it!!

After all that Bjorking, we were hungry and grabbed a light lunch in the cafe.  At moments like this, I wonder how many children think of a charcuterie plate as a great snack.  The boar salumi (darkest in the photo) was the clear winner.

Look, we’re hiding in plain sight!

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the museum, and it was wonderful to have the luxury of time to just stroll and revisit nooks and crannies we often rush through.  Along the way, Penn became very animated about Marcel Duchamp’s pieces, which were–to him–very much NOT art!  How is a snow shovel art? a bicycle wheel nailed to a stool?  It made both Ned and I smile (on the inside) to think that we were debating the value of surrealism and dadaism with our almost 12 year old son, and that he had enough experience of art (as an artist himself and an avid museum-goer) to create a definition.  Wow!  Not our childhoods.

Bjork is everywhere.

Look, MOMA’s paying homage to the Strong Museum of Play.  That’s Rochester’s domain, NYC! Step off.

Dinner was a Boulud’s theater district restaurant, and unsurprisingly, the service was excellent and the food delicious!  Our server immediately offered non-menu items for the kids, smart and kind.  db Bistro is small and warm with a sort of 70s color aesthetic that doesn’t seem ironic but welcoming.  We snagged one of the front booths, which it became apparent were quite desirable.  As were the desserts! 

Here’s the food editorial.  A lovely potato-leek soup.

Roasted eggplant and creme fraiche appetizer.

Dessert parade:

Cafe au Lait–coffee mousse, chocolate cup, teeny beignets.  Before they arrived, an argument broke out at the table over the beignets.  Who would get them?  Would Penn have to share them? He actually cracked up when they appeared as tiny (delicious) pillows on the plate.

Chocolate melted fondant cake with ice cream; Harper was excited to eat the gold foil.

Brown butter biscuit with caramelized apples and bourbon ice cream; the green sauce is granny smith apples!

And the dessert one gets if one doesn’t order any dessert at all.  Good score, Ned!

Then, An American in Paris.  Why this musical?  Two words: Christopher Wheeldon.  When I saw the full page ad touting this production with his name, I was in.  An American in Paris, while a famous movie musical, has never been produced as a Broadway musical, despite much of its score becoming part of the American Song Book.

The vibrancy, joy, humor, depth, confidence and beauty of the choreography and performances grabbed all of us–including the actors/dancers themselves, several of whom let loose little laughs of delight during the evening.  I went in knowing AAIP was really, at its base, a ballet disguised as a Broadway musical, so wasn’t sure how everyone else would feel.  At intermission, Harper declared it among her favorites and said she was adding it to the list of works she would perform one day.  (She has since declared it the highlight of the trip and is ready to go back to dancing.  Thank you, Christopher Wheeldon!)   Penn said he loved it and wanted a beret–and sang “Fascinating Rhythm” all night.  The marriage between Gershwin’s iconic score and Wheeldon’s innovative choreography is a perfect one and was rewarded by one of the longest ovations I’ve heard in a while.  Go see this!

On our walk home, we passed by the Today Show studio, where the night crew was busy pulling together the materials for the next morning.  Inspired, we decided on the spot to come back and try to get on the Today Show the next morning.

We ran across to the Duane Reed, where Ned convinced the stock guy to give him some cardboard and we bought a bunch of markers and stickers.

Our plan was coming together, powered by Swedish Fish.  The family project building excitement and some healthy creative disagreement.

We finally finished the poster at about 1:30 in the morning.  Penn was already asleep by then.  Our plans to get up and out to the Today Show by 6 am seemed a bit suspect.  I observed that perhaps making the poster was the true adventure; Harper said she was thinking the same thing.  But, we agreed to give it a go.

Yeah, it didn’t 🙂

Look at those lovely sleeping babies.  We finally rolled out of bed about 4 hours late for the Today Show, but happy at our accomplishment.  And happy to have shared another jam-packed Kress-Davis family journey. 

We fit in all the art, music, dance, and drama we could, eating like kings and queens along the way.  Every performance was truly amazing; every day magical.  We lead extraordinary lives and treasure the opportunities we have to make them more fun, more full, and more family-y.  Thank you, NYC, concrete jungle where dreams are made up.  You made our dreams shiny and bright … again!

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