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Some Kind of Wonderful (NYC Vol. 2 Issue 2)

I'm so glad you found me in time
I'm so glad that you rectified my mind
This will be an everlasting love for me
Loving you is some kind of wonderful
Because you've shown me just how much you care


SATURDAY

I had forgotten when I wrote the last bit on Saturday morning that Saturday was Easter Saturday, and we were due for the Vigil. It turned out amazingly, though. As I finished posting, we'd just discovered an amazing attraction right near where we were staying that I hadn't even heard of the last time I was in New York, a division of the Met in a place called The Cloisters. It is a semi-modern building built to mimic a 12-14th Century style church/monastery, and contains a vast collection of church art, most of it from the 11th to 15th Century, and a great deal of it truly remarkable. Also completely unique is that a great deal of the art was built into the building - carved doorways and stained glass panels, for example. We hurriedly grabbed a couple of delicious-but-overpriced sandwiches from the garden cafe, which was situated in an incredible patio garden with little marble pillars and arches surrounding and small birds hopping about.

I had wanted to go to the Cloisters that day because they had a reasonably priced concert featuring a guest motet/madrigal acapella group performing selections of scriptural music relating to Christ's Passion, notably madrigals by Monteverdi, who I did a huge project on while I was in my year of music at the U of S (no, those of you who are getting to know me these days: I didn't start out in Fine Art, but in Performing Art as a voice student). I have always adored music from that era, and getting a chance to hear it live was extremely exciting for me. Paul and I sat and soaked in the amazing counterpoint and harmonic voices, it was for me an amazing way to continue our trip launch. Little did we know that this would be the start of a very musically inclined to do list here in New York.

After the concert, we took about an hour to go through the museum as quickly as possible. I took a great many photographs of relief carvings, which, since I am woefully inept at doing myself, I have nothing but the highest respect for. We also go to see the famous and odd Unicorn Tapestries, a great many other tapestries, carvings, shrines, and sculptures of all sorts of religious figures and scenes. Some of the most unusual were depictions of Christ's circumcision, and a 30+ panel woodcarving of the Passion of Christ, including a number of unusual visual scenes. There were even a few depictions of God the Father in some of the artwork. I'll probably comment more on some of the pieces when I have a chance to go through my photographs later. But yes, amazing carvings, and the style of the Cloisters was second to none, showcasing everything in a way that felt so authentic.

After the Cloisters show and tour, we went back home and ate slices of cheap, tasty, greasy pizza from the vendor beside the Subway station and set off for the late evening mass at Church of Notre Dame.

I should pause to note here that we visited a parish for Holy Thursday in Edmonton that we felt at home in and really enjoyed, it's likely that we'll continue going there as it's not too far from home, it's where Andrew and Sarah are going, the quality of all aspects of the service was wonderful, they even had an explanation of the different kinds of anointing oils, and Paul and I both truly felt the presence of God there. What a blessing to have found one of the things we were looking for at the very end of the desert season of Lent. We also watched Passion of the Christ on the plane on Good Friday and talked about it. What a joy, then, to find ourselves in such an incredible liturgy and environment for the Vigil.

The Notre Dame church is a beautiful and imposing structure, with three ordered Priests from Poland administering rites there. There is a grotto replica of Lourdes that is built into the front of the church. I was amused to find that they were an "authorized supplier" of Lourdes water. They are the parish that ministers to Columbia University students, and we must say, they are obviously doing a good job. There was a long line of people, most of student age, to be confirmed or baptized. What a great reason for a very long service. The top notch choir, organ, and string quartet made an amazing liturgy come to life. The words were very old, the settings were new, and as the one older Polish priest and I discussed after the service, a great proof of the risen Christ is ancient words with so much life in them still. We were very blessed and overwhelmed with the wonderful service.

For those of you who aren't Catholic and would like to learn more about the Vigil, please read up on it. It's a wonderful service. The passing of the flame from candle to candle truly made me consider the passing of the truth from person to person through the last 2000 years, and the priest was so enthusiastic about sprinkling us with "freshly blessed" holy water (as he put it) to remind us of our baptism that he was almost bouncing up and down. I was so disappointed that I had to leave our very well put together booklet of the mass details and music behind me. One song in particular caught me with the words, "banquet of grace" which I felt myself a great partaker of these last few weeks. After the service, the priest mentioned that some of the ladies of the church had prepared food, and there was a literal banquet downstairs. We entered in and sat next to a Polish lady, who later introduced us to one of the older priests because he wanted to meet us. She informed us that it's a tradition in Poland to eat after the Vigil, and specifically to divide hard boiled eggs among family members as a symbol of sharing in the New Life of Christ. She also said they always ate sausage, too! The whole place was buzzing with talk, and many people greeted and spoke with us. It was a free environment, and Paul and I both wanted to take it home with us - a vibrant Catholic community is a wonderful thing to behold - and as I am so fond of proclaiming lately, it's as it should be.

After this we went home to bed in anticipation of the Harlem Gospel Choir on Sunday.

