Fresh From The Garden

IMG_6158I didn’t know the people who lived in our house before we did, or whether it was they, or one of their predecessor owners, who planted the flowers and flowering bushes in the beds in front of our house.  All I do know is that we have really enjoyed having our own little supply of fresh, fragrant flowers that we can clip and bring into the kitchen to add a splash of color to our home and brighten our days.

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Detroit, On The (Cutting) Edge

Russell decided to stay in Detroit, in part, because he felt a certain energy there, and in part because it is so affordable.  After living for a few years in Brooklyn, he knew how ridiculously expensive living the New York City artists’ life had become.

IMG_5170As always, Russell has a pretty good set of antenna for a developing trend.  A few days ago the New York Times carried an article about how NYC artists are moving to Detroit for the same reasons Russell has long articulated.  Why not?  Detroit is a cosmopolitan city.  There is still a lot of art-buying wealth there, as well as space galore and buildings available at prices that New York City artists couldn’t even conceive.

There’s a certain vibe to Detroit, too.  The article linked above refers to “ruin porn” — an apt phrase that captures the kind of slack-jawed wonder at the decaying cityscapes that we have noticed in our visits there and reported from time to time on this blog.  The dereliction not only makes you ponder how a great city fell so far, but also what can be done to raise it back up again.  Part of the allure of Detroit for young artists and other risk-takers is the chance to be part of what could be a great story of urban renaissance.  For an artist, that sense of frontier-like opportunity not only is bound to stoke the creative fires, but it also gives the city’s art scene a certain cachet that may well attract attention — and art sales.

I’m rooting for Detroit.

Richard III

Last night Kish and I went to see the Actors’ Theatre performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III at Schiller Park.  It was a clear, beautiful night, which has been so rare in Columbus that we felt like we had to take advantage of it.  And what better way to celebrate a pretty evening than by sitting outside, watching one of the Bard’s finest works?

In our world William Shakespeare’s genius is just an accepted fact of life, and things that are accepted often, perhaps, are not fully appreciated.  That’s unfortunate.  Richard III is a fantastic piece of creative work — bright and snapping in its language, brilliant in its cast and settings, and ultimately intense in its crushing moral message.  The tale of bloody, duplicitous, deformed Richard of Gloucester, who slays friends, brothers, and children and endures the hatred of his own mother in his ruthless quest for the throne and then is brought low to die alone, is simply one of the very finest pieces of theater that has ever been written.  The second half of the play, in particular, is an awesome tour de force, and the penultimate scene where Richard, on the eve of the final battle, is haunted in his dreams by the ghosts of the people he has murdered, who tell him to “Despair, and die!” is uniquely, chillingly powerful.

The Actors’ Theatre production does a fine job with this titanic work, with Geoff Wilson, as Richard, and Vicky Welsh Bragg, as Queen Margaret, being particular standouts in my view.  Interestingly, the production places the play in a ’50s-era gangland setting, complete with fedoras, pin-striped suits, and Chuck Berry and Frank Sinatra song snippets between scenes, but it otherwise sticks to the original Shakespeare dialogue.  The result didn’t quite work for me — “My kingdom for a horse!” shouldn’t come from the mouth of a guy wearing a sharkskin suit, I think — by the play itself still shines.  Anyone who loves good writing and good acting should see it.

An Abundance Of Musical Riches

Tonight Kish and I got back from a performance at Schiller Park — more about that later — and we decided to build a fire.  When Skipper decided to turn in, I thought I would stay up for while, stoke the flames, drink a few cold beers, and listen to some American music.

But . . . what to listen to, exactly?  Because when you are talking about American music genres, you have the luxury of incredible choice.  Ragtime, jazz, blues, rock ‘n roll, soul — it all depends on your mood.

It’s extraordinary, when you think about it.  This country has produced a series of musical forms that have tremendous, worldwide, everlasting appeal.  We’ll gladly leave waltzes to Austria and opera to Italy, but we’ve cornered the market on just about everything else worth mentioning.  And don’t just take my word for it.  Ask people in France or Japan about Louis Armstrong or John Coltrane or Miles Davis, or listen to British lad Eric Clapton team up with Duane Allman for Derek and the Dominoes’ epic treatment of Key to the Highway, or listen to some early Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis and then hear the Beatles or the Rolling Stones cover those songs, and you realize what a fantastic wellspring of music has been tapped in the United States of America.

Tonight I felt like listening to some blues, so B.B. King and the Blind Boys of Alabama and Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and Odetta — as well as J.T. Lauritsen and Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin and the Allman Brothers — helped to brighten and prolong a great evening.  Just listening to it made me proud to be a citizen of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.