My friend Judy told me that she had read “The Help,” a 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett. Knowing that there was a feature adaptation of the book, she asked me if I would recommend seeing it. She knew I had seen the movie. It’s about black maids and their white employers in 1960s Mississippi. It’s amazing that this disturbing period in our history has left many uninformed about the entire era. The movie uses the voices of three women: “Skeeter,” an emerging white liberal writer, and two black maids she persuades to tell their stories. It telescopes a wide range of emotions and experiences in the Jim Crow era. The narrative is driven by Skeeter’s journey from odd-ball college grad to rebellious neo-liberal muckraker. The difference between the sprawling novel and the Hollywood feature is not huge. At its core is a small domestic drama that sketches the society surrounding its characters. So my answer to Judy is, “Yes, I think you’ll enjoy the film.”
In June 2009, the High Line opened. What is the High Line? It’s a public park built on a historic railroad viaduct elevated above the street on the west side of Manhattan. It is an extraordinary public space for everyone to enjoy. I had heard about it and finally got there to see for myself. Can you imagine a mile-and-a-half elevated park running through the neighborhoods of the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen? When I use the word “elevated,” believe me, it is high up and I’m not thrilled with heights. However, I was motivated to experience the High Line so, not being aware of the existence of the elevators, I trudged up the 56 steps – yes, I counted them while trying to breathe. Finally, I arrived at what seemed like heaven (as long as I didn’t look down). The park runs from 14th Street to 30th Street and easily appeals to all ages since many diverse programs are ongoing: performing arts, nature, etc. While at the High Line, one experiences none of the bustling madness of New York City. It’s more like a clean, quiet, friendly town-hall-like place. It teaches many things at once: history, horticulture, architecture and landscape design. Happily there are friendly volunteers around to answer questions and guide your visit. In addition, there are choices for snacking or dining. One can enjoy walking or simply sitting and watching people who come from all over the world. There’s a hot line number to call at (201) 500-6035 if you want more details.
When I visit the Winter Garden at the World Financial Center, I don’t know what I am going to find, but something of interest is always happening. I am never disappointed. Last visit was another special treat. Do you like to read the comics? I am not ashamed to say that there are a few I really enjoy? Does the name Jules Feiffer ring a bell? Well, the syndicated award-winning cartoonist, playwright and author was the subject of an exhibition there. On full display were his drawings, his cartoons, a very short film based on one of his beloved cartoon characters (the modern Dancer) and a live dance-in inspired by the Dancer. It all had its New York premiere at the Winter Garden. What I enjoyed most was the extraordinary exhibition of original cartoon strips, water colors and prints. The centerpiece of the show was the Dancer, including six of Feiffer’s most memorable cartoons. The earliest strips are very much of their time, which is the post-war “Age of Anxiety” in the big city. In one of Feiffer’s strips, an advertising executive is rallying his creative team to make nuclear fallout sexy, proposing a TV special called “I Fell for Fallout.” Six of Feiffer’s memorable cartoons celebrate a cycle of seasonal, emotional and political milestones. Of course, I was attracted to the drawings and prints of male dancers, many with an aura of Fred Astaire, as well as tap and jazz dancers. Right alongside were drawings of couples in both romantic ballroom poses and more contemporary movements. Arts World Financial Center continues to offer free performances on a variety of topics. Thanks to its sponsors, I hope you can get there to enjoy the goings-on.
You can e-mail June Sturz at firstname.lastname@example.org.