SUNDAY

We worship You,
Hallelujah, hallelujah
We worship You for who you are
and You are good


The Harlem Gospel Choir experience was pretty amazing, as was the food. We were up on our feet dancing most of the time, and they performed a number of my favourite modern black gospel songs, like Lord You Are Good. We had seats directly to the left of the stage. The brunch food was tasty - I had a second helping of eggs and sausages - and Paul and I both really enjoyed the experience. Paul was a little dubious that it was all "for real" but as far as I'm aware, all the singers are from churches in Harlem, and they're all actually worshiping and consider this their ministry. It was an excellent musical experience, and everything I would have expected from them. I got to meet the choir founder - actually he recognized me because we were seated right next to the stage door where he'd watched most of the performance from in between making announcements. It was super awesome.

Afterwards we went to McDonalds Times Square to go to the washroom, and a posh McD's it was, with personal music video screens... Crazyness. We didn't have a big agenda for the day, so we considered a few options. I was pretty tired already, it was SUPER muggy. We checked out the TKTS booth to see if anything was on sale and then sat and marveled at Times Square's billboard district for a bit, then went to the NYC Info Centre where we bought tickets to Stomp for this upcoming Sunday, as they have half price Sunday tickets and were sold out for that day. We ended up going to Ellen's Stardust Diner for supper, the place my Aunt and I had liked so much last time. It was busy but tasty (Paul had mini burgers and I had cobb salad, mmmm) and had amazing "staff-kareoke" as Paul pronounced it - that's right, singing waitstaff. We shared a dessert vanilla milkshake as an excuse to stay and hear more. Paul was pleased with one waiter's cover of the Beatles' Strawberry Fields, and I enjoyed the guilty pleasure of another waiter doing Teenage Dream. They also did a medley of Grease and my all-time-favourite 50's song, This Will Be An Everlasting Love. It was awesome. After that we headed home and ended up having a long chat with our host and a couple of his eccentric friends, which was very off-the-wall and loud. We learned ways to deal with muggers. It was interesting.

MONDAY


We got up pretty late on Monday, eschewed all baggage, and headed off. We ate a HUGE lunch at a hole-in-the-wall Mexican place near home base, with ridiculously amazing and unusual food. Paul had green curry burritos and I had thin battered chicken breasts with guacamole in the best tasting tortillas I have ever had - and everything came with rice and beans. The whole thing was $25. Awesomeness.

We then took the 1 subway train, our mainline to everything, downtown to the Guggenheim (via a walk through Central Park) to see their show, which was selections from their Modern Art collection. I got a nice refresher course on half my art history classes as well as enjoying seeing the pieces in real life instead of on slides and in textbooks. I was especially excited about seeing Unique forms of continuity in space by Boccioni, a really sweet and dynamic sculpture that's intended to be viewed in the found rather than from any one direction. There was also a fantastic portrait by Egon Schiele, who was amazing with his humanity capturing painting skills... The little thumbnail on the website simply cannot do it justice. Surprisingly, both Paul's and my favourite piece from the whole exhibition was a painting of a cow (Franz Marc's Yellow Cow) that apparently represented the artist's love of his soon-to-be wife. You just couldn't look at the cow and not become happy. It was lovely. I commented that if a man drew me as a cow like that it wouldn't be at all demeaning - kind of sweet actually. The online pic from the link above definitely doesn't do the large piece justice. Paul found out that modern art does not mean paint splashes. Just postmodern art. (Which we both think is trash.) I was also excited about a small but high profile collection of Kandinsky's work, which I commented to Paul that day for me makes scale irrelevant - I felt the same about the pieces on the wall as the ones I'd seen in books, which is something I find peculiar and singularly a Kandinsky thing.

After hours of walking slightly uphill I was exhausted and wanted to try and take it easy the rest of the day. We did spend a bit more time in the park, enjoying the large fountain with the angel on it, the many trees in blossom, and a great many squirrels.

We then went to Columbus Ave. where there's a ton of restaurants and tried to find a good one. The one we found, a little french place with a red exterior and a brick and mirror interior, was alright. We had amazing service and Paul had a lamb and potato stew that was amazing, but my pasta was mediocre for the price, and we were tired, grouchy, and feeling like we weren't communicating well, so it was generally disappointing. As a last straw, I had been pleased to see creme brulee on the menu, and they were out. This is the FOURTH TIME in several months that I have gone to a (different) place because they had creme brulee on the menu and ordered it, only to find out that they were out. Make more freaking creme brulee, people! Every place I go to is always out, and early in the day, too.

MAKE MORE SO YOU DON'T RUN OUT OF IT. THIS IS SIMPLE. IT WILL MAKE YOU MONEY.

I was exceedingly pissed off because I couldn't even have my favourite dessert on my vacation. =( Stupid custard. Why do you have to be so good?

TUESDAY

Whew, almost done!! It's super late and I need to get some rest for our plans tomorrow, so I'll just list what we did and talk about it tomorrow hopefully.

Natural History Museum (Dinosaur Exhibit, Space Show, and the breathtakingly awesome Butterfly Conservatory)
Ate at one of the places that's considered to have the best pizza in NYC, and agreed that they must be a contender
Went to Lincoln Centre for a Juliard Jazz Orchestra FREE performance of compositions by bachelors and masters students.

Tomorrow is Statue of Liberty day, and we're hoping to eat Tapas for supper - also, we hope to go up the Empire State Building at night! Pretty iconic NYC day tomorrow.